Sarah Beth Terry - SEE-ing It and "BEE"-ing It
Written by Renee Collins Cobb, M.Ed.
Those who say it can't be done should get out of the way of people who are doing it.
When it comes to the life and career of Sarah Beth Terry- there simply are no truer words. And when the moment arises and words hit the piece of paper she is using to preserve her thoughts that ultimately give birth to a song - a true masterpiece is born.
Nashville Singer/Songwriter Sarah Beth Terry once told me a story that has stuck with me in the core of my own inner being to the point of obsession at times. A story that has provided me with a basis of thought that lingers after watching her perform and wondering at times how she ever got to the point of being on a stage and owning it with the great command and confidence that she does. In the trajectory of my own life - the story has fueled and energized me with moments of inspiration that opened up a process where I reflect on times when someone has told me - be it once or what seems like a million times - that “it can’t be done”.
That "IT" in the "IT can't be done" means different things to different people, and how we react to receiving a message like that can represent the difference between regret versus joy, pain versus pleasure, despair versus aspiration, goals versus accomplishment. Perhaps we cannot only recall a specific instance the "IT can't be done" message was delivered -but many can also remember WHO made the statement and WHERE we were when those words were spoken into existence and into our young and malleable minds.
When Sarah Beth Terry was in middle school, a school guidance counselor challenged the entire class with the goal of stating publicly - what they wanted to be when they ‘grew up’. A male classmate stated he wanted to be a NASA astronaut to which the school guidance counselor applauded and praised his proclamation leading the class to do likewise -commending and affirming the young man’s vision and ability to have and possess such an ambitious goal.
When it came Sarah Beth Terry’s turn to answer the question, she proudly proclaimed, without pause or a lot of thought -
I want to be a Singer/Songwriter in Nashville.
The classroom went dead silent -followed by a statement from the school guidance counselor that went a little like this...
“Sarah Beth- that career choice is unrealistic, unachievable and you are embarrassing yourself”.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience in life when you were on the receiving end of the delivery of messages like these:
“you aren’t the college type”
“maybe you should set more realistic career goals”
"you are not tall enough for basketball"
“with your GPA, maybe you should pick a less challenging field”
“only rich kids go to Notre Dame
“you can have a great life working in the factory like your family does”
Told by the counselor that she was setting "unrealistic" and unachievable goals at such a young age – Sarah Beth only became more determined to achieve her goal and filed the comment away in the book of life experiences until she could reach the age to pursue that dream. Putting it away in her mental filing cabinet- it may have went into a file labeled as sexist, discriminatory, or ridiculous or even into the “circular file”, where it most likely would find a home. Considering the praise bestowed up one student and the warning bestowed upon another student- did anyone think of the fact that the odds of becoming a NASA astronaut were most likely less realistic than the odds of becoming an aspiring singer/songwriter? If the singer/songwriter was Sarah Beth Terry - those odds were to be overcome and the comment of the school guidance counselor were soon to be dismissed.
Do you want to know what I think is incredibly unrealistic?
Writing material for a total of eight CD's, then recording and releasing all eight CD’s in just a period of a year.
Yet, Sarah Beth Terry has accomplished what would be considered by most - a totally "unrealistic" goal of any singer/songwriter. A key point to this conversation is one I wish to make when describing the Sarah Beth Terry career path is one that I will dive into..... coming up in just a few paragraphs…but now…back to the story…
Out of all of the stories, Sarah Beth Terry has shared with me about her career and growing up in Estill County, KY, this is the one that has intrigued me most, shaken me to my core and even inspired me in my own personal and professional achievement. I personally believe that whenever a child tells anyone what they want to be when they grow up - the child is showing the first signs of visionary thinking. A more appropriate response to any proclamation of career choice by a child should be meet with nothing other than...
"that's a great choice for you- what can I do to help you achieve your dreams?".
Because being told that her goal of being a Nashville singer/songwriter was "unrealistic" and implicitly "embarrassing" -all whilst encouraging a male student to be an astronaut in an even more narrow career and competitive field - was a very stereotypical viewpoint and perspective spoon-fed to children who grew up in Eastern Kentucky in the era in which she lived. I grew up in times when school age children often heard a dialogue that boys were "good at math and science" and well- girls were going to be good at "cleaning house, home economics class and becoming a good and dutiful wife". If a female were to go to college, then it was not thought to be for the goal of graduating with a BA or BS degree - but just getting by while she pursued a MRS Degree.
But YET...this aspiring singer/songwriter became just what she said she was going to be when she grew up... and even more.
