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mentors: part one

My first mentor was an incredible lady named Shannan Hatch. She is currently the VP of creative services at the performance-rights organization SESAC, but when I met her, she was still working in songwriter relations. I was 16 when my dad went with me to her office for my first ever meeting on music row in Nashville. I remember bringing my acoustic guitar and playing her a song I wrote by myself called “Clockwork”. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds. But she listened, absorbed, critiqued, and praised that song, just like she would do for hundreds more in the years to come (and still does to this day). She put me in rooms and meetings with writers and publishers that I didn’t think I was ready for, but the fact that she put me there made me believe I could hold my own. And I did. Shannan is so good at recognizing potential early in the game, and then shaping and directing talent in a loving way. 

A mentor/mentee relationship only works if you leave your ego at home. This took me a little while to learn, because I am a sensitive artist and everything I create is SPECIAL AND BEAUTIFUL. The first few times that someone like Shannan poked holes in my art, I felt wounded, even though they had the best intentions and only wanted to see me improve. It’s definitely easier to write songs in your bedroom and only play them for your best friend and watch YouTube tutorials on how to play the guitar. But in order to truly grow and maximize our skill set, we need real-life people around us who have more experience and wisdom than we do. They’re the ones who will push us and keep us on the path that is uniquely ours—which is the one thing the internet will never be able to do.




What was your worst breakup ever? Mine was with a piece of mahogany.

Just over a year ago, I gave my guitar away. This was not a heroic “I was walking down the street and felt compelled to hand my guitar to a stranger” moment. It was a gut-wrenching, you-have-no-choice situation and I’m not going to give away the details. It was nobody’s fault; it just happened. But I want to share some words with you that I wrote while sitting in the Nissan dealership the day after this went down:

I feel emotionally wrecked over having to give up the guitar. We’ve been through everything together—we were brokenhearted over Dan in Kim’s carriage house. We celebrated together while recording at Blackbird. We learned to produce together. We wrote countless melodies and memories. That guitar worships Jesus and Shania with me. We branched out together and started experimenting with pop songs. When I’d kiss, we’d tell. We got up on stage at the Bluebird, the Ryman, and every other Nashville show I’ve ever played. I bled and cried into the strings and the wood shows it. We ended my teens and began my rocky 20s together. My best friend, my security blanket. My hardest breakup yet.

I’ll admit, after this happened, I hated writing songs. So many of my friends generously lended me their guitars to play, but none of them felt right. It was like inviting strangers into my home and trying to tell them my darkest secrets. It was awkward. But it was fate. Because one day, I got so sad that I quit trying altogether and settled for a rebound. 

Enter, piano.

This album was meant to be written on the keys. I had to go through a change of scenery in order for my songs to evolve. When you hear it, you will feel the difference in the melodies and the tone of the production, and you will understand what caused the shift. I hope that whatever breakup you are going through right now, whether it be with a person, a job, a city, or anything else, leads you to your change of scenery. And I hope it feels as beautiful as mine did.