Interview With Big City Cowgirl
SBS: Alrighty Big City Cowgirl – great to have you with us! According to my notes here & what I’ve read – you’ve been interviewed plenty before & this ain’t your first rodeo, as they say. That being said – it’s the first time for us…welcome to sleepingbagstudios my friend, hopefully we can prove we do things a little differently around these parts and challenge you a little bit in this interview! Let’s start this up by helping the people get to know you a little bit…you’re a singer/songwriter in the Country genre of course – but what is it you would say sets you apart from the rest of what’s happening out there in the Country scene right now? What makes your sound relevant for right now & what makes your music memorable to listeners from your perspective?
BCCG: I think what sets me apart from what’s happening in the music scene right now is that I don’t fit any formula. I write what I write – it comes from the heart. I do blend many types of music together since I grew up listening to all kinds of music. But, my blending is blending and not as obvious as what’s out there now. Country is transforming and when you hear popular Country music, you can really hear when the song is what I call “Country plus.” County plus Rap, Country plus Pop, country plus Hip Hop. I, on the other hand, take my influences and blend it into my own eclectic Country. My sound is relevant because you never know what might spark the next new genre in country music. With the way that Country music has been evolving, anything can be relevant. I’ve been told that my music is memorable because I have catchy melodies and clever lyrics.
SBS: In my notes here about your brand-new single “Crossin’ The County Line,” they mention that ‘the song is about anyone who is searching for the meaning of their life’ – and of course, as you know, it’s written from a personal perspective that puts YOU right into the song’s narrative. So maybe go into that a bit for us…how is the song written for others in that respect? One might say that there’s a lot of projection in the lyrics of this song…that it’s reflecting a lot of the feelings, thoughts, & emotions that you have personally. So…I suppose what I’m asking is…was it written for us, or for you? How so?
BCCG: Of course, when I write a song, its personal and I put your own personal spin on things. But, my songs are always written for others. In fact, this song was written with someone in mind. I almost always have a particular person I fashion a song after. It’s really a song about addiction. However, the song is written – country style – so instead of coming right out and saying that, I wrote it about a person who wants to find their place in life but really can’t so they move around from town to town, smokin’, drinkin’, gamblin’ and lookin’ a new con, while at the same time, lookin’ for their purpose. The song is written for everyone else, but not really me. I’ve never been addicted to anything, but my heart breaks for those that are. When I wrote the song, I didn’t want it to be depressing so I wrote it as an uptempo song with major chords.
SBS: You mention the concept of ‘home’ in the lyrics of “Crossin’ The County Line” – might be a simple question, but I’m just curious to know how you’d define it. We’ll leave this one wide-open for ya…because ‘home’ can be so many things to so many people – what is does ‘home’ mean to you?
BCCG: I define ‘home’ as a place where you are loved and at peace. Of course, that can be a physical space where you lay yer head. But ‘home’ in this song actually means finding God, and an extension of that is heaven.
SBS: ‘They say you’re judged by the company you choose’ – a classic adage that you’ve added into the lyrics of your new single. I suppose there’d be no point in asking whether or not you believe that to be true, you’ve got it included on your new song…so we’ll skip that and assuming it’s in there because you’ve verified that already…but I guess what that leads us to wonder is – what might that particular phrase end up revealing about you as a person? What would the company you keep say about you?
BCCG: Well, I’ve hung out with just about everyone, and as I grew up, my persona has changed many times. In many ways, I am a chameleon. My boss at work even tells me that. I definitely think that when I am with different types of people – races – cultures – sexual orientations – that I am looked at in a certain way by others. It’s sad, but it’s true. At present, my family, my day job, my friends, my music friends….they are very different from each other, but in many ways the same. I think the company I keep would say that I am very intense, talented, a workaholic, a little wild, devoted to the people and animals I love, and that I have a big heart.
