LeAnn Phelan is a “believing mirror.” That’s the term coined by author Julia Cameron to describe people who mirror us back to ourselves as powerful, strong, and in the most positive light.
She’s doing all this in the music business, where many artists and songwriters face indifference and rejection—and where spirit-nurturing is often in short supply.
Matching Spirits and Songs
For most of her career, Phelan was a highly successful “matchmaker” in the Nashville office of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). Her job was to help great lyricists find equally gifted melody writers and guide talented singers to producers and creative teams who could make them shine.
Of course, there are hundreds of people in the music business who are skilled at this, but very few add the spiritual dimension. “I call it ‘authentic encouragement’ where I help artists step into a deep knowing of the divine within,” Phelan says. “Artists can achieve a lot by simply showing up and working hard. But I help them reach a deeper spiritual alignment where they can truly appreciate their unique journey and learn to trust what their next step will be.”
[Read: “Valerie June’s 7 Most Spiritually Uplifting Songs.”]
One of Phelan’s first experiments in authentic encouragement was ASCAP Girls, a mentoring group for female songwriters and artists she started in 2013. The group included Kelsea Ballerini, then a new artist/songwriter who has since had a string of hit records. Another member was Carly Pearce, an artist/songwriter who was close to abandoning her dream.
“At our first meeting, we went around the circle to get career updates from each artist,” says Phelan. “Some of them were on the verge of getting publishing and record deals. Carly was the last one to share. She broke into tears and said, ‘I’m Carly Pearce. I just got dropped by my record label and I don’t know what I’m doing next.’”
With Phelan’s help, Pearce found the spiritual and creative resolve to keep persevering. She’s now one of the biggest stars in country music, having won last year’s Female Vocalist of the Year award from the Country Music Association.
“What LeAnn did for me years ago is what she’s doing now for all the artists and songwriters in her workshops—providing a place where creatives know they matter,” says Pearce.
Empowered by Encouragement and “Higher Love”
LeAnn’s spiritual and creative journey began in a small town in west Tennessee, where she received encouragement from her mother and a tenacious voice teacher named Joe Kincaid. In her early twenties, she became a backup vocalist for rock legend Steve Winwood (whose song “Higher Love” was a huge international hit).
Phelan soon brought her artist’s eye to the business side of the music industry. She worked for several large publishing companies and Sony Records before becoming co-head of ASCAP Nashville. Over the years, she has helped shape the careers of artists ranging from country superstar Miranda Lambert to rock’s Kings of Leon to some of music’s most successful award-winning songwriters. Phelan has also served as a creative consultant on hit shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent.
LeAnn Phelan’s Trust In “Creative Hydration”
Like many creatives, Phelan has long drawn strength and inspiration from authors like Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic). “A friend of mine gave me some CDs just before I went on a trip to Italy,” she recalls. “They were lectures by Eckhart Tolle, who I wasn’t familiar with at the time. I walked around Italy with Eckhart Tolle in my ears talking about being in the present moment and how everything I needed was right in front of me. It was life-changing.”
[Read: “Eckhart Tolle: The Easier Path.”]
Phelan was also deeply influenced by the 2007 book The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Singer. “I’ve probably given 40 copies of that book to fellow creatives over the years,” she says. “For me, it was the right book at the right time. It has profound things to say about letting go, moment by moment. Surrendering to creativity is a way of letting go.”
LeAnn knows first-hand how creativity is nurtured in solitude and self-care. “Whether it’s meditating, walking my dogs or journaling on the porch—it’s so important to have that time of replenishment,” she says. “I call it ‘creative hydration’—and it’s something even Jesus did regularly. He would pull away from the crowds and find time to pray and refresh his soul.”
Creating A Spiritual Community
Phelan launched her company LP Creative Therapy
in 2020, just as the pandemic began taking its worldwide toll. “Concerts starting getting canceled, and artists felt like the rug had been pulled out from under them—especially those who didn’t have creative teams to lean on,” she notes. She reached out to writers and artists and offered to meet for free on Zoom for two months. “That’s when I started to witness the amazing power of the group to offer spiritual and creative healing. We began to develop this incredible sense of community—artists helping artists.”
Today, Phelan’s virtual workshops are international, with participants from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the UK, and towns both large and small across the US.
In Phelan’s view, making a daily commitment to artistry is the win. Accolades are just the cherry on top. “The artists who take part in my workshops understand the intrinsic value of the creative process,” she says. “There’s a point where what they learn in the workshop intersects with their unique life experiences—and that’s when something really special is born into the world.”
Listening for Her Next Calling
Like Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, Phelan also has a gift for public speaking. She has been a keynote speaker at corporate events for companies like Kraft Heinz and will take part in the “Virtual Voices” event at this year’s Canadian Music Week. “Zoom makes it easy for me to speak to corporations around the world and share my insights on creativity and collaboration,” she says.
On the management side, Phelan is now working with two young talents—Natalie Madigan and Evan Cline—who wear the multiple hats of songwriter/artist/producer.
LeAnn feels that they have the gifts to become the most successful Nashville-based pop artists since Taylor Swift.
As streaming services become a viable alternative to radio airplay, Phelan foresees the birth of a new genre: healing music. “A lot of songwriters and artists are interested in exploring that,” she says. “There’s plenty of room not just for traditional love songs, but for songs about self-care and spiritual renewal.”
For more on art for healing’s sake, read “3 Ways to Heal Ourselves With Art.”