My Music Row Story: Music Health Alliance’s Tatum Hauck-Allsep

Tatum Hauck-Allsep. Photo: Ashley Hybert

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 Health Alliance Founder/CEO, Tatum Hauck-Allsep, established the music industry’s first non-profit resource for healthcare in 2013, which has gone on to serve over 18,000 industry professionals and saved them over $84 million in healthcare costs. Allsep’s career also includes time with MCA Records, artist management, and the launch of the Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Music Industry Relations Department. In 2021, Tatum was named CMA Humanitarian of the Year for MHA’s COVID Relief efforts. Her additional awards include MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row, Nashville Healthcare Hero, Women of Music City, Nashville Post’s Top Non-Profit Leader, National Healthcare Innovation Award, and numerous honors from Billboard.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up deep in the piney woods of south Mississippi. I went to junior high and high school in Sumrall, Mississippi. We did not even have a stop light, we had a caution light. We would hang out at The Handy Pantry on Friday nights after football games. It was just a teeny tiny town. It was safe and nobody left.

MCA & Arista promotion teams in 1998

What did you want to become then?

The music industry wasn’t even on my radar. I thought that I wanted to go into medicine. I came to Nashville to go to Vanderbilt in 1993. I focused on medicine and I got weeded out my junior year of college pretty quickly by organic chemistry. It just did not make sense to me. My major at Vanderbilt was Human and Organizational Development.

I had always worked in healthcare in the summers. I worked in an emergency room in Mississippi and volunteered at the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt. When it came time to intern, I thought, “I’m in Music City. I’ll just see what’s happening in the music industry.” I ended up with an internship at MCA Records and I felt like I had found my tribe. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’ve never felt so at home anywhere. Not in college, not in high school, and not at home in Mississippi. These are my people.”

Did you change your major?

Nope! I stayed Human and Organizational Development and it’s really been an asset. It was psychology combined with sociology combined with business. Having that real, tangible experience in the setting that eventually became my career was invaluable.

The head of my department at Vanderbilt had been a songwriter. He understood that if you stepped out [of healthcare], it would be really hard to step back in. He let me create independent studies every semester, so I was able to intern in every department at MCA and Decca.

What did you do after graduation?

The second semester of my senior year, right before I was about to graduate, I got hired because Scott Borchetta got fired. Who gets to say that? (Laughs) Obviously, he has done just fine. Everybody at MCA loved him and cheered for him, it was just time for him to spread his own wings. When he left, everybody in the department bumped up and I became the receptionist of promotion at MCA Records. I felt like I had arrived.

MCA promotion team with Reba McEntire in 1999

What were your goals for your career then?

I was watching artist managers take risks early. Erv Woolsey took a risk early with George Strait and there were so many stories like that about the greats in our industry. I really thought that I would end up either staying and climbing the ladder at the label or going into management.

I had a starter marriage in the music industry, which I don’t recommend, but it gave me my greatest life lessons of all time. I met my future husband, moved real fast and left MCA. I went to Atlantic for a hot minute with Barry Coburn and then left to build a management company with my starter husband. I got pregnant quick, right after we got married, and got divorced within a year.

In the divorce, I inherited some artists. (Laughs) The Derailers were one of them. I learned a ton and they’re still really good friends. I thought management was phenomenal—I loved the negotiating piece and I loved understanding contracts, but I couldn’t be on the road with twin boys, so I to needed to make another career change.

What happened next?

I went into pre-term labor, and it ultimately led to Music Health Alliance. By that point, I was 26 or 27, so I understood the value of benefits and health insurance. When I left employment with benefits, I made sure the first thing I did was get health insurance. When I went into pre-term labor, I was in the hospital for six weeks on bedrest. The boys were born at 28 weeks, so three months early. They each weighed two pounds and were in the NICU for nine weeks. Fortunately, they are great now, but I left the hospital with two sick babies, a half million dollar bill, and a marriage that was imploding.

I didn’t know that you could negotiate medical bills and I didn’t know that you could challenge decisions by health insurance companies. I liquidated every asset I owned and talked to my grandfather, who was a businessman, and asked him to co-sign a loan with me. He did and it took me 10 years to pay off.

I also learned that my story was not unique. It was happening all over the music industry. Every five minutes there was a benefit where we were passing the bucket for somebody. That really resonated because at my darkest hour, when I was a single mom with infant twins on heart monitors and oxygen, it was the music industry that made me feel so safe and so loved. It was a much smaller industry then, but everybody operates the same way today. This is a really precious family.

Tatum with infant twins, Rex & David, in NICU in 2001

How were you able to move on?

Vanderbilt Medical Center wanted to start their first department of music industry relations. I ended up getting hired for the job. They really wanted to be fundraising and I said, “Everybody goes to the music industry with their hand out. We’ve got to make this medical center valuable to the music industry.” The person I reported to had built a committee of music industry executives—Joe Galante, Kix Brooks and more. One day Kix said, “If you can figure out how to bring health insurance to the music industry, then they’ll come use your facility.”

That’s all I needed to hear. It gave me permission to understand this crazy thing that almost wrecked my life. So I started meeting with health insurance companies. I met with about 17 of them and after every one of the meetings, I felt like I needed a shower. It was so gross. All they saw were big numbers and big money. It was way before the Affordable Care Act had passed, so about 35 cents of every dollar went to commission for health insurance. It was big money at that point. I met a guy who had been in the music industry who was an insurance broker. He wasn’t held captive by any one company. We started what was CMA Sound Healthcare. I left Vanderbilt after three or four years to build Sound Healthcare.

When did you decide to start Music Health Alliance?

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 and that opened up this enormous opportunity for the music industry to have access to healthcare like never before. My whole goal with Sound Healthcare was to build a nonprofit and my business partner did not have any interest in that. He was a businessman, which is totally fine. Sales were his mechanism. We decided to amicably part ways. My family and I moved to Montgomery, Alabama and that was what allowed me to clearly see the path that needed to be taken to build what became Music Health Alliance.

Tatum with with patient, Dalton Waggoner at the 2nd Annual Miles & Music For Kids benefitting Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in 2007. Photo: Susan Waggoner

My husband had been an attorney before he became a professor. One night at 3 in the morning, I woke him up and I was like, “I had this dream! Look at this dissolution agreement. Is there a non-compete?” He was like, “Oh my God. It’s 3 in the morning. There’s no non-compete.” I wrote the entire business plan for Music Health Alliance that night.

I had this dream about what it should look like and insurance had to be a component. It had to be a part of it, but just one small part. In the United States, that’s the primary mechanism to gain access to healthcare: health insurance. But I had to figure out a way to remove the profit motive. With the profit motive, it skews the objectivity. We need to make sure if you walk in and you have a healthcare issue, the payment mechanism that we pick for you is going to be what meets your needs, not my needs.

When did you get to start helping music industry folks?

The first client that called to ask for some help was Cowboy Jack Clement. He had been diagnosed with liver cancer and just needed help navigating it. I hadn’t even come up with the name Music Health Alliance yet, but the whole template of how we navigate came into play when we helped Cowboy Jack walk through his liver cancer. He said, “I’m going to have a living wake. I think it’d be really cool if it benefited this nonprofit you’re building.” That was in January of 2013 and that was our first public facing event where we launched.

How did you start building your team?

Kimberly Dunn was my right hand and sounding board starting Music Health Alliance. Herky Williams was our first development director. When he went on to pursue other things, I looked in MusicRow and I saw that Sheila Shipley Biddy was leaving the label where she was. She had been one of my greatest mentors when I was an intern.

Tatum with Dukes of Hazzard cast at Vanderbilt Children’s 2006

I called her and said, “I don’t know what your next step is, but I’ve started this nonprofit. I can only pay you a half salary for now, but this is what I need: an advocate. Someone who can study and understand Medicare, someone to help us bring organization to this non-profit.” So Sheila became the first full-time, salaried hire and now she’s our CFO. I feel so honored to get to work with her every day and learn from her. I’m a bulldozer and a big picture person. She can take the big picture and help bring the execution to it.

Music Health Alliance became even more life-saving during the pandemic. What was that like?

Overnight, the phone calls went from, “I’ve got a new diagnosis and I need help finding a doctor and navigating medical bills,” to, “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to afford formula, diapers and food.” Because we’ve been able to be nimble, it allowed us to shift gears really quickly and figure out how to meet that need. We went online to try to get gift cards from Walmart, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, but you could buy one gift card a piece. We called our banker at City National Bank, Lori Badgett, who has been a champion for us since the beginning. We said, “We need to come cash a $60,000 check and I’m going go buy gift cards at these stores.” She said, “Alright. Let’s make it happen.” So my son—who served as my bodyguard—went with me into the bank to get $60,000, put it in my little purse, and go to Walmart and buy gift cards. (Laughs)

Pictured (L-R): Hunter Phelps, Hardy, Tatum Allsep (Founder/CEO, Music Health Alliance), Jameson Rodgers, Randy Montana at the inaugural “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” event benefitting Music Health Alliance. Photo: Hunter Berry

People would come to us to get gift cards, but then we would talk to them about their secondary needs. Is it help with your rent? Is it help with diapers and formula? Some people would call back for help for a second month, about 40% would call back for a third month, and about 3% to 5% called back for a fourth month. It was amazing to see people figuring out how to navigate it. Our industry is so resilient.

Then it was following the virus. What do all these vaccinations mean? How do we differentiate fact from fiction? So we found the facts and then we would assimilate them out to industry leaders. It wasn’t coming from us, we were just sourcing them so they could see the facts.