SBS: What I personally connected to in “Crossin’ The County Line” was that inspiring aspect of the lyrics and that mix of empowerment/desire to change life into what it’s meant to be…to take action & not just get caught dreaming about it, like so many people do. You’ve included many references in the words that speak to the speed and urgency that all this needs to happen with…and that sent me into about a million different thoughts & questions. I’ll try to sum it up as best I can by saying I considered this from a musician’s perspective and the people I find myself surrounded by all the time…we ALL want everything to snap into place quickly, from simple responses to view-counts…if a video doesn’t get a hundred-thousand views in ten minutes, or a full-house when they play a show…well…discouragement comes fast these days without being properly measured or objective. But as most realistic people would already know – this generally ain’t the case for most. So on the one hand, a song like “Crossin’ The County Line” encourages us to really go after it all…to seize the day & all that good stuff…but in reality, as an indie artist…there’s so much ‘hurry up & wait’ involved, know what I mean? You can come out of the starting blocks as hard as you can sometimes and still not finish the race the way you want to, no matter how much you prepare for the moment…that kind of thing. There’s a question in here somewhere Big City Cowgirl, I’ll find it… I guess what I’m wondering is…or maybe confirming…that regardless of the results, you’d feel it’s better to go after your dreams than to sit and wait for them to come to you? How do you personally define success? Does it matter if you reach the end goal or not as long as you give it your best shot along the way?
BCCG: I think that people definitely have to go after their dreams and I like that you found another way to interpret the song – that means that I connected with someone in ways other than what I even anticipated, and I LOVE THAT! I write my music and hope for it to become the soundtrack of people’s lives. Success for me is having people connect with my music. Of course, I would love to travel the world performing for people and having my career be in music. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll be disappointed. But the fact remains that I’m making music which I love to do. It’s a process that is cathartic for me. It makes me happy. When I put my career on hold, to concentrate on my personal life, I had a part of me that felt empty without music in it. So I’ll never stop doing music again. The music business will suck the life out of you so I remain positive and focus on the positive. I can’t sit up at night worrying about how many likes I get or how many times people watch my videos, or I’ll drive myself nuts. Unfortunately, with my full life, I can’t pursue music with the same ferocity as when I didn’t have a full time job and a family. So I’ll throw myself out there in the ways I can right now and see if I stick.
SBS: Whether you’re listening to music or creating it yourself – what does a song NEED to have in order to make an impact on you? When you listen to music…what is it about your favorite songs that connects with you? When writing your own – what is it about the song that’ll send you to the studio to record it officially as opposed to finding it on the cutting room floor? It can be difficult to separate ourselves from what we write & create…but when you’re looking at your music objectively, what was it about the songs that didn’t get recorded and what halts the process? Is there something specific in your own sound that you’re looking for that a song clearly has to have…something that identifies who you are as an artist, or the way it represents you…I mean, it could be a number of things – but when you listen to your music come back from production etc., do you listen for a certain something? What makes a song worth putting out there into the world versus one that might never see the light of day?
BCCG: I love all kinds of music. I also love to dance. I’ve been in bars and I’ve been in dance clubs. So I find myself relating to many types of music. Songs that typically connect with me are songs with a great hook, or where the lyrics are meaningful, or the melodies get caught in my head. The songs I find myself recording over others are the ones where the song came easy to me, or I will be taking a shower or driving and I start singing a melody I just wrote – it just pops in my head for no reason. Another indicator is my dog, Cocoa. She loves my music but when she doesn’t leave my side and starts trying to paw at the guitar with her hand, I know I have a winner. With regards to production, I help to produce the songs with my astonishing friend and producer, Mike Epstein. When we are in the middle of production, I try to make sure that the song has elements of country music in it that I find appealing to me. I look for something that continues to link the song to traditional country music with a little bit of extra punch that is me. I know it when I hear it even if I can’t explain it. That’s what great about making your own songs is that the final word is yours. I remember once a studio musician said to me that he loved what I was doing because it sounded like Loretta Lynn meets popular country, and I was truly flattered. I want the old mixed with the new without getting too new, except for my special style, if that makes any sense.
SBS: My notes also mention something about “Crossin’ The Country Line” being rooted in that Outlaw Country spirit. Honestly…I’m not sure that I’m on the inside of the genre enough to be certain of that if I’m being truthful! I know ‘Outlaw Country’ to be artists like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr. to name a few…all of which I’m noticing are male as well. So! Two-part question for ya Big City Cowgirl…one being, I’m curious as to what you feel makes this track fall under that ‘Outlaw’ umbrella and the traits that define that aspect of Country music…I know you reference speeding away towards your dreams over the legal limit, but I’m assuming there’s more to what makes this an Outlaw Country song than just a minor traffic violation…so maybe help us understand what defines that part of the Country genre. Secondly, I’m hoping you can help broaden my own musical-mind a bit & perhaps point me in the direction of some female driven Outlaw Country artists/bands that have influenced you along the way somewhere – I’m certainly assuming that all the infamous ones can’t just be men…are there any particular names that come to mind?
