Welcome to a great new regular feature on Belles and Gals, where Nashville based singer songwriter Melanie Meriney tells us all about life in Music City. In today’s first piece, Melanie talks us through her introduction to Nashville in 2009, the challenges it presented and how she has found her ‘place’ in the Tennessee capital.
“I’ve never been an especially extroverted person. There are times when I will put myself out there, and I can be a social butterfly when I need to be, but it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve found my expression through music and writing. It’s where I feel I can be myself and process and organize my thoughts and feelings—which is why I was thrilled to be asked by Belles & Gals to be a guest columnist as a Nashville liaison.
I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Nashville, Tennessee in 2009 to attend college at Belmont University, knowing nobody. As someone who has always dreamed of pursuing a country music artist career, Nashville was basically Disneyworld. Everything was magical, from the old studio houses on Music Row to the dive-y midtown bars. Every place told a story and had a history. Walking into the vocal booth at the Quonset Hut, I could almost hear Patsy Cline singing “Crazy”… at RCA Studio B, the apparitions of Dolly Parton and Elvis paced the control room floor, watching the band run takes in the tracking room. Even sitting in a booth at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, you have an innate sense of the incredible stories that preceded you, and everyone is here just hoping to be part of the future narrative.
It’s been almost 8 years now since I arrived in Music City, and surprisingly, it still hasn’t lost its magic. Every so often, I get goosebumps, whether its listening to a song on the radio driving through downtown or watching a still-unknown songwriter absolutely stun a room to silence. If Nashville is any grand concept personified, it’s possibility—the possibility to remake yourself, your sound, your message to the world. It’s the possibility and the opportunity to leave a mark and a legacy. It’s the hope that accompanies that ever-so-slight chance that you might “make it”. That thought drives every waking minute of every day.
Everybody tells you that “it’s who you know.” Nashville is a small-town big city, where connections are key. They tell you to “network, network, network.” Honestly, it took me a few years to figure out. I’ve never been much of a partier, and that combined with my natural introverted-ness presented a growing experience for me. Back home, I was recognized as a great singer and songwriter. My high school peers voted me ‘Most Likely To Win A Grammy’ in senior superlatives. But here, you quickly realize that you are a small fish in a very large and talented pond… a pond whose largest members look, dress, and act like country superstars and already have endorsements, touring experience, deals, famous friends, and spend holidays at industry leaders’ homes. It didn’t take long to feel like I was behind. At 18, I didn’t even have a MySpace page (that was all the rage back then). Other singers my age had been performing since middle school and had a resumé to prove it. I remember having a breakdown on the phone with my dad two weeks after I arrived at school. He kind of laughed and said, “Mel… you’ve been there 2 weeks… give it some time.”
I did. I’m not yet an international superstar or anything, but I feel like I’ve come miles since my first year here. I’ve made good friends that feel more like family, friends that I learn from each day because they are so incredibly talented and driven. We learn together. We figure out things that work, things that don’t. We’re supportive.
Since coming here, I’ve been offered two publishing deals, one of which I accepted. I’ve made two albums. I’ve played various festivals and had the honor of opening for acts such as Little Big Town, Journey, The Commodores, and Fleetwood Mac. I’ve been nominated for a Nashville Independent Music Award for Best Female Artist. I’ve been on a radio tour and released my first music video. I’ve grown as a writer, a communicator, a vocalist, and a person.
I can’t wait to share my experiences with you. It’s been a crazy ride and it’s far from over. I am, if anything, more motivated and determined to see this thing through. I want the dream. I want the grand prize and I’ll pursue it at the cost of (nearly) anything. While it isn’t a nine-to-five, secure, “roof over your head” career choice, it’s exhilarating. Nothing is certain, of course, but when I look back, I know I will be able to remember, without regrets, some of the best times of my life, pursuing the thing I love above all else.”
A huge thank you to Melanie for this first in a series which will give a fascinating insight into the life of a singer songwriter in Nashville. To find out more about Melanie, follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Check out her YouTube channel and hit up her website too!