Best phone call I ever made was in 1997-8 ish (?) when working with Americana songwriting hero Dave Alvin. My former boss Mark Pucci needed to talk to him about an extensive interview. Dave was in Europe, and we thought of how to get a hold of him. So I said (I think I did), let’s call the club and leave a message with the bartender or manager of where he was playing and see what happens.
So, I rang the club around 4 PM Eastern time, and it was about 8-9 PM overseas – which I think was Poland or Amsterdam – it was like $10 per second for a call overseas. I was lucky that the bartender answered. I asked for the manager so I could leave a message for Dave Alvin. He put the phone down, and I could hear Dave and the audience sing “Fourth of July” at the top of their lungs. That is so cool to hear. A day or so later, Dave called us from Spain while eating dinner.
Promoting music is an honorable thing to do for someone. The artist takes their art, gives it to you, and says, “please help…” I move fast, call people back, make mistakes, and score ten touchdowns in one morning, but I never promise anything for anyone, but what I do is try. This type of work requires trust, patience, and love…
I was raised by Mark Pucci, baptized by fire, and worked with a steady stream of Americana, Alternative Country, Blues, Folk, Rock, and Jazz artists. I was in charge of tour publicity, the mail room (which I could reach with one arm), then I added IT, then I added webmaster, then I added social media girl, then I added… well, I did a lot over there. I’ve learned early on to keep calling until they call you and yell at you for calling so much. (That really did happen). I can keep up with anyone, multi-task to bejesus, and peel everyone off the ceiling with or without a spatula, for I tell it like it is.
I moved to Atlanta in 1993 after graduating in 1992 from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. I have a BFA in PAP from VCU, which means I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University, which means I can paint and print-make repeatedly. We (us: printmaking artists) would joke about being the slowest Kinko’s in Richmond. I would never trade that for the world. But I did need to pay my bills. And the cool thing about being a visual artist; is that you never have to buy art.
Before I set foot in ATL, I took an unpaid internship at Nexus Contemporary Art Center near Georgia Tech under the direction of Louise Shaw, who was a legend in the art world. I spent my off time at the art gallery and hung out with musicians at night, which quickly became my new job. After about a month and money dwindling, I went to Macy’s and told them I could put a man in a suit in 30 seconds to get me a job. Selling men’s suits was my specialty. If this painting didn’t work out, I could fall back on retail.
During 1994-1995 I would do various things; write for a monthly paper that had a national circulation but catered to the local scenes in different cities around the country, and do PR work for local bands, including their photography. I moved seven times in three years all over Atlanta. It wasn’t til 1995 that I needed a new job, and my friends didn’t want his anymore. He was the assistant to the rock band drivin’ n cryin’s manager. So, I took his.
I worked six months there before I went to work with Odom-Meaders for a spell; then, on May 1, 1996, I went to work with Mark Pucci. The Capricorn Legend. I worked with him on everything from phone calls to press release writing and connecting with the music industry on levels I still practice today: always the score of yesterday’s game. I was the manager of everything in the office: mail, copy machine, filing, tour press, supplies, receptionist, and sometimes the office referee.
I have a habit of stealing jobs. Again. It was 2007 when I started to work as an art director at the Defoor Centre, an events facility with original art on the wall providing a unique backdrop to weddings, church gatherings, and events. I had called about my own paintings and if I could have a show there. Luck would have it – I took the job from the man that was there already.
There, I was in charge: of picking the art, setting up the installations, and arranging the openings and sales within its 20,000 square feet of floors and walls. I had four group shows a year, with one big call in November called OFF THE WALL, where artists could sell at rock-bottom prices for some holiday sales. I have counted over the five years; I worked with 35 artists during the regular season and during the OTW event – probably 200 plus with an inventory count beginning at 300 pieces four times a year, not including the OTW event. Lots of nails and spackle.
The show openings were always fun, with everyone from friends and family members to world-class music, delectable food, and cocktails. I hit every media platform during my five-year stint, from radio to TV to monthly magazines to the Latin media, as well as Atlanta’s daily and weekly papers.
The ideas flowed:
1 – I had a modern painter talk on the radio about his technique and what kind of music he listened to while he worked.
2 – I had a Latino artist talk about creating under a dictatorship and the limited materials she had to create for the local Atlanta Latin paper, Mundo Hispanico.
3 – I had a well-known piano player play an opening complete with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” That renowned artist was Ike Stubblefield.
4 – I had a punk rock band play an all-girls art show. I got grief from a patron about that… but I shrugged it off.
As you can tell, I transferred my music publicity knowledge to the art world and made it much better for both sides of me. It was a great marriage between the two mediums. But I was still hungry. After a couple more years and lots of driving into the Atlanta sunset, I decided a change was needed. I even asked an old friend, “do you think I could do this on my own….”
In 2014, I left Mark Pucci Media to create my own publicity, Miss Jill PR – because everyone from the doctors to the baristas calls me Miss Jill. I started with a label and a few other artists to get me started, along with a trip to Nashville for AmericanaFest to plant my seeds. I was beginning to see how this all worked, for I was winging half of it. I saw the potential; I needed to follow the yellow brick road a little slower to pace myself. I have had so many opportunities and successes over the past eight years – I can’t keep up! From Angie Aparo being on the cover of Stroke Smart to Cyril Neville at Folk Alliance International in New Orleans as a speaker to myself being featured on NPR and then directing Jason Ringenberg on set for a music video…oh, and don’t forget the Grand Ole Opry with Jason. The list is growing like Kudzu.
After a few more years in Atlanta, I sold the house, took the cats, and moved to Nashville during a global pandemic. It’s been eight years since I opened my doors to my publicity firm and two years since I moved to Nashville, and I can finally drive to the mall and back without Siri! Only been here two years, and so far, I’ve done a lot – Grand Ole Opry, video creating, working with some of the best in the business, photography, and more.
I like picking and choosing what projects I work on – we have to like each other, play ball like we wanna win, and be realistic about our dreams and goals.
As for money, yeah, it costs some money to have a publicist, but like everything else in life, promoting albums and artists is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there are no limits to what you can do. So, get your hiking boots on…
…this is cool, right? Sure, it is. There are no rules in what I do, only to check your grammar and spelling. Keep up your relationships with the media solid, call them if you have to, or better yet, drive over and deliver cookies if need be.
Bribery is great, but stealing the limelight is better.
It’s your career, not mine. I am here to help you get more media attention and people at your shows and sell albums.