Try not to doubt yourself. — During the pandemic, I decided to produce and record songs from home. I’ve always written my own songs, and have been involved with the producing aspect — but I’ve never felt fully confident to do the actual recording. Now, one of the songs that I recently recorded myself, ended up being chosen as Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest!
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Beth Jean.
Beth Jean’s dedication to making one-of-a-kind children’s videos involves everything from editing every sparkle and clay animal to creating her own “mini-sets” featuring light-up cellophane rivers, tinfoil dance discos in outer space, and more. Zipping on a green-screen suit to jump into her unique universe, Beth Jean performs in her self-produced segments, “A Beth Jean Daydream,” for The Friday Zone, broadcast from Bloomington, Indiana PBS station WTIU-TV and seen throughout the Midwest. From roaming with gnomes to painting dinosaur toes, “A Beth Jean Daydream” creates a world of lo-fi magic reminiscent of classic ’80s children’s shows, with a touch of hi-fi for a blend of wonder and quirk.
After starting to “fiddle around” with music at age eleven, Beth Jean became an accomplished, classically trained violinist. She later turned to songwriting and playing guitar along with the multiple quirky instruments that are heard in her tunes today. Before shifting focus to children’s music, Beth Jean wrote pop songs that were heard on such networks as MTV and E!
Beth Jean has sung in music clubs and coffee shops, traded witty comebacks with her improv team on the Second City stage in Hollywood, and played a wide range of theatrical roles in plays and musicals throughout the country. With a strong background in tap dance, Beth Jean also has a resume full of choreographing musicals and revues for regional stages.
When live shows were possible, Beth Jean could often be seen performing onstage for kids and families. She especially enjoyed working alongside VolumeOne & Chippewa Valley Family, (The go-to resource for news and events in western Wisconsin), hosting and performing in their extremely popular Saturday Morning Kids Summer Concert Series.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you for having me! I grew up in small town Wisconsin. My first idols were Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy. My first obsession with music came through dancing. I loved dancing, especially tap dance — not the most popular choice in rural Wisconsin, but thankfully I had a dance teacher who was willing to spend some extra time with me since the other little dancers weren’t interested. In the fifth grade, I took up the violin. That eventually lead to the guitar when my Beatles obsession went into full force, and I started writing songs.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Writing children’s music evolved out of writing and performing more in the general pop genre for many years. I realized my love for more unique sounding dings and whistles in my music, such as, say, kazoos, would fit more into the kids’ genre. Before realizing this, my first business card was me riding a unicorn under a rainbow, so maybe that should have been my first hint of where I needed to be!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Like most artists this past year, quarantine has handed us some challenging times to create! Before lockdown occurred, I was given the opportunity to film segments for, “The Friday Zone” on PBS affiliate WTIU. Once we headed into lockdown, I knew I had to make thirteen segments somehow from home. With props, craft supplies and costumes I already had, and along with the help of my Mom, we created the sketches that were all filmed from home.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This one goes back years to my one of the first times recording with a highly established crew. It has nothing to do with music per say, but a funny (now) experience none the less. One of my first times recording happened to be on the 4th of July. Because of this, my producer at the time decided we should BBQ. While he was in the basement studio working, he asked me if I would go put the vegetables on the grill. (This is after watching him, carefully cut, season and oil them up) Being a nervous, shy newbie to recording, I said of course I can do that. Little did he know, I had never put anything on any grill. I plopped them, all at once, right from the bowl, and patted myself on the back for a job well done. Before the second pat could even be patted, the grill went up in flames. I ran in and said, “I think I need help”. The producer was pretty shocked to come upstairs and see flames shooting everywhere. Through coughs, and fanning, we put out the fire. The shy girl in me decided it’d be best I go for a walk, after turning Independence Day into don’t grill independently day. So off I went, with keys to the private beach across the street. I didn’t exactly know how this key system worked, so I unknowingly ended up locking myself into the beach. I started in on my calming walk. Or so I thought. It immediately started to downpour. I ran for the gate, and that’s when I realized I locked myself in. Where was this downpour five minutes ago when the grill was on fire? Or when would anyone realize I went missing? I eventually weaseled the keys to unlock the gate. I came back completely soaked. I then got lost later that day in the taxi cab on the way back to my hotel, but that’s a different story.
I learned that even with a bit of chaos, recording is one of my favorite things to do!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My upcoming album, “Let’s Put On a Show” releases to music platforms April 9th! I’ll be releasing music videos as well that can be found on youtube.com/bethjean.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Three reasons why it’s important to have diversity would be one, to give everyone a chance at career opportunities they are working hard to obtain. The second reason would be to showcase cultures, so we can all learn and grow from other. Lastly, it would open more conversation and understanding about our world. We’re all here on this planet together — let’s get to know each other better!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Five things I wish something told me when I first started would be –
- Try not to doubt yourself. — During the pandemic, I decided to produce and record songs from home. I’ve always written my own songs, and have been involved with the producing aspect — but I’ve never felt fully confident to do the actual recording. Now, one of the songs that I recently recorded myself, ended up being chosen as Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest!
- The internet is going to be an absolute great way to connect. — When I first started, it seemed to be the thing to live in a big city and try to make it happen there. Now, you can be anywhere and connect with whoever you like!
- If success isn’t happening overnight, you’ll at least have some great memories. — The old saying, “enjoy the journey” really is true. I’ve met some of the nicest, greatest people along the way, and made some fun, crazy memories!
- It’s a small world — The music industry seems huge, but it’s crazy how you’ll start knowing and seeing the same names and faces. Six degrees of separation for sure.
- Back up your hard drives. — You never know when you’re going to drop hours and hours of work, causing for an unrecoverable cracked little box. Rest in Pieces to a bunch of my files that took hours to create.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
A tip I would give, and as cliche as it sounds, is to make sure you are having fun while you are creating. Even if the follows or views don’t come immediately, feeling accomplished with just making something you are proud of will be a huge part of being able to keep going.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Having music in our schools to me is so important. I would love to encourage schools to keep music classes going. Being in orchestra made for such a wonderful space where students from all different cliques came together to create music. I think having that opportunity carries with you your whole life, not just the beauty of expressing yourself through an instrument.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many people and music teachers I’m grateful for that have had a huge impact on me. One in particular though, was my violin teacher, Mr. Woodhouse. While at a lesson I mentioned I had started writing songs. He was incredibly talented in many aspects of music. He right away encouraged me to bring my guitar in and play a song or two. That led to him hauling his recording equipment to our lessons, to record my little tunes. He didn’t stop there, though! He recommended we record at a little studio close by. The studio was in the basement of a music store, that happened to not have heat when we were there. Which in normal circumstances would have been fine, but as timing would have it — it was one of the coldest days of the year, probably nearing 30 degrees below zero. Never the less, Mr. Woodhouse’s enthusiasm didn’t slow down (or freeze). He was the kind of music teacher one hopes for when started up an instrument, or one sees in a movie. Kind, encouraging and lit up if you played the right note, or even just felt the music.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers by Bob Thaves, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels.” Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, and while you’re at it, give it some glam as well, because why not! Also, any quote from Dolly Parton is always spot on, uplifting and great.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Paul McCartney! Since you mentioned breakfast, we’d probably sing the original lyrics to Yesterday, (which were “scrambled eggs”), together and laugh and have a jolly old time.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you so much!