What’s your proudest accomplishment at Music Health Alliance?

I didn’t know Beverly Keel—I had just revered her because she is an icon. Somebody called and said, “Beverly’s sister is in liver failure and they’re telling her to go home and get her affairs in order.” The Hippocratic Oath hangs in my office. It says, “I will practice my craft, the art of medicine, not based on profit, but because it is the right thing to do.”

In the U.S., you can’t get on a transplant list if you are not fully insured. I understand that, from the business sense, but not from the human sense. Especially not at a nonprofit, faith-based hospital. We were able to go in and navigate and find loopholes. The transplant gave her five more years. That’s one of the cases that means the most to me.

My Music Row Story: Sony Music Publishing Nashville’s Rusty Gaston

Rusty Gaston

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.

Respected music publisher Rusty Gaston took the reins as CEO of Sony Music Publishing Nashville in January 2020. In this role, he leads all creative and operations, including the signing of new songwriters and development of strategies to exploit its catalog. As a lifelong country music fan, Gaston is focused on continuing Sony’s legacy through songwriter empowerment.

MusicRow: Where are you from?

I am from Van, Texas. It’s little town in east Texas. There were about 1,000 people there when I was growing. I knew nothing about the music business or how to get into it. I didn’t know anybody in the music business.

My mother was a huge George Strait fan, so there was a period of time where if he played anywhere in Texas, my mom and my aunt would go. Lots of times, I would go with them, because it was a Saturday and nobody was around to keep me. I’ve slept through more George Strait concerts than most people will attend in their whole life. (Laughs) I was a little kid. I would get tired so we’d pull some chairs together for me to lay down. By the middle of his set, I’d be asleep.

Rusty Gaston

Were you musical?

Growing up in such a small town, I spent all my time in the record store, going to the music department of Walmart, and sitting in my room and reading liner notes for hours on end. I was super lucky to have some defining moments in life. I remember being in the locker room in elementary school, standing on a bench and looking down on some friends of mine who were singing a new Beastie Boys song. I remember thinking to myself, “Why are y’all just now singing that? I played that for you last school year.” I don’t know why that stuck out to me as a moment, but it did.

I noticed the songs that I was always attracted to on these records I would buy, eventually became popular. I didn’t know those were called singles or what they were, but I had somehow pieced together, “Somebody has a job figuring out which songs on this record should be played on the radio. That’s what I’m good at. How do you do that?”

What did you do with that realization?

I was in choir and drama in school. One weekend during my senior year of high school, some friends of mine who were in college said, “We’re going to Dallas to Six Flags Over Texas to audition for performer jobs. Do you want to go with us?” So we rode two hours away to Dallas and auditioned for performer jobs at Six Flags Over Texas. Long story short, I got the job and none of them did. So, my senior year of high school, they let me graduate early and I moved two hours away to Arlington, Texas and performed, sang, danced and played guitar at Six Flags.

I was planning to go back to east Texas to go to college. There was another performer in my show and he was an alumni of a college in Fort Worth called Texas Wesleyan University. He said, “My buddy is the dean over there and they’ve got some scholarship money. You’re pretty good at this. You shouldn’t move back, you should stay here and keep doing this.” I went and met with this dean at Texas Wesleyan University and he gave me a full scholarship. I stayed there in the metroplex and worked for three years as a performer at Six Flags.

Rusty Gaston, Ben Hayslip, Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, Ben Vaughn

How did you go from being a performer to being in the music business?

While at Six Flags, I had another real defining moment. I saw an interview on TNN with Trisha Yearwood. She said she was an intern at a record label and that she went to Belmont. I asked another performer on my show, whose full-time job was as a school teacher, if he had ever heard of an intern. He said, “It’s where you work for free and you get experience.” I was like, “I’ll do that in a second! How do I do that?”

I ended up cold calling the production company in Dallas that produced my show for Six Flags and asked to be their intern. I had no interest in being a performer or being an artist, but I wanted to be in the music business. This was my only way to try to figure out how to get into the music business.

That production company still operates today in Dallas. The guy that runs it, Mark Brymer, he’s the number one print arranger in the nation for Hal Leonard Music Publishing. He arranges music into choral arrangements, so when The Lion King would come out, they would send the music to this guy in Dallas and he arranges it into choral arrangements that they could sell to churches, choirs, and show choirs. So I started learning about print publishing that way. He produced Looney Tunes records—like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck—so I got to be around the studio aspect. I learned about live stuff and print publishing.

What was next?

There were some people from Sony coming to Six Flags to see a singer in our show. After that performance, we got to have a meet and greet with these music business executives. One of them was a publisher named Jerry Smith. Jerry had a joint venture at Sony called Fire Hall Music. His venture existed for him to sign singer-songwriters and get them record deals. The first three people he signed were Terri Clark, Rhett Akins and Lonestar. The rest was history.

He and I met at that meet and greet and he started explaining to me what he did. I had this God moment, thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is it. This is what I’m supposed to do.” He had told me he was leaving Sony and he was starting a new company with Warner Chappell. Off the cuff, he said, “If you ever come to Nashville, call me up. You can help me.” I took that as an invitation. I left all my family, I left a full ride scholarship to college, I broke up with my girlfriend, I quit my job, and I packed it all up and moved here. It was August 17, 1996.

I enrolled at Belmont. I took my classes early in the morning and late in the evening so I could work for free all during the day. Jerry was the best boss for me possible. He had an office inside the Warner Chappell building. We had seven or eight songwriters. He had a filing cabinet behind the desk that had all the contracts he had ever been involved in. He told me I was free to go through them and check out anything I wanted. He said, “Whatever you want to do in this business, I’ll help you do it, just help me build my company.”

Connie Harrington, Tim Nichols, Chris Young, Rusty Gaston

Where did you go from there?

I worked with Jerry Smith for about five years. One day I got a cold call from a producer named Byron Gallimore. He had a company with Warner Chappell. This was when Byron was really busy with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. They were firing on all cylinders.

He called me and said, “I’ve got this publishing company and people tell me you’re the guy that should run it. Would you be interested in talking about it?” I said, “Yeah, absolutely. When do you want to get together?” He said, “Right now. I’m at the Waffle House on 65 and Harding.” For five years, I ran that company called Song Garden Music. We had some wonderful songwriters and had some big hits.

How did you start THiS Music?

During that time, both of the companies I’d worked for were joint ventures at Warner Chappell and, contractually, they just weren’t set up for success. Even though both companies were having success on paper, it wasn’t looking that way [behind the scenes]. I was at a point where I wasn’t married, I didn’t have a family and I could really risk taking a chance on myself. I had approached Warner Chappell about an idea I had and to my complete surprise, they did not laugh at me and shut the door. Fast forward six months or a year later, Tim Nichols‘ Warner Chappell deal was up. He was wanting to do something different, so he and I got connected. Tim and Connie Harrington had just written two big hits together. We all got together and started the idea of THiS Music.

We started THiS Music in January of 2006. The first writer we signed from was Ben Hayslip. As good as we laid out the business plan of THiS Music on paper, it went better. What started out with me and three writers ended up being me, three or four other employees, and a dozen songwriters. We ended up having 50 to 60 ASCAP and BMI-award winning hits. It was incredible.

Mike Molinar, Jeff Stevens, Rusty Gaston, Luke Bryan

Then Sony Music Publishing called. You started your current role as CEO of the Nashville office in January of 2020. What went into that decision?

Jon Platt cold called me on June 19, 2019. I was at a Thomas Rhett and Dustin Lynch concert in Charlotte. I was standing backstage and my phone rang and it was Jon Platt. At this point, he had became the chairman of Sony, but he had only actually been on the job about three months. We knew each other and it wasn’t weird that he would call, but he never calls. (Laughs) I’ll never forget looking at my phone and thinking, “My God, this is weird. I better answer this.” I answered it and he just said, “Hey man, can you come to New York next week?” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “I’ll make all the arrangements. Don’t tell anybody you’re coming, just your wife.”

I flew to New York a few days later, not having any idea what was going on. He laid out his idea and said, “I’ve watched you build a destination that songwriters want to come to and a culture that writers want to be a part of. That’s what we need.” I just started laughing. I thought, “What are we talking about? I’m a kid from Van, Texas. How am I in New York City overlooking this park?” I’ve never been accused of having a lack of confidence, but Jon Platt makes me feel that he believes in me more than I do. He didn’t just make me feel that way, he backs it up every day. He’s a fantastic leader.

Needless to say, it was a no-brainer. Especially in Nashville, Sony is the premier legacy of the history of country music. When I moved here, this building was the hottest place in town. If you were a writer, you wanted to write over there. If you were recording, you wanted to be in that studio. If you were a song-plugger, you wanted to work there. I worked right across the parking lot, so I saw it every day. You couldn’t get a parking spot in this lot because it was packed. The idea of helping be a part of bringing that legacy back to life is overwhelming and the biggest honor I could think of.

Cole Swindell, Rusty Gaston

You’ve talked about some defining moments you’ve had in your journey. What are some of your proudest, now that you’re on this side of your career?

When I lived in Texas and was just dreaming of this, there was an article in the Dallas Morning News about a local realtor who had written a No. 1 song. His name was Tom Douglas. He had just written “Little Rock” for Collin Raye. I had read this article in the paper and didn’t know about publishing or anything like that, but was enamored with songs. I knew this song because I just worshiped country radio.

