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Spotlight - Teresa Hearn

1. Who or what influenced you early on to pursue a career in country music?   

While I was growing up, Dad (Ray Hearn) really liked country music. He bought “The Outlaws” 8-track, and we took it on a family vacation to Colorado, so music was something I really loved.

Many years later, I ended up doing an interview with Willie (Nelson) on his bus about his upcoming induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, so that was kind of full circle.

2. How did you end up in the music business?

I originally wanted to be a television reporter, but couldn’t get hired by one of the local affiliates in Beaumont. After working at the Orange Leader newspaper as a city and crime reporter, I did get into television production in Virginia, and then I moved to Nashville.

In 1988, I went up and down Music Row handing out resumes and landed a job working at the Country Music Association writing for its magazine CLOSE UP and doing public relations. That led eventually to jobs heading up their marketing, membership, communications, creative services and serving as creative consultant for the CMA Awards telecast. I also traveled internationally for them as they had a London office and outposts in Australia and Amsterdam.

In 2000, I started my own entertainment marketing company, Cornerstone Communications. My first client was the Grand Ole Opry on their 75th anniversary special on CBS (Vince and Dolly hosted.). I worked briefly on the marketing for a PBS kids show, and for the past almost six years with the Academy of Country Music on its awards show handling New Business, Television & Brand Development in Vegas each May.

3. Did you do any recording yourself?    

No, that would require that I carry a tune. 

The producer for Brooks & Dunn called one day, and said they needed some background singers for “Rock My World (Little Country Girl)”. I went over and sang on the chorus along with 20 other people I knew. Kix and Ronnie made it fun! I got a taste of singing in the studio and being on a record. I was even listed in the album credits.    

4. Give us a few memorable moments in BC?     

There’s so many…I feel fortunate to have grown up in a small town. It gave me a great foundation where I felt loved and supported. I feel blessed to have had wonderful teachers at Bridge City, who encouraged my classmates and me to succeed. I believe that coming from a small town has been an incredible asset.

Just a few quick memories…Struggling through piano lessons at Mrs. Bryant’s house (next to what is now the new high school.) I took for four years and was probably one of her worst students. The fault was entirely mine. I’ve often wondered who was happier when I quit – her or me.

My grandmother (Inez Hearn) used to occasionally take us grandkids down to the dance hall/beer joint near the Cow Bayou Bridge and let us sit outside on the hood of her car and listen to the band my uncle played in. (I don’t think my mother knew this or she wouldn’t have approved!)

Going to Leslie Garrison’s (also Class of ’81) parents’ restaurant on Texas Ave. They made the best burgers and wrapped them in waxed paper. Big G Burgers, I think it was. I still love going to Novorosky’s for burgers and Novo chips when I’m at home.  I usually hit it at least three or four times if I’m there a week.  I’ll go there with my brother (Daren Hearn, Class of ’83) and his two kids. I love a great burger!

And my mom (Elaine Hearn) or her mother (Ruth Ellis) taking me to The Kottage for a new outfit. That was special!

My Aunt Jan (Janice Overman) playing Elvis’ Christmas album and decorating her Christmas tree. When I was older, I bought the album, and we do the same thing at our house.

5. Most memorable moments in Nashville?     

There are so many!

I love being a part of a creative community. Even at church, the guitar player who tours with the Beach Boys sometimes plays lead in the church band, and the music leader has written a couple of #1 hits. There’s just so much talent in this town, and that’s inspiring.

I met my husband at an Elvis birthday party on Second Avenue, so that was a life-changing moment – and later having two kids here in Twang Town (Grace, 8 and Jake, 6 ½.).

Helping start an annual concert in Nashville that benefits Cumberland Heights, an alcohol and drug treatment center. This year’s talent is Lynyrd Skynard. (I think our  ’81 class song was “Freebird”.)

Jake in pre-school bringing home his “Daily Happenings” report, and it said, “Charlie’s grandma came to sing ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’”. It was Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Brenda Lee. She was on the CMA board for a while when I was at CMA, so I got to know her then.  I would also see her some days at school, but Jake just knew Brenda as Charlie’s grandma.

When I went back for my 20-year high school class reunion, the question I got asked most was “Did Vince Gill really sing at your wedding?” (Yes, he sang “Amazing Grace” a capella.)

6. What advice would you give to aspiring performers who want to break into the business?     

Move to Nashville. I know Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Byrd and George Strait were able to successfully break that rule, but, for the most part, you really need to get to know the people and how the town operates. Also, if you’re willing to make a bold move that involves risk – like leaving home --, then you’re probably more likely to be cut out for a career in the music business.

7. What is affecting the country music industry right now?

Downloading and music piracy are still big issues. The creative folks in this business like songwriters may only have one big hit in their lifetime, and they need to be assured they’ll be compensated for it. They’re like small mom-and-pop businesses, and they may struggle for years before having a hit. Another thing that’s affecting country music is the changing demographics of the U.S. Country music needs to broaden its appeal to a more ethnically diverse population.

8. What are you reading?

My Bible. I try to read that every day. I need a daily dose of wisdom and joy! I do most of my book reading on planes or when I’m traveling:

“The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by John Gottman -- A great, practical book about keeping alive the friendship in your marriage – which is a challenge with a career, kids, and volunteer projects, etc.

“Soar With Your Strengths” by Clifton & Nelson – an easy-to-read business book on spending more time on what you were really created to do. It has some great applications for kids and employees too. Why do we expect kids to make A’s in every subject, or employees to be good at 10 things rather than letting them do more of the few things they excel at?

I haven’t started it, but “How To Change The World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas” by David Bornstein. When it’s all said and done, we’ll leave our mark, not by the interesting places we’ve been or the people we’ve met, but by how have we made our little piece of the world better. I really want to spend more of my creative energy on that.

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