Interview with Ray Bertram of BCC Global: The Back Country Connection
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Ray Bertram: Describe our music? …we‘re everything – and we’re having the time of our lives When it comes to genre, themes, and content, regardless of whatever you like and whatever you’re into, if you look into our growing roster of songs, sites, and projects, then the odds are good that you’ll find something that’s just right for you. And if you jump on board and start following us, then you’ll probably also end up having a pretty good time, too.
Describing ourselves… BCC Global: The Back Country Connection IS Country – and a whole lot more. In many ways, we‘re a new animal to the music industry world and a true creation of the Internet age. Consider us a growing on-line based production house with an international membership of highly talented writers, musicians, singers, vocalists, and other various music industry-related personnel…all working together cooperatively, moving forward as one, and having a lot of fun in the process. And as an international online creative platform, our goal is not only to work together toward creating and marketing world-class songs and productions, but to also continually seek out and explore new ways and avenues through which we might direct our combined creative forces, network/market our work, and make new friends and entertain the world around us as we go. By using the tools that have been made possible by modern technology and today’s Internet-based culture, we’re also working together to make a total end-run around the road blocks and obstacles that have traditionally held back lesser-funded and geographically isolated artists, too. In many ways, BCC Global, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, represents the future of music and the shape of things to come in the music industry. But we’re not waiting for the traditional music industry to notice us, though – we’re simply doing our thing, moving full speed ahead, and having a good time…and we‘ll let the music industry catch up to us as it’s able.
One of the really cool things about how our platform is set up and engineered is that, whenever one of our artists and creative partnerships does well, all of the others shine that much more brightly as a result – we really do stand the tallest when we stand together. That’s why one of our core BCC Global mottos will always be „One for all…and all for music!“ And what you see happening on the surface with us is just the tip of the iceberg – we have just as much going on behind the scenes as we do in front of them. Our various members frequently submit our numerous works to publishers around the world…we’re also always seeking and networking toward individual artists (either established or with break-out potential) to work with us in the songs that we create and produce – but as our higher-level creative partnerships are now being signed and becoming involved with established production houses, much of our work is now being agressively marketed on a global scale toward major artists and things are picking up even more. Unfortunately, our songs and productions that are falling under contract can no longer be publically marketed on any of our core sites – which is a shame, too, because those are some of our best pieces.
And it doesn’t matter if your an artist, a fan, or somebody who just wants to keep track of what BCC Global: The Back Country Connection is doing…one of our primary goals will always be to entertain the world around us and to be fun to follow.
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Ray Bertram: I am one of the co-founders of BCC Global: The Back Country Connection, but it‘s NOT the story of just me, W. Ray Bertram – it’s the story of A LOT of people…but in order for it to really make sense, I have to start from the beginning. I first started seriously writing in high school, back in the early 1980’s. I’ve written in a variety of ways and formats over the years since ranging from short stories, to poetry, to memoirs, and more. In 2001 I met and married my wife, Theresa, and she had a strong musical background that included 6 years of experience as a disc jockey/radio broadcast engineer. Working together, we began shaping my writing into marketable lyrics…but what to do with those lyrics proved to be very challenging. We had absolutely no investment capital, no musical associations, and we live hundreds of miles from the nearest musical center. To make matters even more challenging – I’m a pretty odd animal per music industry terms: I can’t sing, I can’t play a single instrument, and I can’t really generate melodies – I’m simply a straight-up writer. However, working with my wife, I was able to learn how to write in ways that are easily produced and around themes and content that have strong market appeal. The next step was to begin utilizing the public/free songwriting websites designed specifically for songwriters seeking to strengthen and network their various works and talents (my personal favorite was always Songwriter101.com). As I spent my time on these websites, I quickly began making friends and developing creative partnerships with people that were musically talented in all of the ways that I wasn’t…they just needed a writer. Things clicked in a special way when I met songwriter/musician John Surbaugh (U.S.A.). We produced some songs together around my writing and, by that time, I had also seen production of songs with a few other creative partners around the world, as well. Thinking and working together, John and I decided that we needed some type of online platform from which to network and market the work that was taking place. In the summer of 2008 we came up with the concept of using a combination of common free Internet sites in a collective multi-collumn approach and The Back Country Connection platform was born…and what happened next was an unexpected explosion that nobody saw coming. Within just two months our little online creative platform quickly expanded to become global in