Q&A With Whitney Coleman

Whitney Coleman

Videos by American Songwriter

Singer-songwriter Whitney Coleman certainly keeps busy – she is on the road with country band A Thousand Horses, is part of her own band called Born Kin, and still does solo work when she has the time. She is going to be one of the contest judges for The Big Hook presented by Fiverr.

How did you first get started and interested in music?

I grew up watching [family] sing in church, and then I started singing in church and it went on from there. I guess it really started off as a career when I moved to Nashville in January 2009.

What prompted that move to Nashville, and how has the city influenced you musically?

Ironically it wasn’t music that prompted my move. It was really just a change. Growing up in Oklahoma I didn’t think that being in the music industry was a reality. I knew I had a knack for being in the music industry, and I thought “well I can get a business degree or something like that and work in entertainment.” So I literally Googled ‘business university entertainment’ and Belmont was the second link that came up. I searched Facebook and there were two friends I went to high school with that I was sort of still in touch with, and they said “yes you have to come!” So I applied, and I was just over being stagnant in Oklahoma and wanted to try to do something I loved. I was accepted a few months later, moved, and haven’t looked back. I’m really glad I went to Belmont for the short time that I did because it introduced me to a lot of wonderful local artists, and eventually the industry that would employ me and allow me to do what I love every single day.

You’re part of a group called Born Kin. What are some differences from doing solo music to working with a group?

I think working with a group – I would say that working with a group is fun because you get to bounce your ideas off of other people, and especially if they’re other people that you like they will push you and you’ll listen to them. Sometimes when other people try to push me, they’re the last people I’m going to listen to, but with Born Kin I get to do music that I love with two people that I already admired outside of being in a band. People I admire as singers and songwriters. So it’s literally all the best things about music that I get to do with the people that I love. [The two other members] are like my brothers. We enjoy what we do. It’s like getting to work with your family, and putting out great music that you are all proud of. It’s really nice.

Doing music yourself is also nice. It’s also a lot more pressure – it’s just you, it’s just your ideas. I don’t really believe that anything can be a complete and total failure, but if it doesn’t go as planned it’s all on you. At least when you’re in a group you kind of share. I think being an individualist and being very independent, doing music by myself has and always will be a goal of mine. I think it’s interesting and rewarding when it goes well. Even if it’s not something that you’re going to put out or crazy outrageously proud of, it’s something that you did and you can say “hey that was me and it’s something to be proud of.”

What is your songwriting process like for original songs – by yourself or with Born Kin?

It’s actually totally different. When I’m songwriting and I’m by myself, I try to do my best when I’m on the road to just try and write things down stream of consciousness. I don’t worry about punctuation, I don’t worry about spelling or things like that – just things that are on my mind. Which is a pretty good thing to help you get through the day, emotionally and mentally. When I’m feeling ready to write I will go back and take a look at what sounds good, what sounds catchy, something that was really important and pertinent to me, I’ll write down if maybe that is something that I can sing about that someone else would find helpful or useful.

When I’m writing with a group or a co-write, I find myself – what they call a top-line person. I’m a top-line girl. I always enjoy working with people that are great lyricists. I wouldn’t call myself a great lyricist, although I am really great at editing. I do like taking a look at the lyrics and if I can really connect with the lyrics then I can pretty much tell you how it’s going to sound. I love coming up with melodies for all different types of genres. When it comes to lyrics, I’m really good at editing them down and trying to get to the root of what we’re trying to say.

You’ve been singing with country group A Thousand Horses. What has that experience been like?

It’s been great. This week I’ve been with them for one year, which has been the beginning of their journey being signed with Big Machine / Republic Nashville. It’s just been interesting. I’ve been doing background vocals with a lot of bands for many years and done that, and this is my first official country outfit. Their are nine of us, three background vocalists and six guys. It is quite interesting. Looking back on it now, after a year, it’s been quite the whirlwind year. They just had a number one in country a couple of weeks ago. The record came out last week. To watch this unfold has been awesome, and to get to be a part of it – I’m learning a lot and I get to meet a lot of people. It’s an opportunity – you can’t really pay for these experiences. Like I said, I love all kinds of music, and luckily I’ve been able to fall in love with country music. I think maybe ten years ago I would have slapped myself for saying that, but I am loving the industry. I am loving the people. For however long this lasts, I am very glad to be here and be a part of this. They’re a great band. They’re not just the typical country band you think of, they’re southern rock. If you go to a show … there’s nine of us on stage, and it’s a wall of sound. You can’t not enjoy it. I’ve had tons of friends of mine who are anti-country come and watch just to support me, and they’ve become some of their biggest fans. It’s a great opportunity.

What are your personal goals for your career – whether that be as a singer, part of band, etc.?

I definitely think that my ultimate main goal is to put out solo projects and to be able to work and build a fan base to reach people across the country and hopefully the world with my music. I love, absolutely love, collaborating. I have a dream to be able to collaborate with different artists, different groups, of all different genres. That’s why I love being a part of country music right now because I’m meeting a lot of people in country, and would love to one day be able to write and do music with them. Same with rock – I have a lot of friends in rock. Aerosmith and Steven Tyler are some of my biggest influences, so I would love to be able to do that. I just think doing music that connects with people in whatever way, that would be the ultimate goal. Personally I would definitely love to have a solo [career]. Right now I’m just kind of riding the wave, and being in the moment, and writing whenever I can with whoever I can. Just seeing where the journey takes me.

When judging this contest – looking for the big hook – what advice do you have for the contest entrants?

I would say don’t over think it. I think the fun thing about a hook, the hooks that we all know in rock music or pop music or even country music, is that it’s something that we love to listen to. Hooks are fun and catchy with a good beat. So don’t make it too serious. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.

What do you think makes a hook stand out?

I think it’s something that you can hear a couple of times, maybe off-hand when you’re not paying attention, you can walk away from that and going about your day, and you’re still singing it. One of those things that you didn’t know was stuck in your head, but it is. On top of that, if it’s fun and you like to sing it or you like to play it or hum it – I just think that makes it stellar.

Whitney Coleman will be one of the five judges for The Big Hook contest presented by Fiverr. Prizes include co-writing sessions, industry meetings, and studio time. Click the picture above to enter the contest!

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