We are back with the Building the Community Series and the spotlight shines on one of Chicago’s finest and most exciting personalities, Backstage Bobbi. From being a spectator at concerts around Chicago to interviewing those performing, Bobbi is determined to bring community and Country Music together for all involved. From getting started during the pandemic to establishing herself in Country Music, Bobbi is just getting rolling and I'm excited to see what her future holds. For those who don’t know, Bobbi explained what she is building. "Backstage Bobbi represents a community we have here in Chicago. I’m trying to blow up the little niche we have here and sharing the love of Country Music that Chicago has and helping tp broadcast that. The whole goal of Backstage Bobbi is to create a community, to help raise up some of these local artists and spotlighting mainstream artists as they come through Chicago”. I sat down with Bobbi and talked about how Country Music has been a therapy for her, some of her most memorable moments with Backstage Bobbi and her dreams and aspirations moving forward.
Get To Know Bobbi
"I'm born and bred in Chicago. I'm from a really strong and supportive family. My dad is one of two boys, my mom is an only child, but is close with her extended family. We all really love music and I've loved music since I was really little. My mom's side of the family is extremely musical and can sing, play multiple instruments and are a part of bands. But it skipped me, I am not musical. I can't sing or play an instrument, but I just love music. Music was always playing in my house, whether my mom had Guns 'N Roses on or we were listening to Prince. My dad was more into Eric Clapton, Talking Heads with a little bit of Dwight Yoakam thrown in there. I think it was that little bit of Dwight Yoakam that sparked my interest in Country Music as a young girl. When I moved and went to college, my mom gave me this notebook. She had documented everything when I was growing up. I guess there was this one day when I was 4 years old when I found this Texas CD at a local grocery store. It cost $5 and I would dance around to it. Country Music has had a hold on me since I was really little. I was belting out Dixie Chicks love songs when I was 6 years old and had no idea what they actually meant. Country Music has been a sort of therapy for me throughout my entire life. I've had some extensive battles with anxiety and depression and Country Music has been this strong hold and cornerstone for me. I think my parents really picked up on that. Ever since I was 10 or 11 years old I received concert tickets."
Q & A With Backstage Bobbi
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Backstage Bobbi and how did this journey start for you?
A: "It was kind of crazy. My good friend, shoutout to Stef Caldwell, was in a sorority with me and is here in Chicago and is a Chicago native. She started a women's networking group focused on getting women together over a common goal of becoming their best self and having their place at the table. I did one of her seminars back in December of 2019. I was job hopping and wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to earn a higher degree, but was unsure what to study. She had this really great exercise where Stef said: "picture your dream job and how would you want to get there?". At the time, I wanted to be in Country radio. We have an amazing Country radio station here in Chicago, US99, that's been around probably longer than I've been alive.
Stef helped me realize I really wanted to work in Country Music, but I didn't know how. I talked to other great people, Christina Bosch (The Nash News), Stephanie Wagner (Country Swag) and picked their brains. Flash forward to July of 2020 and we are in the thick of the pandemic. There was no live music, and by then, I should have been to at least a half dozen or more concerts. All of our big festivals were canceled, Kenny Chesney was canceled. I was really low, something that gives me life and feeds into me as a person is live music and there was nothing.
I was driving to work when my friend Stef called me and said "I had a dream. I think you should start a page called Backstage Bobbi and make it your resumé into the Country Music world". August of 2020 I launched Backstage Bobbi, and had no idea what I was doing. I was sharing old pictures of me at concerts, I was sharing songs that I liked and was figuring it out as I was going. One night I was workshopping it and my dad was like "Bobbi you've been to so many concerts and know so much about the Chicago scene, why don't you create this community. You've met so many of your best friends and past boyfriends and new boyfriends at concerts. There is a community here, why don't you be the face of it". So it was my dad who really pushed me to do this. He's been my biggest ally. Since then, it's grown into Instagram lives, a partnership with All Country News as the host of their Country Confidential podcast. I still pinch myself multiple times a day that I get to do that. It's grown into me meeting some of the people I've looked up to for such a long time - like Flatland Cavalry or hanging out with the Josh Abbott Band. I have an authentic love for Country Music and trying to find people that feel the same way and are looking for that feeling has created this community."
Q: Most memorable moment so far with Backstage Bobbi?
A: "The first one that popped into my head was getting to interview Ray Fulcher. I got to meet and hangout with him backstage at the United Center. For me, personally, it solidified that I belonged. It was memorable because The United Center held a personal significance. I've been to so many sold out shows there - everybody from The Eagles to Jason Aldean to Luke Bryan. Getting the opportunity to go into the bones of the arena was exciting. It's such a cornerstone of Chicago. Beyond that, it was very memorable because I went through 8 layers of security and Covid tested twice. I'm nervous as all hell, trying to balance a Lou Malnati's pizza, all my gear, my backpack and find where I'm supposed to be. Luckily Ray's publicist Dawn, who's the sweetest human ever, helped me get set up. We were in this tiny room, right next to the Blackhawks dressing room. I was hyperventilating. I was there with Ray doing the "Deep Dish on Country" which was my brand new series that I'm obsessed with. And I was doing a podcast episode for Country Confidential. He was the nicest guy. The Braves just won the World Series and we were cracking jokes and having a great time.
Another memorable moment was at the end of December at Joe Weed's. It's the cornerstone venue in Chicago. My good buddies Muscadine Bloodline were playing there and I had the chance to interview them in person. Having pizza with Muscadine Bloodline may be my favorite memory ever. Talk about great people and great music."
Q:What is your vision for Backstage Bobbi?
A: "The two cornerstones of Backstage Bobbi are music and community. I want to see that grow tenfold. The future of Backstage Bobbi is super bright. If things stay the way they are in Chicago, we're going to do a bunch of fun things in person. Going forward, I would love to highlight great local talent like South City Revival, David Quinn and Mackenzie O'Brien who are really bringing this Country Music community together. I'm hoping to have some great in-person Backstage Bobbi events including Songwriters’ Rounds and Showcases. The vision going forward is a local hub for people to come together, meet new people and enjoy the genre that they love. Hopefully they find an escape from the everyday mundaneness of the pandemic. Dreaming even bigger than that, I want Backstage Bobbi to become something where I talk to these big artists when they come through town. We can talk and catch up."
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who's trying to become an entrepreneur and start their own podcast, business, service etc.?
A: "I really struggled with anxiety and depression and finding my way through middle school, high school, college and even now. I think my number one piece of advice for anyone trying to be an entrepreneur is to follow your dreams and don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know how to do this, so I'm going to ask someone that does". Don't be afraid to feel confused and lost. Pray, speak to the universe, do whatever you want, write things down, manifest... My friend I was talking about in the beginning, her program was called Manifest. I literally manifested this and now I'm here. There are so many times over the last few years where I wanted to throw in the towel and thought nobody cared. Then I'll get a follower or an email from someone telling me they like what I'm doing and want to be a part of it. Just keep going."