BCCG: When I say outlaw country, I mean not mainstream, and with roots in honky tonk, rock and blues. Remember though – I only have two songs with the outlaw country vibe. My songs run the gamut. You are absolutely correct about the artists you mentioned being outlaw country. Newer artists in that vein would be Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton. Ray Wylie Hubbard is another outlaw country artist – whose name appears in my song. He is a phenomenal songwriter. When I wrote this song, I thought the vibe of the music was more outlaw country than mainstream country and the lyrics are certainly more thoughtful and reflective than current country music lyrics tend to be. The song isn’t about trucks and bonfires, after all. It’s some serious stuff. I put fiddle, and slide guitar in the song to grab the sound I was going for. You are right that ‘over the legal limit’ is more than just a traffic violation. It can mean a lot of things to a lot of people – I purposely used those words because the person could be speeding, or could be drinking or on drugs. As for female outlaw country artists – same as with any genre, there aren’t as many females out there on the radio. Female outlaw country artists who have inspired me are Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Angaleena Presley, and Iris DeMent.
SBS: One of the most endearing/inspiring things I read about you online was that you also seem to be in the process of creating another future superstar in music already and inspiring the next generation – your daughter has co-written songs with you? I gathered from what I was reading that she’s still quite young…but obviously you can see the spark & interest from her already, which I think is absolutely awesome. Tell us a bit about this all if you can…what kind of instruments does she choose, is she a singer, a writer…where do you see that connection between her & the music – and if at all possible, I don’t know if it can be put into words…but is there a way you can describe how rewarding that must be to see forming in your own child? Do you think she’ll go into music like you have – and I suppose most importantly, would that be something you’ll actively encourage her to do with her life?
BCCG: I started writing my song for my daughter to sing when she got older, but then someone suggested that I start recording them and releasing them. Then my daughter started writing with me. In fact, she came up with words and a melody this morning for a song she wrote to our new dog, Venus. None of the songs that my daughter and I co-wrote have been recorded by me yet. She’s only 6 years old so her version of song lyrics is a bit primitive. But she has the love of music in her…always did…since she was a baby. She likes to bang around on her daddy’s drums, and we started to give her guitar lessons for a bit, but she doesn’t seem to be ready for that. She will sit down at my keyboard and play around on it. Her new interest is fiddle so we may get one of those for her since my amazing fiddle player, Sophie, has offered to help teach her. It IS extremely rewarding for me to see her into music. I would encourage her to pursue music as she gets older even though it’s a really tough business. You should always encourage your children to follow their dreams. I tell her all of the time that she can do anything she wants so long as she puts her mind to it and works hard.
SBS: Successful lawyer, loving wife, proud parent, talented musician, and of course, the happy owner of ‘three adorable dogs’ – no joke my friend, your life sounds like it would require an extra 24 hours in each day just to get it all done! So where do you find the time to…blah blah blah…I don’t want to ask it that generically…I know we all fit our music in where we can around our schedule – what I want to know specifically, is the ‘when & how.’ When do you end up typically writing most of your songs and how do you write them…as in like, how do you set yourself up to get the best out of yourself and your music when you go to create a brand-new song? Like say, “Crossin’ The County Line” for example…where does a song like that get written in a physical sense…is there a place you like to write your music in that you feel complements the process? How do you set yourself up for success in your songwriting and get yourself in the right frame of mind to get the best results?
BCCG: First, let me update you – I now have FOUR dogs! I just rescued a puppy mill survivor named Venus and she is an utter blessing. And yes, I wish my days had more hours in them. Songs run through my head all day long. I get inspiration from everyone and everything. I will jot ideas down all day and night. I sing into my iPhone at times with melodies. Most of my songwriting occurs at night after a full day at about 8:00 P.M. My dogs love my songwriting and gather around me. So does my daughter. I start with an idea typically, and then anything can come first – music, melody or lyrics. I write in my music room which is essentially a den in the front of my home. My guitars and keyboard are in there. With regards to Crossin’ The County Line, that song started because my boss, John M. Hunt, came up with the title. As of late, he’s kinda been my muse. He came up with two song titles for me this year which I have used for songs that I recorded! He loves traditional country music so he has a great feel for titles. After a long day, I am exhausted but getting myself in the right frame of mind to work on music is easy because music is one of my passions. If something isn’t working, though, I don’t push it. I come back to it or I abandon it. Writing music is artistry and I don’t want to get religious on ya, but I definitely believe that I have a little help from a greater power.
