Nashville's Next Sweet Country Belle with Melanie Meriney
Nashville's Next Sweet Country Belle with Melanie Meriney
Author: Ben Libby, Creative Director, Bear Notch Studio
Contributing Author: Melanie Meriney, Musician, Steel Fox Entertainment
Editor: Kathy Bizzoco, Green Frog Publishing
Melanie Meriney is an up and coming urban pop country artist who is a hat tippin', boot wearin', word slingin', country singer-songwriter making big moves in Nashville, Tennessee. I was lucky to grab her before the end of the year to ask her a few questions before she receives her first Grammy for influential and inspiring music. During our interview she mentioned she needed some help with her independent companies branding, I offered to help define her art and production company logos. Nothing like collaborating with like minded individuals striving to make something through passion and dedication.
[Bear Notch Studio]: You were born in Pittsburgh, what were your first 15 years like as a youngster?
[Melanie Meriney]: I was actually born in Los Angeles, and we moved to Pittsburgh when I was just three. I had a pretty awesome childhood. My parents and siblings were always supportive of my music dream, and I spent a lot of my younger years singing in church choirs, local choruses, open mics, and talent shows. I played travel ice hockey as well as field hockey at school and tried to keep my grades up so I could come to Nashville for college!
[BNS]: When did you decide to move to Nashville? Were you inspired by someone or something?
[MM]: When I was in third grade, I went to a Shania Twain concert with my parents. I watched her from my dad's shoulders with binoculars and thought she had the coolest job in the world. The next day, I asked if I could take voice lessons and I've been pretty single-minded ever since. I picked up a guitar and began trying to write songs. I knew Nashville was my next step after high school, so I applied and got accepted to Belmont University.
[BNS]: Do you notice a difference in the communities between Pittsburgh and Nashville, such as midwestern hospitality? Or is everyone more or less the same?
[MM]: There are slight differences. I'm not sure Pittsburghers identify with the midwest so much as they do with the east coast. People in Pittsburgh are pretty straight-up, as in, they tell you what they think and don't try to dress it up, for better or worse. That's different from the south, where people can be sweet to your face while masking their actual feelings. Strangely, a lot of my closest friends in Nashville are from northern states—I think we just naturally gravitate towards people with similar attitudes.
Both cities give me a strong sense of community. I feel at home in Pittsburgh, and now Nashville is also home. I've been living here going on nine years, so I think I can pretty much call myself a local.
[BNS]: Parents have a significant influence on our lives… did yours push you to become a musician? Did they ever have a doubt you shouldn’t be in music and encourage you to pursue something else? Were they always supportive of your decisions?
[MM]: My parents were integral to my development of musical tastes and style—my dad would play all the '80s rock bands he loved, and my mom would always have country radio on in the house. Both have been my biggest supporters while keeping me grounded. I talk to them pretty much every day to let them know what's going on with music and get their advice. They're the best.
They (and I) want me to be independent and have the ability to get a job that supports my main career aspirations. So, I attended Belmont as a dual English and Songwriting major, and then went on to get my Masters in Education. I admire the whole all or nothing path that some of my peers have taken, but I don't ever want to be dependent upon someone financially if I can help it.
[BNS]: Was there ever a time in your life when you essentially almost hit rock bottom via money, job, emotions, and/or feelings? What happened, where were you in life, and how did you overcome it? (I ask because I’m currently at this stage, and on vacation for winter writing and interviewing awesome people!)
[MM]: Aw no! You'll climb out! I pretty much have a breakdown every other month, honestly. It's such a conundrum choosing a career in a volatile field like music and still needing some sense of stability and sanity. I occasionally get anxious and depressed when I feel like nothing I do is working or mattering, and I'm struggling to break even financially or can't afford career moves that I feel are important. It's easy to look at the highlight reel of other people's lives and think that everyone is doing it better than you. But I've found that life is more like a rollercoaster—when you're low, you have to know that you're going to go up again.
I try to surround myself with people who remind me of my worth. A good support system is my perpetual saving grace. Make a list of everything you are accomplishing (even if it doesn't feel like a lot to you at the moment) and then catch lunch with someone who cares about you and can keep you motivated, on the right path.
[BNS]: Can you share a song you've written that has a hidden meaning or one that is emotional to you and your future as a growing musician/artist?
[MM]: I love writing tongue-in-cheek songs because I'm pretty sarcastic. One song you may have heard is the title track of my last EP, “Up in Lights.” It talks about the pressures of the entertainment industry, like the way we dress, act, perform, network, interview, etc., and how easy it can be to lose your sense of self. The song says ridiculous things like, "Nobody got anywhere by being just who they are," and, "You're only as good as they're saying; you may not be you, but your name is up in lights." I hope that listeners pick up on the sarcasm and understand that song actually means the opposite! As an artist, your most important responsibility is hanging onto the values and the tenets that make you YOU.
