Name: Hillary Barleaux
Major(s): Songwriting
Hometown: Millerton, NY
Current City: Los Angeles, CA

What has been the most challenging about your transition from college to career?

I think the most challenging thing about the transition is getting comfortable in your own skin as an artist. At Berklee, you’re a sponge – just soaking up everything possible and bouncing creativity off of your peers and your friends. It’s a very exciting time. I’ve been out since 2011 and I feel like every year I get closer to figuring out the kind of artist I want to be. They don’t really teach you that in the classroom. They give you the tools, but you have to ask the questions. What are you trying to gain by being in this field? That’s something you have to figure out on your own. And it’s really fun trying to figure that out. Taking the life experience you gain in the real world and incorporating it into your music and writing.

How does your degree play a role in your current career path?

Majoring in Songwriting was definitely smart good move for me. I felt awkward and intimidated in the Performance department – only because I didn’t have the confidence as a singer at that stage to really tread forward – even being classically trained my entire life, I still didn’t feel up to par with the Performance majors who were Vocal principals. But the Songwriting major enabled me to grow and take the tools learned in class to really look at every song differently that I listen to and write. I was able to identify myself as a songwriter and hone the rest – singing and performance – on my own terms. Things like co-writing and producing are a lot easier when you can really crank out a song. There are a lot of great singers – but not a lot of great songwriters. Songwriting is kind of a magical process. I’ve really learned to appreciate and identify that.

How has your Berklee experience shaped your view of the music industry? Was is spot on or did you need to shift your perspective?

The Berklee experience jaded me a bit – but in a good way. You spend four years there and forget that the rest of the world isn’t just musicians. It’s a melting pot of creativity. In the real world, there are so many more obstacles than just studying for your conducting final (damn, that class was hard). I didn’t expect things to fall in my lap, but I definitely expected to release my first record the year after college and be like “people will buy it.” But they didn’t. And that just forced me to work even harder. At Berklee, you forget that there’s so many aspects of the music industry – networking, business, presentation, image, licensing and publishing, production – the list goes on and on. When I graduated Berklee, I really didn’t know anything at all about how to navigate the treacherous sea that is the music industry. It’s kind of like this strange clockwork of winding gadgets that doesn’t start turning until you have all the tools to make it do so. But as time goes on, you start to learn the nooks and crannies. You start to understand that it isn’t easy, but if you utilize your resources and connections, that it actually does get easier. And the other thing is – it is literally changing every day. So every piece of knowledge and every contact is valuable

Can you touch on the importance of your networking, skill and talent?

Absolutely. Going out to shows is so important. It’s your office. The internet is a great tool for networking, but having face to face conversations with people whom you idolize and appreciate – I’m always surprised how many people turn their heads and say, “Hey, thanks, I appreciate that. What do you do?” In terms of skill and talent, it’s key to hone that because you have to be ready for any opportunity that comes your way. If you’re not, then you’re representing yourself in a way that may not be completely accurate. And do you want that? You also have to have the skill to be consistent and have endurance – that is also so important. With the talent – you can never take it for granted. You can’t be like, “well I’m talented, so I don’t have to try.” Nope. That’s not how it works. Maybe for like .0001% of the people in this industry. But for the most part, the talent isn’t as significant as networking or skill. You gotta do the work.

What is something you’d wish you’d known “then” (before starting Berklee, during Berklee, or your first year out of Berklee)?

I wish I’d known to be more patient and less hard on myself as an artist. And not to worry about my peers’ path – that’s their path, not mine. No single person has the same career. In the year after Berklee, I made an amazing first album with all the people I wanted to make it with and raised enough money on Kickstarter to do so. It was exhausting, infuriating, and beautiful. In the first year of Berklee, I wish I’d had worked harder and gone to more clinics and auditioned for more ensembles- really utilized all that the school has to offer. But as an eighteen-year-old, I really just wanted to make friends and have fun. And I wrote more in that first year in the 270 dorm basement than I ever have. During Berklee, I wish I’d played with more people – but again, I was still trying to figure out my sound. The contemporary pop scene felt limited at the time – but looking back, it definitely wasn’t. I was pretty oblivious to the amount of resources I had at my hands, haha.

Why did you move to the city you’re living in now?

I tried out Nashville for a bit, and before that I was in Brooklyn, and then recently I moved back to NY again. I kind of have this love affair with New York that doesn’t really go away. As a writer, it’s the best place to be. There are so many different colors, people, places, and events to immerse yourself in. You can get lost very easily. I love that. Nashville is a great close-knit community and I plan on frequenting it – as well as Los Angeles – great city. Very inspiring. All three have huge amounts of young, driven talented people who keep knocking away at the mystery of the music industry – and it’s really inspiring. I’d love to have the option of hopping back and forth between the two when I have enough funds.

Coming from an eclectic city background, Barleaux infuses strong sultry lyrics and percussive arrangements with her new upcoming second album, due out Summer 2015.

Hillary splits her time between Nashville, LA, and NY. Her influences fuze a melodic, eclectic range from a 90’s upbringing of Tears For Fears and Talking Heads in her first album – to a more electronic feel with influences such as Radiohead, M83, and Madi Diaz. But mostly, she’s inspired by her friends.

Listen to an exclusive track and keep track of upcoming shows at http://www.barleaux.com
Free album downloads available at http://barleaux.bandcamp.com

Two Five One is a series of blog posts by alumni. They write about two places (where they’re living & their hometown) answer five questions about their post-graduate experience, and it’s a one-off post. For more information about blogging for Berklee as an alumni, email alumniaffairs@berklee.edu