10 Questions with ... Amy Willis
March 13, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I landed my first PR job about six months prior to graduating from MTSU's Recording Industry program. Spring Hill Music was a Gospel/Inspirational label at that time and had never had a publicist. It was trial by fire - I did everything from write bios to choose photos. It was a great learning experience and fantastic team. I made the move to Sony Nashville about four years later. I love all genres of music and wanted to pitch Letterman and Rolling Stone. When the merger with BMG happened, I - along with a large percentage of the staff - lost my job, but quickly moved to Hallmark Direction management company doing PR for their clients. I went to work for Wortman Works about two years later before starting my own company.
1) Congrats on starting your own company, Amy Willis PR! Tell us about your current clients.
I'm working with Brady Seals, Granger Smith and The Listening Room. I also do one-off events and releases for those needing a publicist on a short term basis.
2) You have worked at some great company including Sony Nashville, Hallmark Direction and Wortman Works Media & Marketing but what motivated you to start your own company?
The timing was right to start my own company and I have a very supportive husband. With the recent birth of my son, it's allowed me to set my own hours and be a lot more flexible. I've learned a lot in the last ten or so years and I'd like to continue to grow and make my mark in this industry.
3) You have worked with a long list of clients in the past including Buddy Jewell, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson and more. Do any artists stand out to you that you particularly enjoyed working with and why?
I always tell everyone that Trent Willmon is a publicist's dream client. Apart from being extremely talented and gracious, he has so many interests that it opened the door to numerous unique pitches - from cooking to roping to hunting. He was open to most anything and I was only limited by my imagination. Brady Seals is another great talent. He's got a great sense of humor, he's appreciative and so much fun to work with. Working with Ray Scott was a dream come true - a man of immense talent and voice. I could write pages worth about the amazing artists I've worked with. I'm thankful every day!
4) What do you think the keys are to getting an artist noticed in today's Country market?
Same things they've always been - great songs coupled with a stellar personality. Connecting with the consumer through a terrific song and sound, then making them fans by showing them who you are. These days, there are so many ways to do that on your own - connecting directly to the fans, but there will always be a need for business minded and detail oriented individuals to help facilitate and navigate the business while the artists create.
5) What is your favorite part of your job? Your least favorite?
I love creating the perfect pitch and hearing new music before the public. My least favorite is when the pitch/idea doesn't connect for whatever reason and I don't see the results I expected. It's so disappointing.
6) You mention Mike Kraski and John Grady among your mentors. What is the best advice they have given you?
Mike Kraski once said that every day he wakes up to the realization that he's a part of making someone's dreams come true. That really made an impression on me and it's something I try to remember each day. What stood out to me about John Grady is that he is a true music lover and fan. He signed some amazingly talented artists during his time at Sony - Jon Randall, Rodney Crowell - the list goes on. I remember during his first week in the office, we were having a staff listening party and he happened to be sitting beside me. During one song, he started hitting me on the leg in excitement, something I would have done to a friend. It was a very cool moment. I'd like to compliment Jules Wortman as well as her incredibly cool ability to think outside the box and land some incredibly unique publicity stunts.
7) You also list Shelia Shipley Biddy as a role model for women in the business. What have you learned from Shelia and your own experience about navigating the music business world as a woman?
Shelia is an amazing, strong woman with a gentle spirit. She really cares about her clients and watches out for their well being. She treats everyone with respect and therefore is respected back. She's a multi-tasking phenom and can be a bull dog when needed. Traits we all need!
8) Your bio says you "absolutely love publicity." Tell us, what about publicity draws you to it and what do you think makes you such a good fit for this line of work?
I can't sing, play an instrument or write a song, but I absolutely love music; it feeds my soul like nothing else does. My creative outlet is finding the perfect match between the story and the media outlet. I love being among the first to hear new music - I feel like a junkie sometimes. I love our music community and have made some amazing friends in this industry.
9) Your husband also works in the business, as a guitar tech for the Christian rock group Third Day. How do you balance your relationship and the many work demands on the music industry?
Brian and I met at MTSU both with visions of music industry greatness in our eyes. We grew up in this business together. He's great at his job. He plays guitar and loves music. Since he works closely with the artists on the road, he brings a different perspective to our discussions. We balance the demands of our job as best we can - with humor, patience and respect.
10) Who are some of your favorite artists out right now and are there any new artists that you think have the potential to be the next superstar act?
I love what Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band and Jamey Johnson are doing for our genre. They're each expanding it while remaining true to the core of Country music. I see them being around for a long time to come and I always look forward to hearing what they're working on.
1) Congrats on the new addition to the family! Is your little girl Ava excited about having a new sibling?
Thank you!! Ava is a wonderful big sister. She's helpful and wants to hold him a lot. She nicknamed him "toad" while I was still pregnant. Hopefully, that name won't stick
2) What is your guilty pleasure?
Video games - and it's the only time I cuss like a sailor; I'm normally very mild mannered. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury to play anymore.
3) What would your dream job be if you were not working in the music industry?
I saw a Food Network show featuring a man with the title of "National Pizza Consultant." I thought he was aiming too low. I'd like to be "International Pizza Consultant."