People often ask me how I ended up in Nashville and how I know so and so. I figured this may be something that people may find interesting to read and I like looking back on my fond memories of my time there. It didn't start off easy for me though. Nobody cares about you unless you know someone who knows someone. If you're related to someone famous or were on a reality show, you became "important" or "validated". This presented a problem for me because I was just a small town girl with big dreams and absolutely no connections.
I take that back, I did have a little bit of an advantage. I had met Jason Aldean's drummer, Rich Redmond, in South Carolina and he was the one who initially sparked my interest in Nashville and encouraged me to explore the idea of pursuing a career in the music industry. At the time, I was a sophomore at the University of South Carolina and really had no direction or career goals. I just went to college because that's what you do when you graduate from high school, right? I also got to know Trace Adkin's tour manager who was very kind and encouraging as well. He was honest though and told me all these things that I'm telling you now. It wasn't that he was discouraging me, it was more like he was telling me the truth about things and explained how hard it could be to catch a break. I'll always be thankful for that. Rich, on the other hand, is probably one of the most unstoppable people that I've ever met. He is one of those who thrives off rejection and when a door slams in his face, he will knock it down. I admire that about him. He has continued to stay positive and has secured himself in Nashville as one of the best drummers and now has a production company. He has found success producing the duo Thompson Square as well as continuing to tour with Jason Aldean...AND doing studio work. I swear, he's superman. I remained friends with Rich and Jeff and kept in touch with both of them.
At the time, I wasn't a country music fan. I didn't even know who Jason Aldean was. I just happened to get hauled along for a concert with my girlfriend and ended up meeting him and his band. After befriending these people, I decided I should probably start listening to their music. Jason's music wasn't the country music that I was used to. It was edgy and his band was fun. I couldn't take my eyes off them when they were on stage. I started to travel to shows when they were close and ended up truly becoming a fan of him. This led me to the discovery of other country music which I found I liked a lot, too. Months went by and I thought that maybe visiting Nashville wasn't such a bad idea. In my mind I envisioned people walking around with cowboy hats on and riding in tractors. I couldn't imagine what all the hype was about but I thought that Jason and his band were cool so there must be something intriguing about this place.
My girlfriend and I decided to go for NYE for a big concert and to just hang out and explore the city. Trace Adkins was playing a huge show with Jason Aldean and Brooks & Dunn. Although I was still learning current country music, I LOVED Brooks & Dunn because I listened to country in the 90s when artists like the Dixie Chicks, Shania, Wynonna, Lorrie Morgan and Trisha Yearwood were super stars. I loved that kind of country and I still do. We had awesome seats and loved the show. I noticed some people who had meet and greet passes. That seemed fun. How could I meet Brooks & Dunn? It'd be a fun story to tell when I got home. I decided to just follow a group of people backstage. Nobody stopped me and I did meet them. Yes, it was that easy. I think this gave me the boost of confidence that I would use later that night since I'd be using a fake ID for the first time (yikes, I do not suggest this to you underage folks...). Somehow, my horrible ID worked and I ended up getting into all the honky tonks. I got to meet new people and had a blast. Something inside of me told me that I just needed to be there.
I knew that I had to do an internship soon for school and since I majored in Sport and Entertainment industry, I thought maybe I could find a way to get to Nashville. I met with my advisor whose husband had lived in Nashville and she thought maybe he might know someone. Turns out, he did. Within a week, I was given the email address to Brad Kennard. He was the general manager of a publishing company. I didn't really know what that was but he seemed nice enough over email and told me to let him know next time I'd be in Nashville. Within ten minutes, he offered me the internship. Wow. I didn't think it'd be that easy. I was so nervous but Brad made me feel like an old friend. I instantly felt a connection with him and felt at ease.
That was that. I packed my bags and moved to Nashville. I thought it would be cool that I knew a few people but didn't take into account that the people I knew were ALWAYS on the road. That meant that they weren't available to really show me around or introduce me to people. I had better luck seeing them when I lived in South Carolina than I did in Nashville! I started my internship but felt very lonely. The first three weeks I didn't have furniture, TV, internet...ANYTHING. It was just me alone in my little apartment, sleeping on the floor on a pile of blankets. I wondered if I had made a big mistake. I remember crying myself to sleep almost every night for the first few weeks. However, I found that I excelled at my internship and found myself immersed in song catalogs of all the writers. Some of these songs were really great! By that time, I had educated myself on the current country artists and knew their styles. I started putting together ideas for Brad of songs that I thought would be a good fit for certain artists. I became friends with the writers and looked forward to seeing them every day. I used to dress up every day. Heels, full makeup and hair..the WORKS. Brad told me "you know..you don't have to dress up here, we're pretty laid back." Pretty soon my hair was always in a pony tail and flip flops were an essential...mostly because I had fallen down the stairs in my heels and completely embarrassed myself on several occasions at this point.
Not only did I learn a lot from Brad, but there were also several other publishers in the building that we shared. This meant, even more song catalogs, even more writers, and even more learning opportunities. People were always coming and going and I was always meeting new and interesting people. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. Among these writers, I had special friendships with Kris Bergsnes (I loved his catalog so much, still do! Why hasn't some huge country artist cut one of his songs and made it a single yet?! Y'all are missing out!), James Slater and Brett Eldredge. Brett was an up and coming writer/artist at the time (he is now signed to WB). I loved interacting with them and listening as they played new music. I especially loved seeing Brett every day because he would always sing and he can SING. On top of that, I grew very fond of the other two publishers, Pat Finch and Abbe Nameche. They had great personalities and weren't afraid to voice their opinions. I loved that. This was an environment that I grew and learned a lot in. This gave me the foundation for my beliefs about what makes a great song and what makes a star as opposed to a one hit wonder. I will always have the best memories when I think about my time there. It was probably the best time in my life.
