Rowfile: Melissa Spillman

“I remember sitting in 3rd & Lindsley a few years ago, with about 15 other people in the audience, listening to a new trio,” recalls Capitol Records Nashville A&R Manager Melissa Spillman. “That was Lady Antebellum, and it was their second show.”

Since joining the label in 2006, the Texas native has been on board for the band’s skyrocketing trajectory. “I was part of the initial discovery of Lady Antebellum,” she explains. “After that show, I mentioned them to Mike Dungan and the rest of the A&R staff, and they signed with us. Now, a few years later they have the biggest song of 2010 and are selling millions of records.”

Lady A’s mega smash “Need You Now” resonated with fans across all genres. Helping the band, and the rest of the Capitol roster, discover songs with this kind of impact is where Spillman’s passion lies.

“It is incredible that a band of such talented songwriters like Lady A is open to finding and recording outside songs like ‘American Honey’ and ‘Hello World,’” she explains. “They are an example of great songwriters who can also recognize a great song they didn’t write.”

In recent years, A&R teams have had an increasingly difficult time getting artists to record outside songs they didn’t write. “Because we have artists that are such great songwriters, getting an outside song cut is such an accomplishment,” says Spillman. “Autumn House [Sr. Director A&R] and I work really hard to help outside songwriters get their songs recorded, where they could potentially have a huge impact on fans.

“I think in the last 12 months, we’ve gotten more outside songs cut than in the prior three years combined. Lately I’m seeing more artists dig in and find outside songs, because they recognize the talent of the writers here in Nashville. These artists want to grow their careers and their sound, and they know outside songs have the potential to be career songs. And those songs end up being singles almost every time.”

Spillman has seen first-hand the struggles of getting songs cut—her husband is songwriter Jeremy Spillman, who scored with the Eric Church single “Hell On The Heart,” and recently launched his own publishing and production company, Brave Music.

“It helps when you are a fan of your artists,” says Spillman of her Capitol roster, including new act Eric Paslay. “I’m extremely excited about Eric because he’s all of a sudden hitting his stride. He’s got the next Jake Owen single ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ and Lady A cut a song of his that will hopefully make the record. He’s funny and soft-spoken in person, but onstage he’s a powerful performer. His music is fun, and lyrically substantial at the same time.”

Spillman is also very enthused about the upcoming Mow The Row celebrity lawnmower race. “It’s going to be an absolute blast,” she says of the fundraiser for Hospital Hospitality House. Spillman is part of a committee helping making the dream of late songwriter Joshua Ragsdale a reality. The much-loved member of the music community died of cancer last year at age 32. On Tuesday, June 7, during CMA Music Festival week, his legacy will live on with the lawnmower race and concert event on Demonbreun. For more information, or to get involved, visit www.mowtherow.com or email [email protected]

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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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