10 Questions with ... Natalie Kilgore
August 7, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Kilgore began her career as an on-air talent for Nashville's leading Active Rock station, WBUZ 102.9 The Buzz while still a senior at APSU. She then served as Communication Director for the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and as the Co-Director of the annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival. For the last 4 years, Kilgore served as Head of Publicity for the Big Machine Label Group where her work was instrumental in helping launching the careers of Taylor Swift, Justin Moore, Steel Magnolia, The Band Perry and Sunny Sweeney. Additionally, Kilgore oversaw publicity for Reba, Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, Jewel, Jack Ingram and Trisha Yearwood, as well as led corporate publicity and branding initiatives for BMLG.
1) Congrats on the new job with George P. Johnson G7's Entertainment Marketing Group. Tell us more about the company and who some of your main clients are there.
GPJ/ G7 is an award-winning entertainment marketing agency that works with brands including RAM, Nissan, Chrysler, Country Financial, Kingsford Charcoal and a host of others. In the past year, a few of the artists the GPJ/G7 has worked with include Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Train, Jewel, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, wil.i.am, and Stevie Wonder.
2) What are you excited about in your new role?
George P. Johnson's G7 Entertainment Marketing group is hands-down one of the brightest stars in the world of experiential marketing as well as conceptualization, creation, production and fabrication of fan experiences. During my time here, I've learned so much in terms of entertainment marketing strategy and I've begun thinking of completely new possibilities in terms of artist, album and tour marketing.
3) How did you get your start in PR and what drew you to the business?
I was a journalism major in college and initially set my sights on entertainment reporting (of which I've subsequently done freelance work). I was derailed a bit from that original plan during my senior year at Austin Peay when I started programming and hosting a local rock show on WBUZ - Nashville. Not long after I took the mic, the show began branching out with live concert series, battle of the bands competitions and live broadcasts. My first instinct was to reach out to all the local and regional print outlets, cable access and local lifestyle shows and music 'zines to help support the show and its events. Looking back, I suppose that was actually my first publicity gig.
4) Before GPJ, you were Head of Publicity for Big Machine Label Group. What stands out as projects that you were most proud of when you worked there?
I don't know that there's just one thing. Every staff member helped build the dream together through blood, sweat and tears - and it was an amazing time in my life that I'll always be grateful for and proud of. We were always working so hard that sometimes we didn't immediately realize what was happening out there - to me Taylor was the same 16-year-old who clobbered me with a big hug the first time I met her at the CMT Music Awards until I saw YouTube footage of fans screaming and fighting to get a glimpse of her on the streets in Italy. I will always be honored to have been a part of the supernova - AND to have worked with so many truly amazing artists and people. Reba continues to inspire me through both her music and her humanity. She's a true class act and I feel blessed to have been a small part of her professional life.
5) Your time working for NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) must have been really interesting. What's your best advice for a new songwriter coming to Nashville?
The first thing I'd tell a new songwriter to do is to drop by NSAI and get involved with the organization. The team at NSAI is incredibly hard working and supportive and a wealth of information. NSAI is an invaluable networking tool - it's Board and membership is comprised of some of the most prolific songwriters in all genres of music. By becoming involved, you're not only integrating yourself into the songwriting community but you're also working to ensure the continued livelihood of songwriting as a profession.
6) I saw in your bio that you once previously held an on-air shift at WBUZ/Nashville. How did you like being on the air and could you ever see yourself doing that again?
As a child, I used to sit in my bedroom for hours playing one 45 at a time on my turntable. I'd tape each song on my cassette player and then pick up the microphone and back-sell Taylor Dayne's "Don't Rush Me" and, in the same breath, intro Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal." Still, as much as I love music, I hadn't considered it as a career choice. During my senior year in college I was offered an internship with the Cromwell Radio Group in Nashville. During my final semester of college, I was offered an official gig and came on board as a regular on-air talent - a stint that lasted about 3 years. I loved being on the air. During one of my weekly shifts, I was fortunate to be able to program my own show of mostly unsigned acts, which gave me an incredible amount of freedom on the show. The only parameter I had to follow was to play the great music that came across my desk. It was a great experience and I certainly wouldn't rule out working on a specialty show for the right station if an opportunity presented itself.
