Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Songwriter Feature - Ryan Oetken

AND WE'RE BACK with another week of features on The Songwriter Diary! With the release of "Lonely," we took two weeks off but I'm super excited to jump back in with one of my very favorites cowriters

This week I'm excited to introduce you to Ryan Oetken. If you've ever listened to any of my music, you probably are already familiar with Ryan's songwriting, voice, and guitar skills! Ryan is a co-writer on 9/10 of the songs on my last album "Love Shouldn't Be So Hard," including "Secrets" which has been featured on the Spotify curated playlist "Take it Slow" for over a year! So many of my favorite co-writing memories are with Ryan, we have such a fun and unique co-writing style that in my experience has been unparalleled.  

I'm excited to share that Ryan's new single "Long Road" comes out this Friday, November 3rd! You can presave the song now HERE!

I hope you'll join us tonight on Instagram LIVE at 8pm central time for some original music! In the meantime, I would like to pass the mic over to Ryan Oetken so you can get to know him!

When did you start singing/playing music?

I started singing from a very young age. When I was three I asked my parents how to make a record. I immediately called my grandpa and told him I was going to borrow his trailer to drive to New York so I could go make a record.

I started playing guitar when I was 12 and that opened a whole other world. I just wanted to play songs I already loved.

Before I knew it I was gigging weekly in bars with older musicians and then after that with my own band.

How did you get into songwriting?

It happened organically. I started playing around with different chord progressions and before I knew it a melody and some words just appeared.

Who are your biggest influences?

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Beach Boys.

What are you listening to right now?

Right now I am currently listening to "Wildflowers & All The Rest" which was released last month. "Wildflowers" has always been my favorite album so it is great getting an expanded edition and getting insight into how the songs came to life.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

What is "Long Road" about? What do you want listeners to know about what the song means to you?

The song I am currently promoting is "Long Road" which comes out on November 6th 2020. I hope people resonate with it and decide to do something spontaneous.

If you could write a song with any person dead or alive, who would it be?

Tom Petty. He was a brilliant songwriter and I loved his motto which was "don't bore us get to the chorus."

What was/is your experience in quarantine like as a musician?

At first it was extremely discouraging, but then I realized it could be a great opportunity to write solo and it's been a really positive and fun experience.

What advice would you give to an aspiring singer/songwriter?

Don't ever lose the spark that was there the first time you started playing, singing, writing, etc. and make sure it never feels like work. 


Ryan Oetken is a west coast native, born and raised in Wilsonville, Oregon. Pursuing musical interests, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2011 to collaborate with established musicians and further his music career. 
After touring with various artists, he teamed up with Holly Auna in 2017 and formed “The Haunted.” The two continue to write for their project and other artists across multi-genres. 

“Holly and I have a unique chemistry when it comes to creating music. We have a mutual understanding of what makes a good song and we’re not afraid to go beyond our comfort zones to achieve it. I’m proud to call her a friend and can’t wait to see where this project takes us.”

Among being the lead guitarist and a primary songwriter in “The Haunted,” he also plays and records with a number of upcoming artists including: Lazy Jane, Ian McConnell, Kassidy Lynn, and Ava Boney.

In 2017 he was the guitarist for Natalie Spiroff in the NashNext Finals and performed for Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn.

He is currently working in collaboration with Holly Auna for the bands first studio album release and his single “Long Road” is available everywhere on November 6th 2020. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Making of "Lonely"

 Join us on Instagram LIVE at 8pm ct tonight as we talk about the making of "Lonely!"

When I was in high school I was in a relationship that was so close to being great. But there was something missing.  I wasn't alone, but I was lonely.  I remember writing that down in my "hook book," I'm not alone...but I'm lonely. I held onto that idea for years and years.  As I entered my 20s and continued into the adult dating world I yet again experienced the feeling of being in a relationship and yet feeling so utterly alone.  From the outside looking in relationships can look perfect. But inside you're thinking to yourself...

"Is it just me? 

Cause everyone else seems to think? 

That we're everything happy people should be."

In 2017 I sat down to write a song with two of my best friends, Lydia Dall and Dan Kozlowski. Writing with really close friends is always easier for me because there's an extra level of trust there. You don't have to tell them everything you're going through because usually they already know.  Lydia and Dan were both there for me when I needed them most and I'll never be able to thank them enough for writing this song with me.  

I remember going through my song ideas and finding "I'm not alone but I'm lonely." Then Dan started playing a beautiful guitar part that fit the idea perfectly.  The rest is a bit of a blur.  I started crying and spewing my feelings, Lydia began crafting my ramblings into beautiful lyrics, and Dan kept crafting the music.  It came together like magic.  Messy magic -- at one point I ran upstairs at the publishing house and grabbed a roll of toilet paper and a trashcan because I was crying so much.  I think I might have used the whole roll before the song was done. 