I eventually just started going out, sometimes by myself, hoping to make friends. I was fearless at this point (I hope to eventually get to this point again), so I just went for it. If I saw someone I wanted to talk to, I just went up and talked to them. Brad and the writers were always kind and invited me places and introduced me to people as well. I went to a lot of showcases and immersed myself in the music.
I was 110% committed to my dream of being in the music industry so I transfered to MTSU and began their music business program. I learned a lot but I was really eager to get out. I felt like I was going backwards since I had already learned and experienced so much during my time as an intern. Plus, I hated school. I hated studying and I hated that it interfered with me going out and doing all the fun things I had become accustomed to. I also thought for SURE I would have a job as soon (if not before) I graduated. After all, I was a networking QUEEN. I was out every night and meeting everyone I could. I had good relationships with people who were really doing things in the industry. Brad, Abbe and Pat had been in the industry forever and were at the top of their game. They are the cream of the crop and that is not just my opinion, it's just the honest to God TRUTH. They are well respected in the music community and they are responsible for some major hits that got cut (ever heard 'Jesus Take the Wheel' or 'In My Daughter's Eyes'???)...yes, it's just the truth.
I graduated with hopes of getting my dream job and to continue living this fabulous life that I loved so much. That's when reality hit...and let me tell you..when it hits you, it hits hard..and when you aren't expecting it, you have no way of defending yourself or fighting back..you just gotta take it. During this time, the publishing company I interned at ended up switching directions and were focused on becoming a management company...the owners had already decided to hire people they were friends with...the other publishing company that Pat and Abbe worked for had been sold...this left Pat without a job. I was shocked. How could this happen to someone so prominent?! This also left me...without a job or any prospect of a job. Brad, Abbe and Pat sent my resume out and I did land a few interviews that I thought went well but all fell through. I felt discouraged. I wasn't going to give up though. I ended up working whatever odd jobs I could to try to make ends meet. I worked at a boutique, as a personal assistant, as a promotional model and brand ambassador..you name it, I did it. I have no idea how I managed to stay afloat for that long, but I did.
Eventually, I landed a job at a Christian music publishing company in sales. I knew nothing about Christian music but heck, I thought...I'm a Christian and I know sales and I know publishing so maybe this will work out. I didn't hate the job but I certainly didn't love it..I did love and still do love all the people who worked there. They all welcomed me and were eager to help me in any way that they could. My boss was hilarious and a lot of fun to be around. He was happy to have me there so I was happy to be there. I was thankful that I had found a job at all after all the months of searching. Plus, I thought this was just a stepping stone. However, I noticed that people around me were getting jobs that I would die for and they were people who didn't have the experience or the passion that I did. They just happened to babysit for someone or were related to someone...or some other superficial reason. I was sad and it wore me out. I started to lose hope. That's when all my problems started with my anxiety and depression. I just wasn't happy anymore. There is more to my problems than all that but it definitely was the straw that broke the camel's back.
With all that being said, within three years, all three of my mentors (Brad, Abbe and Pat) had been out of a job and I thought if they couldn't make it, how could I? After I managed to function after all my "issues" I landed a job doing fan clubs and websites for some of country music's top artists. I was really excited even though the pay sucked. Misery hit an all time low at this point. The girl I worked with was terrible to me and they had unrealistic expectations from me. I had no training in web design and was supposed to be an assistant. It was supposed to be pretty easy and I was supposed to learn as I went along. On my first day I realized they decided to make me an assistant ACCOUNT MANAGER. What a mess. I was thrown into the lion's den and dreaded every day of that job. At this point, I realized my health would be in jeopardy if I stayed at that job any longer. I had no back up plan but I quit anyway. I figured God would provide and he did. I ended up getting a lot of good gigs as a promotional model and brand ambassador. I also was very blessed to work with Mark Block from the Block Agency who hooked me up with an awesome gig as a free lance stylist for Zappos.com. I spent four months there and LOVED it. Even though it was in Kentucky, I enjoyed the time away from my normal day to day routine and the people that I met there were wonderful. I was still seeking a job in the music industry but I was also open to other possibilities at this point. I thought that being a stylist may be a good job for me since I enjoyed it so much and loved fashion. Things seemed like they were looking up. Unfortunately, my car accident put me back into that dark place and I was forced to move home to get the help I needed.
I know this is another long post but all the details are important to me and a lot of times people want to know what it was like to live in Nashville and how I managed to meet some of the people that I did and get to do the things that I did....so here it is. A little bit of luck, a lot of blessings, God placing the people in my life that He did and being in the right place at the right time.
Below are a few pictures. The first one is of me and Trace Adkins...LOVE HIM. Such a great guy, hilarious and very talented. The second is of me and Rich Redmond, who I mentioned earlier in the blog. This was after a show in Atlanta and NO we did not plan on matching ;) The last picture is from the firs time I met Jason Aldean. I'm really glad that he has finally received the recognition that he deserves as an artist and entertainer.