7) What do you think the keys are to getting an artist noticed in today's Country market?
If I had to sum it up in one word, I'd say "passion." Passion in your songwriting, passion in your performance, a passionate work ethic and a passion to succeed. All great music - no matter what style -- has to have been born from that indescribable fire from deep within your gut. And I need to feel that same passion in my gut when I see or hear you perform. You also have to live and breathe that passion as you work to find your path in this industry. True, unabashed passion is the one thing that can't be fabricated.
8) What is your favorite part of your job and what do you find to be the most difficult?
Knowing that the sky's the limit. I love working with a new artist, discovering their essence and helping them find their path and ultimately uncover their dreams. And if you can do that with a fun team of friends with like-minded philosophies that's the ultimate quality of professional life.
I'm a workaholic, so my biggest challenge - in any line of work - has always been knowing when to say when and to call it an evening. I set the bar pretty high - and the media never sleeps, which means that I always have this feeling that I accomplish just one more thing before the clock strikes midnight.
9) Who would you list among your mentors and what is the best advice you have been given?
I've been blessed with so many amazingly supportive friends, colleagues and acquaintances during my career. Every person around me has wisdom to share and I've learned so much from so many people - and have more to learn, still.
Kay Clary (BMI) keeps me grounded and creatively inspired in times of dire stress. Erika Wollam Nichols (NSAI/ Bluebird Café) is truly my sage and sister from another mister. Niki Tyree (GPJ/ G7) has danced it out with me and talked me off the ledge more than once over the course of my career; Jon Loba (Sr. VP of Broken Bow) is, hands down, the most amazing team manager and go-getter I've ever worked with and I strive to be as instinctive, innovative and energetic as him. One thing he said that always sticks with me, "Chill out. Take a breath. When you're not looking for it, it'll happen." Which is solid wisdom, no matter what you're looking for in life.
10) You seem to have risen so far in your career! What do you think makes you such a good fit for this line of work and any advice for those trying to break into the PR world in Nashville?
I love music. I love art and expression. I've been fascinated with the pop culture machine for as long as I can remember. I was the 7-year-old girl at the supermarket begging her mom to buy People magazine's Lucille Ball tribute issue and Madonna's Rolling Stone cover. I scoured flea markets for books about the studio system; publicity campaigns of early movie stars; P.T. Barnum; vaudeville; and the early days of the Grand Ole Opry.
I think I'm a good fit for this line of work because I truly love what I do. It challenges and energizes me and, after 32 years, I'm still fascinated and interested, both as a hobbyist and as a professional. In terms of advice for aspiring publicists, I would say: pound that pavement. Work as many internships as much as possible. Put yourself in the position to network while at the same time showcasing your work ethic. Hoofing it and continuously learning is both the way to break into and survive in the industry.
1) What are some of the most listened to artists on your iPod?
I'm a non-recovering music junkie and have 10,000 songs and counting on my iPod from U2 to the Rolling Stones to Blue Angel to Thompson Square to Joan Baez to Concrete Blonde to The Raveonettes and even some Broadway standards. Lately, the likes of MJ, Brandi Carlile, The Civil Wars, Diane Birch, Fleetwood Mac, Zee Avi, Patty Griffin and Florence & The Machine's "The B-Sides" have dominated my ear buds.
2) I saw you listed antiques among your interest. What kind of antiques do you collect?
My home decorating style is a hybrid that utilizes late 50s/ early 60s mod design elements coupled with 1920s art deco pieces so I'm always on the look out for a great accent piece. Even though I don't smoke I get weak in the knees for unique ashtrays as well as art glass and art deco mirrors. I also love going to vintage clothing trunk sales and picking up anything from a great Depression-era dress to 1950s sunglasses. Early 20th century issues of Billboard as well as Modern Screen and old lobby cards also tend to find their way into my shopping bag.
3) What is your favorite place to travel and why?
I absolutely fell in love with Dover, England, when I traveled around the UK 4 years ago. It's a quaint, charming town that, in many ways, hasn't moved past WW2. It's flanked by the beautiful white cliffs, the quite intimidating Dover Castle and is full of little dives with the best fish 'n chips. I could totally see myself retiring there one day and writing for the local newspaper or whatever format still exists.