Born with songwriting in her blood, Melanie Meriney made the instinctual decision to attend Nashville’s Belmont University. Pursuing a songwriting/English double major, Meriney also arrived ready to chase her dream of making it in Music City, and she is well on her way. By 2011 she released her first EP All the Good Songs, and in 2013 she was nominated for a Nashville Independent Music Award (NIMA) for Best Female Country Artist. Three years later, she signed her first publishing deal and earlier this year, Meriney released her second EP Up In Lights.
We caught up with the “Lifeboat” singer to talk about her inspirations, her songwriting process, and what’s ahead in 2018. Check out our Q&A below:
CN: For our readers who may not be familiar with you – could you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did you realize you wanted to be involved in music?
MM: I’m originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I first got into music because my mom used to play country radio around the house. I heard Shania Twain’s song “Still the One” in 3rd grade and begged my parents to take me to her concert. I thought she had the most incredible job in the world and I wanted to be just like her. I started writing songs and taking voice lessons as well as picked up the guitar. Nashville was always a dream.
CN: Your parents were fans of both country and rock music when you were growing up. Which artists have you looked up to in both genres? Are there any current countryartists that you are inspired by? Rock?
MM: My upbringing was definitely a combination of genres. We listened to a lot of 90s radio country, everybody from Keith Urban, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Phil Vassar, and Miranda Lambert. I fell in love with the stories that country music told. My dad was very much a fan of rock music, so he introduced me to Fleetwood Mac (probably my favorite), Van Halen, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, The Clarks… I love the vibe and the energy that rock music brings to the table. Currently, my roster of artists I look up to and listen to is always growing. I’m a huge fan of Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Kelleigh Bannen, and Brett Eldredge in country. In rock, Grace Potter is so crazy good! I’m always a fan of finding new music- I don’t let genre limit me.
CN: Being a songwriter, do you remember the first song you ever wrote? How old were you?
MM: I was in third grade when I wrote my first “song”. It was called “My Home Is In Your Heart” and it was basically two verses and a chorus. I knew one guitar chord so I just strummed that the whole song haha. Definitely not my finest work, but I was definitely inspired by Shania on that one.
CN: Can you walk us through your songwriting process? Do you pull mostly from personal experiences, experiences of those around you, or elsewhere?
MM: I write by myself as well as cowrite with other artists and writers in Nashville. Sometimes it’s naturally inspired (like when I’m on long road trips by myself), or sometimes I get together with people in a room for 3-4 hours and try and be brilliant. I pull from pretty much everywhere, but all of my songs have a personal sentiment to them, even if the experience is fabricated. I need to believe in the emotion and the idea I am writing. For example, I won’t profess to know what it’s like to go through a divorce (having never been married), but I can relate to the emotion of heartbreak and loss. I pull upon those elements to fill in the blanks. Some of my most personal songs are autobiographical though!
CN: You recently released your sophomore EP Up In Lights. How does this EP differ from your debut release All the Good Songs?
MM: All the Good Songs was my first stab at developing a sound for myself as an artist. I was new to Nashville then and didn’t quite know myself or who I wanted to be yet. It was a launching board for me to get my feet wet and discover the ins and outs of recording a record. Up In Lights (which I’m releasing 5 years later) is a testament to how far I’ve come as a writer, singer, and person. I’ve grown a lot in my ideals and my music. It’s more sophisticated as well as more edgy and me. I embrace the fact that I’m from a northern city– that I didn’t grow up on a farm out in the country. I would say its main theme is identity. The songs are about finding yourself in life, love, and career, while reflecting on where you’ve been. I think it’s the most up-to-date version of me as an artist!
CN: Earlier this year you released your current single “Lifeboat”. What was the inspiration behind the song, as well as the music video?
MM: The song was written because I’m a huge fan of symbolism and imagery. I liked the idea of using a lifeboat to stand for a person and everything that would entail scenario-wise. It’s about using someone as an emotional crutch to avoid facing the pain of getting over another relationship. I wanted the music video to have a narrative, but not be super literal with the lyrics. We came up with the idea to do cliff-jumping because it had that water theme and really symbolized being reckless and running away from things.
CN: You’ve already had some amazing accomplishments, including a Nashville Independent Music Award nomination for Best Female Country Artist and opening for artists like Little Big Town. What has been your “wow” moment that you can’t believe has happened up to this point in your career? Is there a moment, or possibly an award, that you are setting your sights on achieving in the future?
MM: There have been a bunch of “wow” moments, but one of them was signing my first publishing deal with Dune Grass Music. It was validation that I am the writer I believe myself to be and I can compete in the arena with other songwriters. Everyone comes to Nashville looking for a “deal”, and while there are recording deals and other deals I have my sights set on as well, there was something extremely rewarding about signing with them. My sights are definitely set on a record contract and some songwriting cuts! I’m such a cautious optimist though, that even when I accomplish something, I’m always looking towards the next step up.
CN: Do you have a dream collaboration in mind?
MM: I always change my mind a million times on this question because there are so many talented artists that I’m a fan of! I would love to do a duet with Brett Eldredge because I’m in love with his voice. It’s got such cool dynamic and has something almost classic about it too.
CN: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?
MM: Driven. Moving to Nashville was a huge wakeup call that this career path is not about following a set of steps or rules and there are no guarantees. It’s not even strictly about talent. I wake up every morning thinking about how to further advance myself in the music arena and (by trial and error) find out what works and what doesn’t. There may be people more talented and with better connections than me, but I’m determined to be the hardest working.
CN: Ok, so since you’re a fellow hockey fan we have to get a hockey question in here. You’re originally from Pittsburgh and moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University – were you torn when it came to rooting for your Penguins against the Predators for the Stanley Cup?
MM: Haha! Hot button question! I was so excited that the Stanley Cup came to Nashville and that both my “hometown” teams were in the finals! I think it’s cool how Nashville embraced the hockey fandom and really went all out! That being said, I’m such a Pittsburgh sports fan. I rooted for them… very quietly 😉
CN: What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?
MM: I am in the process of putting together a tour for 2018! I’m hoping to hit some summer festivals as well as some venues around the east, south, and midwest! As soon as the plans are finalized, I will have the dates up on my website at www.melaniemeriney.com
All the Good Songs and Up In Lights EPs are available digitally for purchase here.