Over the next three years, I started to play "Lonely" at every songwriters' round, full band show, and tour show that I played.  It felt like the song grew a little bit each time I played it, acoustically and with the band.  But with my band, I finally got to hear "Lonely" sound the way it did in my head.  

I can't thank my bandmates enough for co-producing this song with me. Thank you, Dan Kozlowski, John Townsend, Ryan Oetken, and Matthew Foss for bringing this song to life with me.  And yes! Dan is the same Dan who wrote the song with me and I think that makes it even more special. 

We first took "Lonely" into the studio at The Amber Sound in December of 2018.  This is the day when we laid all the bones of the track.  In 2019 we hit the studio again to lay the three-piece string section and piano.  In 2020 I finally laid vocals and it's finally ready for release! 

I've never been this nervous to release a song.  This song has been such a big part of my life for so long and I'm so excited to finally be able to share what I've been hearing inside of my head.  

If this song makes one person feel less alone, I'll be happy. 

Presave/Preorder before midnight HERE


Holly Auna: Songwriter/Producer/Vocalist

Lydia Dall: Songwriter

Dan Kozlowski: Songwriter/Producer/Drummer

John Townsend: Producer/Guitar/Background Vocals/Vocal Engineer/Mixing/Mastering

Ryan Oetken: Producer/Guitar

Matthew Foss: Producer/Bass

Mat Poole: Recording Engineer

Alex Devor: Piano

Meghan Perdue: Violin/Viola

Maggie Chafee: Cello 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Songwriter Feature - Abigail Neilson

This week I'm taking you out of Nashville and across the country to Seattle to meet the beautiful and talented Abigail Neilson! I met Abigail on Instagram awhile back and I've loved following her journey! She recently released a bop called "Left Unsaid!" I can't wait to introduce you to Abigail and this new song of hers!

I hope you'll join us tonight on Instagram LIVE at 8pm central time for some original music! In the meantime, I would like to pass the mic over to Abigail Neilson so you can get to know her!

When did you start singing/playing music?

I started pursuing music when I was 13. I had gotten a guitar that had been laying around my house for a while and one day decided to get onto YouTube and teach myself some chords. Once I realized that just about every song on the radio had the same 4 chords, so I quickly learned the top hits of 2014 and started busking at farmers' markets. That following summer, I joined a band and I've been singing and performing ever since!

How did you get into songwriting?

I've always been a writer even before I was writing songs. I would write stories, poems, and many diary entires. I started writing songs seriously once I learned how to play guitar. Once I knew I wanted to pursue music, I knew I had to write my own songs. I'm a very big Taylor Swift fan and she inspired me to write my own songs, as well as learn to play guitar. Since I started writing songs when I was 13, my early songs are based off stories I would make up, young love, and were usually inspired by the TV shows I was watching at the time. Since then, I've gained some life experience and now mainly write about my own life experiences, and get inspired by my own feelings, as well as my friends experiences, and still the occasional song inspired by a made up relationship. 

Who are your biggest influences?

My top few influences have to be Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Jade Bird, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Twenty One Pilots.

What are you listening to right now?

Right now I've been listening to a lot of Twenty One Pilots and Jade Bird. I've always loved how Tyler Joseph's lyrics paint such a clear picture. I also just about a year ago discovered Jade Bird and I love her music so much. The stories she tells are very relatable and her melodies always get stuck in my head. Both of these artists are also absolutely amazing live.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

I'd have to say Taylor Swift. I grew up listening to her music and I don't think that I could live without her songs. She covers so much ground lyrically and musically. She also has been able to cover so many different emotions throughout her career, as well as showcase the same emotions in different songs on different albums, and how she has reacted differently in her own stages of life. She’s been able to show the world that you can hit rock bottom and get up again and still be your best self, if not even better. Her music has inspired and motivated me so much throughout my life, so I definitely couldn’t live without her music.

What is "Left Unsaid" about? What do you want listeners to know about what the song means to you?

My latest release, “Left Unsaid” is a song about heartbreak and being left to wonder why someone suddenly doesn’t want you anymore when you thought everything was alright. I wrote this song about my own personal heartbreak. The thought that I kept coming back to was wondering if they were better saying they didn’t love me anymore, so I made that the songs hook. I want my listeners to know that it’s oki to be left wondering what happened with a failed relationship because people sometimes do leave you without any explanation. I want this song to be one they listen to when they feel alone, to remind them that they’re not. 

