The Journey Of UPstar. Music: From Countless Failures To Finding a Home In Nashville
Family Over Everything
Well damn... today marks the two year anniversary of UPstar. Music. As I say that UPstar. Music was established in 2019, the journey started much earlier with countless failures and missteps. For whatever reason, something always brought me back to Country Music and helping rising artists chase their dreams. After four failures at different points in the last five years, I have learned so many valuable lessons. I've met many incredible people along the way and hopefully one day I can make UPstar. Music my full time job. Here is the complete journey of UPstar. Music from start to finish. Grab some popcorn and a beer and settle in.
What is UPstar. Music?
UPstar. Music is growing and evolving everyday. Some people know who we are and what we do, but of course there are a lot of people who aren't familiar with us or don't know exactly what we do. I classify UPstar. Music as a media and promotion company that works with up and coming artists, songwriters and musicians in Country Music, to spotlight their journey and help them find success. When people ask in passing, it's hard to break down everything we do as there are many layers. At UPstar. Music, of course we want to promote the best up and coming music, but for me, it's so much deeper than that. I want to help anyone I can and develop a relationship with individuals so they feel comfortable to ask for help and guidance. Whether it's working with the next big star in the genre, helping a young kid discover their talent and the opportunities in Music City or the artist who hasn't "made it" yet but is grinding everyday to chase their dreams... THAT’S what it's all about. FAMILY OVER EVERYTHING. Regardless of talent level or success, I will always put the person first and do what I can for them. Because I’m not in Nashville yet and finishing up college in New York, most of UPstar. Music is on social media. I do interviews with artists, spotlight them with different features on social media, add them to our playlists on Apple Music and Spotify and help connect them with other artists, songwriters and musicians in Country Music or people in the industry. As much as UPstar. Music is for those in the Country Music industry, it is every bit as focused on Country Music fans and listeners. It’s to help connect them with up-and-comers, showing them how much talent there really is out there and helping listeners discover their new favorite artists for years to come.
Sick Of What Was On The Radio...
Before UPstar. Music was even a thought, I was a big fan of Country Music and had started to really appreciate the genre. It was my senior year of high school and I’d gotten to a point that I was sick of what was on the radio and knew there had to be more out there. It’s not that the radio was bad, but I was tired of the same old 8 songs replaying over and over. One night I was bored and went to Google and typed in "Rising Artists in Country Music", not knowing what to expect. I started to come across guys like Jimmie Allen, Ryan Hurd, Dylan Schneider, Ryan Griffin, Filmore, Seth Ennis, Jacob Davis, Jenna Paulette, along with a few others. I was awestruck at their talent and confused why I had never heard of any of them before. It's crazy to look back. This was in 2017 and most everyone I found has had some kind of success in Country Music. So I made a list of all these names of up-and-coming artists and started to show these artists’ songs to my friends and family waiting for a reaction. Every time I showed someone, their jaw dropped and it was followed with "how did you find them? They are so good!". I knew then I had an idea for something, just didn't know what it was yet. I was still so “green”.
Country Music Suggestions
I came to the point where I wanted to share with the world the new talent in Country Music, but just didn't know how. UPstar. Music had quite the modest start. Before it was called UPstar. Music, we had “Country Music Suggestions”: a twitter account that suggested songs from up-and-comers a few times a day, so people could check them out and find new music. Well let's just say it didn't go really well. I think it lasted about 2 weeks, had 8 followers and zero engagement. I'm curious to see if you can still find the account on Twitter.
From Hurricane Irma to a Business Idea
As “Country Music Suggestions” failed miserably, I was still considered "The Country Music Plug" for those close to me and that was a big ego boost. For my freshman year of college I headed 1,000 miles away to the University of Tampa in August 2017. At that point I had no plans to make a business out of my idea for discovering up and coming artists in Country Music. That is - until Hurricane Irma happened. What? Yes, you heard that correctly... I wasn’t on campus two weeks before Hurricane Irma was on it's way up the coast of Florida. Due to those circumstances, we had a week off from classes. To celebrate, the few friends I had met on my floor and I walked down to McDonald's at 1 am. Through a casual conversation I talked to one of my buddy's about how I was discovering all these new up-and-coming artists, how talented they were and how I wanted to be able to show them off to people. He stopped in his tracks and told me "dude... I think you really have something". At that point I didn't consider myself a business mind and was rather confused. But hell, we had a week to do nothing so I gave it a shot. We headed back to our dorm and I got to work.
