Billboard Chart-topping Artist Lionel Cartwright Unveils Profound Life Lessons and the Essence of Creativity

Interview with Lionel Cartwright


My today’s guest is Lionel Cartwright. 

Lionel has been a lifelong artist who has worn several different hats – singer, songwriter, composer, and band leader, to name a few. He reached the top of the charts with his country hits in the early 90’s. A recording artist on MCA Records, he reached the top of the Billboard charts with songs like “Leap Of Faith,” “I Watched It All On My Radio,” “Give Me His Last Chance,” and other top 15 hits.

In this episode, Lionel shares about his journey in music and life’s profound lessons. He delves into various aspects of his career and personal growth and emphasizes the importance of inner work when it comes to creativity.

One of Lionel’s songs Leap of Faith was the number one hit on Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks in September 1991. He unveils both the exhilaration and introspection that came with that milestone:

We have a porch swing on the front porch. I was sitting there with Billboard magazine. And I saw in the number one slot, I had the number one song, a song that I had written by myself and recorded here in Nashville. This is dream-come-true stuff. But I’m telling you this happened: I felt a question inside. And the question was really simple, three words: Is this it? I’m telling you, it really made me angry. Because like, of course, this is it! I’ve worked really hard and long to get to this point! So many people try to do this and it never happens. And this happened. Like, of course, this is it! This is a dream come true! But that stubborn little voice inside would not be silenced. And I’m not saying I answered it at that moment.

The conversation continued to explore what happens when roles eventually change. Staying fluid and not clinging to a specific identity, especially in the ever-evolving music industry, has helped Lionel navigate transitions in life. He discusses the pivotal moment when success prompted introspection, pointing out that lows in life can be as powerful as highs: 

There’s something about the lows that I’m a big believer in and I’m sure if you’re a life coach, you travel in this all the time. But I’m a big believer in doing inner work and it’s not just psychobabble or obsessing over yourself, it’s doing inner work because we all have emotions and stories from our childhood, our parents, and our life experiences. And if you’re just going through life reacting, reacting, reacting to whatever happens day to day to day, and you don’t take time to reflect, I think you’re setting yourself up for a serious collision, a crash. And sometimes I think those lows, I’m even going to use the word depression, are trying to tell something to our souls. I’m not saying that in a strictly religious context, you could be an atheist and still believe there’s something inside you, your emotions, your outlook on life, is trying to tell you something. And that’s what I think depression is, I’ve certainly dealt with depression, but it’s trying to tell you something, to listen in ways that I don’t think success can. Success can be pretty heady. And it’s great. I am not knocking success. I’m all for it. I want to be successful. But not at the expense of knowing who I really am.

When looking at the impact of social media on our identity, Lionel cautions against allowing comparison and desperation for recognition to overshadow genuine creative impulses. He underscores the importance of stillness, prayer, and inner reflection to maintain healthy creativity and authenticity.

Have stillness time! Whether you want to call that prayer or meditation. Meditation has really helped me the past few years – just sitting still. Just being still. You don’t get still to control your thoughts. You get still so you become aware of like, holy cow, all these thoughts, you become aware of it. And that’s a big leg up. That’s a big help to being aware of who you are as a person and how you react to things and trying to respond, not react. It’s a beautiful, beautiful life to be able to create, whether it’s a song, a painting, a podcast, or a business – all these are creative endeavors. But just be mindful of the values you’re buying into – is bigger better? Is more money or fame better? It’s really important to wrestle with those values, because the world or the culture may say one thing, but that may not square with who you are – it may not serve you well. It may not be the healthiest path.

Being also a mentor, Lionel advises young artists to prioritize personal growth and authenticity over the pursuit of external validation. For burned-out artists he highlights the importance of rest, suggesting that it can be beneficial to take breaks to rejuvenate creativity. 

If you’re to the point where you’re burned out, maybe you need to not create for a while. Maybe you need to rest those creative muscles. To use an old phrase: let the ground lay fallow, give the land a rest. That’s actually a Jewish thing. Every seven years, give the land its rest, which according to those books, they did not do. And it did not go well. I love the word sabbath, even outside of a spiritual, religious context, just as a way of life – to rest, to give yourself rest. And so I would say rest and check your motive. If you need it to make you money, if you need it to make you famous, it’s probably going to let you down.

It’s so important to your own mental health, emotional health, and physical health that you create not from a needy place. Not from a place where, let’s see, that’ll get it on the radio, or that means that I’ll get more plays on Spotify. You’re already going down the wrong road. Just share what’s important to you. If you do that in the best way, make the best art you can!


 Listen to the full interview with Lionel Cartwright here: Apple Podcasts

He will share about finding fulfillment in creativity while emphasizing the importance of inner work and self-awareness. There is an inherent reward in the act of creation itself!


A Path and a Practice – William Martin

Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Broken Mirror by James Hollis


Some of Lionel’s favorite movies:


The Big Short

Lionel Cartwright – Leap of Faith

Lionel Cartwright – Sleepwalking

Lionel Cartwright – I Watched It All On My Radio”

Lionel Cartwright – Give Me His Last Chance

Lionel Cartwright – You Speak

Jorspeis – Abundance (With Lionel Cartwright playing guitar)

More on our guest


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