I went to my grandparents’ house and by the telephone, they had a Yellow Pages and a White Pages [phone book]. I pulled out the White Pages and looked up Tom Douglas. I just cold called this guy up. He answered and I just said, “Hey, could I come talk to you? I’m interested in being in the music business.” He invited me to his house. I sat with him for an afternoon and talked to him about songwriting.

All these years later, technically I’m now Tom’s publisher and get to work with him… It goes to show God’s plan is bigger than your plan. I am a big dreamer but I never dreamt this big.

I grew up in a town of barely a thousand people. I never met a soul in the music business. It was nothing more than I’m a kid that loved music who wanted to chase this down. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody if you’re willing to put in the work and be nice to people.

My Music Row Story: WME’s Kevin Meads

Kevin Meads. Photo: Hunter Berry Photography

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 in WME’s Nashville office and a 16-year veteran with the agency, Kevin Meads oversees the daily touring, television, literary, and sponsorship for Brooks & Dunn, Cole Swindell, Chris Lane, Gabby Barrett, Michael Ray, Jon Langston, and others. Meads currently works across WME’s country roster to book large venues in the southeast region. In addition to his work at WME, Meads regularly serves as a mentor to students at Napier Enhanced Option Elementary school and consults on the establishment of various enrichment programs focusing on music and art for the schools.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in northeast Alabama called Ragland. It’s about 1,500 population, one stoplight, a stereotypical small town. The closest landmark that you would probably know is the Talladega Motor Speedway. It’s about 20 minutes down the road.

Kevin Meads performing with Maynard Ferguson

Were you musical at all?

I didn’t come from a musical family at all, but when I was in elementary school, I picked up the trumpet. I didn’t really practice a lot, but my music teacher at the time felt like I had some natural talent with the trumpet, and I loved it. He constantly encouraged me and in the eighth grade, he took me to a concert of a legendary jazz player, Maynard Ferguson, who was playing at my local college. He took me as a way to inspire me and encourage me to practice. Believe it or not, Ragland, Alabama isn’t a big hub for jazz music, so I didn’t know anything about jazz or what I was going to see. Maynard just blew me away with what he did musically. I remember looking over at my music teacher and saying, “When I grew up, I’m want to play with him.” He laughed. Four years later, I ended up getting a scholarship to play trumpet at that college.

Kevin Meads and Snoop Dogg

Is that how you got into the music business?

I encouraged the college to promote another Maynard Ferguson show. They let me be the runner for the concert, and I got to know the tour manager, Ed Sargent, really well. I kept in touch with him and anytime they would play in the area, I would go see them. Fast forward, a few years later, I was still in college, no closer to knowing what I wanted to do in my life.

All I wanted to do was play trumpet with Maynard Ferguson, so I went to another one of his shows and Ed pulled me aside and said, “Hey, would you want to go on the road with us? I have a spot, it’s not to play, but it’s to be Maynard’s personal assistant on the road.” Needless to say, I left school, traded in the books for the tour bus, and went on the road with Maynard and toured the world for four years. I was his personal assistant and got to hang out with him all day and hear the great stories. About a year in, one of the trumpet players in the band left and moved on to another job and Maynard asked me to be in the band. For the next three years I was able to live out my dream and play was with Maynard Ferguson.

The coolest part was one of the last gigs I ever played with him, which was going back to my college where I saw him in the eighth grade perform for the first time. My high school music teacher was in the crowd. At that point, I started thinking, “What’s next?” As a kid, that was the only goal I ever had and I was able to accomplish it. I had to start thinking about what was next.

Kevin Meads, Cole Swindell, Kerri Edwards

What was next?

Growing up, I always loved live music and going to concerts. Being on the road, I was so intrigued with touring and the live show aspect, how shows got booked and why we played certain cities on certain nights. Growing up in a small town, I really didn’t know the music business even existed. I was naturally drawn to touring. At that point, I had to make a decision. I knew I would either move to Nashville, New York or LA. In the back of my mind, I was like, “If I move to Nashville, I’ll be there the rest of my life.” That was my forever goal. I’m not a big New York person, so LA was what I picked. I moved to LA and ended up getting a job at a large artist management company called The Firm with an artist manager named Constance Schwartz. I spent the next couple of years working with Constance and one of her large clients, Snoop Dogg.

I learned so much from that experience. After a couple of years, I realized I was ready to go ahead and make the move to Nashville. I called up Snoop’s agent, Brent Smith, who was at the William Morris Agency at the time. I said, “Hey, do you think you can make a call and get me an interview in Nashville?” He did. That was 17 years ago.

Kevin Meads and Chris Lane

What was the transition like from management to touring?

When I took the job at The Firm, I also had an interview set up with the William Morris Agency in LA, but I took the job at The Firm because I felt having management experience would help me become a better agent in the long run. When I first started at William Morris, I took a job in the mail room. Then I worked with Jay Williams as his assistant for a year and a half, and soon after became an agent.

Who were some of your first big signings as an agent?

Cole Swindell was one of the first artists that I signed. I was booking clubs in the southeast. We had a lot of the same friends and I was hearing about him from everyone. He was selling t-shirts for Luke Bryan, so we knew each other. I called him and said, “Hey, I’ve been hearing about all the stuff you’re writing. I want to hear it.” He had Sony send me a CD. I looked at it the other day and four of the songs on the demo ended up becoming hits.

Jon Langston and Kevin Meads

Who have been some of your mentors over the years?

It would go back to Ed Sargent, who has now worked with Joan Jett for 20 years. He took a chance on me, a kid from a small town that knew nothing about touring, but had a passion for music. I’m not sure if I would have hired myself! (Laughs) Back in those days, jazz artists would tour a lot like rock artists where we would get on a tour bus and be gone for two months. It wasn’t the weekend warrior stuff that so many country artists do. Ed tells a funny story of when I called him before the first tour and said, “Hey man, I was just curious, do I need to bring my own pillow for the tour bus?” (Laughs) As if I were going to a summer camp.

In LA, Constance Schwartz taught me so much about how to treat people with respect, whether it be someone in the mail room, a bus driver, or an A-level client. She also taught me a really valuable lesson that I still use today, which is if you make a mistake, you do three things—you admit it, you fix it and you don’t do it again.

Since I started here in Nashville, definitely Jay Williams, Joey Lee and Greg Oswald. They all have such a unique perspective on the business. Greg, specifically, has a way of looking at big picture things that I may not see. Whether it’s a problem you’re dealing with at work or something you’re dealing with in life, I always feel better after I talk to Greg—which is ironic since I spent the first half of my career being terrified of him. (Laughs)

What are some of your goals now?

The goal has always been happiness. To be able to do what I love with the people I love—artists, coworkers and industry partners. I moved to town not knowing anyone, so this company—WME—became my extended family. My best friends are here. If I’m going to go into battle, these are the people I want to be in the trenches with.

My Music Row Story: SESAC’s Shannan Hatch

Shannan Hatch

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 VP of Creative Services at SESAC, Shannan Hatch leads the Nashville-based creative team in supporting SESAC-affiliated songwriters and publishers. She also works closely with senior management to support creative-focused initiatives and goals. As a gifted songwriter advocate, Hatch and her team are responsible for the recruitment, signing and nurturing of songwriters and publishers and the retention of existing SESAC-affiliated writers and publishers.

During her time with SESAC, Hatch has worked closely with affiliates Lee Brice, Jamey Johnson, Runaway June, Craig Campbell, Josh Hoge, Jesse Lee, Richard Leigh, Jaron Boyer, Cary Barlowe, Lance Miller, Monty Powell, and Michael Tyler, along with Americana tunesmiths Hayes Carll, Jim Lauderdale, and Allison Moorer, among many others.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Tennessee. I was born in Knoxville, but I came to Nashville when I was in fourth grade, so I spent most of my growing up years here in Nashville.

Cary Barlowe, Shannan Hatch, Rob Hatch

Did growing up in Nashville make you want to be in the music industry?

No, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Being here in Nashville, you’re surrounded by it. When I got out of high school, I didn’t want to go the traditional college route because you have to get a degree even though you don’t know what you want to be. My boyfriend at the time, his whole family was in the music industry. They were like, “We think you’d be really good at PR. You should give it a shot.” A lady named Susan Collier, who had just left Capitol and had started an independent PR company, was looking for an intern or somebody to help. I started doing tour and album press for her. I got to do my first CRS and it was so much fun. I was like, “Wow, I really like this.”

She introduced me to Ed Morris, who was writing a book at the time, so I researched his book and had a great time doing that. I spent a summer in the old Hall of Fame library. I ended up going to college at MTSU and got a degree in public relations.

Shannan Hatch, Jimmie Allen, Josh London

What was next?

When I got out of college, I started working for AristoMedia. Jeff Walker and Kay Clary hired me. I worked with Kay for years through a couple of different companies. She started her own company called Commotion PR and I helped her there. She and I got along great. I learned a lot about the history of music and how to do things differently.

How did you end up in the publishing side of the business?

All of my social group were getting into publishing or writing songs, so I was out at the songwriter nights watching the shows—and eating it up—Monday through Thursday night every week. SESAC called and they were looking for somebody in their creative department. It was a natural fit because I was going to the shows, the songwriters were my friends, and we were all growing up together. I will celebrate 20 years at SESAC in August.

What was something you learned when you started working with songwriters?

A lot. The whole craft of a song… there’s so much that goes into that. I didn’t realize what all went into writing a song. People move to Nashville and think that they can do it, but not everybody can. I learned what it takes to put all the pieces together.

