Interview: Beth Neil

Beth Neil at Belmont United Methodist Church

Beth Neil, Nashville-based female artist with a big future ahead

Hometown: Zumbrota, MN

Genre: Country

Influences: Kristian Bush, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Cam, Lauren Alaina, Little Big Town

Favorite VenueBelmont United Methodist Church

Beth Neil, born and raised on a dairy farm in Minnesota, is continuing her journey to be a country music superstar in Music City. She’s got the passion, faith, and attitude it takes to be a rising star in a songwriter-saturated city. With female artists being her top influencers, Neil has also spent much of her music career respecting and looking up to Kristian Bush, former member of the Country duo Sugarland.

How does Kristian Bush impact your music career?

“He’s one of my top influencers. I was a huge fan of Sugarland, originally because Jennifer Nettles is a 4-H alumna, and so am I. I followed their career as a duo, and listening to their albums helped get me through college. When they stopped making music together, I was excited to see Kristian come out with his first solo album, Southern Gravity. I was like, ‘that’s the sound and music that inspires me.’ I am in awe of his drive and passion for music. His songs are inspirational, about life and following your dreams and never giving up. It’s amazing to see how he has built a career, and how the music industry is so supportive of something like that.”

Where does your love of Country come from?

“I’ve loved country music for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I had barn chores on the farm, and we had an old radio in the barn. The radio would always be on the country station, so we would sing and dance while milking the cows and feeding the calves.

We didn’t go on many family trips because of the work of a dairy farm. I have an early memory of a rare trip with all six of us, my parents and my siblings, in a hotel room, and we were watching the CMA Awards. Reba McEntire was on, and I remember being giddy and going to sit in front of the TV. I watched the different artists’ mannerisms and how they sang, figuring out what I could do to be like them.”

To continue fulfilling her love of country music, Beth Neil works part-time in the gift shop at the Grand Ole Opry. Her full-time job is as a communications specialist for a Nashville-based agency of the United Methodist Church. When Neil moved to Nashville in 2015, she attended a few different churches, but fell in love with Belmont United Methodist Church and their music program. After a couple of weeks living in Music City, Beth was in front of the church singing in the choir.

“It’s a religious place. I feel like God speaks to me there. I feel like I can follow my call the most, and sing when I’m at that church.”

Why is the Belmont United Methodist Church your favorite place to sing?

“I was thinking about my favorite venues around town, and where I’ve played the most. I know haven’t played at many places yet, and then it came to me. I sing there every Sunday, and have choir rehearsals every Wednesday. I spend so much time at that church, immersed in music and worship. I love it there.”

When did you realize you should be singing?

“Looking back over the last few years of my life, I had been focused on singing in high school and college. But, after graduation, I took a break from it all for various reasons. I felt very alone. It was difficult for me to pursue music and songwriting while living in Minnesota. There is a strong music scene there, but the country music is limited. So, I took a couple of years off and tried desperately to not have that be the ‘thing I was called to do.’ I focused on my communications career and tried not to listen to that little voice in my head telling me I needed to sing. Some people didn’t even know I was a singer until months or years after meeting me.

Then, I was attending church every Sunday in Minnesota. I was very active, but realized something was still missing from my life. In February 2015, I was sitting in the pew and listening to the organ music as the service ended. An older gentlemen introduced himself to me and asked what I do for a living. At that moment, it was weird, but I just broke down and cried. I told him I have a dream to be a singer but that I didn’t know what to do about it. He said, ‘you just have to start.’ He took me around the church and introduced me to the music leaders. The next thing I knew, I was in front of the church singing in the choir for the first time in years. That was a pivotal time for me, because I realized that you can’t run away from something you’re called to do, even if you think it might be easier to go another way in your life. If God is calling you to do something and you don’t pursue it, it’ll keep coming back to you until you actually do it.”

Beth Neil recently released her debut single ‘Backwoods‘ with an empowering message to those who are going through hard times. In May of 2016, her Opry co-worker, Heidi Morgan, booked Neil for a night in the studio at her school, SAE, to record. Andrew Beason and Brendan Harris, who also worked at the Grand Ole Opry, joined the session to cowrite, track, and support the first song Neil would be soon releasing to the world.

“I held onto that recording for a long time after it was mastered. I ended up releasing it on my dad’s birthday in January 2017, around the time of my first Writers Night at The Country. It was my birthday gift to him. He’s been my biggest fan. He wants me to follow my passion more than anyone in the world.”

What message are you giving in this song?

“I wanted it to be relatable for anyone going through a hard time with family issues, domestic violence or abuse. They might feel trapped at points in their experience – so I included lyrics like ‘hush hush, don’t say a word.’ But, the hope would be that even if you feel trapped, you shout back in the face of your aggressors, or those who are violent toward the people you love, saying, we’re here, and we are not blind to this, so don’t think we are.”

Have you performed this live?

“I debuted this song at my first songwriter round in January 2017 at The Country. I loved seeing the audience’s reaction to my performance, and I look forward to getting more experience in front of crowds. It’s been a few years since I performed country music on a regular basis, so it’s easy to get nervous, but I’m excited for what the future holds.”  

You can download, stream and listen to Beth on Spotify, iTunes, or Amazon. Look for more of Beth in upcoming rounds, including Writers Unleashed with Nash In Tune, and in the Opry Shop!

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