Creating an Exciting New Artist Project with a Clear Brand and Message
Based on the Podcast Episode: “ Creating an Exciting New Artist Project with a Clear Brand and Message with meadowhip” – Episode 28, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence
Starting a new musical project? Get some tips and insights on clarifying your artistic sound, brand and message from neo-soul, r&b artist, meadowhip. Cara also shares that having a stroke changed the course of her career and gave her a new outlook on life. This is an empowering conversation for any emerging artist who lacks the confidence and drive to back themselves and follow through on their new artistic project.
Read on for the summary, or listen to the full podcast conversation here. And if you want the mentorship and guidance that Isabel had to help you get similar results, check out Level Up Club here.
Birthing a new solo project and artist brand
I write songs out of compulsion and they are written for various things, like other artists and other musical projects including my band Territories, which is an indie pop lineup that makes ‘serious’ music. But then I started writing songs that were a detour to that. These songs were so ‘me’ that I couldn’t imagine anyone else performing them. So I decided to give a solo project a go.
Describe your artist brand
meadowhip is the creation of a new brand that is light hearted and funny. I find it difficult to distinguish between meadowhip and me because I have no filter. Whereas in Territories the other person is the filter.
meadowhip’s artist brand is to be a bit unhinged in a harmless, fun self-deprecating way. And for things to be funny. To take serious things and have a laugh at them.
Whilst there’s no filter, it’s still curated. For example, I struggle with mental health issues and I suffer from various neurosis, so I can laugh at those things at my own expense. Whereas, if it’s something that doesn’t impact me directly, for example, domestic violence, I would never touch that, because I can’t find any humour in that.
How did you arrive at your artistic sound?
meadowship’s artistic sound came about in collaboration with producer Chelsea Warmer at the Artist’s Studio, Sydney. In our first session she asked me what type of music I like? I said 90s r&b and so she suggested we try this.
This genre lent itself to more sexy, sultry and funky sounds, which are less beautiful and refined like the sound in my other project Territories. There was a click between this sonically and some funny self-deprecating lyrics I had lying around without a home and that’s how the sound was born.
I doubted the shift to this new genre as it was so outside of my comfort zone. But as I kept going, it made more and more sense.
How lyrics and message align with your artist brand
I’d never do a love song as meadowhip but I ended up writing a song called “Iconic” that became a love song. It was so uncomfortably sincere that I had to revise it and it ended up being a complete satire of a relationship.
I feel that when you’re willing to make fun of something you can take it further sonically and be more tongue in cheek. For example, I used a muted trumpet in “Iconic”. But if I sense cheesiness setting in, then I either lean into it and make it funny, or I change course.
How a near death experience changed Cara’s career course
In 2019, my partner and I were on a holiday in Yosemite. We’d barely arrived when I had a stroke. I was in the ICU for weeks and I had to try and get back to Australia. I couldn’t work or drive or read for 8 months. I was sitting around the house thinking. Then after some time, I started writing again.
This had an impact on my music for a number of reasons. At first I was traumatized by this near death experience and then I got to a point where I realised we’re all going to die. This gave me a kick up the butt to get things done.
Whilst I’d always been a songwriter and a performer, I was not pushing as hard as I wanted to. I was getting wrapped up in the day job and a mortgage. And I got carried away by the world. But with the stroke, I felt that I had experienced the most serious thing I ever would and that the rest of my life could just be fun. I got so much clarity and drive from this.
Before the stroke, I was writing and releasing music and not thinking about what that meant. And when I wasn’t having huge success with it, I figured I was doing something wrong, but I wasn’t seeking an answer to that.
After the stroke, I got serious about making music and I got a coach and joined Level Up Club. I wanted help to figure myself out. I figured what have I got to lose, except opportunities. So I barrelled in, not wasting any time.
Common limiting beliefs that artists share
‘If you’re not a successful musician by the time you’re 19, you’ve missed your opportunity’
I had a lot of self doubt, I felt that I had missed the boat. I got caught up in adulting and thought I’d lost time. My near death experience really flipped this belief for me – I didn’t want to waste anymore time.
‘You have to play an instrument to be a solo artist’
I had always relied on people to make music with – in a band setting. As someone who wasn’t great at playing an instrument, I thought I’d not be able to do a solo project. I thought that I had to play my guitar well first. So I had to work on this belief. You don’t need to be able to play an instrument to be an artist. Believing that is a wonderful reason to stop you moving forward.
