We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney McKenna and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Courtney, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a singer but it wasn’t until I moved to New York City and started meeting other artists that I knew whole heartedly that I could be a performer and make music for a career.

I grew up singing in church and school choir. As a pre-teen I knew instinctively how to channel my emotions into song. Singing has always given me great joy and I would sing for hours. I applied to talent shows and I performed where I could without a car but I never fully felt supported enough to believe that I could make it as a professional.

When it came time for college I chose to study marketing because I saw the success that my grandpa had in business and I wanted the same for myself. I had no idea that music school was an option at the time. I had been sewing my own clothes and even sold some of my shirts around town to a few local boutiques so I thought that with a marketing degree, I could learn to run my own fashion business.

I quickly became burnt out from going to school while working and holding a leadership role in my sorority. For the first time in my life, I was ready to quit. I was having constant headaches and was secretly depressed. I started therapy and decided to take summer courses so I could graduate early and move to a larger city to ‘start my life’. Looking back I can see that that college was something that was expected of me and not necessarily something I wanted to do.

After I graduated, I sold my car and moved to Italy for nearly a year. I struggled to support myself on babysitting jobs and teaching english. I landed in Brooklyn with just enough money to sublet a room for one month in Williamsburg. I continued to babysit, took on restaurant jobs and any other kind of work I could find to pay my bills so I could intern for the global fashion PR firm Karla Otto. Even with all the glamorous parties and clothing, I quickly realized that the fashion industry was not where I wanted to be and I felt very lost.

I started dating a guitar player and writing songs again. I found a local craig’s list ad for a back up singer in a R & B group out of Newark and I auditioned. I performed with them and another folk duo just for fun. I was of the mindset that I was automatically disqualified from becomming a professional musician because I had no official training for it. I jumped around from bartender job, to art job, to marketing job and finally started to feel like I had found my purpose.

Three years into my time in New York City, I decided to travel to Bonorroo festival outside of Tennessee with some girlfriends. I saw LP perform on a smaller stage and I was mesmerized by her voice. It was a music festival experience that any aspiring artist could dream of. By the end of it, I was convinced that I would not attend another music festival until I was performing at it. I continued to teach myself guitar and focused on writing my own songs. At this point all of my roommates were making music and I was warming up to the idea of performing.

The following year I met an artist named Sky. She had made $40,000 from a synch placement of one of her songs and was not even well known as an artist. The two of us became quick friends over music and fashion and I ended up driving cross country with her to help her move out to Los Angeles. I flew back to New York with a changed perspective. If she could make money from music, so could I… That October I gave my first performance for Greenpoint Open Studios and I haven’t looked back since.

The more I leaned into the idea of becoming a successful musician, the more my marketing degree came into play. Artists today have to be able to promote themselves where that may not have been the case 20 years ago without social media. I quickly learned that I could use my marketing work as a catalyst to grow my music career. In 2018 after years of wrestling with the idea that I had to do music full time to be considered successful, I formed Courtney McKenna Productions, LLC. It was a commitment to my financial well being and my vision of becoming a full time artist.

Today I have 8 marketing clients and that number continues to grow. I just hired my first assistant to help me with booking and marketing. I spend about half of my time on my client’s work and the other half on my music career; practicing, promoting and playing shows, writing, recording and planning the marketing of a new song release. For my clients, I am essentially their personal part-time marketing CEO. I host branding workshops, I write and create content, I develop social media and UX strategies, I analyze SEO and run paid advertising. Sometimes I even get to produce events and hire my band! I am forever grateful for the community’s support of my business and I love seeing my client’s meet and exceed their goals.

The process of becoming a prolific artist or a successful business owner feels like half dedication and half mind-set. There are so many instances where you can compare yourself to others or get down on yourself because you haven’t made as much progress as you’d like. I’m constantly learning to stay in my own lane and commit to the people and processes that make me the happiest. I’d love to be writing a new song a week, and performing weekly with my band all while working with my music theory mentor Chris Kapica but every week is different. I’ve learned to embrace the variety.

Music is my therapy and simultaneously my greatest joy. The more I refine the process, the better I feel and the more impactful the music becomes. I am beyond grateful that I have decided time and time again to take a chance on myself, to step out of what has been expected of me and to forge a new path through both music and marketing. I have been working to record a new song and music video every six weeks and am finally falling into a more consistent rhythm. I can’t wait to continue to share my latest projects with the world!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am most proud of my next music video release for my song ‘Galaxies Collide’. We filmed in Las Vegas and Barstow and it feels very much me when I wrote the song 5 years ago. I was ‘in love’ with an addict and so it made sense to reference the 90’s Nick Cage film ‘Leaving Los Vegas”.

All of my songwriting comes from a very personal place which can be challenging to promote since each song feels like it is already revealing so much. That said, I create art to help myself heal from deep emotional wounds and my hope is that others will hear my music and it helps them as well.

I am so excited about the next three singles I’ve been working on. Honestly, each release gets better and better. I am always actively working on improving my craft, from the song itself to the story behind it and even how I present it to the world. These next three songs my band and I recorded at A.R.T.S (A Reason To Survive) down in San Diego. We self-produced them and so the final product is much closer to our live show that we have been dialing in since last December.

How did I get to where I am today? Working very hard and all the time. lol It has not been easy even if I have made it look easy. My advice is: Never give up, stay focused on your vision, and do not compromise. Do as much mindset work, journaling, breathwork, and reprogramming negative beliefs about yourself as you can. Getting to know yourself is the real work.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well, this is hard because I was a tour manager at one point in my career and I’m also a Virgo so I love details but I will try to keep it short. This is not including food because there are too many great places to choose from.

Monday – Jazz at Lighthouse Cafe Hermosa Beach
Tuesday – Jazz Night at The Thompson in Hollywood
Wednesday – Music at The Greek Theater or Hollywood Bowl
Thursday – Music at The Troubador or Viper Room
Friday – Music at Silverlake Lounge
Saturday – Beach Day in Manhattan
Sunday – Hike in Malibu, Griffith Park or Palos Verdes

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many. I mentioned Chris Kapica who has helped me a ton with music theory and producing songs. Bibi Goldstein of Buying Time LLC has been instrumental in helping me build the marketing arm of my business. Rasa DiSalvo helped me to get ahold of my mindset earlier this year and Carol King has been my accountability partner ever since the start of the pandemic. My new assistant Corinne Olguin is a killer researcher and I love how proactive she is while working together. My bandmates Diego Rodriguez and Dee Jay Rich are so supportive and we have been making some large strides this year with our sound and recording new music. I have met so many incredible people at my shows over the past few years who continue to show up for our concerts and I feel extremely blessed for every moment we get to share together.

Website: https://courtneymckenna.rocks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/courtneymckenna/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtney-mckenna-90308410/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CourtneyMcKenna

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/courtneymckennamusic/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8PBbBPoeyXXlIwzT6bQ-Cw

Other: Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/courtneymckenna Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/434oSbRk9oqBXceDl31dsX?si=gA1U3JtRTumIk3ZRagSmEg&dl_branch=1

Image Credits
Mathias Fau and Trina Productions

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