When Nashville Calls

Meredith McCarson was 16 years old when she realized the Lord was calling her to Nashville, TN. This realization came when her father Ronnie McCarson, pastor of senior adults at Cottage Hill Baptist Church, took her to visit Music Row. Meredith fell in love with the city.

Over the years, Meredith never lost sight of her Nashville dream and worked diligently to ensure she would someday make it to Music City. She earned a Bachelor of Science in communication with a minor in music from University of Mobile, obtained summer internships in the city, and developed and maintained a network of contacts in all areas of the music industry.

All her hard work paid off as she now lives in Nashville and works for Celebration Concert Tours as operations specialist and tour manager. “Helping people in the music business is where my heart has been for years. I did not know what that looked like years ago,” Meredith said.

Her clients are primarily church choirs, and she manages five tours a year with over 250 people on each tour. The tours include opportunities for choirs to perform in venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and “back up” Christian artists such as Natalie Grant, Travis Cottrell, Jason Crabb, Point of Grace and more. Celebration recently worked with the group Veritas, graduates of University of Mobile, as they toured with Sandi Patty.

Through her role as a tour manager, Meredith has had opportunities to travel to New York and Washington D.C. In the coming year, it will take her back to these places and add Ireland to the list. “I am being used not only to help people have the time of their lives on the tours, but they bless me as well,” Meredith said. “Hearing their stories, greeting them and making new friends on the tours – this does not feel like a ‘job’ to me. I always want to be a vessel for the Lord in whatever way that is.”

In preparing for her calling to Nashville, Meredith chose to enroll at University of Mobile. She was impressed with the reputation of the music department and its offerings in commercial voice courses. During three of her four years at the university, Meredith toured with the praise and worship ensemble Impact under the direction of Dr. Pete Sanchez, who nurtured Meredith’s love for country music and instilled in her the freedom of worship.

“Being a pastor’s daughter, I’ve been around the Church my whole life, but University of Mobile really helped me believe I could do anything to change the world,” said Meredith. “I find joy in helping other people. My communication classes helped me develop so many of the people skills I use in my role here. And spiritually…it was wonderful, a truly sweet time in my life.”

Following her freshman year at UM, Meredith went to Nashville for her first summer internship at a recording studio. Through the internship, she had the opportunity to meet and interview several recording artists. One such artist was Randy Cox, composer for the likes of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.

“Randy became my mentor, and now he is like a grandfather to me,” recalled Meredith.

Meredith spent the next two summers of college interning with Cox at a music publishing company and learned more and more about the music industry in Nashville. It was during that third summer that Cox shared life-changing wisdom with Meredith: “Always be yourself. Don’t change for anybody but the Lord.”

“I will never forget those words because it’s the best advice I’ve ever been given,” Meredith said, “People can see right through you if you’re trying to be something you’re not, especially in Nashville where everything is about relationships.”

Several months after she graduated in 2010, Meredith’s parents encouraged her to move to Nashville, knowing it was where the Lord was calling her. By this point, Meredith had saved enough money to live in Nashville for two months while she searched for a job in the music industry. For an entire month, Meredith filled her calendar with meetings and interviews with people she met and kept relationships with after her multiple summer internships. With two weeks of her savings left, Meredith’s father Ronnie emailed Rob Collins, who was a sales representative at the Christian music publishing company Brentwood Benson at the time. What makes this email significant is neither Collins nor Ronnie know or remember how Ronnie got his email. Even so, Meredith was hired on the spot and worked as a sales representative for Brentwood Benson from 2011 to 2013.

Tragedy struck when Meredith’s mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells.

“It was hard. I started feeling that tension of being here in Nashville but wanting to be where my family is,” remarked Meredith.

She returned to Mobile and worked in real estate for several years while she and her family walked together through her mother’s treatment.

“Nashville never left my blood. The Lord sent me to Nashville to grow even more spiritually,” said Meredith. This continued growth helped her in the midst of her mother’s treatment.

But in May 2016, Meredith received the offer to return to Nashville and work with Celebration Concert Tours under Dr. Phil Barfoot, an internationally recognized composer, author, music ministry professional and Dove Award winner. Dr. Barfoot has written and created over 40 major choral collections and musicals that collectively include more than 300 songs.

So, with her mother’s blessing and encouragement, Meredith at last returned to Nashville.

She is part of a music business networking group, did some session work last year on the side and plans to be used more in the studio this year when needed. She volunteers at retirement centers and nursing homes on the weekends.

“I love the senior adults, and getting that time to sit with them and love on them brings me so much joy,” she said.

As for students interested in the music industry and life in Nashville, Meredith encourages them to work harder than seems necessary, particularly with the relationships students make with those in the industry. Her own persistence in following her dream included faithfully emailing Christian comedian Aaron Wilburn once a week for two months and collecting business cards of those she met during internships just to keep in touch.

She advised, “Build real friendships with people in your field. You have to really learn and know people’s hearts to maintain relationships with them.”

About the Author

Samantha Moats

Samantha is an Honors Graduate of the University of Mobile (2014) with an English Literature degree. Originally from North Alabama, she fell in love with the Gulf Coast and made Mobile her home after graduation - currently residing in Chickasaw. In addition to giving tours, she writes for the local publication Ant Farm Journal. Samantha values consistent verb tenses, the Oxford Comma, and spending time with her husband and their 3 pets.