I have a special relationship with a lot of our writers and artists. It’s because of my husband Rob [Hatch], too. Our best friends are uncle Lee [Brice], uncle Randy [Houser], uncle Jamey [Johnson] and uncle Dallas [Davidson]. My best friend, Juli Griffith, is in publishing. We are surrounded by it and it’s the family we get to choose.

Shannan Hatch, Lee Brice, Lydia Schultz

Who are some affiliates that you’ve gotten to work with that you’re really proud of?

Jimmie Allen is one that I’m so proud of because he’s just worked so hard. He came into my office eight to 10 years ago. He was a little bit more pop-leaning at the time and country wasn’t really going in that direction. He moved out to LA for a little while and when he came back, he knew exactly what he wanted to be and exactly what he wanted to do. He’s also just a good person, so watching him have success makes me so happy.

I’m also very proud of Niko Moon. He’s always been an artist, but he was writing with Zac Brown at the time [that I met him]. I remember him calling me and saying, “I’ve got this record and I really think it’s going to do something. I’m really excited about it.” It had a total different feel with Caribbean and beach vibes. I was driving through Atlanta when he sent it to me, we were on our way to Florida to see Rob’s parents. Then a year later, he gets a record deal and the singles start coming out. Seeing somebody like that who knows their vision and puts the pieces together… I’m so proud of him.

I’m also so proud of Lee Brice and what he’s accomplished. I’m just very blessed that I get to work with the people I work with.

Niko Moon, Shannan Hatch

What goes into your role at SESAC?

A lot! That’s what’s wonderful about it. It’s different every day and moment by moment. It’s very fluid. I love [getting to organize and host] No. 1 parties. I love awards shows. I love getting to celebrate the writers and artists, but that’s not the day-to-day.

Helping songwriters is however it looks for that person. If they’re looking for a publishing deal, I’m picking up the phone and calling publishers or sending music to publishers for them. I don’t schedule co-writes but I’ll make introductions—I call it blind dating.

A lot of it is the administration side: making sure that they’re registered properly, they’re getting their songs in the system properly, they’re getting their MP3s uploaded, the splits are correct, the publisher names are correct, and more. There are a lot of people that think that just magically happens on their behalf, but we are behind the scenes tidying it up. We make sure the songs are encoded properly, that they’re being tracked properly, and the payments are getting to them. The ultimate job is making sure the songwriters and the publishers get paid.

What is something people might not know about you?

I like to bass fish and I’m a winged-huntress, [or a hunter that only hunts winged animals]. [Laughs] My husband is an avid hunter for mostly white-tailed deer. He started a hunting camp up in southern Illinois. A lot of songwriters are involved in it. He’s been able to put the passion of music and the passion of hunting together, and it’s created a little family atmosphere at the lodge. The kids and I will go up there. I love to cook and I like to hear the stories. The guys play music, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Shannan Hatch, ET Brown, Lydia Schultz

Who have been some of your mentors?

Kay Clary was a big mentor when she took me under her wing at Aristo Media. I still admire her. She has such a rich knowledge of the history of music. Kelli Turner, who left SESAC last year, is a good mentor and friend. I miss her not being here. Being at SESAC for so long, I’ve been here through three different owners. Kelli has been the only female. Cathy Grizzell, who runs HR, has been there from the beginning. Those ladies were really good about giving the women at the company strength. They helped everybody really realize their potential.

If someone was describing you, what would you want them to say?

I hope that somebody would say that I am kind, that I’m sincere, and that I would help anybody, because I think of myself that way. Not only on the business side, but on the personal side of helping.

My Music Row Story: Eighteen Company’s Basak Kizilisik

Basak Kizilisik. Photo: David Bradley

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.

Basak Kizilisik is the founder and CEO of Eighteen Company. She has influenced the careers and conceptualized and executed marketing strategies for artists such as George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Old Dominion, Kacey Musgraves, Jon Pardi, Carly Pearce, Martina McBride, Little Big Town and Jake Owen.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I was actually born in Turkey. My family is from there and most of my extended family still lives there. We lived there for about four years before my dad got a job in Canada. He’s a surgeon and had aspirations of practicing medicine in the U.S., which is a very difficult thing to do when you go to med school in a different country. We were in Canada for several years and then we moved to Saudi Arabia. We spent four years in Saudi Arabia and then moved to the States.

We lived in Virginia for a while where my dad took three or four years to redo his exams from the beginning [so he could practice medicine in the U.S.]. We went from Virginia to Memphis, where he worked in a hospital. That was eighth and ninth grade for me. Then we moved from Memphis to Nashville for my second half of high school. I went to Orlando for college and then moved back to Nashville.

Kizilisik with George Strait and members of the UMG Nashville team during preparations for Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour”

When in your upbringing did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in the music business?

I started as pre-med in college. At some point I said, “I’ve got to figure out where my passion is. I don’t want to be in a hospital all day.” So then I went pre-law and thought, “This is not going to fire me up either. There’s no passion here for me.” I sat down and started thinking about what made me truly happy. Music has always been one of those things. I never really found any fire on the performing side, but I loved the effect that music could have on people. After seeing how that happened to me, I realized I wanted to be part of the process of getting music out to fans.

I had lived in Nashville and I had a few connections—really one main connection. That was a friend of mine from high school. His older sister worked for Shaun Silva, who is one of the premier directors in town. I ended up interning and working for her and him right after college. That was a really great foot in the door for me.

What did you do with them?

I basically did anything and everything. I took out the trash, I was up at the front desk, I ran tapes to artists, and I edited Shaun’s treatments. I’ve always loved the English language, and I was good at formatting and editing, so he had me edit the treatments that he would pitch out to labels and to artists. I ended up being a PA on music video shoots. Eli Young Band‘s “When It Rains” was the first music video that I worked on. I got great experience on the creative side, like how to bring a story to life, how to tell a story with a visual medium, and how that can play a major role on the music side of things.

Kizilisik and Matthew Ramsey of Old Dominion in St. Augustine, Florida

What was next for you?

From there I ended up doing a stint on a publishing side with a tiny publishing company. After that I ended up in the digital marketing space at a time where it was super early for Nashville. I worked over at Music City Networks with Lang Scott. While there, I worked with most of the Capitol roster, such as Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, and Lady A. I worked really closely with the Capitol team doing lots of websites, fan engagement, and strategy on how to engage a fan base and how to build a fan base. Through that, I got in really tight with Capitol and the UMG team. When the EMI merger happened, they were hiring. I knew that I wanted to have some experience on the label side, so I applied for that role, got that role, and worked over at UMG Nashville for a couple years.

What was your time at UMG like?

We referred to it as the championship years. We launched Sam Hunt. [I worked with] Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves, Little Big Town… We did George Strait‘s “60 for 60” campaign and Luke Bryan‘s Crash My Party album. It was this really incredible era at that label. I’m so lucky to have been a part of so many incredible things over there.

How did you pivot into management?

I was at UMG for a couple years and then got a call from Clint Higham at Morris Higham management. They were looking for a marketing person, but I wasn’t looking to leave UMG. I was so happy where I was and had so much more to learn. Clint said, “We need what you do. What will it take?” We figured it out and he brought me on not only in a digital role, but in a comprehensive, overall VP of marketing role. That’s what excited me about it. It was, “Take this and run with it. Grow it and build it.” When I started, it was Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, and Martina McBride on the roster. We had just signed this little unknown band named Old Dominion. Over the course of seven years, it ended up turning into a 17 or 18-artist roster and a marketing team of five. It was an incredible ride.

In April of last year, I had brought Alana Springsteen in as a management client for myself. I had gotten to a place where I felt like I had done everything that I had set out to do with Clint and as part of that team. The next logical step for me was management. I stepped down from Morris Higham in April. Alana came with me and we started Eighteen Company.

Kizilisik, Alana Springsteen, Mitchell Tenpenny and crew backstage during Mitchell’s “To Us It Did Tour,” for which Springsteen opened

Tell me about Eighteen Company.

I feel like, in some ways, this has been something that I manifested a long time ago. I walked into the business knowing that I wanted to be a manager. I also knew that I wanted to have a ton of different experience. I wanted to have worked on the publishing side, the creative side, and the label side. I wanted to have all of this different knowledge and wisdom to bring to an artist roster, so that I could be the most valuable manager that I could be for them. That’s exactly what happened. Whether I tell you I planned it or not, I got this incredible set of skills and experiences that I honestly don’t know where I would be without.

At the core of Eighteen Company is the understanding that all creatives are storytellers and that they are, in and of themselves, a story that needs to be told. I believe that a manager’s role is to help artists find the most original way of telling their stories to the world by building a bespoke culture around their music. This starts with the songs, but extends far beyond them [into] songwriting, fan engagement, marketing, social media, touring, branding, creative direction, content, style, press, and narrative. All of these facets of an artist’s career are pivotal to the intentional brick-by-brick development of an artist. Crafting that nuanced approach is what Eighteen is all about.

Kizilisik, Alana Springsteen and Kenny Chesney backstage in Kansas City, Missouri

Who have been some of your mentors over the years?

I’m lucky enough to have learned from some of the best in the business. Having time at UMG with Cindy Mabe and Dawn Gates was a masterclass. Clint Higham is one. The skills and the approach to the business that I learned from him are second to none. To this day, I respect so much the way that he does business with the utmost integrity and moral fortitude. Joe Galante has been a really great resource for me. Even just saying that is a little bit wild, since he’s an icon. He leans in to the people that he believes in and that he sees something in.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

It has to be launching this company. I’m lucky enough to have stood on the shoulders of giants throughout my career. There have been people that I’ve worked with that, at the time, I maybe had no business working with. To have been able to learn from some of the best, to watch some of the best do what they do and then to become better for it and start this company… I’m not necessarily a small guy working her way up the totem pole anymore. I’m shoulder to shoulder with some of these giants now and that’s not lost on me.

