Over the past number of years, the internet has taken over as the number one way to promote your music to the masses, and that is exactly what Carly Beth did! A young singer/songwriter from New York State, Carly started streaming her music live to audiences in China, raking in over 5 million views in the process. We have absolutely no doubt in our mind that Carly Beth will continue to take the music world by storm. In her interview with us, Carly speaks about her musical experiences growing up and how music lessons helped her get started on the right path as a musician.
What is your very first memory of music, do you remember the first thing that jumped out at you?
I remember when I was a little kid, songs kept getting stuck in my head to the point where I’d be singing it non-stop. It was actually really frustrating. One time, I suddenly started crying, and my mom ran to me and asked me what happened, and I replied, “I can’t get this song out of my head!”
When did you realise that you wanted to be a musician?
What’s interesting is that I’ve never realized it – I’ve just always known it! When I was three years old, I told my mom I wanted to become a singer, but I wasn’t allowed to get voice lessons until I learned the piano. So I started taking piano lessons and then I became so consumed with the piano I never ended up taking voice lessons. I started writing on the piano when I was 8, and it just took off from there.
Do you come from a musical family, do you have people close to you who also perform?
I do come from a musical family, but none of my relatives have chosen music as their career. My mom played the piano growing up and also writes songs, although a different style than mine.
What artists inspired you when you were younger and had a positive impact on your desire to be a musician?
When I was a baby, my Aunt would sing me Karen Carpenter songs – so since then, I’ve always had an ear for melodies. Growing up, I listened to a lot of oldies, such as Motown, Carpenters, etc. because my mom played them a lot. By the time I was in elementary school I had listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, and I really liked her songwriting. In middle and high school I started writing piano solos, which seemed to be self-inspired because I never really listened to solo piano music like that. However, when people heard my piano solos, they told me my style sounded similar to Jim Brickman, a famous American pianist. After I listened to his music, I really got into the rich harmonies and melodic structure, so he then became one of my influences. I slowly evolved to writing popular music with lyrics which seemed to be inspired by a combination of all of the above.
Did you have music lessons growing up? If so, tell us a bit about your experiences.
I started piano lessons when I was five years old. When I started, I wasn’t that good, and I rarely practiced because I preferred sounding out songs instead of reading sheet music. To this day I still prefer figuring out music without the help of sheet music, because it is easier for me. Regardless, as I progressed, I started taking music seriously, and I rigorously practiced and became classically trained, played complicated Mozart, Bach, Chopin, and Jazz piano solos and competed in local competitions. I worked hard to read music better and even worked on my own original songs with my piano teacher.
When I was 12 years old, I started teaching piano lessons to young children. In middle school, I took guitar lessons for summer, and the guitar teacher told me I picked up a year’s worth of lessons in just two months. It made me realise that once you master one instrument, it’s much easier to learn another. All throughout elementary school I took band lessons and played the clarinet. It was hard for me to be enthused with the clarinet, so the teacher asked me to switch to the oboe in middle school because she knew I could learn it quickly. I soon mastered the oboe and began competing at state competitions. I also took music theory in high school, which I highly recommend because it gives you a rich understanding of harmonies and music. Then I realised that I was really good at it, so the teacher asked me to student teach it to other students with her for two years.
Who are your favourite musicians now and why?
Taylor Swift is definitely one of my favourites. Her songwriting and lyrics tell such incredible stories, especially her older songs, and would recommend aspiring songwriters to listen to them. Another musician I admire is Charlie Puth (he wrote “See You Again”) because he is classically trained and has such an incredible understanding of chords and melodies. He is incorporating more complicated chords and less common progressions into his pop music which I think is fantastic.
What is your songwriting process? Do you come up with your lyrics first then chords?
It depends on what song it is! For most of the songs, I create the music first. For me, this usually happens on the piano. My fingers just play something, and then brain tells my fingers how to finish it. Alternatively, I’m playing a song and then play a wrong note, and say, “hey, I like that!” Then the music tells me what the song is about, and some lyrics will start forming with the melodies. Then the rest of the process includes filling in the blanks, figuring out the order of the parts, and refining. I am a perfectionist, so I usually take much time refining my song until it is perfect. However, I’ve had a few songs that I’ve written in under an hour. However, for the most part, the initial ideas come quickly, and I spend much time refining it.
