Singer/Songwriter Melanie Meriney: Steel Fox Entertainment & New Music

Growing up in Pennsylvania, Melanie Meriney loved playing ice hockey, reading novels, and writing songs. Surrounded by Pittsburgh’s metal/rock/pop scene, her songwriting and singing became a product of her environment: primarily country with an urban, pop-rock feel that comes from growing up in a Northern city.

With the release of her lead single “Cool Girl” off of her upcoming project, ChaMELeon, she sonically combines her various multi-genre influences with witty, masterful lyricism and storytelling. Forever pushing the boundaries of country music, Meriney’s latest album will feature a wide array of tracks designed to challenge those who think an artist must be boxed into a certain niche.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Country music, thanks to mom, and rock music, thanks to dad, influences growing up. Belmont University, dual-majors, songwriting, and English, along with a master’s in education. How has your country mixed with urban, pop-rock background led you to become a songwriting chameleon?

I’ve grown up loving the storytelling of country music but also the vibes and production in various other genres! While when I was younger I tried to write specifically within a one-genre box, I now love drawing upon all kinds of influences to write and record. I think each song is different and individual, and the approach shouldn’t be restricted to a definition. If it’s a good lyric and a good vibe to listen to, I don’t care how you categorize it!

Ten years ago, you released your first EP, All the Good Songs.

Newest project, ChaMELeon, with the lead single, “Cool Girl.” “I just want to make good music, whether that’s blues, country, pop, reggae, or something completely new and different. I’ll always be a country artist first, but when it comes to creating music, I want to let the song be what it’s meant to be.” Who are some of your favorite artists who defy genre labels?

I think genre lines are becoming less distinguished in general, but two amazing artists who defy genre labels right now would be Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves. Maren’s lyrics are a little wider and more symbolic than most modern country songs you hear on radio. Songs like “Second Wind” and “To Hell and Back” read almost like rock song lyrics. Her production also does great work of being versatile and not relying on all the same instruments and arrangements to entice listeners. Kacey is also a great example of this, especially her newest album. “Breadwinner” and “Good Wife,” for example, definitely cross genre lines but Kacey makes her songs stand on their own so that you don’t even care you’re not listening to “country” or whatever your definition is. Good music is just good music.

Live Stream on Nashville Meets London. If you could plan an overseas tour, which venues are on your tour bucket list?

International tour would be such a dream- it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now! While venues like London’s O2 arena and Dalhalla in Sweden would be iconic, I would like to do a mid-size venue tour in Europe and Australia. I love those divey places that have a good atmosphere and lets you get up close with the audience and interact. As a concert-goer, those have always been the most fun concerts for me to attend, so I’d love to tour in that medium as a performer.

From signing a publishing deal as a new artist to now starting your own publishing company, Steel Fox Entertainment, along with Michael Funk and Shane Barrett. “My years as a staff writer taught me a lot about the publishing side of the music business. Songwriting has always been a great passion of mine, so it was always a dream to form my own company. Steel Fox has been an idea for a long time and I’m so excited it’s finally getting officially introduced to the world.” What are some unique things you can offer songwriters?

Steel Fox Entertainment started for me out of convenience- I’m somebody who is very DIY, so anything I can achieve on my own I’m all about. Shane and Michael have made it so that we can perform all functions of a publishing company and still have freedom to do it our own way. Eventually, as we get bigger, we’d like to offer writers a hub to create and realize their song’s potential from inception to successful placement.

Michael Funk of Funk Studio has years of experience running his own full-time studio. “[Funk’s] back catalog is incredible, and I’ve been dying for years to get some of these songs heard. Michael brings a lot to the table in terms of creativity and collaboration and is the natural next step for us.” How does having the ability to cut demos in house help a music publisher?

Music costs money to create and anytime a service is outsourced, you’re going to end up paying a premium. The fact that we can cut demos in-house means that, as a company, we can devote this extra expenditure towards other things as well as creatively maintain the most control over the sound we’re shooting for. As I’ve worked with Michael for years, I know his expertise and creativity are huge assets when it comes to the collective vision we have for these songs. He’s easy to work with and brings a lot of cool ideas to the table that help our songs stand out.

Shane Barrett has decades of song-plugging experience, including securing cuts with George Strait, Reba McEntire, and Trisha Yearwood. What are some of the greatest challenges in getting a pitch to A & R (artists and repertoire) representatives at labels?

The music industry is a people industry- Shane has been in Nashville since the early 90s and has done an incredible job establishing a network of friends and colleagues in town and growing relationships. The greatest challenge pitching is that Nashville turns out so many incredible songs a day- you need someone who knows a great song and can get it into the right hands.

You’ve shared some Steel Fox Entertainment songs on your TikTok account and asked fans to suggest which artist would be a good match for each song. One of the songs is “Highest Highs.” As the song’s solo writer, did you write it with a particular artist in mind to cut it?

Yes! Our new TikTok account is @steelfoxentertainment and we plan to post a lot of the demos we put out to get some people’s reactions and thoughts!

“Highest Highs” I actually wrote with Maren Morris in mind even though I know she writes most of her own stuff. It has that wider lyric that she tends to go for and that bigger chorus. Lyric-wise, it’s from a very personal place. It’s all about taking some bigger risks knowing that the fall might be harder but the reward is so much bigger than if you never decided to go for it.

Your mention being very DIY — you’ve done remodeling in the past, would you see yourself working on designing home studios for other artists?

Oh haha we joked about it when we built the studio last year! Projects are something I’ve just always enjoyed doing! If somebody asked, I’d probably help out with design!

Where are some of your favorite places to explore with Marley in Music City?

Haha- we just got an Australian Shepherd puppy, Marley, and he pretty much goes everywhere with us! His favorite place is the Fairgrounds Dog Park, but we take him on walks around our neighborhood, Home Depot,

and he comes to coffee shop meetings around Nashville with us!

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