Figuring it out from the bottom up and taking a big, giant leap is what I’m most proud of. This is just the beginning in a lot of ways. I’ve been in this town for over a decade, but it feels like the beginning. It feels like a new chapter. I’m super proud of that and the community that I’m a part of.

My Music Row Story: Warner Chappell’s Ben Vaughn

Ben Vaughn

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.

Ben Vaughn is President & CEO of Warner Chappell Music Nashville, where he has spent the last decade overseeing all creative and commercial activities across A&R, administration, business development, finance, and human resources. Vaughn also works with staff songwriters, while actively engaging in songwriter advocacy and rights protection initiatives. The company has been named Country Publisher of the Year at ASCAP eight times, BMI four times and SESAC twice. In 2019, Warner Chappell won the coveted Triple Crown for the first time, sweeping the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC Awards.

Vaughn was the youngest executive to ever head a major publisher in Nashville when he became EVP and GM of EMI Music Publishing. During his career, he has worked with songwriters who have been honored by the CMA, ACM, Grammy and PROs, collectively winning Songwriter of the Year 19 times and Song of the Year 32 times. His industry honors include being named Billboard‘s 2020 Nashville Executive of the Year, multiple times listed in 40 under 40, Country Aircheck‘s Power 31, and receiving Belmont University’s Music Milestone Award.

Vaughn as an intern at Warner Chappell in 1994

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a map dot town in Kentucky called Sullivan. It’s about 500 people. It was an awesome place to grow up. My father was a coal miner and a mechanic. My family is very blue collar.

How did you get into music?

When I was 16, I wanted to get a job. I liked country music, so I just went to the local radio station. They played country music, ran all of the high school football and basketball games, and played the St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball games. It was called WMSK.

That’s where I got my love and deep knowledge of country music. That place was like a library. At the time, CDs would come in every couple of weeks from Nashville on a service called CDX. I would just devour that. I would look at who wrote the songs, who published the songs, the record label names, the producers… I was fascinated by all of it.

How did you end up moving to Nashville?

I was a good student in high school. I was at the top of my class, the newspaper editor and the school bank president. Most of my friends knew where they wanted to go to college and what they wanted to do, but I didn’t. One night when I was working at the radio station, I was driving home really late because of a late St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. I remember this stretch of road in the back woods in Kentucky. I’m driving and have the windows down, blasting ’90s country music. All of a sudden I just thought, “I want to do this. I love country music and I want to do something around country music.” It wasn’t more evolved than that, but that was my light bulb moment. I found out about Belmont University, which was also a light bulb moment. I was like, “Wow, you can actually go to college to study the music industry?” I had gotten some scholarship offers from some other schools, but I didn’t even visit any other places. I was like, “I want to work in the music business and this is what I need to do. I’m going to go figure it out.” So I moved to Nashville.

I didn’t really know anybody when I moved to Nashville. I was in school for about two weeks and I was told by a professor, Bob Malloy, to look to your left and look to your right. He said, “You will end up working with some of your classmates,” and he was completely right.

Vaughn (far right) attends a No. 1 party for Randy Travis

How did you get your career started while at Belmont?

There was a paper that you had to do at Belmont where you had to interview someone in the music industry. I found out that I had a middle school computer teacher who had moved to Nashville and had gotten a job as a staff songwriter at Warner Chappell. I called her out of the blue and asked her to help me find someone to interview. She said, “Let me bring you to my publisher.” So she walked me around the Warner Chappell building—the same building we just re-opened this year. I remember meeting Josh Leo, who produced Alabama, and Jeff Stevens. I was totally fan-girling. I had an interview with Kurt Denny, who was one of the publishers there. I walked into the tape room and I just asked, “Can I intern here?” They were like, “Sure!” (Laughs) You’re not supposed to intern as a freshman, so I had to get special permission from Bob, but I got an internship within two weeks of being in town.

Did you know from that point on that you wanted to be a publisher?

I just wanted to work in country music. I didn’t know what that would mean at all. I feel like I got really lucky that my first experience was in music publishing, because what I’ve learned about myself is that I’m one of those left brain and right brain people. I equally love the creative part of publishing as I do the administrative and licensing side of it. They both are fascinating to me—the business side and the creative side. Publishing is where you can marry the two together, so it’s always been really suited for my personality type because I can click in either and be really happy.

Vaughn (left) with Arturo Buenahora, after Buenahora lost a bet

What followed your Warner Chappell internship?

I got this opportunity to go to a partner company of Warner Chappell’s called Big Tractor Music. They asked me to come over and intern for them. I was getting ready to start my junior year and they were going to pay me $5.50 an hour. It was a small office of just myself, another person that ran the office, and three writers. The person that was running the company ended up leaving. I had been there about six months and I’d been hustling. I had been pitching songs for the writers, I was driving around trying to find Garth Brooks‘ truck and put cassette tapes on the windshield—I got a cut out of that. (Laughs) I was doing anything possible to try to make something happen for those songwriters. [When the person running the company left], Warner Chappell was trying to figure out who they were going to hire for that position.

The writers were like, “Why don’t you get Ben a shot?” I had just turned 21, which is crazy. Scott Hendricks owned that company at the time and at that point in his career, he was running Capitol Records. He was a really successful producer and was busy, so he called me in his office and basically said, “Listen, the writers really like you. We’ll give you six months to take a shot at this, but if you quit school, I’ll fire you.” I was a junior in college at that moment, and it took me about six and a half years to finish college, but I did it.

Big Tractor was amazing. We became a really successful small publishing company. It afforded me the ability to learn a lot about the nuts and bolts of music publishing, not necessarily just on the creative side, but also on the deal making side, the administration side, and just how it all fits together.

Did you have people doubt you because you were so young?

All the time. I’m 46 now and I’ve had the opportunity to run major publishing companies for almost 14 years, which is crazy. For so long I was always the kid just trying to prove that I could actually be in a room and be heard, compete and contribute. Now it’s flipped where I’m viewed as the mentor, so that’s an interesting feeling.

Age is just a number. It’s really about how much heart and effort you put in it. No matter what it is. I was thrown into the lake and told to swim. I think it’s an awesome way to do it, personally. You can see pretty quickly if someone us going to be able to figure it out or not.

Vaughn (right) and Guy Clark

After your work at Big Tractor, you went to EMI Music Publishing where you eventually became the youngest executive to head a major publishing company in Nashville. Tell me about that transition.

I was at Big Tractor for about six years and we had a lot of success. I try to make a lot of my decisions based on education and what I can learn. I was definitely a self-taught publisher at that point. At the time, EMI was losing a couple of their vice presidents. Gary Overton ran EMI for a number of years very successfully. He was a very smart executive, and knew everything about the publishing business. They approached me about joining the company, so I decided to leave Big Tractor based on what I could learn and the platform of the company.

Gary was a wonderful mentor. He was very open and willing to share his knowledge of the business. For me at the time, it was absolutely perfect. I was there for 10 years and ran the creative department for seven of those years. When I was 34, I got the chance to run the company. I was the youngest person to do that, which is nuts. The executives at EMI gave me a lot of trust and I worked really hard to earn that. It was a great experience to be at that company. We helped a lot of songwriters break through that have gone on to become some of the biggest writers and artists in the format.

Vaughn (right) with Rhett Akins after Akins won his first BMI Songwriter of the Year award

How did you wind up back at Warner Chappell, all those years later?

There was a big acquisition with all of the EMI companies. The record labels when to Universal and the publishing company went to Sony. I learned a lot during that transition. You could argue that was the biggest seismic shift that has ever happened in this town, in terms of affecting the most amount of people. My part of that story was I wasn’t able to stay with the EMI company. It was not a possibility. I had about six months of a sabbatical and was doing lunches, talking to people, and trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I had a few really good opportunities and options, but this Warner Chappell opportunity came up. [Working at Warner Chappell] has really been one of the best things I’ve ever gotten to do in my life. I got to go back to a company where I started as an intern. How cool is that? Some of our administrative folks were there when I was an intern. This year is my tenth year. We’ve grown a lot in 10 years. We’ve been able to be a part of so many people’s stories.

What are some of the best qualities about our industry?

The community, first and foremost. The real celebration of songwriting. That’s so special and it’s, in some ways, very unique to Nashville. I see it getting a little better in some places, but the songwriters here are really celebrated in so many ways and that’s so wonderful.

If someone were to ask you how to be successful in this business, what would you say?

Do well in the little things. Always follow through. I feel like that is a skill that has gotten in short supply in so many ways. Be somebody that does what you say you’re going to do and follow through.

My Music Row Story: The Gospel Music Association’s Jackie Patillo

Jackie Patillo

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.

Industry veteran Jackie Patillo has spent decades of her life working in the music business launching and advancing the careers of various Christian and gospel artists. In 2010, she became President and Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association, merging her gifts to serve and be an advocate for all gospel music makers.

Founded in 1964, the Gospel Music Association (GMA) serves as the face and voice for the gospel/Christian music community and is dedicated to exposing, promoting, and celebrating the Gospel through music of all styles. In addition to ongoing education, advocacy and networking efforts, the GMA also produces a variety of programs designed to expose music to new audiences through TV and online broadcast specials like the annual GMA Dove Awards and Because He Lives: An Easter Celebration.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mill Valley, California. It’s a little town right outside of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate bridge.