If you could write a song with any person dead or alive, who would it be?

It's always been my dream to write with Taylor Swift, so I'd have to choose her without a doubt.

What was/is your experience in quarantine like as a musician?

In Seattle, live music is currently banned until further notice, so I haven't played a live show since March. Not playing live shows has been the biggest change for me. But I've been able to work from home doing live streams, zoom writes, and also releasing my new music. I'm very thankful for my family and that I'm able to work from home. And once it's safe to do so, it'll be really fun to get back to playing live shows.

What advice would you give to an aspiring singer/songwriter?

No matter if you think it's good or bad, too long or too short, write every single day. Whether it's a diary entry, a song, part of a song, or just a few thoughts, make it a habit to write every day. What I've learned that has helped me the most with songwriting is that the more you write and learn about your own writing style, the moment you have an idea or are inspired, you will have the tools to develop your ideas and emotions.



For Country/Pop artist Abigail Neilson, the heart and soul of music is rooted in its ability to connect with others on a deeper level, and coincidentally, she has a lot to get off her chest. Thematically, her honest and captivating ballads cover the spectrum of human emotion -- everything from the joy of falling in love, to the agony of heartbreak and the strength of female empowerment.

​The young artist has built up a formidable reputation in the Nashville scene, working with producer Robbie Artress (Chris Stapleton, Ben Folds), and backed up in the studio by Gideon & Gabriel Klein (Miranda Lambert, Delta Rae, Lauren Jenkins), Ellen Angelico (Delta Rae, Ty Herndon, Uncle Cracker) and Grant Mickelson (Taylor Swift, George Strait, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney). 

​Coming from a family that encouraged creativity, Abigail is no stranger to music, and has been writing and performing her own material since the age of 13. Her latest single, “Ruby,” has landed on coveted playlists such as Spotify’s “Breakout Country,” “Fresh Finds: Country,” and “New Music Nashville.” Her latest single, "Left Unsaid," is the first leading single off her upcoming EP, "Summer of '17," and was released August 28th. You can listen to her music on all major streaming platforms.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Song Feature - "Hallowed Ground" by Joshua Hunt


Some of you know my boyfriend, Joshua Hunt, and his music. This week I'd like to introduce you to his song "Hallowed Ground." This song is so special and heartbreaking. 

I hope you'll join us tonight on Instagram LIVE at 8pm central time for some original music! In the meantime, I would like to pass the mic over to Joshua Hunt so he can tell you more about this song. 

What is "Hallowed Ground" about?

I wrote this song during the Syria crisis.  I saw a video from a young Syrian refugee, a girl, who lost everything.  She saw her home reduced to rubble.  The song starts out by talking about that home and then goes to the point of view of a soldier who doesn't know why they're fighting.  We never get a valid reason for why we're fighting wars in my opinion.  

How did you record "Hallowed Ground?"

I sat down with my laptop in my bedroom and started making the track. It began to take a life of its own.  I only had one microphone and I recorded everything with that. 

Can you tell me about the radio recording at the beginning of the song?

The recording at the beginning of the song is from an old advertisement to get people to join the war.  The advertisement made joining the army seem like the deal of a lifetime. It made joining the army seem like a life of joy and action.  It hid the horror that comes with war.  After the advertisement, you hear the ad slowly fade out and you begin to hear the real sounds of war.  This is an audio clip from D Day where you can hear the bullets being fired and the men running and trying to get to cover.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

New Single Feature - Megan Barker "Smokin' Again" coming Oct 2nd!

It's a funny thing being a songwriter with so many songwriter friends. So many of my favorite songs are songs that no one else has gotten to hear yet, because they're songs written by my friends that haven't yet been introduced into the world.  

I am obsessed with "Smokin' Again" and I am so excited that it's finally going to be released on October 2nd.  I remember the first time I heard this song.  It as a few months ago, Megan texted me asking if I'd take a listen to a new track she got back. I was standing in my kitchen about to cook something and when I started listening to the song I just froze and listened.  This song perfectly captures what it feels when you're on the edge of going back to something you just know you shouldn't go back to.

"Smokin' Again" isn't out until October 2nd but it is currently available for preorder on iTunes and presave on Spotify! I'm sure you've seen more and more artists posting asking you to preorder and presave their music and I want to take a second to explain why. 

It's difficult for independent artists like me and like Megan to compete with major label artists on the charts and major Spotify curated playlists.  But with your help, we have a chance of charting and being added to major playlists! When you preorder a song on iTunes, all of your orders go into the system the MOMENT the song is released giving us a chance to shoot up the charts! When you presave a song on Spotify all the saves go into Spotify the moment the song is released telling the Spotify algorithm that people LOVE this song!

