The “My Music Row Story” weekly column features notable members of the Nashville music industry selected by the MusicRow editorial team. These individuals serve in key roles that help advance and promote the success of our industry. This column spotlights the invaluable people that keep the wheels rolling and the music playing.
Music industry veteran Becky Harris is one of Nashville’s top business managers. She started her firm, Huskins-Harris Business Management 14 years ago, where she handles business management and accounting for clients including her son, Chris Young, as well as Kane Brown, Riley Green, Alexandra Kay, Nick Conners, Angie K, Drew Baldridge, Frankie Ballard, Keith Anderson, James Stroud, and Absolute Publicity, among others. Under the Huskins-Harris umbrella, she and CPA/business partner Donna A. Huskins work for CeCe Winans.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in south Nashville. I grew up in the same house that my parents bought 6 months before I was born and sold 6 months after my son Chris [Young] was born. I lived in the same house my entire childhood.
How did you start your career?
When I was in college, I started out as a journalism major. I switched my major to literature and was going to teach college literature. I got married at the beginning of my senior year of college and graduated. In the summer after I graduated, they offered me an assistantship to work on my masters, and then I found out I was pregnant with Chris. Fast forward 13 months [after Chris was born], I had his sister. So I decided I could not go back to school with two little babies. Fast forward a few more years, I got divorced and I was raising two small kids by myself.
[When Chris was a kid], he ended up in a children’s theater group. They asked him to be part of a song and dance group. That’s when we realized he could really sing. When he was 15, this guy found us on the internet. He ended up being somebody who really didn’t know anything about anything. He had been a successful songwriter and he had an investor. I got panicked because now my kid was signed to a record deal and I didn’t know anything about this and this person didn’t either. I went to see an attorney, the attorney told me not to worry, that the deal would age out when he was 17. So I went back to school to get a second degree in the music business. After I graduated, another business manager here in town offered me a job so I went to work for him for seven or eight years.
What did you learn there?
The day I started they gave me James Stroud as my first client. James was running Dreamwork Records, had a studio, was one of the first guys in town to rent Pro Tools rigs, had publishing companies, had houses all over the place and hunted all over the place. I always tell everybody, “You want to learn how to be a business manager? Go to work for James Stroud.” I still have him as a client.
You formed your business management firm, Huskins-Harris, in 2008. How did that come to be?
I quit [at the business management firm I was at]. My former boss passed away after I left, so James came with me. When I started, we didn’t really have any clients. We were going to take the people in Nashville that nobody else wanted. That was my business model. I thought I was going to work three days a week and Donna [Huskins], my business partner, was going to work two days a week. Now we work seven days a week. (laughs)
I had done a lot of things throughout my lifetime when my kids were little. I worked in accounting, human resources, and had been a personal assistant. I’ve done all kinds of stuff. Really the very first day that I worked for James, I thought, “This is everything I’ve ever done that I liked about every job I’ve ever had… all rolled into one thing.”
Business managers are some unsung heroes in the music industry. How do you approach business management?
We’re a little bit different than some business managers. We look at it as if it touches their money, it’s our job. So we actually get involved in a lot of stuff that some people don’t. I’ve done everything from going to somebody’s house at 8:00 o’clock at night to fix their microwave. We go get people’s car tags for them. We’re just very hands on. That’s part of why we stay a smaller firm. We over serve our clients, so I don’t take everybody. During the pandemic, a whole bunch of people called me saying “All your people are fine!” The sky fell and they were all fine.
The buck always stops with us. While we get paid the least amount of everybody, we’re always the ones that have to go to somebody else and go, “Nope, you can’t do that.” Whether that’s the artist, the booking agent, the manager, or the venue. We’re professional jackasses. (laughs)
Do you find it’s tough to be firm and decisive as a woman?
Not so much now as it was when I first started. I’ve been at this a long time—more than 20 years now. There weren’t a whole lot of female managers or female business managers [when I started]. Mary Ann McCready was it. She paved the way for everybody else. Now there’s Julie Boos, Kerri Edwards, Marion Kraft, and Ebie McFarland. There’s a group of people that are out there now, so you don’t have to prove yourself like you once did to be a female in the music business.
When do you feel most fulfilled in your role?
It’s always the firsts. At some point, they get to where they can afford to do whatever they want to do, but then they still have firsts. The first award, the first car they buy, the first time they get to take a bus, and their first No. 1. It’s the firsts.
I went with Kane [Brown] to buy his first truck. This was really early on—the very first year. He had always wanted this truck that somebody else had. He called me one day and he said, “Hey, I really want that truck. Do you think we can go get it?” I was like, “Yep, let’s go!” So I drove him to Chattanooga to get the truck. Now he’s a car guy, so he’s always got some car. But that very first truck was just super cool because he was like a kid at Christmas time.
You have a unique perspective on the music business, also being Chris Young’s mom. What has it been like to be in the music business and watch him work his way through it?
I was in the music business for about five years before he got record deal. I knew he was successful the day that it went from everyone introducing him as “Becky Harris’ son,” to “This is Chris Young’s mom.” Every group of people that start at a label, I have to re-prove myself. They’re always like, “Oh, you’re his mom. He put you in business.” I’m like, “No, that’s not quite how that happened.” (laughs)
You learn business lessons from every client, so it wouldn’t just be Chris. I’ve been through something with every client that’s given me a unique perspective on how to move forward with other people. If you don’t grow in this industry with the way it is right now, you won’t make it very long. Things change every year.
What has been a big lesson you’ve learned over the years?
The thing that has affected me most is Route 91. Chris hadn’t intended to go there, he was going to hang out with a friend in San Diego. He changed his mind at the last minute and went by himself to Vegas.
I keep my phone on 24/7. All of my clients know that. My phone ringing always wakes me up, but I had a week where I didn’t sleep. Chris tried to call me multiple times that night and it didn’t wake me up. Kane did what I’ve always told him to do, he [kept calling] until I answered the phone. When I answered the phone, Kane goes, “Have you talked to Chris? You need to call him right now, there’s an active shooter in Vegas and he won’t answer his phone for me.”
From every business management perspective and every personal perspective, so many things came out of that. You’re always told to hit the ground when there’s a shooter. Well the shooter was above and when everyone hit the ground, a lot of people got hurt. But [in regards to] every safety protocol we had in place at the time, Route 91 was a cutting edge event. They had a fence up, they had metal detectors. You could not get into that festival with any kind of weapon. Nobody ever thought about somebody [shooting from] above. I deal with insurance, I deal with liability issues, I deal with protecting the personnel, personnel policies and all those things. That was a wake up call for everybody.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t give up. Judy Harris is one of my mentors. She and Pat Rolfe have talked to me over the years. When I decided to go start a business for myself, they asked if I had any clients. I said, “No,” and they said “Don’t give up.” There’s been a number of times through the years that I’ve said, “Maybe I should retire,” and they’ve said “Don’t give up.” They weren’t wrong. Anything that you’re successful at, you have to work long hours. It’s like that in any career, not just the music industry.
What are you most proud of in your career?
That’s a hard one. Knock on wood they don’t all fire me tomorrow, but normally when somebody comes through my door, unless I tell them to go someplace else, they don’t leave.
I was Kane’s first business manager. I was Riley Green‘s first business manager. They come and they stay, thank goodness. I love that because I love growing a career with those people.