#CMchat Exclusive Interview: Melanie Meriney

Singer/songwriter Melanie Meriney released her sophomore EP Up In Lights this past spring. The recent Belmont University graduate has worked hard on developing her unique sound.

Up In Lights,” says EP “alludes to the journey of self-discovery” – how has your songwriting evolved now that you’re living in Nashville?

Before I moved to Nashville, I wrote on my own.  It wasn’t until moving that I began to try co-writing and really hone my songwriting.  I think a lot of songwriting is about honesty and trying to say something in a way that is simple without being obvious.  You want your listeners to connect to a common idea while also going ‘that’s exactly how I feel, but nobody has ever said it that way before.’  I listen to a lot of writer’s rounds and SoundCloud demos to draw inspiration and get a feel for some of the methods the really successful writers are using.  As far as the self-discovery goes, my songwriting got better when I realized who I was in relation to this town.  It’s easy when moving to a city where you don’t know anyone to have the chance to “makeover” your identity a little bit.  For a while, I was trying to fit in and play a part that wasn’t exactly me or my style because I thought it was how I could find success.  I learned, and it comes out in my songs, that embracing my roots as well as who I have become is the best way to stand out and leave a mark.

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native grew up playing ice hockey, reading, and writing songs. She was excited when the Nashville Predators faced off against her hometown hockey team.

Was it difficult choosing a side to root for in the Stanley Cup Championship – being from Pittsburgh but now in Nashville?

Ahh- Nashville don’t hate me!  I’m a Penguins fan all the way through.  If you grow up in a city like Pittsburgh, you know it’s almost a culture instead of a sport.  That being said, I was rooting for Nashville to win the Western Conference and get to play the most epic Stanley Cup round.  I can’t complain when both “my cities” get to face-off and be the top of the league.  Nashville showed up for sure and I hope this makes Music City more of a hockey town!

 Meriney was a songwriting/English major at college in Nashville.

Any good books you’ve read lately? Do you see yourself writing short stories or a novel to go with a song you’ve written?

I love reading!!  I hardly have time for it, unfortunately, so I get most of it done on planes.  The last book I read was “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr.  It’s a historical fiction based around WWII. 

I used to “write books” when I was younger but I haven’t tried in a long time.  I do think eventually that would be an awesome idea—really diving into a song and making it a more complete story!

Her music tastes reflect a combination of the music she listened to growing up. Mom being a country music fan – Shania Twain, Phil Vassar, Taylor Swift, Fleetwood Mac, and Miranda Lambert – while dad preferred rock music. Pittsburgh has a strong metal/rock/pop scene, which is reflected in Meriney’s urban, pop-rock sound.

I read your dad instilled a love of rock music. Which artists did he listen to? If you were set to perform on an episode of CMT Crossroads – which rock artist would you want to be paired with?

He listened to everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Def Leppard to Van Halen.  I think it would be awesome to do a set with Stevie Nicks!  She’s got such a badass unique voice and I grew up listening to her songs. 

The best songs, the ones fans find most relatable, many times come from events in the songwriter’s own life or one’s family and friends have experienced. “Lifeboat” is one of those songs. 

You write about personal experiences – how difficult is it to perform those songs in concerts?

I think the key is walking the border between an experience being too fresh and it fading in your memory.  You want to have all the emotional portrayal without the emotional breakdown haha.  Generally it’s not an issue unless someone directly involved is in the audience.  I once changed up my setlist mid-show because an ex’s mom showed up and the lyric would’ve given it away.  The hardest songs for me to sing are the ones I write about a loss or tragedy.  A dear friend of mine lost his child so getting through that song was intense.

How does the 23-year-old feel about having another singer perform her lyrics on stage?

You signed with Dune Grass Music as a songwriter. Have you had any songs recorded by other artists?

I’ve had a couple independent cuts but I’m still waiting for my first major one!  I’ve come close a couple of times with songs on hold, but I’m crossing my fingers that 2017 is my year!  Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood… if you’re reading, I’m your girl!

Meriney has a reality show on her resume. 

How did you come about entering Nashville’s Emerging Star competition? How has that experience shaped you as an artist? Opening for Little Big Town had to be fun! Would you consider trying out for The Voice or American Idol?

It’s funny because I entered the Emerging Star competition on a whim with an old youtube video because it showed up on my Facebook feed.  I then forgot about it until about a month later when they emailed me saying that I was a top 3 finalist!  The finals were in Nashville during an ice storm so we pretty much skated to the venue.  They said we’d be opening for a “surprise guest” but didn’t tell us who until right before we went on.  I got to talk with Little Big Town backstage a little bit (fan girl moment) and Kimberly said she loved my earrings, so I’m calling it a win. That show was great because I was able to meet one of the people I’ve been working closely with business-side since. 

I would give The Voice a go if I had an audition come my way.  I tried out for American Idol a long time ago but didn’t get in— the producer had me do two songs and said I wasn’t what they were looking for this season, but I should keep pursuing music.  I think I had to try once. 

She also has been nominated for a music award and walked the red carpet.

Being nominated for the Nashville Independent Music Award (NIMA) for Best Female Country Artist after funding your debut EP with a Kickstarter project – had to be very rewarding to receive this recognition early in your career. 

It was!  I’m not even quite sure how they found me among the crazy talent in this town, but we went to the awards show and it was such a cool experience—definitely my first red carpet.  I’m still perfecting the picture pose. 

 The product of Meriney’s Kickstarter project was her debut “All The Good Songs.” The EP was produced by Grammy-award winning producer Mike Puwal and Phil Ricciardi. She co-wrote the title track and lead single with her best friend and roommate Stephanie Carvalho.

I heard your music for the first time on a Crossroads Country podcast recently – so glad I did! Please feel free to add anything else! Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! 

I’m so glad you did too!  I guess I’ll add that my website and to follow me on social media!  My new EP Up In Lights is on Spotify, Apple Music, and my newest single “Lifeboat” is on a radio station near you, so be sure to request it!  Thanks so much!!

Author: Donna Block

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