You have started to produce some of your material, what software do you use?
Yes I have, I use Logic Pro X. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a producer, because I wear so many hats (songwriter, instrumentalist, singer, etc.) and don’t have the time to become proficient really. However, what I’ve found, is that if you write a song, and then you hand it off to someone else to finish, you usually won’t like the result because it’s not what you imagined. I’ve found the only way to avoid this is to produce it myself. I had to teach myself how to produce, and it took a while, but it was well worth it. I always try to execute my idea as best as I possibly can.
You have over 1.5m Facebook streams. How did this come about? Are there any tips you could offer up and coming musicians looking to promote themselves online?
This is kind of a crazy story! I went to university in London, and a classmate heard me play the piano and sing and said I should start live-streaming myself to China. I was like, China? Why? Moreover, she said because Chinese audiences like Western musicians and if you live stream to China on an app, they give you gifts which can be turned into actual money. I didn’t really believe her at first, but I tried it anyway. I live-streamed every day playing the piano and singing for about 1-2 hours. This helped my performance skills immensely, and it was only by doing this every day, that I gained confidence. Within a few months, I had over 110K people in China watching at one time. I even made over £20K in gifts from people in China. Once I had that, I tried live-streaming on Facebook. One thing I would like to point out though is that you can’t grow unless you or your content is reaching new people. Live-streaming on Facebook is great because the stream will appear at the top of everyone’s feed. Additionally, it’s a great way to interact with your audience which is a great way to build relationships with your fans. After a few live streams, my performances were getting about 2K shares per stream. At the same time, I had a video of mine on facebook kind of go viral. So this directed a great deal of traffic to my stream.
I have a lot of tips for musicians looking to promote themselves. When I first started, I was terrified to put myself out there, until I came across this quote, “It’s not that nobody cares, it’s that nobody knows” and this became my motto while I was growing. Secondly, make great video content. How do you know if it’s great? Ask yourself if you saw that video coming across your feed, would you click on it and watch it, or scroll past it? Videos that are dark and unclear aren’t super eye-catching. So take your video outside, get great lighting. Show yourself playing your instrument and singing. Ask your parents or someone that will give you an honest opinion if it’s good or not. If it’s not, try again. Try something different. Another tip is not to make your videos look super professional. You don’t want them to look like an advertisement. I film all of my videos on an iPhone. Lastly, put out lots of content. Nothing looks worse than only having one video on your page. Have lots of good content that people will be impressed by!
What do you think of the UK so far? Is the live music scene different from New York?
I really enjoyed the UK, and it was a lot different than the music scene in New York. First of all, I was surprised at how many musicians never received any lessons or training in the UK. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I personally think it’s best to get as much training as possible. When I was in London, I found the music market incredibly hard to break into, especially live, that’s why I turned to live-streaming. Also, most venues didn’t even have a keyboard, so for me, it was very difficult to get gigs. When I came home to my hometown, Buffalo, New York, I was able to drive with my keyboard and get lots of gigs and performance opportunities. However, I believe that if I tried this in NYC, it might be more similar to London. I haven’t really experienced the music industry outside of London in the UK, so I’m not sure how to compare it. However, overall sometimes it’s easier to break into a less saturated market first.
Are you enjoying your course? What is your favourite and least favourite modules?
I did enjoy my course immensely, I actually just graduated this month. I enjoyed all of my modules because I took all music! This sounds nerdy, but my favourite class is music theory. I really love to analyse music and think about how I can be inspired and learn from it. My least favourite module, in general, is history. I am really bad at it!
Could you tell us a bit about what you are working on just now, what can we expect next from Carly Beth?
Right now, I’m trying to build my live presence in my hometown and expand from there into more states! I’m working on writing, recording, and performing more new songs as well.
If you come to Edinburgh, will you come and visit us? 🙂
Of course! Hopefully, I will be there soon!
Check out Carly Beth on the links below and subscribe to her channels to keep up to date with what Carly is working on.