Were you musical at all growing up?

No. I mean, I took piano lessons. My parents, God bless them, spent a lot of money and effort sending me to piano lessons. But all that classical training that teachers started us off with was not really interesting to me. And there’s something about having natural talent with an instrument that is really important. (Laughs) So as much as I love music and always have, I don’t play an instrument.

Pictured (L-R): Jeff Moseley; Jackie Patillo; Dan Dean, Randy Phillips and Shawn Craig of the group Phillips Craig and Dean in 1995.

How did you get into the music industry?

I married an artist. I married an artist who was evolving from his rock career into his Christian music career. It was our family business. We traveled the world and spent 180 dates a year doing concerts. I did everything from production, to merch, to whatever was necessary. I learned that if I could pack up our stuff at the end of the night, I could get home quicker. (Laughs) It started really small and then it just grew into a large music ministry.

How did you get to Nashville?

When I was faced with divorce. I had two young children and was asking God what was I going to do to feed them, since they still wanted to eat three times a day. (Laughs) They had every expectation that that wasn’t going to change. I really heard that still small voice that people talk about saying, “Go to Nashville. I’m going to continue to use you in Christian and gospel music.” I put out a couple of fleeces to make sure it wasn’t just the pizza I’d eaten the night before and really felt a strong conviction that that was the direction that I should move in. So in ’89, I came to Nashville.

I was knocking on doors. I was looking for work. I was trying to figure out who I was as this newly single woman in the south—in a town that was foreign to me. It just so happened that a man named Stan Moser, who had been the head of Word Records for many, many years, had moved to Nashville from Texas to help develop a little label called Star Song. I called Stan—he was familiar with my story and he knew what I was capable of because my ex-husband had been signed to the Word label. He saw me looking for work and he just told me, “Jackie, you’re an A&R person. We don’t have that job for you yet, but if you’ll come here and just do anything, I’ll get you there.” And sure enough, he did. I started as the receptionist at Star Song and eight years later when they sold the label, I was Vice President of A&R. I had quite a journey there.

What were some of your biggest victories at Star Song?

One of the thrills there at Star Song was when we signed a group called Phillips, Craig and Dean. They were the most unlikely threesome in that they each lived in a different state, but they were great songwriters and had wonderful harmonies. We signed Phillips, Craig and Dean and they turned out to be the fastest selling debut artist in the history of the label.

I was able to explore all kinds of music there because the leadership at Star Song was very innovative. I A&R-ed rap records, comedy records, and Christian pop records. We branched out into distributing gospel music. That was the birthing in me of, “I want to also do gospel.”

Pictured (L-R): Danny Gokey, Natalie Grant, Jackie Patillo

What was next for you?

I went from Star Song to the Benson Label. Jeff Moseley, who had been a VP at Star Song, moved to the Benson Label and brought me over there as part of his A&R team. There, we got to sign Natalie Grant. I signed her and did her first record. I’m very proud of Natalie and her successes. I also worked with Russ Taff there, who is a real icon within our industry.

I went from the Benson Label to Integrity, which was in Mobile, Alabama. It was the largest praise and worship label in the world. I was the general manager of what we called Integrity Gospel. It was there that I really got to fulfill some of my desires to work hands on with gospel artists. I worked with Israel Houghton, Joe Pace and Lisa McClendon. We also marketed and distributed the Sony gospel artists to the CCM stores, so I got to market Mary Mary and several of their gospel artists. It was quite an adventure, but I wasn’t really loving living in Mobile, Alabama. Because God is so creative, he moved me to New York where I became Vice President of A&R and Artist Development at Verity Records, which is the largest gospel label. I had the honor of working with artists like Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin.

[Verity] asked if I wanted to go back to Nashville and work out of the Provident office, which was music to my years because my sons were here in Nashville. It was really a great homecoming for me. I was “right-sized,” as they say, from that label and a year later took the job as the Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association.

Pictured: Jackie Patillo on stage at the Dove Awards

When you got to GMA, what were your goals for the organization?

In 2011, when I came to GMA, it was a very challenging time in the music industry because of the expansion of the internet and the change of how music was being sold. They say when the mainstream gets a cold, us niches, we get pneumonia. So it was a very, very low time at GMA. We also had some internal, infrastructure issues, so the task at hand was to really discover what the underlining problems were and to restructure the organization. I discovered that, as a trade organization, it was essential for us to relay the foundation of the GMA as a service organization. We needed to make some new friends, and find people and organizations that were like-minded and had an affinity for the effectiveness of gospel music. It was Lipscomb University that was one of those first new friends that we made, as well as Lifeway. To this day, we’re still doing the Dove Awards 10 years later at the Allen Arena at Lipscomb.

I think what was required and what was really essential was for us to unify our industry. Gospel music is not a genre like others. We are known for our message and we serve all styles of music. We’re not known by our style, we’re known by our message. So to be the hub and the center of the wheel here at the Gospel Music Association, we have to represent multi-cultural and multi-generational artists who are all serving and offering their talents for kingdom purposes.

I love that you made that distinction: gospel music is about a message, not a genre. That is really evident at the Dove Awards, which showcases everything from traditional Southern gospel to pop and hip-hop.

The GMA represents a multi-cultural and multi-generation community which is reflected in the diversity of our programs and events. It is beautiful to experience amazing performances at the Dove Awards as artists from all genres of music come together on one stage! It is truly the biggest night in Gospel Music.

The GMA is also going to be moving to Music Row soon, correct?

Yes! The Gospel Music Association is putting our stake in the ground on Music Row, working alongside the Curb Foundation for this location. We’re excited about having a home for not only our Hall of Fame and Museum, but a tourist destination that will celebrate the history and the future of gospel music.

Pictured: Jackie Patillo with TobyMac

What is something people might not know about you?

I’m very proud that I have two sons. One of my sons, Gabriel Patillo, is in the TobyMac band and they just celebrated 20 years together. My youngest son, Marcel, is a videographer. He’s working right now with Church in The City. They’re creative guys, so it’s fun to see them walking in their calling.

What has been one of your proudest moments?

When I was inducted into the Stellar Honors Hall of Fame. That was pretty cool.

Last year was my 10th year at the GMA. At the Dove Awards, the board gave me the Dove Awards Leadership Award… And they named it after me. So now, the Dove Leadership Award will be given, from here on out, in my name. I was stunned. The first thing I could think of when it was happening was, where are my sons? Knowing all the hard work and knowing the challenges of being a single mom… It was really a very amazing moment.

I am also so proud of the Gospel Music Association team. We are a small team, but we are a team that is passionate and dedicated to the mission, so we have seen lots and lots of great things unfold before us as a result.

If you could change anything about your path to where you are now, would you change anything?

I wouldn’t change anything about the path. I wish that maybe I would have enjoyed more of it rather than always felt like I was on a hot tin roof. (Laughs) When I look back, I’m grateful for the path. The path has been very fulfilling and it’s been full of great moments, but when you’re always looking to the next mountain, sometimes you miss out on the victories that you’re conquering at that moment.

My Music Row Story: Sony Music Nashville’s Allen Brown

Allen Brown. Photo: Alan Poizner

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.

With 43 years in the music industry, Allen Brown has worked with a multitude of country stars, including 18 Country Music Hall of Famers. At the end of June, Brown will retire from his position as Senior Vice President, Media and Corporate Communications at Sony Music Nashville, where he oversees the media department and handles PR for the the label group, which includes RCA Nashville, Columbia Nashville and Arista Nashville.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I’m from Emmett, Idaho, which is about 25 miles from Boise. My mom and dad were both born in Idaho, so I’m a second generation Idahoan. My grandfather, who I’m named after, had a fruit ranch that was on the hillside around the valley. My home town is a valley, which is very picturesque.

Pictured: An outtake for Brown’s 1987 CBS Records headshot.

How did you get interested in music?

My two sisters and I took piano lessons [when we were kids]. I started out in second grade and took lessons until my freshman year of high school. In junior high, I was in orchestra. I played violin and my orchestra teacher was my piano teacher, too. So I had an appreciation for musical instruments that I played, and I enjoyed dabbling in songwriting.

My dad—Floyd Brown, who passed away in 2015—had the lifelong dream of having a radio station. Early in life, he started a repair and retail store called Brown’s Radio Shack, believe it or not. It became Brown’s Radio and TV Shack. While he still had that little mom and pop business, he started a radio station when I was a freshman in high school. My mom and dad worked there, I worked there, my cousin and also my brother-in-law. I was an on-air announcer, though not a very good one. (Laughs) I worked at the station through all of my high school years. There was a point where I actually would wake up very early in the morning, go and sign on the station at 6:00 a.m., and then go back home, take a shower, eat breakfast, and go to high school.

Did you know that you wanted to work in the music business then?

I had decided to go to Boise State for college. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to major in, that was a bit of a challenge. I ended up declaring political science for some reason, but after my first poli-sci class, I figured out that’s not what I wanted to do. (Laughs) I changed my major to marketing.

Pictured: Brown escorting then Arista Nashville superstar Carrie Underwood on the evening she was honored with the Nashville Symphony’s Harmony Award

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was trying to figure out ultimately what I would like to be when I grow up. [Like I said], I had dabbled with songwriting and really enjoyed it. I had stopped taking piano lessons back in high school, but I would still play around with it. I would write songs just for myself. While at Boise State, I had entered an American Songwriter competition. I didn’t win, but I received a booklet that listed a lot of reputable music publishers. As I was figuring out my next steps in college, I looked through that booklet and highlighted 100 key publishers, or the ones I was familiar with. I sent a form letter to them saying, “I’m majoring in marketing, but I’m thinking about transferring and would be interested in getting feedback from you on what type of courses to take that would prepare me for a music publishing profession.” I ended up getting 10 letters back, which wasn’t bad. In two of those, the first thing they mentioned was, “You need to look into Belmont.” I never knew there was a program that existed for music business.

