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.
As a Partner at Farris, Self & Moore, LLC (FSM), Catherine Moore is a trusted advisor to some of the country’s biggest touring acts, songwriters and recording artists. After getting her Bachelor’s in accounting at the University of South Carolina, Moore started her career at FBMM, where she spent six and a half years working with top-tier touring and recording artists.
In 2015, Moore joined forces with Kella Stephenson Farris and Stephanie Self to launch FSM, a boutique business management and financial planning firm that specializes in the unique needs of hit songwriters and major recording and touring artists.
A CFP-certified accountant, Moore is a member of organizations including SOURCE for whom she serves as Treasurer; the Recording Academy; CMA; ACM; and more. She is also a Society of Leaders in Development (SOLID) alumna and was included in 2015’s Nashville Top 30 Under 30 class and 2017’s Nashville Emerging Leaders class as well as the Grammy Next Class of 2017/2018. Moore is also a graduating member of the Leadership Music Class of 2020. When Moore isn’t mentoring the next generation of executives or crunching the numbers that will make an artist’s tour a reality, she’s usually enjoying time with her husband Patrick, their son Harrison and their daughter Cate, traveling to a favorite getaway or spending time outdoors.
MusicRow: Where did you grow up?
Chattanooga, Tennessee on Lookout Mountain.
What were you into as a kid?
Ballet. I started at three years old and just fell in love with it. I wasn’t particularly great at it, but I loved music. Ballet was my introduction to music. I remember being really young and buying the Nutcracker soundtrack and making up dances to it. I loved the discipline of it—I’m very Type A.
I grew up doing ballet through high school. I got to the point where I was either going to do it seriously or it was going to just be for fun. I decided I didn’t want to be a ballerina, so then in high school I did it more recreationally.
Where did you go to college?
The University of South Carolina. I wanted to go to the University of Virginia (UVA). My dad went there and I fell in love with the campus, but that was really the only reason I wanted to go there. I knew I wanted to move away from home. I was ready to be independent and I wanted something new. I didn’t even apply to the University of Tennessee because I wanted to get out of Tennessee for a while.
I didn’t end up getting into UVA—it’s very hard to get into out of state. My mom grew up in South Carolina, so I went and looked at USC and really liked it. They also had a good business program, so I went there.
What was the goal with the business degree?
Well, it’s really funny. When I was in high school, I watched a movie called Almost Famous and I was like, “I want that to be my life. I’m not a journalist, but I want that.” I loved music and concerts. Simultaneously, I fell in love with the band Hanson and followed their journey. They were signed to a major label, got frustrated and started their own label. I thought that was really cool. It was the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC era, and they all seemed manufactured, whereas Hanson went and did their own thing. They played their own instruments, they wrote their own songs and I just gravitated towards that. Those two things made me fall in love even more with the business of music. But I thought, what am I going to do with that? I’m not musical.
I got my Bachelor’s in accounting and was all set to move to Charlotte and work for a big four accounting firm. I went to all the interviews and I was like, “I don’t want to do this.” I love accounting and I love numbers. I knew that’s what I was good at and I enjoyed it because I’m a nerd, but it just didn’t feel right.
When my parents first got married, they lived in Nashville [for a period of time], so they had a lot of community here. I reached out to a family friend who worked at WME and he was like, “Oh, you should go into business management.” I was like, “What is that?” He said, “It’s basically accounting for musicians.” I will never forget it. He sent me this list of five firms—FBMM, O’Neil Hagaman, Haber, Smith Wiles and Vaden. I mailed my resume and fortunately got a few interviews. I got hired at FBMM right out of college. It felt so right! This was exactly what I wanted to do.
That’s awesome! Tell me about your time at FBMM?
I started my job a week after college. My very best friend from high school went to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and was also moving here, so we moved in together in a little apartment in Bellevue. I will never forget my first day at FBMM. I showed up in heels, a nice black dress and a blazer. Everybody else was in jeans and converse. [Laughs]
I actually started in their tax department under Trey Dunaway. I remember knowing I wanted to do business management, but they needed a tax person and I had tax experience. I learned so much right off the bat. I had such a solid accounting background, but I didn’t know anything about the music business, so it was a great intro into the music business for me.
[A year later], a position opened up on one of the business management teams, so I moved over there and worked there for the remaining five and a half years I was there. I learned so much from the business managers and partners there.
What was the next step?