[BNS]: Do you draw or doodle when writing music?
[MM]: I don't doodle when writing, although I always loved drawing and art when I was younger. Sometimes, to de-stress, I'll put my phone down for two or three hours and paint with watercolors.
[BNS]: There are many musicians out there wanting to break into the industry. Most start their careers through social sites such as Instagram or YouTube. How were you found? Do you have advice for others?
[MM]: A solid fan base will always be the most effective way for an artist to become relevant. Finding your fan base can be easier with social media, primarily if you have limited resources and can't fund an entire cross-country tour. I've made a lot of great connections through live streams, DMs, and have been working on building my YouTube presence. We are creatures with short attention spans, so content is huge—I try to post at least once a day (sometimes I'm better at it than others) to keep a constant stream of engaging content going, whether that be music, videos, live streams, or pictures. Socials are a great way to start!
[BNS]: The holidays came and went like crazy! It seems like just last month we had filled our bellies with Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, gravy, and Grandma Barb’s famous strawberry rhubarb pie. What’s your favorite holiday? Do you believe in Santa? And since Christmas just flew by, can you tell us your favorite present so far from a friend, family, or someone else?
[MM]: I have a tie for my favorite holidays, which are Christmas and the Fourth of July! I love Christmas because it's cozy and you're surrounded by family; and the Fourth of July because it's right in the middle of summer, providing some of my best memories. I believe in Santa in the spiritual sense—someone who brings together the most important things in life!
My favorite gift ever was my childhood kitty, Kristey. I got her in second grade. My parents put her in a cute little box, and she was my best friend until college when she passed away.
[BNS]: I’m a stickler for creative puns and jokes, though when it comes to music, it isn’t my forte. Puns like mine could get me in treble, they also usually fall flat, and people get tired, so I might give this sentence a full rest. Maybe if I had some sheet music, I’d take a lot of notes. Can you give us your best one-liner?
[MM]: (Laughing) I love it! Um... I'm definitely not the funny one in my family—that'd be my brother... hm... is your fridge running? If so, you better go catch it! (Best I got, sorry everyone.)
[BNS]: What’s next? Do you have a 3- and 5-year goal?
[MM]: My goal for 2019 is to put out new music and fill my calendar with tour dates! You can find them on my website at melaniemeriney.com! Even though I'm a planner, I'm finding this career path difficult to schedule. In five years, I would love to have a record deal with some solid radio airplay! Ultimately, I want to be financially secure and able to work on my music full time.
[BNS]: You currently have a crowdfunding campaign; can you tell us more about it? Is it hard to fund new endeavors? Do crowd campaigns for an already established musician provide more exposure while your backers get something to take home?
[MM]: I do! The last day to donate was December 24th (Christmas Eve). Our goal is $10,000 for recording and marketing new music. It's definitely a grassroots endeavor and takes a lot of humility to ask for help. Luckily, I'm able to give back in the form of signed CDs, t-shirts, hand-written lyric sheets, Skype concerts, and backer-selected cover songs. Crowdfunding is a great way to find out who truly cares about your career, and it's not always who you expect! The support has been phenomenal.
[BNS]: This wraps my interview questions for you, would you like to add anything else for our readers? Any words of inspiration?
[MM]: You are where you are in your life for a reason—whether it's to learn something, meet someone, or hear a good story. Embrace where you are knowing that as long as you are doing what you love, you won't look back with regrets.
[BNS]: Thank you, Melanie. That's excellent advice that I can certainly take to heart, and I'm sure others will as well. I've been loving your music since I first heard you, and know our readers will be just as inspired as your music continues to evolve and delight.
We look forward to hearing and seeing what you've got in store for us in 2019.
Melanie Meriney is a pop-country artist from Pittsburgh, PA now living in Nashville. She has opened for popular acts such as Little Big Town, The Commodores, Restless Heart, and Steve Augeri of Journey, as well as having been nominated for a Nashville Independent Music Award for Best Female Solo Artist. Her single, "Lifeboat," rocketed to #2 on both the UK HotDisc chart and Music Row (with the corresponding video receiving GAC rotation placement). Melanie is a "2018 Artist to Watch" on AXS and has received multiple mentions in Billboard, Country Aircheck, and Music Row Magazine. She is currently promoting her newest single, "Flame," with a music video release this month.
For tour dates, you can find Melanie’s most recent touring schedule on her website at melaniemeriney.com.