John Pepper, the former CEO of Proctor and Gamble once said "There is nothing more powerful than self-fulfilling prophecy. We literally become what we believe we will become. Personally, I am of the belief that nothing is more powerful than a piece of paper and a #2 pencil and one of Sarah Beth Terry’s earliest memories is of her young and mighty 4-year old self sitting on the front steps of her home in Eastern Kentucky with a notepad, a poetry book, a pencil and a call to action from her mother, a talented poet herself.
“Open the book, pick out a line and write a poem about it." - Tammy Terry, Sarah Beth's Mother
Sarah Beth, who had already learned to read and write as a preschooler turned out to be a gifted and introspective Nashville singer/songwriter despite being told by that school guidance counselor that her goals were unrealistic and unachievable an even...embarrassing.
Our ability to visualize ourselves and our goals in a present state are critical to our overall future success and the journey we take on the path that ultimately gets us there. There was a time when people laughed at Muhammad Ali as he proclaimed confidently "I am the Greatest" - and yet....look at what he became. He didn't say "I am going to be the Greatest" he said... "I Am The Greatest". Again-look at what he became.
Sarah Beth's nickname over the years has been "Queen Bee" and I recently learned that this name surfaced from a response quite different to that other key event in her life of being told she would never accomplish anything as a singer/songwriter in Nashville. When she won first place in the school spelling bee, the positive feedback and reward she received was inspirational by all accounts. Her mother, being so proud of her, brought her a brooch pin to wear in honor of the first place finish that was in the shape of a bumble bee.
Because Sarah Beth Terry's ability to "SEE It and let's say- 'BEE' It- she BECAME that "unrealistic" career choice of Nashville songwriter in 2018 when she was hired as a staff writer with Three Hounds Music where she chucked out an astonishing 645 songs in 2018 – and her annual quota was only 12!
With the belief that her songs would catch fire with more logs on it- she caught some fire when one of her songs “We are All God’s Children” was nominated for a Dove Award and another song “I Hate the Taste of Whiskey” that she co-wrote with Anthony Smith was recorded and made very popular by Country artist Craig Morgan.
Recently reflecting on Sarah Beth's story, I remembered the first time I became an official member of Sarah Beth's "hive". One day, I scrolled across a facebook post that was shared by my good friend, Jessica Blankenship of Kentucky Country Music. The post shared a recent recording of Sarah Beth Terry’s original song“Into the Mountains I Go”. My husband and I listened to the song on the porch and both knew the song and the vocalist to be something very special. What happened next was a visit of her own facebook page that included a viewing of a series of appearances Sarah Beth had made at The Twisted Cork, Lexington, KY’s version of Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe. Through these posts, I realized she was close friends with my Overtones co-host Whitney Adams. Her stage presence, which I had only detected on facebook live – was like no other presentation I had seen here locally, and her command of proper breathing, phrasing and all aspects of vocal projection made me think that - although singing and strumming Appalachian music- she must have been classically trained.
My curiosity led me to ask Whitney to make an introduction to Sarah Beth via phone, where we had a LONG discussion for a first time meeting. In this conversation, I learned that Sarah Beth had trained under the vocal instruction of Dr. Everett McCorvey from The University of Kentucky Opera department while he was educating music students at Sarah Beth’s alma mater, Transylvania University. We spoke in great length and detail about her history, her songwriting career, the, at the time, seven CD’s that had been made and her general philosophies on the art of songwriting and performance. With my husband and I both being UK School of Music graduates, we all forged an instant bond and common understanding to the parallels she was making between being classically trained and musically educated to the ability to connect with an audience, to project her music and message in a way that we seldom see.
This week I was thinking about the many accomplishments of Sarah Beth Terry during the past two years, but one of them I appreciate most was the response from my husband, who after hearing her sing at Listen Locally Songwriters Showcase at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, pulled me aside and confidently proclaimed “I want everything she has ever recorded".
"Is there really any other response to that call to action than to just go to the merch table and catch the venmo cash register on musical fire?"
That purchase led to a week long nightly listening session at our home- methodically taking in and consuming one CD in its entirety each night. We noticed the CD's were listed as "Chapters" on the front cover of the CD. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had engaged in this activity – some of my friends were already "abuzz" with a suggestion that instead of a book club – maybe there should "BEE" a monthly Sarah Beth Terry CD Club – where members of the hive would listen to all songs on a CD and have a discussion which we would call “Sarah-pey” – (that rhymes with therapy for those keeping score.)
GOALS….That is still on my bucket list….
The Queen Bee Hive with besties Wakita Young, Whitney Adams and Renee Collins Cobb
This entire chapter of my own life I have lived with Sarah Beth Terry, along with two other besties in the hive - Whitney Adams and Wakita Young, with Warren being an honorary member...has made me realize and reflect on the importance of vision, intention, determination and a level of resilience that is required to SEE IT AND "BEE" IT.
