By Lee Woodruff
In March, Billboard posted this message: “After scouting the U.S. to find the most promising unsigned bands, Billboard has found three of the Northeast’s best. Click here to read about each of the groups, check out a video, and listen to a song from each.
Believe it or not, one of those three bands features my nephew, Collin McLoughlin.
Being the proud auntie that I am, I couldn’t resist blasting this amazing news out to everyone I knew. I am a journalist, after all. When Be Inkandescent magazine’s publisher Hope Katz Gibbs got the note, she asked if I’d do the honors and interview Collin about his success, his journey, his thoughts on the sometimes-scary music business, and his plans for the future.
With the help of my sister, Collin’s mom Nancy McLoughlin, following is our Q&A.
Lee Woodruff: What lights your fire in terms of music genre and lyrics?
Collin McLoughlin: I listen to pretty much every style, from country to electro house. I stay open to writing in different genres as well. Some of the best new music combines attributes of different genres. It’s like cooking. You never know how it’s going to taste until it is finished.
Mood and setting dictate so much about what is the very best kind of music to listen to at any particular time. If I am working out, then the music choice is something like Avichii’s “Levels,” but when I am driving the car (always a great time to listen to music) I like deadmau5.
Lee Woodruff: Where do you get your inspiration?
Collin McLoughlin: I get inspiration from segments of each of the different genres I listen to. The two I am most drawn to currently are progressive house / trance (think Deadmau5 or Four Tet) and ballads in the vein of Adele.
Lyrically I try to write about things that directly involve me or those around me. I tend to write what can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways depending on how the listener approaches it.
The words don’t always mean what they seem to at first. “House of Cards” is my new original release and the lyrics say: “it’s a house of cards, a fragile man of glass, it’s the life we are living in, … one gust of wind and the house of cards tumbles down from within.”
Lee Woodruff: How did you get into the music business?
Collin McLoughlin: I knew I wanted to make music when I listened to a friend play guitar and sing songs on a summer camp overnight in the mountains. He and I wrote our first song together after that. I got my vocal start as a shivering male lead in a furry Tarzan costume (school 5th grade play). After the mandatory audition results were posted, my peers looked at me as though I had achieved something coveted (and that was a first, even though it didn’t last long).
Lee Woodruff: Were you the big musician on campus in high school?
Collin McLoughlin: My high school image of myself didn’t leave a lot of room for music or theater, but that didn’t stop the music director from hunting me down freshman year anyway. She passed a music practice room (where I was studying for a math final) and heard me singing at the top of my lungs. We negotiated guitar lessons after she insisted that I had no choice but to contribute in some way to the music culture of the school.
Lee Woodruff: What happened when you hit the college campus?
Collin McLoughlin: I went to Colgate, and as a freshman I won a talent contest for my fraternity by singing a mash-up of popular songs and stringing them into a creative rap. It didn’t take long for a few musicians to find one another, and our group at Colgate, Nautical Young, was born. We ended up enjoying our time in the music studio, writing and recording songs and performing around campus at events.
When the Duke basketball team won the championships that year, they flew us down to perform in the stadium for their charity event. I was honored when I learned they were big fans and blasted our original songs like “Hit the Floor” in the gym during their warm ups. We opened for major acts like Lupe Fiasco, K’naan, Wale, and others during our tenure at school.
The group said goodbye at graduation two years ago. We all needed to follow a variety of different life opportunities, but we stay in touch and at least one member of the band lives near me in New York City. He spent many nights on my couch after we worked on music that first year when I was in grad school full-time.
Lee Woodruff: Who are some of your heroes in the music business?
Collin McLoughlin: The people I respect the most are the ones who truly have a hand in a wide variety of their brand, from production to songwriting to marketing and performing. As always the first pioneers stand out in memory.
