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In The Mix with Darius Rucker and Cary Ann Hearst

The College of Charleston’s Arts Management Program has initiated a new series that brings together industry leaders to speak with students and other locals in the business.  Hosting each session is Mark Bryan (from Hootie and the Blowfish), who joined CofC’s staff 6 years ago in an effort to round out their Arts Management program with an additional 18 credit hours in a music major.  This series, referred to as “In the Mix”, will contain 4 parts that occur once a month throughout the semester and will be continued every semester to offer each class a different perspective from music professionals.  Grammy winner Darius Rucker and Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels and Rope) attended the first part of the series and offered a lively discussion about their experiences in songwriting along with advice for others who are new to the art.

The concept of In the Mix originated when Duda and Jessica Lucena, from Borboleta Audio Mastering, met up with Mark Bryan amidst a discussion of how to foster upcoming musicians’ professional success. Together, they believed that they could help progress Charleston’s epicenter of music and increase the potential to become a true hub for creativity.  Allowing students and upcoming musicians to have access to the tools and information necessary for achievement in the business could result in even more accomplished acts, such as Dizzie Gillespie, James Brown, Edwin McCain and Darius Rucker, who all originated from this region.

Mark Bryan opened the first installment by introducing Cary Ann Hearst to the stage.  His current class was seated on either side of the panel.  While waiting for Darius Rucker to arrive from Los Angeles after winning a Grammy for his hit song Wagon Wheel, Mark introduced a few other singer/songwriters who were in town for a songwriting retreat.  They took the opportunity to speak to the packed auditorium about their focus, drive and inspirations.

Patrick Davis, who has opened for Hootie and the Blowfish and Edwin McCain, offered the following advice.  “It’s not easy.  It’s scary, and you have to believe in yourself, because you’re going to be told No a million times.  More than likely, you need to move to Nashville and work at a Five Guys, make as much money as you can, and try to get by.  All it takes is one day for everything to change.  Don’t give up.  Get in your car, move to Nashville and when you want to move home – don’t.”

Corey Crowder, writer for Liz Rose Music/Warner Chappell, suggests that one should never be afraid to let someone else be an expert.  In his experience, trying to write on your own is not as successful as it is when you let someone else take the lead and show you how it’s done.  One’s ego needs to be placed on the back burner.  James Slater, a Grammy nominee for writing The High Cost of Living, was more direct in his observations – “Don’t make excuses.  Just write.”

Cary Ann Hearst and Mark debated about the effects of writer’s block and agreed that it’s a fallacy. What musicians need to do is write, even if it’s journaling and not strictly songwriting.  Writing your thoughts about how you feel regarding whatever may be occurring in your life is better than not writing at all.

As Darius joined the conversation, the subject turned to co-writing in the current environment.  Cary Ann discussed how she and her husband, Michael Trent, often write together.  He may not choose to follow the typical road of writing what he knows about, with Cary Ann saying in jest, “I don’t think he’s killed anyone yet.  I don’t know.”  Darius says that he’s mostly a vocal guy and focuses only on lyrics and leaves the guitar riffs to others.  When choosing songs for an album, it’s a group effort among himself, his producer, and his label.  As Cary Ann says, “Put them out in the world and take your hands off of it; it belongs to the people.”

Questioned about how maturity has affected their music composition and writing, Cary Ann responded, “There is a mythology about singers and songwriters and troubadours that we always have to have our heads hangin’ on a bar drinking … You can’t do 250 shows a year like that.”  Darius admitted that he will decline certain types of writing ideas to focus more on family values.  “I’m almost 50 years old, got three kids, and family is important to me”, he said.

A Q&A discussion followed the panel discussion, with students questioning the influence of technology and social media and the effects on the industry.  How does the panel see Charleston’s music scene changing to take it to the next level?  The consensus was Charleston needs more small venues seating 2-300 people.  We have an amazing array of venues, such as Awendaw Green, Charleston Music Hall, the Windjammer and the Music Farm, but with the closure of Cumberland’s downtown, there is a hole that could be filled to allow musicians to hang with a smaller crowd and sell their CD’s out of the cars (ie Hootie and the Blowfish in the early 90’s).  Social media makes it easier to get the music to the people, but also allows more access for stolen intellectual rights.  “It’s a compromise,” says Cary Ann.

Thankfully, the compilation of efforts between Borboleta Audio Master, Mark Bryan and the College of Charleston, looks like it’s going to be a huge success.  Combining their strengths and knowledge in the industry and being able to pull talented leaders together to have open discussions with students and aspiring musicians with the local professionals, this series could prove to be an influential and inspiring motivational tool to those who want to learn more about becoming successful.  As Mark Bryan states, “We are working just as hard on internship and job placement in the music industry as we are teaching the aspects of it.  We believe that real-time experience and guest speakers will ultimately help nurture the growing scene in Charleston, and help provide some of the industry infrastructure that’s needed here moving forward.”

The next installment of In the Mix will focus on “In the Studio” and held on February 24th .  The following lecturers will be in attendance:

Frank Rogers (Darius Rucker, Producer, Sea Gayle Music)

Dan Hannon (Producer Manchester Orchestra)

Eric Bass (Bass player of Shinedown/Ocean Industries Studios)

Duda Lucena (Borboleta Audio Mastering)

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