MusicRow’s Sherod Robertson
On being number one, “The Nashville Way,” and tackling fear head-on
By Kara Frazier
Listen to Sherod Robertson as a guest on Retire While You Work Radio here
KF: I’m curious – what does your day to day look like at MusicRow?
SR: We’re probably doing a minimum of 10-15 stories a day. So, I have a main writer that does that, then I have another writer that comes in for the first part of the day to help. They do most of it because there’s so much content – I mean, we’re generating content so fast. That’s kind of like our core that’s always going on. Then, we’ll do individual interviews. We interviewed Martina McBride, for example, and we’ll have exclusives, in addition to the press releases.
KF: During your guest spot, you mentioned that Brenda Lee once told you, “You can’t be number one all of the time. That’s why there are all of those numbers under it.” How have you applied that principle during your career and life?
SR: Because I’m such a perfectionist, it resonated with me personally when Brenda said that. I get what she’s saying to an artist, because as an artist, you can’t always be number one. You can always try to be number one, and you may go to the number one, or you may not; that’s not necessarily the defining measure of being successful. Sometimes you can’t be number one at everything you do, because if you are, you’re letting other opportunities go by you that you’re not even addressing and sometimes, if you’re number 10, it feels the same. You’re in the same group; you’re in the same category. I don’t mean to imply that you accept less than great, but sometimes great expands more than just that number one spot. Great can be different numbers as well.
KF: As the owner of a primarily country-based magazine, but do you have a favorite genre? Is country what you gravitate towards in your spare time?
SR: Yeah, probably so. I’m from the Southeast, but I like all music. I’m one of those that likes it all, because I’m not a musician, I can’t play any musical instruments, don’t sing, so for me, anybody who does music who is talented – if it’s good- I really enjoy that. But because I’m from the Southeast, I grew up primarily in the country genre.
KF: You touched on the idea of being present where opportunity is. Do you mind diving into this a bit more?
SR: I had an interview with someone and I said, “What advice would give to a songwriter?” That was the topic of the interview. He said, “Well, I would say ‘always put yourself in places where opportunity can occur.’” We all know that; that’s common sense but we also hear so much about making your own opportunities and success. I think that can be a little bit daunting because none of us are really creating our own success in a vacuum.
If we’re looking at who really is successful, especially with what we’re talking about here, if you look at an artist, there are hundreds of people behind that artist – the booking agent, the publicist, the record label, the songwriter – all of these people behind that artist, but getting back to that point, he said “if you’re a songwriter, you should never write songs in your house, because when you go get a cup of coffee, you’ll never run into somebody.” It’s not like you’re planning to run into somebody when you go out and strike up a conversation so that something positive can happen or an opportunity come up, but if you’re at home, that will never happen, because if you’re at home by yourself, it’s not like you’ll run into somebody! So that piece of advice really resonated with me, because I think that’s one of the keys to success: put yourself into places where opportunity can occur. It’s just putting yourself into that places; it’s not going to an event and looking around and going “who do I need to go meet and make sure I know…” when you manipulate it that much, it’s not organic and I don’t think the fruits really occur that way. It’s more you come to a place where opportunities can happen and instead of going “who do I need to meet?” instead it’s “what can I offer?” It’s about you can offer because every business and successful person has something they’re giving or offering. A lot of times we don’t think of it that way, we think “what am I getting?” Like the direction is coming towards me, but it’s very important to reverse that and ask “what can I give, what can I add value to…what can I offer people?” That took me a while to really get that concept and through my experience I’ve realized that’s when you can have success but that’s also when you can be really happy. When it’s all about what you’re receiving, that may feel good for a minute, like when you’re eating a big buffet *laughter* but not soon after that, you’re not going to feel great! I love these wonderful nuggets that I can take, like that interviewees advice, that last a long time.
KF: Speaking of mutually beneficial relationships between professionals, do you see a lot of these in Nashville?
SR: That’s what makes Nashville so unique and I think it’s very surprising for people who are working in the music industry in other locations when they come to Nashville. Even among competitors, we’ll all go out to lunch together and say hello at an event. We will all discuss what we’re doing; we don’t keep it guarded because it works when you have these relationships when you’re talking with a competitor or business manager and you say “hey I’ve got this new artist we’re working on” and then someone else will say “oh, you know who else you should talk to?” That’s what is unique and special about our industry. I think also people here for the most part understand, and I guess you could refer to this as “The Nashville Way” basically that for me to succeed, other people do not have to fail. That is really a philosophy that all the people I deal with live by. It’s like “I don’t have to decrease you to increase. We can both increase together.” Even if you’re not on the same team. Collectively, we all want everyone to do well.
KF: Something you’ve said is “make sure that fear isn’t a factor from achieving your goals.” What advice can you offer people that may be experiencing this?
SR: I think about fear a lot, because I realize how powerful it is. Fear is such a powerful emotion and it’s very negative. So you can google fear, or how to deal with fear – there’s a billion things and some are very opposite of each – so it’s very confusing. You really should figure out how you process that. A lot of times people are trying to not have fear; that is not my philosophy. I think we all have fear and the goal is not to get rid of the fear, but how do you address it? But that’s my personal philosophy, because I think if my goal is never to have fear, I’m never going to meet that goal. I’ll get stuck on that first step, because that will be a battle that I fight the rest of my life. But if I can say, hey don’t worry about the fear; how are you going to handle it? It’s almost like problems; I can’t try not to have problems, because I’m going to have problems. Everybody does. What I am going to focus on is how do I deal with it? For me, if I personally, and I give this advice to myself a lot, you just have to move. You have to take a step. You can feel uncomfortable, you can feel fearful, you can be concerned that something bad is going to happen or that you may lose something, but just know going in that all of that is going to exist; still take the step. The way that I do that is if that step ends up being catastrophic, I will just take another step. I will change my direction again. I think you literally have to move; we’ve all heard these terms, whether it’s jump or lean in. It’s all about the momentum; just do it. There are plenty of things you can do to mitigate that fear. If you are looking for a career change, you can save money and make sure you have six months worth to cover your expenses. You can mitigate your fear by getting support from your friends and family. You can mitigate your fear by educating yourself. If you want to have a career in a certain area, you should probably read about that and study it like you’re in a class in college. The wonderful thing about the internet is nobody can ever say they don’t have the information. It’s all there. There’s plenty of things you can do to make yourself feel comfortable or more comfortable; I think that’s what I do when I am making a big decision.
Raymond James is not affiliated with Sherod Robertson or MusicRow Magazine.