As a listener, this song, "Smokin' Again," means a lot to me. As a friend, I couldn't be more proud of Megan. I hope you'll join us tonight on Instagram LIVE at 8pm central time for some original music! In the meantime, I would like to pass the mic over to Megan Barker so you can get to know her!

Who did you write Smokin Again with? What was the co-write like?

I wrote Smokin Again with Bill DiLuigi and Andi Renfree. It’s actually a funny story. We wrote the song over Zoom back in late June. We tried for a couple hours to make this other song idea work. And we were all feeling burnt out. One of the lines of the song was “Dear God I’m thinking bout smokin again.” And Bill said, “hey kids, maybe this is a whole song itself.” (If you know Bill, this is how he talks.) And the song wrote itself in less than an hour. It was magical. It was incredible to feel so frustrated for a moment and then have something so amazing come out of it. 

What is Smokin' Again about?

Smokin Again is about going back to old habits and maybe an old flame. Going back to what’s comfortable even though you know better. Moving on can be tough. 

This is your first release in a few years, how are you feeling leading up to this release?

I feel great. My last project was such a big deal. So much went into it. Spiritually, emotionally, financially. It was exhausting and wonderful. I think I kept waiting to be “ready” to let go of those songs. They were the most special songs I’ve ever released. They were personal and artistically they were so ME. It finally hit me during quarantine how many amazing songs I’m sitting on and how 2020 may be the perfect time to release them even if they’re just acoustic. A great song is a great song and I’m dying to share them with the world. 

What was the process like recording in quarantine?

It has been a learning process! I’ve always been so interested in the idea of recording at home. I always had Garageband. I always had an interface. I like to think I’ve got the beginning of a producer’s ear. But I never had the time. Pre Covid, I played live music 5 nights a week. And during the day I was writing songs. That was my focus. So this has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve made the upgrade to Logic and bought myself a real recording microphone! I feel like a grown-up. Better late than never. It’s never too late for anything.

Also, This track started out as a demo. I reached out to my incredibly talented writer/artist friend Timothy Baker and asked him to lay down some beautiful guitar tracks for me. He’s such a fantastic guitarist, I want him to play everything always. He sent it to me and I sang to it in my bathroom. It came out so cool I asked him to sing a harmony to it. Then my mom, who was a professional singer for 30 years, added a third part harmony. Then, it turned out so special that I sent it to my genius friend Dave Flint for mixing. ’Twas a passion project. 

How has your co-writing experience been during quarantine?

I’ve heard some friends complain they don’t like co-writing over Zoom & FaceTime, but honestly I haven’t minded. Of course I miss seeing friends in real life! But I’ll take what I can get. I think creating is so important to our souls and our psyches. So I’ll co-write by whatever means necessary to get the job done!

What do you want listeners to know about what "Smokin Again" means to you?

The comment I keep hearing about the song is how country it is. When we wrote it, I didn’t think about that. I just knew I loved it. But real country music is in my blood, and my heart and soul so it’s not surprising. I hope people love the message and wanna sing along. Also, I’d love for people to know this is the first release of many. I’ve got more coming down the pipeline!

If you could turn "Smokin Again" into a duet with ANY artist dead or alive, who would you sing it with?

Ah, my heroes are John Mayer and Keith Urban. That would be amazing. But this song is so country, Vince Gill comes to mind. Can you imagine? Or Randy Travis. What a voice. 

Thank you for having me :) <3 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Songwriter Feature - Abby Lindsey

I met Abby Lindsey a few years ago at a publishing house in Nashville. The first time I heard her sing I was completely blown away! THIS FRIDAY Abby is releasing her first single, "She Knew Better" that she wrote with two of my besties, Lydia Dall and Aimee Walden. The first time I heard this song, I cried. I'm so excited that this song is finally going to be released into the world!

You can pre-save "She Knew Better" on Spotify before it comes out! Pre-saving an artist's song gives them a better chance of being put on major Spotify playlists! 

I hope you'll join us tonight on Instagram LIVE at 8pm central time for some original music! In the meantime, I would like to pass the mic over to Abby Lindsey so you can get to know her!

When did you start singing/playing music?

My mom will say “since I could talk” and she’s not wrong lol, but I really started to do it with passion and joy when I was probably 9 or 10.

How did you get into songwriting?

I really wrote a lot of poetry in junior high and high school because I loved English so much. I didn’t know how to play guitar so I normally just made up my own melodies to go with my poems. 