scope, we changed the name to BCC Global: The Back Country Connection, and we started down the road that’s lead us to where we are today. To date we have either worked with or are working with artists, singers, songwriters, and producers from The United States (Tennessee, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New York…), Ireland, Germany, England, South Africa, Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands…and several places in between. As of this writing (January 2012) we currently have multiple productions in progress in Germany, Ireland, and here at home in the United States. And while our creative partners and BCC platform members almost always become good friends and we strive to maintain a very open family-type atmosphere, for the most part, they never actually meet in person and communications tend to take place in the forms of email and instant messaging. I’ll write lyrics here in Arkansas, vocal and instrumental tracks are frequently recorded from various locations around the world, they‘re sent via Internet to a central producer (who is usually also a songwriter involved in the creation of the production) who will then go to work building the production that will become our next song. It’s not unusual for a single song to have multiple producers, too, each working from separate studios in different countries. The names include Anders Larson (Sweden), John Surbaugh (U.S.A./Ohio), Robert Baitinger (Germany), Glenn Spayth (U.S.A./Tennessee), Charlie Hamilton (South Africa), Donovan Plant (U.S.A./California), Martin Gotz (Austria), Antony Woflson (England), LeeAndrew Bray (U.S.A./Georgia), Johnny Hoeve (The Netherlands/Amsterdam), Wallace Anderson (U.S.A./Kansas), Cathy Wilson (U.S.A./Connecticut), Chantal Schramm (Germany)…and many more. We are songwriters, singers, musicians, producers, promoters – you name it…all working together cooperatively and collectively on mutual projects and in common directions. BCC Global IS a success story, and while every song that you see on our sites has either been built around or touched by my writing, I’m just one component in the story of that success. As I said above, the story of BCC Global isn’t just the story of W. Ray Bertram – I just happen to be the writer in the middle of it all…this is the story of ALL of us.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music industry?
Ray Bertram: The music industry has always existed in a state of flux and that’s probably more true today than at any other time in history. And today, there are more great and readily abundant opportunities for everybody – especially the average person – to approach the music industry establishment…and we owe it all to the Internet. The Internet is easily the single-most significant invention to hit the world of music since the creation of sound and it has become the great equalizer of the music world. I also strongly believe that the world in general (and the music industry in particular) has yet to fully come to terms with all that the Internet has made possible within the music world. I mean, consider me/us as an example: Just four short years ago I was nothing more than a musically declined writer with zero investment capital and no musical associations what-so-ever…and now, thanks largely in part to creative Internet usage, look at where we are today, everything that we have going on, and all that we’ve accomplished. Given the right mentality, I honestly believe that anybody could go out and do what we’ve done and succeed in the ways that we have…and this is one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this interview with Country Music News International – I think that it’s time people knew.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Ray Bertram: I’m a „compulsive writer“…and I always have been. One of my earliest memories is winning a writing contest in the 3rd grade (back around 1975) for a report that I wrote on the musical legend, Ray Charles. I’ve been writing for years and years and years and, whenever somebody asks me how it is that I’m still writing after all of this time, I always have to just smile and say, „Because I haven’t figured out how to stop yet.“ I give my wife, Theresa, credit for guiding me in transitioning my writing into lyrical form, though, and for being very patient with me while she did so. Theresa has a very strong musical talent that works well with my writing and I thoroughly enjoy the team that we have become together. She is my wife, my best friend, the mother of my children, my primary creative partner…and very easily the best part of me.
Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Ray Bertram: We’re always looking for new directions and new projects…and we simply know no boundaries in our pursuit of them. Right now one of our big new projects is the online independent music artist showcases that Theresa Bertram has created and is now producing and hosting. The Mountain Top Country Show spotlights and showcases independent Country artists and Pop Goes The Mountain seeks to highlight and entertain by showcasing today’s independent Pop artists in all of the Pop-related genres. And Theresa has six years of experience as a disc jockey/radio broad engineer in Arkansas‘ #1 Country music market, so she really knows what she’s doing…and she’s having a good time doing it, too. The shows are getting bigger as they go along, they’re really picking up a lot of momentum, and we’re just having a lot of fun with them. Also, as BCC Global’s primary writer, I‘m very versatile in how I’m able to apply my writing talents. I write lyrics, I network/market us and our work, I establish new contacts and creative partners, I communicate with all of the connections that we’re able to make, I assist in the writing of our independent online artist showcases… And as I write lyrics, Country is one of my primary targets, but my lyrical work is very versatile by design and I’m frequently surprised by all of the genres that it’s produced into by different artists. As I’ve all ready said…I’m a compulsive writer.
