FDRMX went Country last week when we spoke with golden-haired Nashville artist Melanie Meriney about the wide, wondrous world of her Southern music. Having been raised in Pittsburgh and being based in Nashville offers Meriney a unique perspective into the gap between Northern and Southern Music. Below she comments on bridging that gap, the biggest changes she’s seen to Country in the last few years, and where to find some killer barbecue in Nashville.
FDRMX: You’re a blonde headed country singer and in quite a bit of good company. How do you set yourself apart from the pack?
Melanie Meriney: The challenge is writing something that sets you apart. There’s so much talent here so there will always be someone with a better voice than you. I guess the way I set myself apart is saying something a little bit different or spinning a topic in a completely different way. I try to record songs that are worthy of that level. I’m very self-critical in order for my music to become the product I want. Also, I try to have a slightly different sound than what is out there.
FDRMX: You went to School at Belmont. Specifically, how did that influenced your career?
MM: When I was looking at schools I knew I wanted to go to Nashville. It’s a very music oriented school. My music teachers were active, professional musicians. Also, the internships that come out of Belmont gave me an in with the industry while giving me a chance to explore. It also showed me a community of people that want to do music for a living.
FDRMX: You grew up in Pittsburgh but have spent the last five years in Nashville. Have you picked up a Southern Drawl?
MM: A little bit. I waitress on the side so I’ll often say “y’all” when asking what people want. It was funny because I performed in Pittsburgh last week and three people who I knew before came up to me and said “you definitely have a southern accent when you’re up on stage.” I don’t think I do. I don’t feel it but I know it has grown on me and I’m sure I’ll get flack for it.
FDRMX: Going from Pittsburgh to Nashville is quite the switch to make. What are the biggest differences you’ve experienced?
MM: People down here are very much into their “Southern Hospitality”. If you do something stupid they’ll be all “Bless your little heart.” Another big difference is that we’re in the Bible belt down here so people are very religious. I grew up going to church and Sunday school and thought I was religious. Then I came down and saw people posting bible quotes on Facebook and it was a bit of a culture shock. Really, the area of Nashville has a great variety of urban and rural culture, so that is wonderful.
FDRMX: We’ve seen a huge surge of Country’s popularity in the North. This year, for the first time ever, the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn will host a Country musician (Luke Bryan). Have you noticed any of this?
MM: Yeah. There’s been a huge shift of hip-hop and pop into country. Along with that there’s also something here we call “bro country”. That’s the music that focuses on tailgating, drinking, and the party culture. There are bits of that already in country, but this is a much bigger emphasis. I’m not saying I don’t listen to it. It’s definitely working but it’s different than what country was singing about before. I had a friend who didn’t like country because he thought it was “too sad”. I don’t think all of country is sad, but I understand that may be a stereotype. This movement to pop and hip hop makes it lighter and more likely to be a top 40 dance song.
FDRMX: You performed recently at the Pittsburgh Regatta. How was that like?
MM: It was awesome! I never thought I would ever do something like that. I ended up getting a band together that was already in Pittsburgh. I had to drive for 9 hours right after graduation [from Belmont] to meet them. We played a few times before I went back to Nashville after just two days together. We remained in communication until the concert but it was really an independent set up. They rehearsed in Pittsburgh while I did in Nashville. I was very impressed with how well they were able to pull things together in such a short time period.
7. FDRMX: Congrats on that performance and your completed EP. Can you describe what it was like to have an EP created for you?
MM: It was such a cool feeling. I had each session musician help me. Each one was able to do their contribution in one set. The second one is going to be a bit more mature because I feel I’ve grown a bit.
FDRMX: Can you give us a sneak preview for that next EP?
MM: One of the songs is “If I Know You” . It’s special to me. I co-write maybe 4 or 5 times a week and a lot of it is scheduled. This one was different. I was driving home from work one night and it came to me. By the time I got home I couldn’t stop writing in case I would forget it. Topic wise, the album has a lot more depth because I have more to write about.
FDRMX: What live performances are you most proud of?
MM: The Billy Block Show because he streamed that online. “Girls Like Me” was a lot of fun. We were able to do it live. There was also the Whiskey Jam Show which was a lot of fun and a real honor to play at. We’re looking to set up a few dates soon.
FDRMX: You mentioned in an interview with The Almanac that Nashville has wonderful food but nothing compares to the Pittsburgh Primanti’s Sandwich. Are there any foods that come close or deserve special mention?
MM: Yes! We have really good barbecue. Hog’s Heaven, Jack’s BBQ, Edley’s BBQ. Also Sweet CeCe’s frozen yogurt. Then there’s Pancake Pantry, which is a Nashville staple. There’s always a line that goes way down the street. There are a lot of great food places.
FDRMX: What are your top three musical influences
–Shania Twain definitely. She’s the reason I started singing and songwriting. She is awesome.
–Taylor Swift influenced me because she has a way of saying things very succinctly and perfectly. It’s what everyone’s thinking. I think that’s what makes her so popular. She sings in a way that connects to many people all at once.
–Fleetwood Mac. My father and I listened to many bands together. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac. The writing is amazing and so is the guitar, but it’s very subtle. Not showy but if you listen to it you understand how brilliant it is.
FDRMX: Is there a dream venue for you to perform in?
MM: The Blue Bird Café. I’ve performed there before, but not as an actual show. It’s special because it’s a small café and everyone is there to listen to the music. There’s no talking or texting. Everyone is there for the music. But I just love performing and would love to perform everywhere.
FDRMX: What is the best piece of musical advice you have ever been given?
MM: Never forget the reason you do music in the first place- for the love of it. Developing music does become a full time job, so you can’t forget the feeling you get when you sing or write songs because it’s the reason you are pursuing this lifestyle in the first place. Success stories are so inspiring, yet rare, so sometimes I step back and ask myself if I’d still be happy playing music to an empty room, and if the answer is yes (as it always has been), I continue.
The Encyclopedia of Music sends a very large thank you to the wonderful Melanie Meriney for talking with us. Stay up to date with her crazy journey via her Website, Facebook and YouTube channel. Just be sure to stay out of this singer’s way! She’s got places to be.