Who are your biggest influences?

LeAnn Rimes, Jo Dee Messina, and Adele.....weird mix I know 

What are you listening to right now?

Can’t get enough of Lennon Stella or Patrick Droney. Hardy’s album is incredible also! 

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Oh man only one? Probably Chris Stapleton 

What is "She Knew Better" about? What do you want listeners to know about what the song means to you?

This song is about realizing you let someone really good slip away, and the next girl was smart enough to not let that happen. This is the story of my first love and I wrote this song the day after he married someone else. Tough right? But this was a very healing song for me to write because it was kind of my closure. My peace. My closing of the book if you will. This song reminds me that everything happens for a reason and that it’s okay to have regret because we don’t always actually “know best.”

If you could write a song with any person dead or alive, who would it be?

Kacey Musgraves 

What was/is your experience in quarantine like as a musician?

Very odd. Never thought “zoom” writing would become the new normal, but I got everything in place for this release so I’d say it was pretty productive. Which was good because I had to do something to keep me busy since there were unfortunately no gigs allowed or anything for that matter lol. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring singer/songwriter?

Just like when you’re applying for a job, it’s not your place to decide whether or not you’re qualified for the position. You’ll never be considered if you don’t put yourself out there and make yourself known.


Abby Lindsey is a singer/songwriter born and raised in the valley of the Ozark Mountains in Van Buren, AR. Being a native of the south, she was no stranger to the good ole country classics like LeAnn Rimes, Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, and Jo Dee Messina, which would come to inspire her dream to be in country music. 

She grew up singing in her church, pageants, ball-games, and hometown events. She was even an All-Region choir member in her high school. But nothing satisfied her hunger for more with music. So she decided to pack up everything she could fit in her Jeep and head for music city — and as Jo Dee Messina says “the rear view mirror torn off and I ain’t ever looking back and that’s a fact.” And that’s exactly what she did. 

She moved to Nashville with $50 in her pocket and lived in the pool house of the family she nannied for before finally getting on her feet and establishing a name for herself in town. Now she calls East Nashville home and continues to immerse herself into all of the magical and creative things Nashville has to offer. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Music Video Feature - Mary Moore "Cold Hands"

Last week's songwriter feature, Mary Moore, just released a brand new music video for her single "Cold Hands!" I'm so excited to show you this video and to give you the behind the scenes scoop with Mary!


What inspired this music video?
'Cold Hands' is all about not getting to know each other - keepin it surface level. I liked the idea of wearing wigs to "mask" who you really are, and not letting someone know the real you. I also knew I wanted the video to be dancey and a little edgy - typically I stay in the earthy rainbow colors, but I wanted this video to be punchier, and the bright RGB colors felt more like the song than an evergreen, maroon, or navy blue. I also love the clash of the white wall background and the black outfits. It keeps the video bright, but also a little darker at the same time - which I feel really sounds like the song. 'Cold Hands' is this warm, enthusiastic bop, but talking about the sad, meaningless dance so many of us do in our single 20's phase. 

What do the wigs represent?
Oops I answered up there, but to me the wigs represent a mask in a way - a pretend person you're putting on. Like each wig is a character you're playing up for the other person, but you have no intention of letting them see who you really are, and you're asking them to not know you either. 

Which wig color was your favorite and why?
My favorite color is red, so I loved the red one. Also "Cold Hands" feels so red to me. It's angry, yet warm. And red is this passionate, angry, but still bright color. I really liked the cut of the green wig though. I think the side bangs is a much more flattering hair cut on me, but the red was fun because it almost made me unrecognizable haha. 

What was your favorite scene in this video?
Probably my favorite scene in the video is one where Danny is sitting at the table, and he is pretending to talk to me as if I am still sitting across from him, but I am messing around leaning in front of him and his eyes get SOOOO WIDE but he still keeps pretending like he is talking to me, but looks so afraid. It makes me laugh SO much. And I think it looks really cool because it's a ton of fierce movements in one shot. 

What was your favorite behind the scenes moment of making this video?
Man, it was so fun because so many of my friends were at the shoot!! It was basically like a big hang and we were also shooting a video! My good friend Brooke Greenberg directed, and our whole girl gang crew was there helping play PA. I think the scene that was the funniest is where I am sitting on the stool and each of the boys and I are touching each other and it was SO FUNNY because it's just our friend group watching and laughing at everything we do. Sometimes we would take it too far and then all of us would burst out laughing. 

Featured Blog Post

How to grow your TikTok following!

How I grew my TikTok from 0-178k followers in 6 months If you weren't already on TikTok before quarantine, I can almost gua...