My Top 10 Takeaways from Ten Out of Tenn

Since I began my journey as an indie artist in August 2010, I've been trying to go to Nashville a few times a year to immerse myself in the music Mecca. I love being based in Dallas, but making intentional time to be in Nashville and experience the people and culture has truly been rejuvenating for me and my career. It's usually pretty clear to me when it’s the right time to make this trip, and when I found out about the Ten Out of Tenn Artist Bootcamp, it was simply an opportunity I could not pass up.

From TOT artists like Trent Dabbs and Amy Stroup, to pretty much the entire team of The Civil Wars (including our beloved friend Charlie Peacock), the weekend was full of insight into the industry and stories of how these brave “independents” found their success. To say I was inspired would be an understatement. By Sunday evening, my notes were overflowing with words of wisdom and practical steps to apply to my own career. In the spirit of TOT, I'd love to share with you my top ten takeaways:

10. Within your art, be intuitive with what your strengths are and focus on them. If you hone in on one strength specifically, your personal pathway will become clearer and other things will naturally fall into place.

9. Create the demand and then fulfill the demand. The Civil Wars sold out small venues and created a sense of being bigger than they actually were. If you start small with local contacts you have (venues, newspapers, TV stations, etc.), you can “fulfill” and then build from there rather than aiming too high and never being able to have much success.

8. This seems simple, but often goes overlooked. When you release an album or even a single, be on the road promoting it and get the press talking about it. New music is always marketable. And of course, refer to #9 for where to start.

7. If there is hardly anyone at your show, make it the best show you've ever played and interact with the people that are there. Your goal is to have them talking about you to their friends and for them to bring their friends to your next show.

6. This came from producer Jason Lehning: What is happening today in mainstream is about a year old. You have to constantly be exploring underground, new, fresh sounds to be ahead of the game.

5. Take every little opportunity. You never know what it will lead to. Sometimes the smaller stuff leads to meeting and connecting with great people and opportunities.

4. Make music that has people asking questions like “What does that mean?” or “How did they do that?” Curiosity will have them intrigued and coming back for more.

3. A theme for the weekend was that artists
need to  be artists and focus on creating the best art possible. Great art attracts others, both fans and a team. The TOT office had a wall full of inspirational quotes and one read: “Beautiful things don't just happen. If you want something marvelous, you've got to make something marvelous.”

2. Define what success is to you. Travis Yetton (Sensibility Music & brother of Nate Yetton) said, “Success is building a career.” It's an ongoing process that takes years of commitment. If you're an overnight success story, then you'll have an overnight failure story. 

1. Finally, Paul Brown (Katie Herzig's manager) left us with this quote: “There are no destinations, only doorways.” As artists we often think that if we just get a record deal, get to open for so-and-so or have a song placed on a hit TV show, we will have made it. Rather, we must think of everything as a part of the journey, celebrating the small victories along the way and enjoying the ride.


Cameron Ernst, an emerging artist in our own backyard, writes music filled with passion and sincerity that obviously stems from the depths of his soul (check out his music here: Though originally from Kansas, he began his career in college at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and then soon found himself placed in the great city of Dallas, Texas. Currently, his efforts have been focused around his latest release, “Love is Louder,” a project focused on spreading the message of love in connection with the anti-bullying movement initiated by actress Brittany Snow, MTV, and the JED foundation. We had the opportunity to ask him some questions in order for all of us in the community to get to know him better – I hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!