Sometimes in life you are ready for a change and it is beyond your control, and I honestly just felt God pulling me in a different direction. I reached out to Stephanie [Self] as a mentor and we decided to partner together on our next venture. We were like, “Maybe we just go do this just the two of us. We can figure it out. We’ll work out of someone’s basement. We can get clients, right?” We started asking smaller business managers in town if there was room for us, if there was enough business to go around and if we were crazy. We reached out to Kella [Stephenson Farris] and she was so encouraging of us to do our own thing. Our story continued to develop – Kella followed up with us the next day and asked if we wanted to explore working together. We went to her house a few days later and just sat around her dining room table and hashed out what it would look like. Jan. 1, 2015, we hit the ground running.
I bet that was a scary decision.
It really was. When I was doubting my decision and ability to go out and start my own thing, my friends and husband were the reason I actually was able to make that leap. I knew even if I failed, I had this incredible support system that believed in me even when I didn’t quite believe in myself! They saw my potential when I couldn’t always.
Tell me about those early days of Farris, Self & Moore.
At first, Stephanie and I moved into Kella’s office in this little blue building on Music Row. It was a law office building, and she was just renting a couple offices and the conference room from them. We had this rickety conference table and I sat at one end and Stephanie sat at the other. That whole first year was cold calling. Quickly, we realized we needed better space, so we moved into the building on Edgehill and 17th Avenue. Then we moved [into our new office] earlier this year.
Our first few clients were songwriters because they knew Kella’s reputation. Then we got our first touring client and once we took him, it was like everyone realized our doors were open. Word of mouth just kept circulating.
There was definitely a moment probably halfway through our first year where I literally was sitting in my office and had a lull in my day, where just a year prior in my old job, I was used to being slammed. I remember being like, “God, what have I done?” I had to trust that the work and the clients would come. And it did. I had to do a lot of personal growth in the sense of going from being an employee where I could depend on a business manager to be there to help to [realizing it was all on me]. My favorite thing about this whole journey is the people in the Nashville music industry that I’ve met have been so incredible. You find out most people don’t know what they’re doing all of the time. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to be a good person that works hard and cares a lot.
Who are some of your mentors?
Kella and Stephanie, for sure, as well as our newest partner Stephanie Alderman. I’ve learned so much from them. I wanted a family and I wanted to be able to do it on my own terms. I didn’t want to feel guilty about if my kid is sick and I need to be there for them. If daycare calls, I can leave. Seeing how they manage that [has been inspiring]. I now have two children and they’ve been such a resource for the balance of parenting and work.
My mom is a mentor. She’s artistic—she paints, which I’ve always admired. She has always persevered and is very disciplined and stubborn. We have a lot of the same qualities, so seeing how she’s pushed through her life and career has been cool to see.
Someone is undoubtedly watching you and wanting to have a similar career path. What advice would you give them?
Go with your gut. At the end of the day, I feel like I have a very strong foundation morally and I have a strong faith, so I feel like I’ve always been able to know in my heart what’s right and what’s not. With starting the business, bringing on clients and bringing on employees, I’ve just gone with my gut. Knowing that it’s okay to listen to that—not everything’s black and white.
Surround yourself with good people. Some of my very best friends are people at other business management firms that I can call up and say, “Hey, what would you do in this scenario?” There’s no reason to be competitive. Be open to helping others.
Loving what you do is so important. You’re at your job at least 40 hours a week—you need to love it. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to be in a situation like that, but I’ve just always been so grateful that I love what I do. I’m so passionate about all of my clients, as people and as artists, as well as my team that I get to work with every day. That passion makes me work that much harder.
What is a moment that you’ve had that your teenage self watching Almost Famous would think is so cool?
In general, getting to see the behind the scenes of a show. Watching a stage go up. Seeing a band work through new music during a soundcheck. If you had told young Catherine that…being at a show and being a part of it. There’s just no greater feeling. My first show back after COVID was one of the best memories. It was the most emotional night. These people had to put their lives and careers on hold; they didn’t know what their lives were going to look like from a financial standpoint. I was able to help get them through that, so the release of them getting to play again was just incredible.
When you look back on it all, how does it make you feel?
The biggest takeaway from going out on my own has just been the support of everybody–friends, family, the industry. I learned a lot of that, too, through going through Leadership Music. There’s no pretenses. Everybody’s there because they like music and because they care very much about their piece of the industry. I am grateful for the Nashville music community as well as the support and encouragement they’ve always offered, from day one.
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