Lamitschka: What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Ray Bertram: In the past 4 years I’ve seen well over a hundred songs produced around my writing and I’ve enjoyed all of them…but out of all of our productions, I think that my own personal favorite would probably have to be „Snowflakes On The Mountain.“ There’s such a cool story behind that song. We live in Central Arkansas, way out in the country, up on top of a mountain, about 20 miles from the nearest town, and when it snows up here it really snows lol I was sitting by the window during one particularly heavy snow storm a few years ago, just watching the snow fall, and I was really hit by the beauty of it all. The mountain was being transformed into a total winter wonderland all around us by the falling snow and I didn’t have anything pressing to do (we were all ready snowed in at that point lol), so I started tossing lines together about it as I sat there by the window, taking in the beauty of it. The lyric I wrote that evening was quickly picked up for production by Martin Gotz (Austria). Robert Baitinger (Germany) jumped in to help with the production and from there Donovan Plant (U.S.A./California) stepped in as an associate producer…and the resulting song ended up being a true platform-wide production/collaboration. We had so much fun with it! The song ended up featuring the vocals of eleven different singers from six different countries. One of my favorite parts of the song comes at the end as everybody involved in the productio offers up their own holiday greetings. But having that many artists coming together on one project, the friendly way in which everybody worked together, how the entire project ended up coming together and sounding – it all made for a very good example of who we are, how we work, and what we’re all about. You can find the song on both our MySpace and SoundClick sites…below is the SoundClick link:
Snowflakes On The Mountain
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Ray Bertram: This is an interesting question to me because, as a „musically declined“ writer, I have to rely more heavily on my more musically-oriented creative partners in all areas related to musical production. Toward this end, one of the key components of my own personal success has been in finding creative partners that I can work well with and that I can trust to take productions in the highest marketable directions. And as a writer, if you want to be worked with, then after you’ve found the right people to work with, I strongly believe that it then becomes very important to sit back and let them do what they’re good at. I do think it’s critical to find people to work with that respect you and seek out your opinion…but I also think that a lot of writers drop the ball when they try to micro-manage projects and dictate the work of others that they themselves don’t really know that much about. If a lyric isn’t flowing well into a given melody then I can always go in and fix or adjust it…or if a producer feels that the best route toward marketability lies in directions that require a lyric to be changed up or expanded, I can always write into or around it. As for me and my writing on a personal level, I have a lot of different goals and one of the themes that runs through most of them is marketability…for me, a significant part of the art of music is the art of the sell – I want for what I do to have the potential to travel and go places. So while my work is shaped by what I personally think, see, experience, and feel…its also controlled by all of the factors commonly associated with the highest levels of mainstream marketability. And when I think in terms of marketability, I generally look at it from a global perspective: I like projects and songs that have the power to cross geographical and cultural boundaries and travel around the world…I also like to write lyrics that have the potential of becoming genre-crossing songs and productions. So to a significant degree the market plays a very dominant control over my writing – but I honestly don’t mind…for me that’s just another part of the fun behind it all.
Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
Ray Bertram: There’s so much that I could mention here – my writing has litterally travelled around the world… I’ve become part of songwriting teams that have been signed by houses in Europe…our work has gone before and been requested by international artists…I’ve enjoyed watching our various creative partners become more successful in their own work as we’ve all worked together…I loved getting to watch Glenn Spayth perform a song in Nashville that we wrote together – but for me, just the simple fact that all of this has happened is so amazing…I never expected any of it – not even in my wildest dreams. When I started writting lyrics, it never occured to me that one day I would end up having so many songs being produced by artists all over the world around my writing…it certainly never occured to me that I might end up co-founding an online international creative platform of artists. I’m the story of the average guy that rose up out of nowhere and travelled the world with his work – all without ever having left the comforts of his own home. And all of my children have also learned the value of using their talents creatively and chasing their own dreams by watching us work within our platform and by joining in as opportunity has allowed, too. What’s more, now whenever our family is driving down the road, our children don’t want to listen to the radio anymore – they all want to listen to „dad’s songs,“ instead…now THERE’S a high compliment.
Lamitschka: What hopes and desires do you have?
Ray Bertram: I would like to see our songs signed at the highest levels and making money for everybody that has been involved in the production/creation process. I would like for the BCC Global online creative platform to continuing growing and to become successfull to the point that I’m able to then reach back and help all of the various people and artists that have worked with us toward getting us to where we currently are today. And I definitely love the idea of growing BCC Global into a financial success to the point that it not only allows me to „quit my day job,“ but also to where my family and all of my children are able to enter into its workings and to make their livings there, as well. I also like the idea of writing a book that details how we have achieved what we have through BCC Global for those who might desire to follow our lead and succeed in similar ways, because there is a world of lessons and information to be shared there. As it is, though, I have seven kids and I would be more than happy if we simply make enough money to help out with college expenses lol Still, our dreams are big, our talents are strong, we’re still just getting started, we’re having the time of our lives…and you just never know what you’re going to find around the next corner.
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )