Plenty of songs are about love, breakups, and maybe getting “low” at a club – perhaps while wearing boots with the fur. But songs about everything from the fascinating array of Wal-Mart shoppers to the perils of airport security have helped to launch a career for one Belmont sophomore.
“My stuff is very quirky,” songwriting major Jessica Frech said of her unusual song topics.
Showcasing her non-traditional songwriting through social media, particularly YouTube, has brought Frech national attention and notoriety.
But before finding her musical niche, Frech started out like many performers.
A Nashville native, she began playing guitar in middle school and she performed many covers, often in coffee shop shows.
Although Frech was tentative about songwriting at first, she wanted to break away from the more traditional path she seemed to be taking and to continue to grow as a music artist. With support from her dad, she agreed to give songwriting a try. Together, they eventually decided to use social media, primarily YouTube, to promote Frech’s songwriting.
One of these early YouTube efforts, “People of Wal-Mart,” features pictures of Wal-Mart shoppers as Frech sings a quirky song that accompanies the photos. Frech also created numerous characters that she plays in the video.
Frech originally hoped the video would get half a million hit and she was shocked when the numbers kept climbing, up now to almost 12 million total views YouTube and Break.com, which rated “People of Wal-Mart” the top viral video of 2011.
Frech said it had crossed her mind that the “People of Wal-Mart” video would “somehow end up in … somebody’s inbox,” especially with the avalanche of photos from the peopleofwalmart.com site that began in 2009.
The idea of “people of Wal-Mart” has drawn some criticism for an overall lack of cultural awareness. But for thousands of viewers throughout the Internet topics like “people of Wal-Mart” are humerous and worth watching, turning videos, like Frech’s, into viral sensations.
In Frech’s case, however, an audience beyond the Internet came quickly.
Soon after the “People of Wal-Mart” video was posted, she received an email from car manufacturer Hyundai’s marketing company. They liked the various characters Frech played in her video as well as her quirky songwriting and offered her an opportunity to be featured in some of their upcoming TV commercials.
Frech agreed. She said she enjoyed the creative freedom she was given for the commercials – she wrote the song and script, came up with the characters, and was soon filming in Nashville.
Along with two commercials for Hyundai and a commercial for a recent online Pepto Bismol campaign, Frech has also been featured on Fox News, ABC News, Billboard and other media outlets.
Soon after the success surrounding “People of Wal-Mart,” Frech came up with the idea of weekly song challenges — once a week she would post a video of a song she had written based on an idea chosen from comments on her YouTube channel.
These song challenges have resulted in songs about such topics as the woes of airport security, elevator awkwardness, and Facebook creeping.
In addition, Frech will soon release a full-length album in March.
Utilizing Kickstarter, a fundraising website, Frech was able to completely fund the album. Her first single, “Reality,” is available on iTunes.
She expects to graduate on time in 2014, despite commitments for her emerging career.
“Everything’s happened so fast … my career’s come about in the last six months. It’s scary to think about what could happen in the next year working as hard as I am now.”
Her goals have also shifted in the past few months.
“I definitely came to school wanting a publishing deal… and a lot of that’s changed since these opportunities came about.” Frech said. “I like doing the commercial work. I like being independent. I like controlling what I do and what choices I make or who uses my songs.”
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