Music becomes an all-encompassing passion. I took a leave of absence halfway through the master’s coursework (music business) at NYU, to focus completely on my music 24/7. Kanye West exemplifies a music hero perhaps better than anyone in modern music, along with other multi-talented stars like Pharrell and Will. i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. I hope that as my career progresses I will continue to be able to have a hands-on role in every aspect of my musical enterprise as they have done.
Lee Woodruff: How do you deal with any politics you have bumped up against in the industry?
Collin McLoughlin: It’s a brutal business, and one that is changing fast with the Internet. That is the first thing out of the mouth of anyone who knows it well, and no one is quite sure where it will all go. The big record execs are working hard to try and figure it out faster than anyone else. There is tension and still, the music produced and written has never been better in my opinion.
The music business end of things does not get a great review for an industry that provides so much enjoyment and entertainment for the customers and critics (the ones with the headphones in their ears). Money, royalties, and contract law are entirely another story. Attorneys might still be the big winners in that realm.
I think a true artist has a passion and a need to make music every single day no matter what is happening around them. Bombs could be going off and they are still off in their head-strumming guitar. That is me. I imagine it is like the computer programmer who sits for hours solving a problem and tunes out everything else. When you are in your art, the politics and the petty can fall away. Music is a great salve for all of it.
In my short journey, I have been fortunate to meet creative and mentoring people, but have also sampled my share of disappointments and deals that were “almost but not quite.” At the same time I have been given great opportunities, like the nomination for Billboard’s 2012 unsigned artist, which I am extremely grateful for.
The Internet has led me to important people along the way and also brought some to me. It’s provided access to fans in places of the world that would otherwise never see or hear my music and videos. I have fans reaching out from Sweden, Ireland, China, and geographies I have never seen. I have collaborated on writing and recording music with people I have never met across the globe as we produce together on the Internet and send the sound back and forth as we work. A music studio’s walls no longer contain the creative process.
Lee Woodruff: What are your dreams for the future?
Collin McLoughlin: I want to be a successful international artist and writer-producer. Later in life I would like to run my own independent record label, managing and developing new burgeoning talent. For now my immediate goal is to improve my artist brand and build my fan base into a fully sustainable lifestyle doing what I love.
Right now each time I write a song and put out a video, people can purchase that directly on Itunes.
Currently, as an unsigned artist, I can earn a living based on how well my compositions and performances are received by the music-buying consumer. And while this may not always be the case (there are compelling reasons to throw a hat in the ring with a larger music group and benefit from the collaboration and the reach), I am fine for now, going at my own pace. I am finding my way and like the title of one of my new original songs, “I am Chasing Dreams.”
The better I become at singing, writing, and producing, the better I will do financially. The direct vote on the success or failure of my work comes from the very consumers for whom it was designed to please. There is no middleman and no politics beyond that. It is music to my ears.
For more about Collin, check out his website, /collinmcloughlin.com.
About Lee Woodruff
Lee Woodruff is no stranger to the limelight. The wife of well-known ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff—the reporter who in 2006 suffered a traumatic brain injury while covering the War in Iraq—is a contributor to “Good Morning America,” a former senior vice president of the PR firm Porter Novelli, a contributor to Health, Redbook, Country Living and Prevention magazines, and a spokesperson for “Family Fun” on TV and radio, where she discusses parenting and family life.
When Bob began recovering from his injury, they penned “In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing,” an eloquent, candid description of what happened in Iraq, and the struggles the couple and their children faced as Bob recovered.
In 2009, the mother of four published her second book, “Perfectly Imperfect: A Life in Progress,” where she shares deeply personal and uproariously funny stories highlighting topics such as family, marriage, friends, and how life never seems to go as planned.
While most women reserve such discussions for girls-night-out with their gal pals, Woodruff bravely shares it in print. Her friends, in turn, took a turn to review the book. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis called Woodruff, “a modern-day truth teller.” Journalist Liz Smith likened Woodruff’s writing to “Nora Ephron + Erma Bombeck.”