Carrie Cunningham is an international chart topping, performing songwriter who loves to entertain. Musically daring and more interesting than a traditional three-chord country singer, Cunningham is not unlike a Modern Day Bobbie Gentry. She has the sass of Miranda Lambert and a powerhouse voice like Martina McBride; all the while, the sweetness that seethes from the rich tones of Pam Tillis. From her acoustic to full band performance one thing is guaranteed; the audiences will witness her dedication and enjoyment to the craft of singing and performing.
What influenced your decision to pursue a career in music?
The main reason I decided to pursue music is because of how it made me feel. It was a release and a security blanket. I relied on my clock radio to get me through my childhood. Then when I started doing competitions, I wanted to prove to the world and to myself that I was stronger than the garbage being thrown at me.
In 1996 you wrote your first song, “Go Where Nowhere Begins.” Which 90’s country artists have had the most influence on your songwriting?
Wow, great research. At the time I wrote “Go Where Nowhere Begins,” Garth Brooks, Reba, and Shania were my most influential artists. Of course, I loved so many like Patty Loveless, Clay Walker, Alabama, Martina McBride and Dwight Yoakum, but the songs and stage performance from the first three were unmatched.
Network, network, network. Join organizations like Nashville Songwriters Association International. They are huge and most likely have a local chapter in the area you are in. If not, right now you could find one and join their virtual meetings. Also look for events from your PRO- the Performing Rights Organization. You can only join one PRO if you are not part of one already.
What are the biggest differences between the Southern California music scene and Nashville’s?
Well, that’s a good question. I started going to Nashville in 2001. I got used to the down-home friendly vibe. Everyone supports each other in Nashville. We are all in the same boat, just trying to make it. I started my music career in the NW. It was very competitive. Big fish in little pond syndrome. I was part of that for a long time. When I moved to California, I had trouble finding musicians. They either wanted to jam and not go on the road or were already in a band and wouldn’t refer anyone. When I went on my last tour, I ended up borrowing my musicians from the NW and Nashville. So, I can’t honestly give feedback as far as country scene in SoCal vs Nashville- unless you take what I just said as a comparison.
Is it the Motown style that gives “Eggnog” (ft. Daniel Mason) an old fashioned vibe?
Yes and no. I like to refer the Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me,” but my co-writer Hal ODell and I used Katy Perry’s song “Cozy Little Christmas” as our reference track. I suppose it could be considered old fashioned simply because we didn’t use any trap beats in the mix and all the instruments are real, lol.
Can you share your favorite eggnog recipe?
There are so many ways to make eggnog! Depending on what part of the world you are from, plays a role too. Plus there are Vegan, and non- alcoholic versions. But I like the German Version. Maybe because I am German, lol.
1 cup milk * 1 cup cream * 3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise * 5 egg yolks
1/2 cup vodka *1/2 cup brandy
Heat milk, cream sugar and vanilla bean to about 160°F (use a food or meat thermometer to measure temperature). Beat egg yolks together. Temper egg yolks by adding a few spoonful’s of the hot milk and stirring quickly. Add the egg yolks to the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. You may want to use an immersion blender for this step. Stir over low heat, keeping the temperature at about 160°F, or 70°C, for 5 to 10 minutes….Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add both alcohols and stir until well mixed. Pour through a sieve into a large measuring cup or through a funnel into a clean bottle. Discard vanilla bean and any solids. Refrigerate overnight before drinking out of small cups or egg cups.
You worked with Peggy Lowe of Madhouse Graphics to design a logo to be used for your artistry, auctioneering, and publishing. What advice would you give new businesses trying to create a branding of their own?
Make sure the logo really speaks to you as a brand. Peggy’s idea to have the “O” was brilliant. I’ll explain why. Looking at it, it looks like an open mouth, which goes for both singing and auctioneering. If you split it in half, horizontal, the top half looks like an old-fashioned barn. If you split it vertically, it is C C face to face. I have known Peggy since 2008. She is a fellow songwriter I met in Portland, Oregon, so I felt comfortable with her. She listened to what I was trying to achieve. She was fantastic to work with and I would recommend her to anyone.
Tongue Twister with Beatboxing for National Auctioneers Day. What are some of the key elements to learning how to talk auctioneer-fast like your cattle auctioneer grandfather ?
The key element is like anything you want to become good at, and that is practice. Auctioneers also need to find a rhythm they can get into. We develop a chant that is unique to only the person chanting. We must learn how to keep the audience engaged and we also must be able to switch up what we are saying, when reading the audience. Tongue twisters are important to auctioneering. They keep our articulation clean. If you chant too fast and no one can understand you, then it doesn’t matter how fast you can go.
What’s involved in creating a custom song for a fundraising event?
I have a list of questions I ask. I want to know the vibe and emotion they want to create. I want to know what the message of the mission is. I also offer options for licensing the music. Once I have a feel for what the client wants, I write the song either solo or with a co-writer, and produce the song, depending on the level they would like it. Either fully produced or more of a stripped-down version.
With more than 25 years in business, you said the one thing you love the most is the people you’ve met over the years. How can businesses keep customers and add new ones within the confines of the pandemic restrictions?
With me, I want my fans to feel as important as I see them. I keep an open line of communication with my fans. I have always been approachable at shows, but with the pandemic, I think it is more important to be able to be available. There is so much loneliness because of the pandemic and being able to talk whenever, makes it easier on their mental well-being. My fans can reach out to me via social media or email. I meet with my superfans via Zoom every Wednesday. We have game nights, nights of just talking, and concert nights. I try to give them experiences they can’t get anywhere else. The night the CMA’s were on, I hosted my C2 crew (subscription-based fans) to a viewing party. We logged into my Zoom and we watched the CMA’s together. We took guesses on who was going to win, etc. It was a lot of fun!
“Karma’s a Beach,” … “it can be hard to stay positive and focused, but if you stay the course, it will fall into place.” How does this inspire you through the challenges of having multiple businesses?
I wrote my song “Karma’s a Beach” a few years ago to celebrate the people who do good in the world. With music, auctioneering and publishing, my overall niche incorporates all three, including being a motivational speaker. When it gets overwhelming, I remember what the reason is I wanted to start Sound Barn LLC in the first place. My heart is bigger than my body and I feel like my journey here will not be complete until I help change lives, whether it be through song, fundraising, or telling my story.
The holidays are approaching but will look quite different this year. Many people will not be able to spend them with family and friends. As a motivational speaker, what advice can you offer those struggling through all the pandemic stressors?
Please write down what you are thankful for, daily. Meditate, exercise, drink a ton of water, and take your vitamins. All these things will help your mental strength. Don’t give up. We will get through this. No one can fully understand what someone else is going through but listen to each other and express kindness. I am thankful we live in the digital age where we can at least see our family on our phone or over the internet. I know it’s different and we all need human touch, but just seeing our loved ones on the computer or phone lifts the spirits.