From building her own solo career as a singer, songwriter, and pianist to building an entertainment company from the ground up, to setting records on IU's collegiate swim team...we don't think there's much that Jenn Cristy can't do.
"This is a really hard industry - keep your head on straight, your focus true, and make sure you surround yourself with great people. These 3 things can make anyone successful."
Jenn Cristy first expressed interest in music when she climbed up onto a piano bench at the age of four. Her parents immediately signed her up for lessons. Up until college, Jenn worked to shape her musical talents via classical training. Originally from Tennessee, she made her way to Bloomington when she received an athletic scholarship and admission to the IU's music school, now known as Jacob's School of Music.
During her senior year of college, she was granted the opportunity to sing the national anthem at an IU Men's Basketball game to honor her athletic achievements as an IU swimmer (10 Time All-American, 3rd place at the NCAA's, breaking the Big 10 Record more than once, going to the Olympic Trials for freestyle, winning 3 Big 10 Championships...shall we continue?). Long story short: John Mellencamp was in the audience that night. Following her performance she was asked a question that would change her entire life plan - would she join Mellencamp on his 2001 Cuttin' Heads international tour? We had the chance to chat with Cristy about her experiences on tour, her solo career, and what she has been up to since the start of her career in music.
Who or what inspires you?
Jenn: “Everything inspires me. I’m inspired by the concept of music healing everybody emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I think that’s why I like building a tight knit group of people - the bigger group you have to take on the world, making people feel right. I want people to leave happier & better after being around me. I think music is the best way for me to do that. I am especially inspired by artist such as P!nk, Bruce Hornsby, as well as other musicians & vocalists that I get to work with.”
What is the history of OnePulse? How did it come to be?
Jenn: "In 2014, I performed in a production as a lead vocalist and pianist with a company based in Arizona. I traveled from Bloomington as well as performed with fellow musician, Eric Brown. When we got back in Bloomington in 2015, Eric asked if I was interested in joining forces to create our own production company. So, we paired up. Out of the gates, I wanted to do my best to make it possible for musicians and vocalists to have a great stage to perform on - I wanted to bring the opportunities provided to me to other artists."
More about the OnePulse name & logo: Combining the idea that music brings people together and the human heartbeat, Jenn and Eric developed the phrasing 'Together we are One Pulse Entertainment.' “Ultimately I want a company that is a giant family," Jenn explained.
What do you feel has been your greatest success so far?
Jenn: "Survival. I've never made it big. That used to be such a huge thing for me - and I think the greatest success is letting that go. Understanding that its not about money, fame, or numbers, its about the fact that I have my own music that people can connect with - that's success to me. I'm always striving to do bigger and better and that's success for me."
What is your greatest failure?
Jenn: "Not always following my heart. Not always having enough faith in myself to do what is the right move. This is starting to come around now - comes with age, experience, and perspective. There are certain things that have failed in some form - but at the end of the day I've always learned from it - so I can't even really say that I've had a failure because something eventually came out of it!"
What challenges you have faced? As a woman in the industry?
Jenn: "Sometimes people use certain cards more than they should...but I know for a fact that being a female is harder than being a male [in this industry]. Being a pianist, people already have their preconceptions about what I do. People look at me and think I do Jazz or R&B and then I do Me & Bobby McGee and they are like 'WHAT?' ...Give me a chance people! Being a female in the industry, it’s really easy to be labeled as something you're not if you don’t put your foot down. Again, I'm still sometimes afraid of not following my instincts - that's where that fear came from."
Challenges faced as a business owner: "Trying to build a reliable foundation for other artists and your business partner - that's the challenge. Another challenge is knowing that you're going to make mistakes. I don't like to make mistakes. As an owner, you are automatically carrying more weight than just your company, you are carrying other artist’s opportunities. One of the absolute biggest challenges though is getting people to see your vision. In the end, the failures and successes are much bigger. The curve is much higher than just going out and doing original music at bars."
What keeps pushing your forward, despite these challenges?
Jenn: "The potential. At the end of the day I want to be successful. Not only financially, but successful in that I'm making a difference. That’s what keeps pushing me; I want to make a difference. I want people to relate my name to: good people, good communication, great shows. There is always this light at the end of the tunnel…that hopefully is not a train. [giggles]"
Tips or words of encouragement for someone interested in pursuing music & business entrepreneurship?
Jenn: "Practice always. Play every day. I always push myself to be a better pianist and vocalist. Learn everything you can. Understand theory, tech, and the terminology that comes with it. It’s what I do when I’m teaching or judging competitions, I always try to learn. You should have a take away from everything that you do. Before Mellencamp, I had never been to a concert. Never been in a studio. But I was always the first one there and the last one to leave. I watched the drummer, the bassist, other backup singers (specifically Pat Peterson) and tried to adopt their movements in my own way. I jumped into the fire and had to adapt."
Tips for future business owners:
1. "Be humble, be aware, be confident. Have good self awareness.
2. Surround yourself with the right people.
3. Make sure you have an understanding of contracts, investments, etc. Have someone else that understands the things you don’t but do what you can to learn the basics if nothing else.
4. Be prepared - I almost started something [like One Pulse] 10 years ago but I wasn't ready yet. This is our third year and I'm still learning, growing, and I am constantly bracing myself for the next big thing.”
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