Turn on the radio, tune into your favorite music video channel on TV, or watch the latest viral sensations on YouTube and you will find stars in the making getting younger and younger. Has it always been this way? Are we now so saturated with media and the internet that we are simply more aware or is it a trend in the making?
“The last 10 years have shown a shift in the music industry in many aspects. How we consume our music, the formats that we acquire, the way money is earned, and so much more. Another aspect I’ve noticed is the general age of artists and the way they are marketed. Justin Beiber, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and so many more that pop up here and there. Some to stay, others to fade into the musical folds of time.” (Josh Walker)
TLC’s Toddler’s & Tiaras takes its audience through the hectic day in the life of rising child beauty queens. Contestants on America’s Got Talent that are under 5 feet tall as well as the age of 12 seem to steal the hearts of the audience. Are young singer-songwriters captivating the music industry as well?
Youth are consuming more music via their iPods, smart phones, and YouTube than ever before. Even most schools allow students to roam the halls with music in their ear buds. This deluge of music is making younger and younger songwriters that are actually on to something good.
Local singer-songwriter, Bonner Black, is a 15 year artist-in-the-making taking on Nashville, TN. Bonner is in the 11th grade, and she lives in Southern TN with her Mom, Dad, and little sister on their family farm. She is in Nashville regularly performing and writing. We threw a few questions Bonner’s way to see what could share about the music world from her perspective.
I am originally from Huntsville AL, but I now live in Hot Rock TN. Hot Rock is a very small community, it can’t really even be called a town. My neighbors are about a half a mile over the hill. Haha! I live about an hour and fifteen minutes from Nashville, so it’s not too bad. I haven’t moved to Nashville just because it isn’t best for my family. Daddy’s business is here, my little sister’s gymnastics center and all of her friends are here, Mom is happy here, and we all love our farm. I can be in Nashville anytime I want to be or need to be pretty quickly from where we live.
How has your perspective changed in the last year and a half since making the regular effort to be a part of the Nashville music industry scene?
My perspective has changed a lot being the music industry. I think my whole outlook on life now is just that… you have to work hard. Things aren’t just going to be handed to you. Sometimes people look at me and say “oh she just has everything handed to her. Her parents buy her clothes, drive her to Nashville, and she just writes songs”. What they don’t see is that I always give my mom and dad most of my tip money to pay for clothes and gas to Nashville. And songwriting is hard work. I just really have to work hard and prove myself to everyone.
What are the challenges you face as a 15 year old?
People not taking me seriously. When you come to Nashville young, you have to prove yourself. You have to prove that your not just some little teenybopper skipping into Nashville wanting to be a famous super star tomorrow. You have to prove that you’re a hard working young adult and you have roots too. I’ve always just tried to be my best in performances, co-writes, and even just in conversation. I try not to say “like” too much when I’m talking to adults, I always try to bring as many ideas as I can into a co-write, and always look polished when I’m performing. I just want people to take me seriously.
I’ve been writing little snippets of songs forever, but I’ve only been writing seriously since I was 13. I was a classical ballerina for 11 years before I ever even thought of becoming a singer/songwriter. I think the more I started writing and playing in my bedroom a few minutes a day, the more I started thinking “wow… I want to do music instead of ballet!”. I came to Nashville for the first time right before my 14th birthday.
How many hours a week do you write?
It’s hard to really say how many hours a week I write… On a week that I have some co-writes, that obviously adds 6 or 9 hours to it. I write a lot at home though. If I had to make a guess, I would say I write about 2 or 3 hours a day in all. But I write anywhere – in the parking lot at Target, on the road to Nashville, and even during school (SORRY MOM AND DAD!). I spend a lot of time practicing vocals and performance skills too.
What is the equation to your music business strategy?
Networking+Good songs+networking+networking= dream. You just have get to know people and be nice. I don’t think it’s a secret that the music business is all about knowing people. You just gradually climb up the ladder.
Have you set goals? How do you go about achieving them?
My personal goal is to be a successful recording artist. To me that means fame like Shania Twain+Celine Dion… I know that’s a pretty high goal, but sometimes you’ve got to dream that big. My plan is just to work hard. Write as much as I can, perform, and do as much as I can. Pretty much just to do my best, because I know that’s all I can do. I’m a girl of faith and I believe God has a plan for me. His plan could be to give me the fame I want, or to have me become a zoo keeper in a Botswana Africa!! lol. I just ask that His will be done because I know that only that will make me truly happy.
Do you have mentors? Who? Why is that important? What is one piece of advice they have given to you?
I don’t have a real “mentor”. I look up to everyone and learn all that I can. I look up to people like Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Celine Dion, and more. You can learn a lot from just listening to their interviews, but you can also learn so much from the people at NSAI. Ms. Sheree and Ms. Debbie have helped me so much by encouraging and helping me set my goals. Bart Herbison has been such a blessing to me too. I try to just listen to the world around me and learn from everything. If there was one piece of advice I cherish most, it would have to be something my old ballet teacher, Clinton Rothwell, used to tell me all the time. I’d be struggling with a move that seemed so complicated, and he would break it down and I would realize that the move was just a bunch of little moves I already knew… just put together. Then he would always say, “Just do what you know. Always go back to technique”. That has always stuck with me.
What is YOUR best piece of advice?
My biggest advice? Hmmmm… I guess my advice is just to love what you do and to try to take some time out to write by yourself. A few weeks ago I realized I was just getting stressed out, I had a million co-writes going on, and I hadn’t written a song by myself in forever. I had just forgotten why I loved music. So about a week ago, I went outside while it was raining and wrote a song by myself. I didn’t send any business emails, and I didn’t even think about the music “industry”. I just focused on the music. Sometimes it’s good to just step away, and remember the “music” part. Love what you do.
For more on Bonner Black, find her on facebook