An Interview with Artist Manager Marne McLyman

For a long time, I've had the idea to write a Q&A-style series highlighting my coven of badass bitches. These women are my family. They're unique, smart and inspire me daily with their passion and creativity. Thanks to sheroes like Grace BonneyShannon Fitzgerald and Sarah Von Bargen, I've realized I love learning and reading about other women, and what they do and how they do it. I'm hoping you will, too.

Today's bitch is Marne McLyman. I met Marne in 2010 when she rolled up to Book Swap on her bike, in full spandex. I immediately wanted to be her friend. Marne moved to Nashville in 1998 to break into the music industry and has worked her way up from getting coffee and refilling the candy bowl to managing some of Nashville's top country artists. Marne, thanks for being my first bitch!

What is your job title and where do you work?

Artist Manager for Terri Clark and Brooks & Dunn. I work at an artist management 

company called Maverick. We also manage Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts. There are other Maverick offices outside of Nashville that manage artists from other genres.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

In high school, I was on a path to go into sports medicine or physical therapy, but changed my mind after touching a lot of sweaty feet during an internship. At the time, I was pretty obsessed with country music (yay for 90’s country!) and figured there had to be an industry to support the music. I found Belmont University and made it my mission to get in.

How did you know it was what you wanted to do? 

I don't think I knew for sure, but I knew I loved music, so that was a good start. I figured if I went to college and ended up hating it, I would still have a degree when I left. The music was what had me hooked though. I remember winning an Amy Grant poster in 5th grade of her “Heart In Motion” album and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! From there, I discovered Mary Chapin Carpenter and then the ultimate, Reba McEntire. 

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

Belmont was the only school I applied to and luckily it worked out that I was accepted. I moved to Nashville in August of 1998 and dove in headfirst. I worked in the Curb School of Music and organized the Vince Gill Celebrity Basketball Game and Concert for two years. The summer after my freshman year, I interned at Starstruck Entertainment, Reba’s company. Go big or go home right?! I jumped from creative services, to publicity, to publishing, to the studio. After a year interning at Starstruck, I met Clarence Spalding. He came to Belmont to talk to our class about artist management and I walked up to him, handed him a business card and told him I wanted to intern for him. I got a call that same afternoon and spent the next year interning for Clarence and his business partner Bob Titley.

When I left Bob and Clarence, I told them I’d be back after graduation and to save a spot for me. I graduated in December of 2001 and got a call from Clarence and Bob that same week telling me they had an assistant position to fill. I jumped at the opportunity and officially started with Titley Spalding & Associates in January of 2002.

I started as an Office Assistant and worked 30 hours a week in the office and 10 hours a week picking up Bob’s girlfriend’s kids from school. I did anything and everything. In 2004, Clarence and Bob split and Clarence started Spalding Entertainment. I went with Clarence and became his and Kix Brooks' Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Guest List Coordinator, Marketing Coordinator - everything. In 2013, I was promoted to Artist Manager to handle the day-to-day operations for Terri Clark and Kix Brooks. 

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

  • Don't over-analyze things to death. Make a decision and move on.
  • If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.

I find that I get further with people by being nice instead of being a jerk. In the end, everyone is just trying to do a job. Be respectful and be NICE.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

I struggle with self-doubt from time to time, which can make me cautious about making final decisions. I’ve learned (and am still learning) that I need to have the confidence to make the call and if it’s the wrong one, I’ll learn from it. It’s not the end of the world.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Workout and nap! I’ve struggled the last two years with getting my workouts in consistently. If I just had 2 more hours!

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life? 

I had a “full-circle moment” recently that made me pause and realize how much hard work has really paid off for me. In June of this year, it was opening night for the Reba + Brooks & Dunn residency at The Colosseum in Las Vegas. I am one of the Tour Managers for the show and was sitting in our office waiting for showtime. I realized that my very first concert was in 1995 and it was a Reba McEntire concert. In 1998, I went to my last concert before heading off to Belmont and that show was also a Reba and Brooks & Dunn show with Terri Clark as the opening act. So here I am, ten years later, opening night in Vegas for Reba and Brooks & Dunn, while in Michigan we had a sold out Terri Clark show. Talk about a motivating moment! I have done a lot of really awesome things in my career so far and have had several moments where I thought: “How in the world did I get here?” The thing I’m most proud of is how all of the hard work I’ve done up to this point has paid off and will hopefully continue to do so. And that I’m nice. Sometimes that’s hard to find in this business.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

I check my email and then scroll through all the social apps:  FB, Twitter, IG. 

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Lately its been beer and dinner with friends, but I need to get back to doing workouts, too! TV time with my dog Cooper is always a winner.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Artist Managers have to be able to multitask as if their life depends on it. We have to be able to look at the big picture, but also look at things at a microscopic level. Our goal is to make things happen seamlessly even if it's chaos to get there. If you have more than one artist, you’re doing this for all of them.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

It’s not all sex, drugs, and rock n roll - or country. While we do get to do a lot of awesome things, we work our tails off to keep everything on track and moving forward.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I can only pick one?! My all time favorite TV show is Friends. Snacks…. I’m a Food Giant, so technically I like all the snacks.

All photos courtesy of Marne McLyman

P.S. Full list of My Bitches here!

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