SBS: As you implied in the write-up on your official website, it does seem almost crazy to find a Country music artist like yourself living in New York, home to glitz & glamour and a whole lot of underground punk. So…two-part question for ya again my friend: I’m wondering about how accepting you’ve discovered the city to actually be…like maybe it’s not as harsh on a Country artist as people might assume it would be and you can dispel the myth a bit; and the second-part of my question might actually join-in to the answer of the first part…but, what is it about the city/state that keeps you there? Surely you’ve at least considered making the move to more…hmm…’Country music friendly’ places down south…Nashville etc., that kind of move…so why not do it? Not to be like, trying to mine for a sense of irony here…but like…isn’t that kind of ultimately what “Crossin’ The County Line” is really all about, packing it all up and driving off towards your dreams? In the context of your new single…having lived your whole life in New York…again, I can’t help but feel there’s some personal projection within the lyrics of this song – are you singing about what you truly want for yourself perhaps? Or do you feel like there are reasons why you don’t need to go anywhere other than New York to experience the success and support you’re looking for?
BCCG: Upstate New York is really more into country music. New York City is not all that accepting of country music. I think it’s coming along though. I find the same is true for Long Island. We have a country music radio station back again so that’s great. I live on Long Island and although there are some folks who want to play country music, I’ve found that no one wants to play original country music. It’s a challenge. Although I’d love to play out, because of that, I find myself devoting my focus to online radio stations and my songs are played routinely on internet radio with some terrestrial radio stations playing them as well. I stay in New York because my whole life is here right now – my friends, family, job, etc. I thought about moving to Nashville but I don’t think that would be any better for me. I do love Nashville. It’s an amazing place. But there are scores of artists who move there every year all hoping to get their big break and I don’t know that being there makes it any easier for them. My husband and I are planning on moving to Texas in about eight years. I am really looking forward to that, my daughter is very excited about going there with us. It’s good to have a plan and a goal – so I’m working on that for my move when we are ready to do it.
SBS: What are three things you know to be absolutely 100% true about life as an independent artist?
BCCG: (1) Indie artists are viewed as outcasts until they are discovered and then all of a sudden they are the talk of the town; (2) Indie artists work hard because they have to be their own ‘team.’ We don’t have a staff working for us; (3) Indie artists are underrated because there are a lot of talented folks who aren’t getting their proper due because they aren’t considered mainstream.
SBS: Sondra…Big City Cowgirl…homie…friend – I want to say a MASSIVE thank-you to you for your time and putting up with all these rambling questions of mine! No lie…when I read that you were a seasoned interview-veteran, I took it as a personal challenge and definitely did my best to put you through the paces…and now you’ve officially made it to the end! Sigh of relief I’m sure – I know, I know, I can go on forever. But that’s because I love music and everything about it…and I love to get as detailed as I can – so thank-you again for answering all this stuff on my mind and giving us insight into yourself & your music. We’ll leave you with the final words of the interview…the infamous SBS ‘open-floor’ for you to mention anything else that might be on YOUR mind. Cheers to you my friend – the floor is yours!
BCCG: I just want to give love to everyone that deserves it! Thanks so much to YOU. You really put a lot of thought into this interview and I’m not just sayin’ that. Your questions really reflect the fact that you took the time to research me and my music. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I also want to say thank you to my fans for supporting me because it means so much to me. I want to thank all of the internet radio and terrestrial radio stations who took a chance on me and continue to play my songs in the USA, England, Australia, Ireland, and just about everywhere else you can think of. Thanks also to my boss for coming up with the song titles (I promise I won’t “bury the lead.”). Thanks to my family for encouraging my music, including my parents who have been more supportive than you can even imagine. I love y’all and promise to always keep it real.
Make sure to find out more about Big City Cowgirl at the official links below!
Official Website: http://bigcitycowgirl.com