Five Questions with Boots Ottestad

Boots Ottestad

Boots Ottestad is a Songwriter, Producer & Multi-instrumentalist currently based in Nashville. His songs have been cut on over 20 million records worldwide. His credits include Mikky Ekko, Robbie Williams, Tim McGraw, Paramore, Genevieve, Rosi Golan, Ben’s Brother and many others. Originally from Norway, Boots moved to the US with his band the Getaway People who released two albums on Columbia Records. He’s also been known to sing jingles for brands like Folgers, Cadillac and Budweiser.


Q: You are the voice for Folgers, Budweiser and Mellow Yellow. How do opportunities like that come about?

I think you have to stay in the game to get these opportunities and then be on the lookout for them. For example, the jingle singing thing came about because I was writing with a friend of mine called Dan Dire in New York city and he kept telling my he was getting all this jingle work. So I said, “well how do you get that jingle work?” And then he said, “well, I have a jingle agent.” “What’s a jingle agent?” And so I got introduced to that person and I have been with them for 14 years now. Singing jingles for them. So it’s kind of seeing an opportunity when it’s there and then being willing to step outside your comfort zone to see what would happen if you tried it on.

 

Q: So you write for artists but you also write for film,TV and commercials. How do you know when a song is right for a certain artist?  

I think you go in trying to write for a certain artist and 99% of the time it doesn’t end up with that artist because there is just too much going on for that artist. And if you’re lucky, it happens to go somewhere else instead. Somewhere even better maybe.

 

Q: How many songs would you say you write in a year?

Maybe a hundred.

 

Q: Of that hundred how many would you say generate some kind of revenue?

Five.

 

Q: How important are lyrics when writing for artists vs a brand?

I think they are always incredibly important both for a brand and for an artist but you have to know what you are trying to write for. So if you are trying to write for an artist you have to figure out who they are, what they want and also what their marketplace wants. And listen to similar artists who are huge already and try to see what they are singing about. What the kids seem to want from the songs that they are singing about, and try to go down that route for a second. If you are singing for a brand, it’s the same thing. I’ve tried to listen to commercials on TV without listening to the talking. Only listen to the music. Forget everything that is being said with dialogue or voice over. Only listen to the music. What is it they are getting at? What is it that they want? And you can start figuring out the formula. Because it is all very formulaic. Pop music is formulaic. Branding is formulaic.

 

Q: How do transition from being in a band to writing songs?

If you are the songwriter of the band, a time will come when you move into bigger cities where you get put into rooms with people because you are supposed to write songs for your record. And before you know it, that just starts transitioning into just writing songs for whoever or for whatever. I think that, if you are not in on of the big cities, I think it is important for all artists and songwriters to try it out with your peers in your local community and just see what this thing is and see if it can improve your own songwriting. I’ve had records out for four decades. Been coming up to my fifth decade and everytime I go into a session I’m still learning something new. Especially from younger writers.

 

Q: How open are you to new collaborators?

Depends, because you only have so much time per week to write and then produce whatever it is that you are making. I would like to say I am wide open to new collaborators all the time. The problem is there isn’t enough time. So therefore, if you have a couple of teams that you love, you stick with them. And if somebody is presenting you with something new it has to be something that really rocks your world before you go in and do it. In my case, which I think is often with someone who has experience and maybe our calendars are just a bit too full already.

 

Q: What is one tip that you would give somebody getting started, and trying to get into what you refer to as “the game” ?

Try to work with people who are better than you. Maybe not better than you… but who have more experience and have already done it because they need you because you have fresh new ideas but you need them because they can plug you into the greater system.