An Interview With Jennie Walker
Small business artist, Founder of Music Panel Series "The Connective" and one of the winners for British Airways Face of Opportunity contest
By Cindy Beth Gordon [06-05-2011]
Jennie Walker's career soars as she was recently one of the winners for British Airways Face of Opportunity contest with her small business pitch around her title track song "Night Flight To London" from her debut album of the same name. To learn more about Jennie, check out her website at www.jenniewalker.com
Hi Jennie. It's good to catch up with you. So, what are you up to lately? I know you wear a lot of different hats at times; you're truly inspiring.
[Jennie] Over the past 12 months, I have been focused on releasing my debut album, "Night Flight to London." This means everything from mastering, album design, new artist website, artist logo, photos, publicity, social media, email newsletter, styling, legal, branding and creative outlets for my music, such as inflight entertainment.
While in the middle of the album release plans, I started working on the British Airways Face of Opportunity Contest, which I subsequently won, and the free trip to London and Rome has been a real focus the past several months. I am still writing thank you notes to people I met on that trip!
Congratulations on being a winner of the British Airways Face of Opportunity Contest. Can you tell our readers more about that contest?
[Jennie] For the second year, British Airways ran its national Face of Opportunity Contest (http://www.ba.com/facetoface), aimed at small businesses in the US, looking to grow internationally. I heard about the contest from a business colleague of mine, who also knew about my song "Night Flight to London" and my interest in pitching the song to an international airline. When I found out about the contest from her, it literally gave me chills. I knew, right then and there, I had found a unique platform to pitch my song and album "Night Flight to London" directly to a company and immediately threw my time into preparing my international music business pitch. My entry was recognized as a Top 10 pitch out of thousands of entries and as such, I was one of the winners. You can see my winning pitch at this link: http://businessconnect.ba.com/contest/?id=1070
I wanted to garner industry support for my London trip and was really excited when Kyle Deitz of KMS Media Services (www.kmsmedia.net) in Smyrna, Tennessee sponsored the manufacturing of the Promotional CD, which was given away during the British Airways events in New York and London. KMS Media did a stunning job on the CD and I now have the world's greatest business card! British Airways posted an amazing photo of me between British Airways Executive VP for the Americas, Simon Talling-Smith, and Captain Jamie Allen of our London chartered flight, all holding my "Night Flight to London" CD.
That must have been an amazing experience. What was it like being one of the winners?
[Jennie] The British Airways events started in New York, then the group of winning small businesses all flew on a charted flight to London. That plane ride was insane! As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, passengers were up and out of their seats, walking up and down the aisles, meeting everyone, networking, drinking champagne, cameras were clicking, film crews were filming and it was really exciting. It was so intense that by the time we landed, I forgot I was actually in London! We stayed at the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow airport, and after landing we had just enough time to check into our rooms, clean up and head back out for an amazing cocktail reception, in our honor. This resulted in more cameras flashing, film rolling, champagne downing, networking and excitement. We heard some great speeches by British Airways executives. The next day was another full day of events, with speakers from British Olympic Committee and UKTI to name a few.
I could go on and on about this trip, but, to sum it up; after the British Airways sponsored events, we were on our own to work on expanding our businesses. British Airways provided the template, and we had to fill in the blanks. I stayed in London and started the process of business meetings with people around my music. I met and reached out to individuals at Visit Britain, Think London, BBC Radio, UKTI, MMF, just to name a few. I met with students of City University London, who were working on my press, I participated in two radio interviews at OnFM 101.4 FM in Hammersmith with DJ Lee Partridge, and I prepared for a live show at The Distillers Pub's Regal Room (where I performed with Paul Hirsh on acoustic guitar). I also left London for a trip to Rome, and when I came back, I had another week and a half for more meetings and press.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting The Purcell School to see the music students at work. One of the teachers at the school, whom I know personally, set up the tour for me. As a surprise, he had the students perform one of my original songs "I Want To Show The World." I was really touched. The students are seriously talented. And, I hope to work with the school in the future, to help raise some awareness for their programs. I had been seeking a UK based charity to align with for future fundraising concerts and I am sold on The Purcell School.
Can you tell our readers more about these new inflight music programs and what you recently accomplished with Delta Airlines?
[Jennie] During my trip to London, I found out my song "I Want To Show The World" which was co-written and produced by Grammy nominated and 12 time platinum selling producer Tommy Faragher, who is having current success producing for the hit TV show GLEE, was selected to be featured on the Hello Music Indie Channel 9, and will run on Delta Airlines inflight entertainment system. The song will run during May and June 2011 on all Delta Flights globally. With a single and album titled "Night Flight to London" it was a natural extension to seek out situations where I could align the song with an international airline. So, when I learned about the Hello Music program, I immediately applied. Outside of Hello Music's Indie channel I am also investigating other opportunities to associate the music with airlines.
My winning pitch to British Airways included the idea of having my album "Night Flight to London" on their onboard entertainment and their High Life inflight magazine.