All Genres Platform and Going to Take Over the World
I don't know if it was the few days of having nothing to do or that we were that bored, but we grinded and got to work. First, we came up with a name - this took an entire day of throwing words together and hoping something clicked. I wish there was a cool story on how "UPstar '' came to me. Nope, it wasn't in a dream or I didn't see it on a street sign. It was as simple as another word for rising was up, so instead of "rising star" I switched "rising" with "up", put it together and came up with "UPstar.". At first I wasn't too sure, but it was different and unique and got the point across. Then I got out a pencil and paper and started drawing and drew a logo. For the most part, that logo is the same one used today. I sent it to fiverr to get it digitalized and just like that UPstar. was in business. My buddy and I pitched the idea to my other roommates and they were on board with the idea. It was then that we decided that all of us liked different genres of music: Hip-Hop/Rap, Country, Beach, Rock and Pop. In our mind business was easy... you are going to hear this a lot... but in reality we had no idea what the hell we were doing. The original plan was to promote new names in all genres on social media, I was thinking way too big and wanted it all - a booking agency, being a promoter, hosting shows, you name it I wanted to do it. I had no vision or plan, but knew I loved showcasing new talent. I ordered 1,000 koozies (my dad helped finance them) and customized about 5 t-shirts off of Custom Ink. Well, a week or so went by and everyone snapped back into reality. After a few weeks, the four guys helping me got back to living their life and faded out of the picture. No hard feelings. This was my dream and journey and they just wanted to get back to being college freshmen which is understandable. After two more weeks of "forming a business plan" it became too much to do alone and I called it quits.
Summer Break, Business Plan and Not a Damn Clue What I Was Doing
Fast forward to May 2018. My passion for discovering new talent and my love for Country Music never faded and I wanted to give UPstar. another crack. I made some decisions. I decided to focus solely on Country Music and updated the logo to include "music". The short lived "UPstar." era was over and from here on out it was "UPstar. Music". I knew I couldn't do this alone and asked my buddies Kyle and Evan to help out. Both of these guys were studying business and finance in school and were eager to help. Once again, I had no idea what the hell I was doing and thought way too big too soon, but really loved what I was doing. The three of us had countless "business meetings" that went absolutely nowhere and hand printed these hideous t-shirts with a rocket ship on the back. Why I thought this was a good idea, who knows. We brainstormed and talked for about 2 months or so but as we got busier and went back to school, UPstar. Music crumbled to pieces. I thought that was it...again.
Well... Let's Just Try Playlists
We fast forward again to March of 2019. UPstar. Music was like that ex-girlfriend that wouldn't go away and no matter what you still loved. By now I knew I didn't want to make this huge business and didn't want to lose my passion for discovering and showing off new talent in Country Music. So, I rebranded to becoming a curator on Apple Music and Spotify under UPstar. Music and created playlists to share with people. This was the beginning of the "Gold Carpet" playlist (later renamed the "Gold Standard" playlist). I showcased new songs from up and coming artists in a chart/ranking format. Each week I also did a "Weekly Top 5" that I posted on my personal Instagram Story. I'd post 5 songs and have people swipe if they liked it. These were all genres of songs I really liked at the time. Well you know the drill by now... I got bored and didn't see a purpose or any success so I shut things down again in late August of 2019 and planned to focus on school and being a teacher. A few valuable things came out of this playlist phase however. I connected with Hunter Jordan because I’d put his new song "Saturdays Are For the Boys" on a playlist and we started talking. Through Hunter, I got in contact with Ethan Willis, another artist and songwriter and we talked a little. For whatever reason they really believed in what I was doing and stood by me. To this day they are two of my best friends in Nashville and I'm so thankful to both of them.
