I first met Melanie at a Panera! She had ordered Market Your Music Online and it seemed easier to deliver it to the Panera instead of to the Post Office. Then a month or so later I really got to know her when we sat next to each other at the first Bestie meetup. Melanie is a true one woman shop! Photography, music, design, you name it... Melanie does it!
Tell us about yourself! What do you do and what has your journey been like getting to this point?
I moved to Nashville from Chicago eight years ago to be with the man I love (The One & Only Bill Davis). I thought I was moving to the country! I knew nothing about Nashville or country music, but I was ready to leave Chicago for a warmer climate, and ended up in a whirlwind romance with an old friend while I was checking out the city.
One day, I was cleaning the house and listening to the Grateful Dead, of all things, harmonizing along, and Bill started plotting to get me on stage to sing with him. It took a little while (I was worried about nepotism in this band-sharing town), but he finally got me to sing with him. As a kid and teenager, I sang in groups and danced and performed in musicals and plays, but I thought the performing part of my life was behind me. It's such a fun rush, and after that reintroduction, I've never looked back. Over the years, I've stepped up my role in Bill's act, singing harmonies, background vocals, and playing light percussion as half of a regular duo and part of his band.
I'm currently taking the marketing reins of Bill's record label, Very Entertaining Records, which is a huge challenge! My career is in photography and design, and I've built my business (MAW Studio) from the ground up. I'm in a good place but I want to keep going further with both my business and Bill's career. Taking on this end of the music makes sense for both of us, but I often find myself putting the work for the label on the back burner in favor of paying gigs, which is a tough pull since promotion increases exposure and interest, bringing more people and money. Balance is hard to achieve with one career, so adding another to the mix that's so close to home rocks the boat a bit!
I occasionally feel like I'm juggling knives and broken glass, but then I remember (or Bill reminds me) that I'm in the fun business, and my anxiety decreases and I go back to multitasking like a Boss.
What’s a usual day-in-the-life look like for you?
HAHAHA! Usual. That's a good one. I have a really variable schedule, which I love, but I try to keep a few things consistent, especially weekday mornings:
Wake up between 7:15 and 8am
Prepare warm lemon water and coffee
Tidy the kitchen and den
Spend an hour in the garden
Revisit my plans for the day/discuss music progress and plans while enjoying coffee with Bill until he goes to work.
After this, I might spend 8-10 hours in my office and studio editing, designing, or photographing, or I might be off-site photographing for one of my clients. Most of my photo shoots are half-day, so I'll come back to my office and work on whatever is in my queue.
I gig with Bill every Wednesday evening and every first and third Saturday of the month through October, and we book other shows around town and occasionally in other states.
We've also got a new toy to add to the mix: Omar the sailboat. She's docked on Percy Priest, so evenings and weekends will be split between the garden, the house, and the boat.
I try to keep my weekends free of MAW Studio work, but I do work a few long days during the week to make that happen, and sometimes I still have to put in a few hours on Saturday and/or Sunday. I love what I do, so it's not a hardship, but I am a strong advocate for work/life balance.
Does community play a role in your career? How so?
YES! My entire career has been based on word-of-mouth, so community is the way I make my living. The visual art community in Nashville is very low-key and strong, and I've worked to make my name synonymous with hard work, high quality, and positivity, which has paid off. I've also never sacrificed my peace of mind for a paycheck.
I've lived in town for long enough to have made some great music connections, so I have relationships personal enough that I don't feel like a user when I ask questions of my music business friends. I also make sure to ask for advice rather than favors.
What’s your favorite part about the music industry?
In Nashville, it's the pool of talent in the smaller venues. The people we rub elbows with and see for tips are some of the best players in the world, and so many of them are really fun, friendly people.
Knowing what you know now, if you could go back 5 years and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?: It's going to get really hard, but you're doing it right. Keep going.
Teach us something! (Related to your expertise or something random just for fun)
I'm learning this lesson right now: Don't put an expiration on yourself or your creative career. It's never too late to begin, reinvent, start over, or dream big.
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Katherine Forbes, Founder of Designing the Row
A Music City girl obsessed with creating confidence in my clients through design, marketing, and community. In today’s world, your visual branding and online presence will either make or break you. I’ve got my Diet Coke in hand and am ready to get started on your next project.