Known for her fearless leadership in a notoriously male-dominated industry, Beth Laird is fighting for gender equality in country music. She’s not only a 2019 Billboard Country Power Player and a current member of the Recording Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion task force, but she’s also the co-founder of the independent music publishing group Creative Nation.
Beth has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to break down walls and climb the corporate ladder. Along with her husband, Grammy award-winning songwriter Luke Laird, she mentors women in country music through her program, Nurturing Outstanding Women. Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, Beth Laird.
What drew you to the country music industry?
I grew up in Winchester, Tennessee, a small town about an hour and a half from Nashville. We didn’t come to Nashville often, so I wasn’t very aware of the music industry, and I certainly didn’t know about music business degrees. I went to the University of Alabama but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I ended up majoring in public relations. Regina Stuve, a family friend, was the head of publicity at Capitol Records Nashville. Ironically, my mom ran into her in Winchester one day. They decided I would intern for her for free for the summer. I was skeptical because I wanted a real job that summer, but I fell in love with the music business from the first day.
Realizing there were business people who worked with (and for) creatives, helping them fulfill their dreams, fired me up. I secured another summer internship there after my junior year. Once I graduated, I moved to Nashville. I got a job at Nashville Bun Co. coordinating shipments for English muffins and booking backhauls for the refrigerated trucks, but I focused on finding an opportunity in music. A year later, Regina’s husband took over the old BMG Music Publishing, and the receptionist left, so Regina convinced him to give me an interview. I got the job, and I’ve never looked back!
The country music industry isn’t known for its gender equity. What are you doing to turn that around?
The best thing you can do is treat everyone equally and pour into the next generation of female executives and creatives. Having a positive female mentor can change everything. The moment I let go of what I wasn’t, and I started leaning into who I was and my strengths as a woman, I felt like it was an advantage instead of a disadvantage. If someone likes working with females, I have an advantage. If they don’t, that’s fine, and I don’t waste my time.
Tell us about your mentor program, Nurturing Outstanding Women.
Nurturing Outstanding Women (NOW) is a mentorship program that Abbey Adams and I started in 2016 to strengthen each other’s female network. We connect mentees and mentors across all aspects of the industry in an intimate setting to support, grow, and learn together. We have 10 women per class annually, and we just wrapped up our fifth class.
Our mission statement is, Through mentorship, we create a culture of successful businesswomen who support other outstanding women to promote personal and professional excellence. It started as something Abbey and I felt was missing as we came up in the business. We wanted to change that and do what we could to support the next generation of female leaders.
What phenomenal female creatives should we pay special attention to?
Oh, there are lots! Right now, a few in my orbit are Lori McKenna, Kassi Ashton, Hailey Whitters, Anna Vaus, Mackenzie Carpenter, Natalie Hemby, Mags Duval, Tenille Towns, Morgan Wade, Lainey Wilson, Cam, Emily West, and of course, I can’t stop listening to Adele! There are so many great female writers and artists right now; it’s exciting!
What can we do to offer more support to female creatives in the music industry?
It starts early — at home, school, extracurricular activities. Having just one person believe in you more than you believe in yourself is crucial. It seems most females give up their dreams around college or after they have a baby. Those are difficult times when it can seem hopeless if you don’t have the support or opportunity. You need to lean into people, encourage them, and help connect them to other women at the same stage of life. Remember, it’s not a competition. We all have different gifts and paths. That’s always a work in progress for me, but [it’s important to] prioritize time to refill your cup so you can support and lift up others.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It was from my boss at BMI and a great mentor of mine. He told me that no one in the music business knows what they’re doing. Art and commerce weren’t meant to go together; we’re all just doing the best we can.
Faith, family, and friends notwithstanding, what are three things you cannot live without?
Wow, that is a hard one, but the first things that come to mind this season are Christmas songs, podcasts, and “Yellowstone.”
Thank you for the interview, Beth, and a thank you to Spencer Combs for the photos.
Read more interviews with our inspirational FACES in our archives!