‘I have to have it all figured out before I start’
Because meadowhip was born during Covid, there was no pressure to play live, this meant that I could work on the music now and work on the live show later. Even though I had no idea what the live show would look like. Then when I started to share the music, my musician friends wanted to help me build the live show. So I realised I didn’t have to have it all figured out before I started. Build it and they will come!
‘I wrote a rubbish song, therefore I’m a rubbish songwriter’
Everyone has a layer of self doubt. You can be writing a great song one day and a rubbish song the next. I’ve learnt to not let that ebb and flow impact me as much. The more time I spend writing, even if I’m not in the mood or feel I don’t have anything to say and just treat it as an everyday habit, means that if I write a rubbish song one day the frequency of regular writing will give me more great songs overtime. That is the practice of I Heart Songwriting Club.
Building an audience is easier when you’re clear on your artist brand
A lot of my audience building work has been through pitching to streaming platforms and radio stations that I listen to and in communities that I’d like to build an audience with.
One of the most helpful things I learnt through Level Up Club is that people who are in the industry simply love music. They may be gatekeepers but they are humans that love music. So I see it this way when I’m pitching: I’m meeting lovely people and asking them if they’ll play my song. This helps me deepen my relationships with people in the industry and not treat people as transactions.
I find being engaging and on brand on social media really effective too. Being consistent can be tricky if you’d got nothing to promote, but you can be consistent with your brand. Always posting things that are on brand.
I’m more likely to listen to a musician if I find them engaging as a person. And so with the people that I want to listen to my music, I figure they will like my personality so I try to be myself as much as possible on social media, in my press releases or when I write an article. It’s about being the artist that you want to see.
If you’d like support to get clear on your artist brand, check out the mentoring opportunities in Level Up Club.
Timestamps for podcast audio:
2.55 – Cara talks about all her different musical projects and how her solo project ‘meadowhip’ was born
6.26 – We discuss how music, message and artist brand fit together
18:09 – Cara shares about having a stroke and how this changed her attitude and drive to being an artist
26:18 – We talk about some common blocks artists have
32:00 – Cara shares how she has built her audience to date (Streaming, playlists and social media)
36:00 – Cara’s biggest takeaway and what’s next for her career
43:00 – Taking inspiration from Taylor Swift and Beck
44:24 – Listen to meadowhip with James Murada performing an acoustic version of “Iconic”
meadowhip is the solo project of Wollongong musician-poet-calamity queen, Cara Walkam. Influenced by artists like Solange, Tame Impala, Erykah Badu and Moonchild, meadowhip fuses introspective and irreverent lyrics with pop melodies and elements of woozy alt-R&B, soul and jazz. meadowhip is a project that was born during Cara’s recovery from a major hemorrhagic stroke in 2019. It is an exploration of self and society from Cara’s perspective. As she puts it, “I’m here to discuss the big three – capitalism, patriarchy, and myself.”
Contact meadowhip : Website / Facebook / Instagram
Song Credit: “Iconic” – Written by Cara Walkam (aka meadowhip). Performed live by meadowhip and James Murada.
Episode Show Notes:
Get your creativity, confidence, and songwriting output flowing. Join The Club and receive the support and structure to write 10 songs in 10 weeks and get feedback from a private peer community. This is THE essential writing practice that has changed the careers and lives of 1000s of songwriters worldwide.
Just getting started on your songwriting journey and need more hands-on support? Establish a firm foundation and develop your musical and lyric skills with our Beginner Songwriting Courses. They are the perfect place to begin and cover everything you need to know to write your first songs. You’ll receive lessons from Francesca directly!
Don’t struggle to write your next album – write an album a year with ease! Watch our Free Songwriting Masterclass.
Want more for your songwriting but don’t know where to go from here? Take the I Heart Songwriting Club Quiz to discover your next steps and inspire your way to writing better songs.
Get songwriting insights from I Heart Songwriting Club:
Be inspired by Francesca on socials:
Podcast theme song: “Put One Foot In Front Of The Other One” music and lyrics by Francesca de Valence
If you love this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and tell everyone you know about The Magic of Songwriting.