You ended up transferring to Belmont. How did you start your career from there?

While I was at Belmont, I worked part-time as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Kathy Mattea was also a tour guide at the time, before she had her label deal. My second day at Belmont, I met who would become the chairman and CEO of the company I’m leaving, Randy Goodman. I also met Doug Howard, now Belmont’s Dean of the Curb College of Entertainment and Music. All three of us had a class together and we would hang out sometimes afterwards. My senior year at Belmont, I was working part-time at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and interning for CBS Records (which eventually became Sony Music Nashville).

Pictured: Brown’s cousin John Blosser, Brad Paisley, and Brown backstage at a Paisley concert in Phoenix in July 2008

Take me through your career path from your internship at CBS Records.

After I graduated from Belmont in May of 1980, I took a part-time mailroom position at CBS Records Nashville, and a few months later was promoted to Publicity Coordinator. I ended up transferring to another division of CBS called Priority Records, followed by a few years at The Benson Company. I returned to CBS Records from 1987 through 1990, then started a management company; I managed The Tractors and Stacy Dean Campbell. I came back to the label publicity world when I came to Arista Nashville. Arista merged with RCA Label Group, which later became Sony BMG, which became Sony Music Nashville. (Laughs)

So I made it through several mergers. The last part of my tenure with Sony Music Nashville, which started with Arista, totals 23 years officially. But I also consulted with Arista for two years prior to becoming an employee, so that’s almost 25 years.

Who all have you worked with throughout your career?

When I first interned, I worked such as artists as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Skaggs, Lynn Anderson, Lacy J. Dalton, Johnny Rodriguez, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers Band, and Crystal Gayle.

Later, when I came back to CBS Records, we launched Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ricky Van Shelton, Shenandoah, Joe Diffie and Doug Stone. During the most recent part of my Sony Music Nashville tenure—the last 23 years—I’ve worked with Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Diamond Rio, Brad Paisley, Alabama, Sara Evans, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney, Kane Brown, Maren Morris, Luke Combs, Old Dominion, Miranda Lambert, Mitchell Tenpenny and many more.

Pictured: Brown with Liz Cost, Fount Lynch and Jennifer Way in August 2017 during the Solar Eclipse

You recently announced that you will be retiring at the end of June. When you look back on your career, what are some moments that you’re most proud of?

What comes to mind immediately is how proud I am of the relationships that I’ve had—not just with artists—but with the people I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with along the way–ones who have mentored and challenged me, the people I have mentored, and the people who have supported me. Hopefully I’ve been a positive influence on them as they obviously have been on me. This is such a great business!

There have been some exciting times for Sony Music Nashville. It’s always great when you get to be a Label Of The Year, and we are so honored to have the reigning ACM and CMA Entertainers Of The Year this last year with Miranda and Luke. Those moments are very special, but also some of the most special times have been knowing you’re at the beginning of something. When things start happening for artists… it’s just such a wonderful feeling when an artist has their “first”—whether it’s their first No. 1, Gold or Platinum certification, award nomination or trophy, cover feature or national TV appearance.

Pictured: Emmie Reitzug (Manager, Media, SMN), Arista Nashville artist Nate Smith and Brown in mid-May celebrating Nate’s “Whiskey On You” debut of over 7.5 million streams globally

How do you want to be remembered as you leave us?

Obviously during COVID, I’ve had a lot of time to think. I spent some time thinking about when the right time to do this would be. Over the years, I hope that most people would think that I was helpful, supportive, that I was a good listener, that I treated them honestly, and that I gave them the attention that was needed. That I responded appropriately and that I didn’t drag my feet. I also hope that there are people out there that would still like to go have lunch or grab a coffee in the future.

When I decided to retire and Randy Goodman asked when I would like to tell the team here, I had the opportunity to do it in the rotunda at the Country Music Hall of Fame [during a company-wide] dinner. For me, after being a tour guide my senior year of Belmont, that seemed very appropriate. I was able to look around the room and see [some artists that I’ve worked with] who have become Hall of Fame members. That was very special. But the team members in that room were the ones I was most proud of. There were a lot of people in the rotunda who I’ve worked with for years—some over 20 years. It’s such a wonderful feeling–that I honestly do feel like these are friends. Friendships mean so much to me. That’s what I’ll think about the rest of my life.

My Music Row Story: Truth Management’s Missi Gallimore

Missi Gallimore

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.

Nashville music executive Missi Gallimore is a triple threat in the country music scene. Over the past 20 years, she has built a reputation as a highly-respected publisher and A&R executive responsible for pairing Tim McGraw with over 29 No. 1 hits, including “I Like It, I Love It” and “Live Like You Were Dying.” She was behind Faith Hill recording “This Kiss” and “Breathe,” and she introduced Keith Urban to the 5x Platinum-selling “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”

Now, her newly-launched Truth Management is shepherding the careers of hot newcomers Sam Williams, grandson of Hank Williams Sr. and son of Hank Jr., in addition to Shy Carter, noted singer-songwriter Abbey Cone, and sibling trio Track45. Gallimore is the sole owner of two publishing companies, Amped Entertainment and Truth or Dare, both of which are joint ventures with Kobalt Music Publishing and Warner Chappell, respectively.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I actually grew up in Nashville. I moved here when I was 10 years old, so Nashville is home for me.

Charley Pride, Missi Gallimore

Did you always want to work in the music business? How did you get into it?

Heavens no. When I started the business, I knew nothing about country music. Never even listened to country music. I had just graduated college at MTSU and was looking for a job, still living with my parents. I had applied for a receptionist position at a law firm. I didn’t get the job, but they liked me enough to pass on my resume to a record producer in town at the time by the name of Billy Sherrill. I had no idea who Billy Sherrill was, but I got a call from his assistant one day and they wanted me to come interview with him.

I go to the interview around six o’clock at night on 16th Avenue in an old house. I walk in and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?” I walk up the steps of this old house where Billy’s studio was and he offers me champagne. He plays me a song that he had just cut—I think it might have been David Allan Coe—and he’s like, “What do you think about this song?” I say, “Well, I don’t really like it. I’ve never really listened to country music, so I can’t relate to it.” He was like, “You’re hired!” (Laughs) I guess he liked that I was honest and truthful.

I [ended up being] his face at CBS Records at the time, because he never came in but he wanted somebody there to take calls and represent Billy at the label. So I was at the label representing him for a couple of years, and then he left CBS and went and did his own thing. Then he retired and completely quit doing records. I learned so much from Billy.

What was next for you?

I left there and started working for Charley Pride, just as a catchall for anything at his publishing company. I started out doing administrative type stuff and then worked my way up to pitching songs. That’s where I met my husband, Byron Gallimore, who was producing but didn’t have any big acts at the time. He started producing Tim McGraw and then he got very, very busy. One day Byron was like, “I’m too busy to go look for songs. Can you start looking for songs for Tim?” That was my intro into the A&R world.

Missi Gallimore (second from right) backstage at the CMA Awards

You found some really big songs for Tim McGraw, as well as other artists. Tell me about finding some of those songs.

For “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim was pretty much done with his album. I can remember exactly where I was when I got the call from Chris Oglesby from BMG. He said, “Hey, I just heard this song at the studio. Craig Wiseman is at the studio now they just recorded it. You really need to get over here and listen to this song. It’s a great song.” I was getting on the interstate at Demonbreun, and Craig Wiseman was recording at County Q—a studio in Berry Hill. I turned my car around and got my booty over to County Q. I walked in, heard the song, and put it on hold for Tim immediately. Back in the day, it was very competitive for whoever got the first hold on the song. It was always a battle. I left the studio with the song, sent the song to Tim, he called me immediately and said “I’m cutting this.” We go in, we cut it, and there it is… A big, huge song.

I’ve worked with Keith Urban on his last three or four albums. I came in late in the process [when he was working on his Ripcord album]. He had pretty much already finished the album. He brought me on and I’m thinking, “Oh goodness, how am I going to find songs for him now? He’s pretty much done.” It was a snow day and Nate Lowery from Brett James‘ company, Cornman Music, pitched me a link. “Blue Ain’t Your Color” was on the link. I remember sitting at my computer on this snow day, kids running around everywhere, listening to the link of songs and that one just stuck out. I put it on hold, pitched to Keith and it did what it did.

Byron Gallimore, Missi Gallimore, Keith Urban

What got you into management?

I’ve been doing A&R for so long. It’s still a passion for me—I still get excited when I hear a great song. I still wanted to do that, but I just felt like I needed to do something different. I has been working with Shy Carter for a long time. Shy had been coming to town and pitching me songs. I knew he was an artist and I knew he was somebody that I really, really believed in as an artist. I loved his songs, I had gotten so many of his songs cut. So I went to Shy one day and said, “Hey, you need to move to Nashville. You need to plant roots here. You’re having all your success in the country market as a songwriter. You’re an artist. Let’s focus on you writing for you as an artist. Let me manage you.” That’s how all that started

Now I have four acts that all got record deals at the same time, during COVID. Sam Williams came to me four years ago. He was writing poems but he wanted to be a songwriter. There was something in those poems that was so raw and so real, and I loved his voice. There’s something that I really love about taking an artist like Sam, Shy, Track45 or Abbey Cone and developing them and seeing it through all the way to them getting a record deal.

