omg: Can you tell us the backstory of your hit, “Girl Next Door?”
Marti: That was a song that I wrote when I was 23, so a long time ago. *laughs* I was in the band Saving Jane, and we were playing around Columbus, Ohio, where we’re from. One night, there was this girl down in front of the stage, and she was really, really pretty, and she had this really cute outfit. I was onstage, where everyone wants to be, thinking, “Why don’t I look like that?” That’s kind of what gave me the idea for the song. Some mystery girl out there inspired it.
omg: You mentioned Saving Jane, so you’ve had success in artistry, but you’re a really accomplished songwriter, with cuts by the likes of Luke Bryan and Rascal Flatts. What’s your favorite part about songwriting?
Marti: My favorite part is really just the process. I love creating something new everyday. If you do nothing else that day, at least you put something out into the world that didn’t exist before, and I love that. I never get tired of it, even if I don’t love the song. That process is just so cool.
omg: You’re writing every day? Tell us what a typical day looks like for you.
Marti: I’m a writer for a publishing company in town, and both of us book my calendar. I book some stuff, my publisher point person books some stuff. Normally I’ll go in to our office or wherever I’m writing around 11:00am and end up writing about three hours. That’s pretty typical for me. Some people do two or three a day, but I tend to stay away from those unless it’s with someone who’s in from out of town.
omg: Do you have any advice about co-writing?
Marti: Oh yes, I have lots! I had never co-written. I just wanted to be an artist that wrote my own songs. I think one important thing is, specifically if you’re aspiring to be a writer and not an artist, to be open to other ideas in the room. I think sometimes people can come in, if they’re not familiar with the process, and feel like they’ve got to get their point across. That kills the creativity. The point is for you to feed off of each other, so that would be my biggest piece of advice. Let everyone contribute- we all have something to say. Another is don’t think your lyric or idea is so precious. Sometimes someone else’s is just better. Be willing to give certain things up for the sake of the song. Professionals are not going to steal your ideas. I know a lot of people worry about that, but if it’s somebody that knows what they’re doing, they are not going to take your stuff.
omg: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in co-writing?
Marti: Don’t ever say that you hate a song if you don’t know who wrote it, because you might be in the room with them. *laughs* I think a big one for me is just to soak up what I can from other people. Everybody brings something different. I’ve written with some incredible songwriters and I just sit there mind-boggled at what they can do. It’s a growing process. I didn’t write great songs when I started writing songs- I just wrote songs. It took years and years and years of practicing that craft. It’s just like playing sports, you have to practice and work out-- same thing.
omg: You’ve been in the industry for quite a while, so you’ve experienced how women are usually outnumbered in this field. Can you tell us how you deal with the ups and downs of being a woman in the industry?
Marti: Sure. I think there’s a little bit of a tide turning in Nashville. One thing that’s amazing is that women are really supporting each other, which is super cool. I think everyone feels that pain a little bit. I did an event about a month ago that was an all-female event. We did a bunch of 80s covers. It was an absolute blast. We had 25 singers, and it just felt so good. That whole next day, we were just in a haze of girl power and positivity. I think that helps, knowing that other women are on your side. It’s not a competition, we all have something different to offer. I think, too, that it’s more about being an individual than guys vs. girls. If you do what you do, and you do it well and stick to that, you’re going to cut through. You’re the only person that has your voice, no matter if you’re a guy or a girl.
omg: Do you have any advice on choosing/accepting an offer for a deal?
Marti: The absolute most important thing for any type of deal- record, publishing, anything- is to make sure you have somebody there that really believes in you. If you don’t have that ally, that person that gets what you do and really supports that, then it’s not going to work for you. I’ve had the good fortune of being at a place where I have that person that really supports my writing and likes what I do. That’s the big thing- finding your champion. I had sort of the opposite experience with a record deal. I had an indie label, and then our contract got bought out by a major label. While our indie label believed in us, the major label just sort of came in because we had some stuff on the radio, but we didn’t have a champion there. They were basically like, “This is already working, let’s just do this some more.” It hurt us. It was not a good move for us. So I would say to do your homework. If a deal sounds like it’s too good to be true, it is. It’s like acting, modeling, anything in entertainment- you shouldn’t be paying anybody up front to do a service for you. They should be coming to work with you, because they think they can ultimately make money with you.
omg: You’ve got a cut on the new Thompson Square album that we love! Are you working toward some specific project lately?
Marti: Thank you! We all have a dream artist- Little Big Town is a dream artist for me. I absolutely love what they do. You’re always writing with those people in mind. Dierks Bentley is another one. I love artists that can have fun and have those fun songs, and then be serious and say things that matter, too. I’m always dreaming of having a cut with anyone like that.
omg: What’s the very first thing someone moving to town to break into the industry should know, in your opinion?
Marti: As much as I hate to say it, because I am so socially awkward, networking. Networking is huge, especially at the beginning. It’s the only way to let people know you’re here and working toward something. Go to as many events as you can find. There are tons of groups online, like YEP, where you can connect with other songwriters and people in the business. Be out and about- that is so important. Another thing is to write as much as you can, no matter if it’s by yourself or with co-writers. Work that muscle. The people that make it here are the people that didn’t give up and go home. It’s tough town and a tough business, period. I think if you can stick it out long enough, and if you’ve got the chops, and if you do enough work, then you’re eventually going to find your place.