After Countless Failures, One Last Shot at Making This Shit Happen
Well “slap my ass and call me Sally” if failing four times wasn't enough. I wasn't afraid of failure and “UPstar. Music” wasn’t done yet. I took some time to regroup and reflect on my past failures, digging deep into why I wanted to make something out of UPstar. Music. I stripped everything down and started from square one; made a new Instagram, erased all my playlists and started from the beginning. With my only two connections, Hunter (Jordan) and Ethan (Willis), I took a leap of faith and began a new journey. I learned to enjoy what I was doing, be patient, not put so much stress on myself and understand whatever happens, happens. I started sharing songs, and creating playlists and one day Jack Hummel reached out to me. He showed me an article he was featured in and asked me to post it and I did. We started talking more and from there everything slowly snowballed. I made a few promotional posts and reached out to anybody in Nashville I could find, asking them to repost it. Slowly the number of my followers began to grow and I slowly started making more connections. Another guy I'm truly thankful for is Matt Burrill from In the Round Podcast who Ethan had introduced me to. We were both getting started and passionate about our work and started to talk more and more. He introduced me to a ton of talented artists and songwriters. Each day UPstar. Music grew little by little. It all came down to being patient and finding my footing in what I was doing.
A Community Was Born and Friendships Were Made
Eventually I realized that what I was doing was more than just a page and sharing music. I started finding and getting in touch with artists and songwriters and building relationships. Ethan Willis, Hunter Jordan, Matt Burrill, Adam Scott, Jay Jones, Jack Hummel, Todd Cameron, Clayton Shay, Garrett Biggs, Will Finley, Cole Bradford, Cody Garrett, Alan Richeson, Krystalanne, Michael Pace, Cody Bradley, Kyle Elliott, Randall Fowler, Brandon Bethel are just a few names of the individuals who I am so appreciative of for believing in me and UPstar. Music right from the start. I owe so much to them! There are so many people I forgot, but you know who you are. This gave a purpose to what I was doing and really lit a fire under my ass to work as hard as I could to make UPstar. Music into something. At that time, things were coming together and evolving, but during the first few months these incredible people gave me the courage to keep fighting and chasing a dream that I had failed at over and over again.
Quarantine... A Blessing in Disguise
March of 2020 was really the beginning to UPstar. Music and when things started to click. Yes, the world was shutting down, COVID was a mystery that was taking over the world, toilet paper was gone, we were locked in our houses and nobody knew when it would end. I was “stuck” in Florida with my family during the time that was supposed to be my spring break. I was bored just like everyone else in the world. I'm not claiming to be the first live stream ever or the one who came up with the idea, but I reached out to some of my friends and said "hey, obviously we are locked inside doing nothing. Would you be interested in jumping on Instagram Live and playing some songs?". I texted like 6 people and everyone was so pumped about the idea. I came up with the "Living Room Concert Series" and DM'd anyone I could. There ended up being 65 artists over 10 days and everyone jumped on Instagram Live with me and played some songs and talked for 30 minutes. It was incredible to be able to talk to these artists and start to build a relationship with them. After those 10 days UPstar. Music got 400 more followers which was a great foundation to what I was trying to build. Such a big thank you to Matt Burrill who helped me kick off each day and so thankful for the many people he introduced me to. A great friend and I’m forever grateful for his help.
6 Weeks in Nashville Makes Everything More Clear
As this journey moves closer to the present day, another important piece was the summer of 2021. I was able to get away to Nashville for 6 weeks and got a glimpse of what my future can be when I eventually move there. I finally had the opportunity to meet a lot of the amazing talented people I work with or have connected with in the past, in person. Getting to be in Nashville, feel the magic in the air and watch these individuals bust their ass - some work paycheck to paycheck - writing songs 6 days a week without complaining just to chase their dream is so inspiring. Getting to see that first hand really gave me a new perspective on what I do and what my purpose truly is. It really hit me when I went to Whiskey Row for my buddy Skyelor Anderson's release party. Just getting to see him up on stage performing and feel his passion for what he does really made me appreciate Country Music and all the amazing people that put their heart and soul into the genre. On July 27th I hosted a writer's round at The Dogwood in Nashville and got to bring some of my UPstar. Music family up to play. It was such an amazing moment - to finally do an event in Nashville and celebrate the talented people I get to work with. A big thank you to Dave Hangley, for setting it up and making it happen.
2 Years of UPstar. Music
Well, if you read about the whole journey, thank you. It really means a lot. There is still so much work to be done and I try to enjoy each and every day and live in the moment. I am so thankful to everyone who has helped me make it this far; my family and friends for always encouraging me, all the artists, songwriters and musicians or anyone else in the music industry who has given me a shot. Hopefully this is just the beginning. I am so excited to see where this journey takes me.
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