People 08 May 2017
Named one of Music Row's “Rising Women on the Row" and Billboard Magazine's “30 Under 30 Power Players to Watch," Beth Laird, one-half of the power couple behind Creative Nation, Nashville's hottest music publishing company, is not only following her passion, she's creating a place for country music artists to flourish, professionally and personally.
A career in the music business wasn't on her radar until an internship at Capitol Records hooked her freshman year. “I immediately fell in love and haven't looked back," says Laird.
After a series of positions with some of the biggest publishing houses in the business, Laird and her husband Luke, a country music songwriter and Grammy winning producer (he's written 22 number one singles for artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Sara Evens, Trace Adkins, among others) decided it was time to try publishing on their own, using their own methods.
Five years later, the couple and the company are thriving. With 10 publishing clients on their roster, they've accomplished significant feats in a short span of time. With 43 radio singles, fifteen of which have been #1 songs, their writers have won ACM, CMA, and Grammy awards, and have been named ACM and BMI songwriters of the year.
SWAAY got the lowdown on what it takes to nurture an artist and how the couple are helping others fulfill their dreams.
What is it about country music that attracted you?
I love the honest lyrics and storytelling. We both grew up listening to all genres of music, and still do, but country music has a special place in our hearts because it's authentic and relatable.
What draws you to a new artist?
I always look for songwriters or artists who have a unique voice and say something in a way I've never heard it said before. I love writers who know who they are and sit a little outside the box, but also take songwriting seriously and are willing to work as hard as we do.
As fans of the music, how does it feel to be working alongside artists that you admire professionally?
It's very surreal. I was a fan of most of the songwriters we work with before we ever even signed them so I want to do my best and help them all fulfill their dreams. It's a big responsibility and an honor.
Break down the role a music publishing company plays in the career of an artist.
It's different for songwriters and artists. For songwriters, we try and oversee the entire business side of their work so that they can put all their time and attention into being creative. For artists who are songwriters, we help them find the best co-writers for their sound and artistry and help them evolve that sound over time.
What's your approach when it comes to publishing and management?
I think the key is being strategic and making sure you know what each client's individual goals are. They all have different definitions of success, so we strive to help them achieve their personal goals (whatever those may be). Time management is key, so we always want to bring them opportunities that align with their vision and some that stretch them so they can grow and evolve.
Beth Laird and Co. at the ACM awards
What sets your company apart from the others and makes it a unique place for an artist to be a part of?
We are highly focused, have a great team, and support each other. It is truly a place where everyone can fully be themselves. We are competitive but in a way that inspires each other to be better and we celebrate everyone's successes together. Culture is extremely important to Luke and I and I think that sets us apart as well as how strategic we are with each client.
In 2012, you formed an exclusive partnership with Pulse Recording, blending together the LA and Nashville music - what does this collaboration mean for your company as well as your artists?
It allows more opportunity for us, our writers, and Pulse. The deals are flexible depending on the writer and their needs. Plus, it allows us to provide broader, more diverse opportunities outside of Nashville and get administration for our writers.
As young entrepreneurs running a successful music company, what lessons do you and your husband hope to pass along to your two young children?
We hope it shows them that they can follow their passions in life and if they work hard and treat people with respect along the way, they will be fulfilled and love what they do every day. I also hope they see how much love and respect we have for one another and that it teaches them to respect and love the women in their lives.
What advice do you share with young hopefuls looking to follow in your footsteps?
I'd say focus on what your strengths are and what makes you feel energized and happy. Relationships are key so make as many authentic ones as you can and nurture them along the way. You have to stand out and make yourself valuable to your company and clients.
What's up next for Creative Nation?
We've been working with and developing a few new writers and artists that I think will make big impacts in music, like Kassi Ashton, Steve Moakler, Muscadine Bloodline, and Mags Duval. Also, our writers have some big cuts and singles in the works that I look forward to being released.
What's your vision for the future of Creative Nation?
The music business is changing so quickly that I don't make plans that are set in stone. We dream about the future but are always open to new opportunities – that's why we expanded from publishing into artist development, management and records. We are small and flexible so we can evolve with the change and our vision can evolve as we go.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.