You also operate two publishing companies.

I have Truth or Dare Publishing, which is co-venture with Warner Chappell. Sam Williams signed to that, as well as Ben Roberts of Carolina Story and Mary Gauthier. I have another company called Amped Entertainment with writers Tommy Cecil and KK Johnson, the lead singer of Track45.

Who have been some of your mentors?

Charley Pride. I will get teary-eyed talking about him. He and Rozene were the most humble and encouraging people. They let you be you as far as work and freedom. They taught me the publishing ropes; they were very influential in my coming up in the music industry. They were just amazing people.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Stay passionate with what you do. Never lose that spark. Never lose that passion. It’s hard to sometimes because you work in the industry for so long that you get jaded, but never lose your passion.

My Music Row Story: Spotify’s Brittany Schaffer

Brittany Schaffer

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 Head of Artist and Label Partnerships in Spotify’s Nashville office, Brittany Schaffer co-leads the office and the development and execution of Spotify’s strategy for growing the country, Christian/gospel, and Americana genres. She and her team oversee the relationships with Nashville’s music industry and look for ways to partner with artists, labels, and managers of all genres to promote their music and connect with their fans. Prior to joining Spotify in January 2018, Brittany spent 7+ years in the Entertainment Department of Loeb & Loeb, LLP, where she was Senior Counsel. She is a member of the Board of Directors for both ACM and CRB.

MusicRow: Where did you grow up?

I moved nine times before high school. I was born in Orange County, California, and lived in California, Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. I call Nashville or the Middle Tennessee area home because I lived here when I was younger for several years and then this is where we moved when I was starting high school. I went to Battle Ground Academy in Franklin for high school and went to college at Vanderbilt, so, Nashville’s been home for a long time.

Were you musical growing up?

I always knew I wanted to work in the music business. I was singing and performing in musicals at six years old. I was even one of the little kids in the General Jackson Christmas show for a couple years. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be an artist, but when I was at Vanderbilt, I had the privilege of interning in the promotions department at Sony Nashville on the Arista imprint, and then at ASCAP. Both of those experiences for me confirmed that I definitely wanted to work in the music business, but that an artist path wasn’t for me.

Brittany Schaffer and Leighanna Smith as interns at CMA Fest 2006 with Rhett Akins

How did you start your career in the business?

During that same time, I had also been considering going to law school. I met a few music lawyers and decided that being a music lawyer would be my entry point into music. I attended Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law for law school. After my ASCAP internship, Connie Bradley was very kind and had given me a list of lawyers that she really respected in town. I sent very formal, written cover letters and emails to all of them. I think I sent 10 out and only one person responded, but I only needed one. (Laughs) It was Bob Sullivan who was running the Loeb & Loeb Nashville office at the time. He told me to come visit him over Christmas. I had no grades back—I really only had a good track record at Vanderbilt and a recommendation from Connie. He said, “Why don’t you come work for us this summer?” So I did, and that turned into two summers.

I had done really well in law school and that made it easier for him to convince some of the other partners, so I received an offer my last year of law school to join them when I graduated. During my last year of law school, I was already attending conferences with the lawyers at the firm and I thought I was coming into a dream job with a perfect cushion to learn. And then about a month before I started work and a few weeks before I took the bar exam, Bob Sullivan was diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately passed away a year later. So I came into the firm at a really challenging time.

To say that I had bath by fire my first year of work is an understatement. There was so much work that others had to take on to fill his shoes that I had no choice but to step up, to ask questions, to learn quickly, to work insanely long hours, and to learn how to manage a lot of different types of people from a lot of different parts of the music business. I was negotiating contracts and sitting in federal copyright jury trials almost immediately. It was really hard for a lot of reasons, but when I look back on it, I’m really grateful. I learned that I was capable of so much more than I thought that I was and it gave me a lot of confidence going forward. It has stuck with me to this day that even when you get in those somewhat overwhelming situations, you’re always capable of more than you think you are.

Loeb & Loeb team at the BMI Awards

After seven years as an entertainment attorney, you made a change in careers. Tell me about that.

I really enjoyed the work that I was doing. I loved my clients, I loved the people that I worked with and I definitely had a growing career in the legal field, but I kept feeling this pull that I wanted to be closer to the music business and to really explore the other parts of the industry. I always give the example that my colleagues and I represented the contestants on The Voice and negotiated numerous contracts for them, but no matter how talented we thought someone was, there was only so much we could do to expose that music and those artists as their lawyer. I felt like if I was going to truly help people navigate their way through the music business, that I was going to have to spread my own wings a little bit.

Out of the blue one day, I got an email from an internal recruiter at Spotify asking if I would talk to them. At the time I had no intent on taking the job, but I was going to be in LA the next week and I thought it would probably be smart to know the global head of label services at Spotify. I offered to stop by the office and Spotify ultimately did a really good job of convincing me that Nashville was really important to them and that they wanted to increase their support in this market. Three weeks later I accepted a job. (Laughs) One month later I left the practice of law entirely and started in my current role and I’ve never looked back.

Can you tell me more about what you do at Spotify as the Head of Artist and Label Marketing in the Nashville office?

No day is the same, but I would sum it up by saying that my team and I are responsible for overseeing our partnerships in Nashville. So that’s working with artists, labels and managers; looking out for our relationships with CMA, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the ACM, and all of our different organizations; and looking for how we can continue to partner together. That takes the shape of tracking new releases, so we keep track of all of the new music coming out of Nashville week over week for all genres. Anything that is signed to a label in Nashville or that is originating in Nashville, particularly when it’s independent and unsigned, is what we look over regardless of genre. We try to find different ways of supporting those artists and those releases. That may be everything from how we support on platform through promotional tools, that may be using a billboard, or that may be creating social content or video content. It really just depends on the artist and how we want to engage.

We’re also looking for how we can otherwise engage the fans around the music that’s coming out of Nashville. One of the things that we are responsible for is putting on the Spotify House event at CMA Fest.

Spotify House at CMA Fest 2019 with Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus

CMA Fest starts this week. What can you tell me about the Spotify House event?

Spotify House at Ole Red is one of Spotify’s largest artist fan events. It was the brain child of myself and Sally Williams back in 2018 when Ole Red was still under construction. There is no better place where country fans and artists come together than CMA Fest, and Spotify really prides itself on being the leading destination for fans to discover and explore country music and how we likewise create that artist and fan connection. So it felt like the perfect opportunity to really bring our goals to life in a live setting.

We, in the past years, have programmed over 50 artists. We’re excited to bring that back this year. You’ll continue to see a really diverse mix of established and emerging artists—everything from artists who have been discovered and highlighted through our Fresh Finds program all the way to some of the biggest names in country music today. I have to give a lot of credit to the entire team who has been really working to bring this to life since I had a baby in the middle of all the planning. (Laughs) Alison Junker, Mary Catherine Kinney, Dan Franquemont and Miller Guth are the core Nashville team planning the event this year!

When you look back on your career, what are you most proud of?

Personally, I am most proud of my willingness to jump from a successful legal career that had a very defined career path to a career at Spotify where the path is a little more unknown. Professionally I’m really proud of helping lead the conversation around the importance of streaming and the place that it has in our current consumption habits. When I started at Spotify, audiences were still adopting streaming as a format, particularly in country and Christian music. Today our country and our Christian/gospel consumers have largely adopted streaming and our industry has really embraced strategies and tactics to engage fans through streaming. That’s not to say that radio, sales, touring, merch, and other areas of the industry aren’t incredibly important, but it is to say that streaming is no longer a format of the future. Consumption patterns are changing and we have to change with our audience if we want to continue to reach audiences in a bigger way. I’m really proud that Spotify’s been able to be a leader in those efforts and that I’ve been able to be a leader in Nashville in having those conversations.

Spotify team with Reba at the announcement of her Spotify Podcast in Nashville 2019

Who have been some of your mentors?

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of mentors and I could probably name three that touch on key areas [of my career]. Early in my career, Connie Bradley was certainly one of those. She helped me get internships in Nashville, she helped introduce me to music lawyers when I was trying to decide if I wanted to go to law school, and she helped connect me with people when I was trying to get my first job. I always really looked up to her and the respect that she had within the Nashville community.

Today, John T. Frankenheimer, my old boss from Loeb & Loeb, is still someone that I call for advice. I really look up to and admire how he’s built his career. And then as I’ve become a mom over the last two years, Cindy Mabe is someone I go to for advice. I really admire how she has become such a successful executive while also raising her kids and having a successful marriage. At this phase in my life, it is really important to have other women that I can look to as examples. I hope I can do that for other people, too.

What moment have you had that your little kid self would think is so cool?

I love Dolly Parton. We have had the good fortune at Spotify of working with her on a few occasions. I recall one time sitting with her in a studio with some other individuals, listening to music while she was talking us through it. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my goodness, I’m really doing this.” (Laughs) I always say I had never been starstruck until I interned at Sony and she came into the office one day. Everyone made fun of me because my mouth dropped wide open as she walked by. To fast forward all these years later, and to actually be there, getting to engage with her to support her and her music in a number of ways… As a little girl, I would’ve never believed that I would be there. There’s a lot of those moments. I think when you stop having those moments in the music business is maybe when you should get out of the music business. Those are the moments that remind us all why we do this and why we’re so fortunate to be in an industry that brings so much joy to people.