When we align our daily actions around our beliefs and values, it is then, and only then, that we have a credible claim to inner peace. Inner peace leads to ALL kinds of great things when it comes to singing and songwriting.
Dolly Parton advised Sarah Beth to work on defining a look and sound that would make her "stand out"
That “SEE IT” chapter has been evolving over the past few years and Sarah has now transitioned into the “BEE IT” chapter that is turning out to be a life that was much unexpected but also completely welcomed in her personal and professional journey. A new post-divorce era has lead her to Vanceburg, KY living on a farm, with her best friend, Wakita Young- also a fellow singer/songwriter, along with Wakita's 10 year old son. They also share this space with roosters, chickens, quail, a cat, a new puppy and a garden - that along with nourishment for the body and the soul - is producing a most abundant musical harvest as well.
“SHE’S THE COAL DUST IN A DIAMOND MINE” -Fitchburg Witch by Sarah Beth Terry
Releasing an astonishing amount of her body of work in the form of eight CD’s in one year, Sarah Beth is that "coal dust in a diamond mine" and when the dust settles, we find, in all of her songs- that she has left “Easter Eggs”- in the form of stories and memories to be uncovered, discovered AND recovered. Once the story is “cracked” – the beauty of the Easter Egg's outer shell shatters and the purposeful action of peeling off the shell uncovers not the course and trajectory of Sarah Beth’s life that surfaces in the form of a song in a genuine and authentic way – but also is presented in a way that leaves the listener and the fans of her writing – totally and without debate- VULNERABLE.
What more of a goal to be accomplished for a singer/songwriter who was told her dreams were unrealistic aspire, hope and wish for?
A visit to our home in transit on her way back from a gig lead to one of the most special moments in the lives of Warren and Renee Cobb, where she sat on our porch with a provided trademark Sarah Beth Terry accessory – a bottle Ale 8- when she suddenly asked my husband for a topic or a line that would make a good song.
My husband responded “how about – if I changed my ways, would you change your mind?”
A song was born....
"Change Your Mind" Written by Sarah Beth Terry and Warren Cobb
In less than five minutes, along with some "shushing" when we talked to her out of turn and with a display of excitement, she had written a song with full melody and lyrics – that became a co-write with my husband – RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES! This is perhaps, out of all the qualities, gifts and talents Sarah Beth possesses – her best skill to produce such a high quality and powerful song in such a short and productive time.
Sarah Beth has since been on Listen Locally’s radio broadcast “Overtones LIVE” three times on various stages from Austin City Saloon to The Tipsy Cow Bar in Georgetown and has provided this fan and hive member more than ample opportunity to marvel at the work she has produced in just one single year in 2020 that will continue to delight music fans for generations to come. In that time, I have come to love my favorite songs, but in no specific order -here are 10 of what I feel are her most special and memorable songs. It was from this experience I fell in love with all of her songs, her presentation, comprehensive of all genres- set in “chapters” Chapters 1-8 and in Star Wars Trilogy or Christmas Carol fashion, the middle CD's were reflective at the time of writing to represent three different phases of her present life , the first three CD's were reflective of her past and the last CD's were mirroring the aftermath.
1) "Grave Robber" Performed on Overtones LIVE at Austin City Saloon in Lexington, KY
2) "Cryin' Allen" performed on Overtones LIVE at Bluegrass Barrel House in Richmond, KY
3) "I Hate the Taste of Whiskey" Performed at Tipsy Cow Bar Georgetown, KY
4) "So, This Bitch" Performed on Overtones LIVE at Austin City Saloon
5) "There are Worse Things" Performed at Tipsy Cow Bar Georgetown, KY
6) "Hinges of Hell" on You Tube
7) "So Long, California" performed on Overtones LIVE at Austin City Saloon
8) "Talk To Me" Performed at Tipsy Cow Bar Georgetown, KY
9) "Fitchburg Witch" from the CD "Kentucky Tornado"
10) "Estill County Rain" Performed on Overtones LIVE at Bluegrass Barrel House
I am forever changed by her music, her stories, her comedy, her style, her courage and most of all, her friendship. Cheers Everyone and Long Live The Queen!
Renee Collins Cobb, M.Ed. is the VP of Professional Development for Ascension Worldwide, LLC. She is also the former host of NPR's “Red Barn Radio”, and current host of Lexington Community Radio’s radio shows/podcasts “Overtones LIVE”, “Gray Matters” and “Listen Locally Open Mic Night at The Twisted Cork”. In addition, she is also the President of Collins Consulting Group, LLC, and co-owner with Warren Cobb of Listen Locally, LLC and the 501c3 non-profit organization, Room 17 Productions.