Beth Crowley Talks the Road so Far and What's Next
If you knew me when I was 13-14 years old, you would know that I was in my “Young Adult Dystopian Novel Fandom Phase” During that time, I stumbled upon a song called “Warrior” by Beth Crowley, which is about the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Since then, she’s written songs based off of books like The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, Harry Potter as well as her own original tracks. With 127,000 subscribers on YouTube it’s safe to say that Beth has made a name for herself. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with her about her career so far and where she hopes to take it next (spoiler: there’s a YA book involved!).
I’ve been a fan of you since I was 13 and I discovered some of your songs like “Warrior” and “My Good Days” since they were based on my favorite books and I kept seeing them pop up on Youtube and fan pages. Are books and other media still some of your inspiration now?
Yeah, I mean I would definitely say that the book-based songs have been some of my most popular, but funnily enough the song that has gotten the most views on Youtube is “Monster” which is not based on a book. I’ve done a ton of them at this point. It was just something I happened to decide to do. When I first did “Warrior” I thought it would be a cool songwriting challenge. I couldn’t even imagine what would come from it and that it’s led to everything that it’s led to. So yeah, I think that I was definitely putting out a lot of book based songs and then it gradually became a bit fewer because I like to do new things and try new things but I still regularly put out songs based on books. I actually had one earlier this year, “Empire” that was based on Game of Thrones, so TV shows. I just am always trying to change it up because I don’t want people to get bored with what I’m doing so I try to keep it exciting.
You have such range with your songs too. Like “Girl Like You” and “Happy” are really comedic and funny but then you also do the soft piano ballads and pop songs. Is there any other type of music that you’d want to explore?
As far as genres and styles, I think that as an artist I think I’m in the bubble that I want to stay in. I can see myself in the future wanting to write musical theatre. I also live in Nashville so I’d be down to write a country song. It wouldn’t be for me as an artist but I’d love to do it for someone else as an artist. I think I’ve found what kinda works for me between throwing in the funny stuff and doing the darker, cinematic type stuff and then the sad stuff. I think I’m pretty much like covered all of the ground that I’m going to. I don’t think I’m going to be putting out my debut rap album anytime soon. Taylor Swift just put out an indie album and she’s successfully covered 3 different genres now so who knows? I’m always happy to just see where it goes and see what happens. I never try to plan anything too far ahead because most of the cool things that have happened to me have just kinda happened and been spur of the moment. I try to roll with it.
Yeah of course. I saw on your website that you also write custom songs for books/series. Is this something you always saw yourself doing as part of your career?
Not at all. That’s the perfect example of something that kinda came out from nowhere. I had done a lot of my book songs based on these really big book series with really big authors. A couple years ago I went to a bok conference in Nashville and ended up meeting a bunch of authors and the three full songs I’ve done custom are all for authors that I’ve met at that book conference. I’ve also been able to try my hand at doing some audiobook music too which has been cool. That kind of came kind of unrelated because a family friend that had gotten a two book publishing deal with Harper Collins and we got to talking and she asked if I would be interested in writing the instrumental that plays when they do the intro and the outro. Then last year I got an email from the woman with Harper Audio and she asked if I would be interested in writing music for an upcoming project since she remembered me from the last one. I said yes, so she sent me the mp3 files. When I got to start playing the tracks I thought that the voice sounded familiar. Well it turns out it was Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks was the audiobook reader for this. And that was definitely one of those things that came completely out of nowhere so I mean these are all things I never would have dreamed that I would have gotten to do. I always try to have the mindset of if this is as far as it ever goes, I’m happy. I can be good. It’s been awesome. It just makes me appreciate whenever something new and cool happens even more so I just try not to have too high expectations.
I love that so much. I also saw that you’re writing your own young adult novel now. That’s
insane, kind of dipping your toe in everywhere.
I’ve always loved writing. When I was in high school, almost essentially having a blog before blogs were a thing. You were too young to remember this but there were several online journals like there was LiveJournal and there was one I used called Zenga and you know. In typical 15-16 year old fashion people were writing all of their feelings and things that they really shouldn’t share on the Internet but it was such a novel idea at the time. I just used to write these streams of consciousness where I would pick something randomly and talk about it in a comedic way, so I was doing that before I even write a song. In some ways it almost feels like I’m going back to where I started with more long form writing rather than songs. But I also wanted to have a musical component to the book as well. So I’ve finished the book and I’m in the process of querying agents so hopefully I’ll find someone who will represent me to a publishing company. And then I've written 7 songs which follow along at different points in the book. I’m really proud of it and have gotten some good feedback on it and so hopefully one way or another it will see the light of day and people will get to read it and hear the music.
I was just about to ask if you were going to write songs based off of your own book and now you’re putting out a whole soundtrack to go with the book. What a cool idea!
There was no way I was going to get away with writing a whole book and not writing music to it. I think people who follow my music would've been like “what are you doing?” From there, it just kept growing because at first I thought it would maybe be like 1 or 2 songs and then it grew to 4 and now it’s at 7. I didn’t go into it with having a set number of songs, but 7 feels pretty good.
Could you give us any hints as to what the book is about?
The basic premise is that this girl grew up in New Mexico and she grew up with her dad since her parents are divorced. Her mom is one of these LA socialites famous for being famous kind of people but the girl had nothing to do with that because she’s living with her dad. Her dad passed away and she ends up having to move to LA and is all of a sudden in this very strange bubble of branding and influencers and she just wants nothing to do with it. So she’s trying to deal with that as well as like losing her dad and she already has kind of a rocky relationship with her mom. On top of that she meets a cute guy who has a girlfriend already. But I wanted it to be more than just a love story. I wanted it to be something that talks about grief, that talks about mental health and relationships with family. It’s lighthearted - I wanted to strike a good balance of talking about some serious things while also being funny.
And then with the whole quarantine and lockdown stuff have you found yourself -- difficult to stay inspired?
Yes. I think that I’ve just been making myself. I think it’s something that a lot of creative people and artists have talked about where it’s like your initial thought is that you have all of this time and if you don’t use it productively to write 10 books and record 4 albums you’re wasting all of this time. But there’s so much going on and it’s so difficult and so strange right now so it really is hard to get yourself into a rhythm and a creative headspace. I’ve been fortunate that I pushed myself to do it and I had already planned for 2020 that I wanted to release a bunch of new music. I always set these goals for myself at the end of the year. I think that helped me more than anything, trying to stay with some sense of normalcy and checking off the things I wanted to do for this year. But it’s definitely challenging because it’s just psychologically a little strange.
100%. So you have a favorite song you’ve released this year or of all time?
You know it’s funny. I think every song that’s new is my new favorite so it’s so hard to pick one. Because with “Warrior” there’s that nostalgia factor and the fact that that’s the one that started it all and so that’s always going to be so special to me. And then there’s songs like “2007” which have been like personal to me and there’s some where it’s just been a really fun recording process. I would say I have favorites in different categories maybe. Every one of them has been special and has all of these associations tied to it whether it’s like the songwriting process, what it means to me, or recording it or there's just so much that goes into a song behind the scenes before a finished product actually gets out there. I don’t know they’re all my children and they’re all my babies and I love them all equally.
I can’t even imagine having to pick a favorite out of all that.
Yeah it's like having to pick a favorite like dessert where you’re just like “I like all of them but in different ways.” I’m also really excited about the next 2 that I have - well really the next 3. So the rest of my year what it looks like: In September I’ve got a song called “Hard to Kill” and it’s about the Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom duology by Leigh Bardugo. I’ve got one in October that we just finished and I’m really excited about. I’m working on my first ever Christmas song. It’s definitely in the vein of “Girl Like Me” and “Happy” where it’s just very cheeky and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m just excited for the rest of this year and then this year will finally be over. I’m just trying to keep good things coming to get us through the rest of 2020.
With the Christmas song, did you find it hard to come up with something new writing your own Christmas song?
I’ve always been like “I am never doing a Christmas song, there is nothing new to say, it’s so cheesy.” So the other day I was thinking about like Lifetime Christmas movies and Hallmark Christmas movies and you have these entire movies where the couple meets and they do all of these Christmassy things together and then they fall in love and the movie’s over. I was like, so what if he breaks up with her in August and the next Christmas rolls around and she’s like “cool. Now everything I associated with Christmas because we had a Christmas relationship is sad for me now because I just associate it with you.” So it’s just going to be very cheeky like my working title right now is “You Ruined Christmas” and it’s just going to be like I wish we never did all these Christmas things together because now it’s December again and you broke up with me in August and it sucks. I’m excited about it. I can’t think of any other songs that have that take so I hope it’ll be fresh, but I can guarantee it’s gonna be ridiculous.
Well it’s definitely going to be fresh. I can’t think of any other song about a Christmas couple who breaks up in August. Finally, what’s your ultimate goal for yourself and your career?
I think I have a very modest goal and expectation which is I just want to be able to keep making a living off of doing this. And that’s also very secondary for me because of the fact that it means the world to me that people connect with my music. I’ve always looked at music as the way someone else can say something that you haven’t figured out how to say but that’s how you feel. That’s what music’s always been for me and I know how important it was for me to get me through the tough things in life so to know that I’m doing that for other people is so gratifying. The most important thing for me is knowing that I’ve made some kind of small positive difference for some people is awesome. And then the fact that like I can devote all of my time to that and make a living from that and do it full time is more than I would have ever been able to hope for. Again, I mean if it all went away tomorrow I’d feel pretty accomplished but I’m kind of always excited for what’s next and that it’s good stuff and that people don’t get sick of me.
CONNECT WITH BETH CROWLEY ON YOUTUBE HERE