Moxy Chattanooga Downtown Hotel recently launched a new "Moxy in the City" Masterclass experience with our very own Talenthouse artist Hope Cassity leading the class. Using Marriot Bonvoy points, people were able to sign-up and attend a song writing class! Having played for a stadium filled with thousands of people and being a three time Nashville Country Music Association Nominee, Cassity was the perfect songwriter to have as the teacher in this Masterclass. Getting the vibes right, Cassity worked with the class to write their own lyrics and create their own songs. We caught up with the lyrical artist to learn more about her creative process, the Moxy Masterclass and her song writing tips.
TH: What was it like to teach a Moxy Masterclass at the Moxy Chattanooga Downtown Hotel?
HC: The first Moxy Masterclass was perfect. The environment that Moxy Chattanooga Downtown provided was the right vibe for crafting songs with our Bonvoy Moments participants. Moxy Hotel is creative, colorful, and inspiring. Every writing room had its own theme and each room was a perfect place including a virtual campfire on an in house tv. It was a pleasure to work with the team there as well, they were flawless in their execution of all the little details. I loved it and can’t wait to do the second one!
TH: When did you start writing songs?
HC: I found my first 8 track tape player when I was about 6 years old in my parents attic. I found Patsy Cline and Elvis cassettes and I put on a neighborhood talent show. After auditioning for a tv part, I was selected to go on the American Idol like television show named, “STAR SEARCH.” Afterwards, I began to travel around singing performing cover songs at little fairs and festivals on the weekends; road tripping all around the southeast with my parents. I was about 15 years old when I finally began writing my own songs to put into these sets. I won the southeast regional poetry contest in 6th grade while teaching myself how to play the guitar. I fell in love with the craft of turning those poems into songs to create my own original music. I was hooked ...pun intended:)
TH: What is your creative process like?
HC: Crafting songs and following them from a raw melody or hook idea into a radio ready mastered recording is my favorite part of the creative process. I set aside time each evening to write unless I am scheduled for a co-write to write during the day. I often take myself on solo adventures to museums, hikes, people paint or do something alone to find inspiration. It is a trick I learned from a book I read a while back called, The Artists Way. I go exploring or listen to new music, read a book, watch a new documentary, meet new people, seek out a museum or go paint in my studio to get inspired. Then I come home and brainstorm if an idea hasn’t already popped up through that inspiration. I love having a vibey space to write so I have a dedicated art/music space in my home. To begin a song, I pick up the guitar and hum melodies first. I’m a chord & melody first songwriter generally speaking. I think of songwriting like an old radio dial thanks to one of my producers who taught me to keep turning the dial until the station is clear. Basically, keep playing with melodies and hooks until they feel right and stick! I do enjoy editing and crafting songs that don’t flow as easily too. It’s a challenge. I once re-wrote one song 8 times and it is one of my favorite songs to date.
TH: Who is your favorite musician/singer/songwriter?
HC: Yikes. Hardest question ever. I don’t have just one ...Lori Mckenna, Ruston Kelley, Travis Meadows, Ray Lamontagne, Amos Lee, Jaimee Harris, and a friend of mine Abe Partridge would have to be my favorite singer/songwriters at the moment. On the Billboard charts I am definitely a Maren Morris fan. Mainly because she and I started out recording our records in the same little studio in Dallas, Texas. She reminds me that all the hard work pays off. I knew when I heard her voice that she would make it if anyone ever gave her a chance. Her choices are brave & fearless and she is doing so much for women right now in the industry. I love that.
TH: What advice do you wish you had when you first started out?
HC: Don’t have stars in your eyes and spend your life trying to be famous or writing a hit song! Enjoy the journey and run your music dream as a music business. I’ve finally learned it’s more about doing business that I love, with others in the music business. It takes hard work but while working at it, everyday verses, dreamin, you meet smaller goals that build your confidence and your craft. When it comes to songwriting, part of it is natural talent, the other part is practice. Practice writing and you WILL get better. Don’t go it alone! The more people you write with, the more tools you will learn for your own craft.
TH: Do you have an all time favorite song that you’ve created? If so, why that one?
HC: "Sting" - It was about my late dad’s story. It’s the most personal and honest song I’ve ever written. I was able to write it with two of my mentors, Jerry Salley and Jim McBride. We did a behind the scenes video for my dad because he was terminally ill and couldn't be there for the recording. You can hear him commenting at the end, "Baby that's your #1!" It was a sweet moment for me.
TH: What was it like to perform in front of an audience of 30,000?
HC: The biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had and the most nervous I’ve ever been. I didn’t sleep for a week before it and it was the first time I got major stage fright. After performing one of my original songs and the audience reacting in applause my nerves calmed. I was just excited to be in that moment. The energy in the room was unbelievable.
TH: What are some quick technique tips for writing songs/lyrics?
HC: LISTEN. READ. WRITE.
Listen to everything people say. You will find song ideas and stories that make for great inspiration. Listen to new music to open your mind and re-inspire you.
Read. Fall in love with a new book. Read inspirational stories. Read poetry or song lyrics. Read everything. You are bound to find a word, a hook, an idea somewhere.
Write. Write your thoughts down even when you aren’t writing a song. You will eventually find that hooks “sneak” out in your journaling. Write freely for 15 minutes each morning and every night.
TH: Tell us a bit about the other creative practices you love?
HC: I like taking a hit song and re-writing it to the same chord progression with different lyrics. It reminds you how much variety in melody, phrasing, and lyrics you can have with ONE chord progression.
TH: Is there anything else you’d like to add or share?
HC: After battling a rare form of ovarian cancer & finally finding remission, my purpose for songwriting has definitely changed. Losing so much, so fast really opened me up. I say, I was broken open. When I finally decided to write honestly about my experience, it pushed me past some heavy emotions and writers block. Songwriting has become more about healing to me than trying to write a hit song for radio. I recommend people use songwriting as a tool to mend and heal from the hard times life deals us. Even if the song never hits the airwaves, it can do wonders for your soul. I’ve helped new budding songwriters write songs to heal through trauma of a lost loved one, a divorce, a broken relationship, a change in careers or a move. They always say to me that writing down their story has helped them view their trauma differently. Somehow getting it off their chest has a way of propelling them to move forward. I love being able to help songwriters write that ONE song that is strictly for THEM to share who they are and what matters most to them. I feel honored to be a part of helping others find THEIR VOICE through song.