Rising Music Star Jeff Catto On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

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Be your authentic self. I spent a great deal of time trying to make music that would fit the format on Christian radio, but I was pure country at heart. So now that I have grown and matured, I realize there is a market for what I do.

As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jeff Catto.

Jeff Catto is an award-winning Canadian singer and songwriter. After writing, performing and producing in the gospel music scene for several years, Catto is thrilled to explore new roots in Country music. He recently took home the CGMA Covenant Awards for Country Artist of the Year and Country Song of the Year for ‘Dangerous With Your Love,’ featuring Jonathan Turner and Josh Fata. His latest EP, ‘Neon Cathedrals,’ delivers an infectious blend of singer-songwriter pop/rock country mixed with Gospel roots that have been influenced by and compared to notable artists like Dierks Bentley, Niko Moon, and Needtobreathe.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Sure! I grew up with separate families from when I was about 4. My mom lived in the city and my dad in the country, so I had the best of both worlds, as they say.

My mom married a Pastor in the Vineyard church, so we did a lot of church planting and moving around, and I grew accustomed to meeting new people, making new friends and having to adapt.

When I was around 14, I moved to the country with my dad to play football as they didn’t have extracurricular sports in the city then. There, I discovered my love for country music and that I was an alright singer at the time.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I actually tried out for Canadian Idol in its first season. My audition wasn’t very good, but I found that I really enjoyed it. I had never thought of becoming a singer or an artist before that, either. It changed my mindset of who I wanted to be and the dream I wanted to chase.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the coolest things I have had happen is that I got to write a single for a well-known Canadian Country artist here. He invited me to stay at his house, flew me out to BC and everything. It was an experience that I won’t forget. He was the nicest person as well.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake when I was first starting out? I would say that I was in my early twenties when I signed a deal with a label associated with a large label. I was so excited to have someone wanting to back me, I didn’t realize how little they actually knew about country music! There were some funny stories that came from that time in my career- none of which I can actually share but it did give me the drive to learn how to do things for myself. You have to learn to be your own label if you want to give this whole music career a go.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I was 16, I reached out to a local band that had success called Barnard & Brohm. I wanted to learn how to write songs properly. Both guys were extremely helpful, but Ian Brohm really came alongside me and mentored me in the business. I would not be where I am today without him. I am not sure if I have ever told him that either, so Ian, if you read this, there’s no me without you, buddy!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Kindness Changes Lives”- Linda & Dale Bolton. My parents used to instill this in me as a child. We used to go around and do little kind things for people all the time that you wouldn’t think would be a big deal, but to those people, it changed their whole day, week, month etc. So now I pass it on to my kids and those with whom I share my story.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Right now, I am working on some new music, which should be out at the beginning of 2023. I am also working on a new campaign called Catto Cares, where for every show we do, we donate a percentage back to the church or event to make a difference in that community.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Fantastic question. I grew up with a smart, beautiful mother who was a leader through and through. She built a major company from the ground up and co-founded a non-profit that helps people in the poorest countries learn how to grow their own food, created a curriculum etc. I married a smart, profound, self-thinker who chases goals, gave birth to six kids and doesn’t stop learning or improving herself. I am surrounded by children who can become whatever they choose and have the drive and talent to do so. How could I think there shouldn’t be diversity in the entertainment industry? With all that women, unique people, and differences in cultural backgrounds the world has to offer, it would be silly not to embrace them all. There are so many different experiences that happen in the world, and so many outlooks that need to be expressed.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Slow down. Things need to take time, and if you do things rushed because you just want them to happen, they won’t be the best they can be. My first album was rushed. We were inexperienced and made something that wasn’t up to par. Did we learn a lot through it? Sure did.
  2. Be your authentic self. I spent a great deal of time trying to make music that would fit the format on Christian radio, but I was pure country at heart. So now that I have grown and matured, I realize there is a market for what I do.
  3. Learn as much as you can. The music industry is pricey. If you are trying to become an artist, there are many things to pay for. If you can learn to do them on your own, you will. 1. Be able to help other artists 2. Make some extra money. 3. Learn to be kinder to those who work those jobs because you will know how hard their job really is.
  4. Get a sales job. Go get a sales job so you can learn to hear the word no. You will hear it a lot. I don’t know how many times I have heard no in my career. You need to develop some thick skin.
  5. Practice. Want to be famous? Most people do, but not enough people want to practice enough to be good enough to become better than the rest. I remember, in the beginning, playing some shows that I got blown out of. I found out quickly that if I wanted to compete with the best, you must practice.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Be ok with taking personal time. Most artists are doers. That’s why you are where you are, and people who want to be where you are, are still walking in circles. We all worry that if we aren’t releasing something or playing somewhere, we will lose our audience, but your fans will understand if you need to take a minute for yourself.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Something that I have loved doing is breathing life into other up-and-coming artists/worship leaders. There’s a mentality in the industry that we are all competing with each other. I don’t like that or think like that. If artists just uplifted each other instead of tearing one another down, it would help with so much beautiful art getting out into the world, not to mention help with many people’s mental health.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

If I could meet one person, I would want to meet Niko Moon. I have followed him and his music, and he has inspired a ton of my sound. He started out as a writer, and his outlook on life resonates with me on many levels.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me anywhere on social media under the handle @mrjeffcatto or my website www.jeffcatto.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you!!!

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Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.