I see inflight entertainment as a unique way to gain exposure for new music and the statistics I have read about just how much usage these systems receive, really support the use of the platform.
That's a pretty major accomplishment - Congratulations! Did you have any special mentors, role models growing up and in your music career? What was some of the most helpful advice that you received?
[Jennie] A lot of the clichés are really coming true for me. In my own assessment of my music pursuits, I truly feel like I am as I have always been, meaning, my desire to sing and have a career in the music has been a constant. However, I did not really know what to do about that dream. I also did not understand why I should be laser focused. As the youngest daughter of a divorced mother in the 1970s, the idea of being a pop singer was far from anyone's mind, even though I was active in music and was running around Nashville trying to get exposure with the songs I had written with my mother, similar to what Taylor Swift was doing. At some point, that idea became attainable and then a lifetime of learning about the music industry began. Dolly Parton and Barbara Streisand were polls apart, yet both represented music to me. I spent years tiptoeing around the Nashville music scene and I'll never forget what someone said to me, which was "...if you are not willing to sleep outside the steps of BMI, you're not going to make it."hu
Another zippy saying was "...a song and 10 cents in Nashville will get you a cup of coffee." My teenage brain could not really grasp what was being said to me. But, looking back now, I realize what was really being said to me is this....you have to be 100% laser focused and be willing to give it everything you have and more to have any chance of being successful in a crowded field. And, I now understand how true that is. I'd never given my all to the music. It was a side pursuit to my regular life. It was just something I did and it gave me a great deal of pleasure. And, I adopted this habit of being both in the working world with my music on the side. I always had just enough success and forward motion to keep me motivated and keep going.
The first publishing contract, the first radio airplay, the first song on a compilation album, the first time working with a top producer (Tommy Faragher), my first recording contract. It was not until after my mother passed on New Year's Day 2009 that I changed my entire outlook on my music. It was my wake up call. I was essentially out of time. It was now or never. She was never going to see me make it. I had taken too long. I was shaken to the core. I made a commitment to give everything I could to my desire to have my music recognized and I have stayed true to that commitment. And, as a result, I've made more forward progress in the last two years than in that last 20 combined and the only thing that is really different is me. You know that little drawer where the casket opens, and you can put keepsakes inside? I dropped the very first cassette tape of music I made in the early 1990s, all with songs I wrote with my mother, as well as the demo CD of my current album... along with very silent prayers and a commitment to my mother, who had been with me through this lifelong process, that I would continue what we had started together. I've kept that promise and I intend to make her proud.
You also created and run the Music Panel Series, "The Connective," held in NYC. Can you tell our readers more about that?
[Jennie] Yes, outside of working on my own music career, I am very passionate about my music panel series, The Connective, which has been on hold for the past two years and is re-launching in New York during May 2011. I have also started a bit of consulting with indie artists on some of the fundamentals for their music projects.
What inspired you to start the Connective series?
[Jennie] The first music organization I joined when I was a teenager, was the Atlanta Songwriters Association (now, the Georgia Music Industry Association) and later the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). For years, I organized panels, workshops, critiques, open mikes and other events for GMIA and served on the board, eventually becoming President. It was a real labor of love.
Over time, I participated in many organizational events, from groups like NSAI, NARAS (The Grammy organization), ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and many others. I realized that there was always room for more events to help emerging artists and songwriters. Often times, I felt like some of the events I paid to attend were not professionally run and burdened by politics. So, I felt it would just be easier to start my own series of events. And, in 2008, the series was launched in New York City. The series also was held in Atlanta and I am working on plans now to re-launch it in New York City on May 18th with a panel featuring MusicXray CEO, Mike McCready. I have plans to organize a panel in London in 2012. You can learn more at the organizations website at http://www.theconnective.ning.com and you can join FREE and post your music, photos, videos, blogs and shows.
Who are some of your favorite bands & artists and influences?
[Jennie] All for different reasons and at different times in my life, I have enjoyed Robbie Williams, Barbra Streisand, Madonna, Celine Dion, Marilyn Macoo, The Fifth Dimension, Bread, Michael Jackson, The Doobie Brothers, The Beatles, Lady GaGa to name a few.
What's one thing you haven't done that you'd like to do?
[Jennie] I have dabbled in the acting world. I've been an extra many times for feature film and TV and advertising campaigns (TV: GLEE, Grey's Anatomy, Nip Tuck, Without A Trace, Flash Forward ADVERTISING: Toyota, EA Sports, FILMS: The Backup Plan, Consenting Adults, Remember the Titans). However, I have never had a featured part. I intend to invest more time and energy in this area. Also, I have dabbled in Voice Over work and jingles. In 2011, I intend to join AFTRA (I am an AFTRA must join, after a project in LA on a webisode, Dusty Peacock). So, when I get the album behind me, I will focus on gathering the funds for the union dues.
Is there anything you'd like to add that we haven't covered today?
[Jennie] This is the first time I have made this announcement publicly. But, I parted ways with my UK record label. And, I am proud to say I am back to being in 100% control of my music career. I never felt better about the future of music and my own ability to build my business as a "small business artist."
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