You’re only in competition with yourself. I think in this industry it’s hard not to compare yourself to others especially if they are more successful or seem ahead. But truly everyone is just in competition with themselves and can only try to better their own growth, and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mallory Eagle.
Mallory Eagle is one of Nashville’s best kept secrets. . . for now that is. Her voice is strong as a heavy pour of whiskey and smoother than a dancehall floor. Originally from Oklahoma City, she is now based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her first album “Red Dirt Home” was released in February of 2018. Since then, she has opened and worked for artists like Wade Hayes, Jason Boland, Jaime Wyatt, Kate and Forrest O’Connor, Chris Scruggs, Kenny Vaughn and Exile. Her latest collaboration with YouTube star Hillary Klug and the talented Brenna MacMillan, “Down in the River to Pray,” has been featured by Bluegrass Life (and many others) and hit 1 million views on Facebook over the course of a week. She is currently writing for her next album and working with several other Nashville artists on various projects.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Both of my parents are visual artists, so I had a very creative growing up. My younger brother and I were always encouraged to explore what makes us happy and create. My family has very old Oklahoma ties that stretch back to the Landrun. We own a chunk of land out in Western Oklahoma, so I grew up going out to the farm, stompin’ around in the red dirt and watching the horizon burn pink with the sunset. That land will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s one of the places I feel most inspired to write. I remember hearing classic country, bluegrass, western swing, and southern rock always playing in the truck on the way to school or just around the house. My Dad also plays guitar, so I’ve always been surrounded by music and I think I probably came out of the womb singing.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Well, like I mentioned, I’ve always loved music and singing. Throughout my entire grade school career I was in all the choirs, musicals, and anything that had to do with music. My family has attended the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival in Guthrie, OK (hosted by respected bluegrass musician Byron Berline) every year since I can remember. I ended up joining Bill Perry’s bluegrass band called Cimmaron Station at seventeen — Bill is a staple in the OK Bluegrass scene. He gave me my first gig, and I made 50 dollars. I was so excited that I got paid to sing and then thought to myself “Hey, maybe I could really do music.” So I started to take it seriously. I went to college at The Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma and received an associates degree in vocal performance. During my time at [email protected], I picked up guitar and started writing for the first time. I recorded my first album there in their student studio. Over the course of a year and a half, I put together a band and played more shows than I can remember in Oklahoma City, but we all had our eyes set on Nashville. I quit my retail job and moved a couple weeks later to Nashville with the boys. Now, here I am!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Well, I had never really toured other than playing a handful of shows in Texas, and I began touring with Kate and Forrest O’Connor from the Mark O’Connor band about two months after I landed in Nashville. We did a bunch of shows up East because Kate is from Rochester, NY. One of the gigs was basically in Canada (about an hour away from the border), which is a long way for this Oklahoma girl. Driving up to that show, I looked out my window and saw a girl in a bonnet and dress plowing a field. It dawned on me that we were in Amish country. I had never experienced that part of the US or Amish culture in general. That night leaving the gig, we dodged a bunch of wildlife, but weren’t expecting the four black clydesdale horses that pulled out in front of the van and slowed our pace for a while. To this day I’ll never forget that tour and especially that gig. It was a magical time — seeing new parts of the country, connecting with great people, and just remembering to slow down.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
Since moving to Nashville I’ve met so many incredible people that have welcomed me into the community with open arms. I’m so thankful for the music family I have in the bluegrass and honky tonk scene, and that we all lift each other up instead of trying to cut each other down. I had heard from so many that it would be “cut throat and back stabbing,” but my experience has been very positive and encouraging. There is nothing better than cooking good food, dancing, and jamming with my friends who inspire me everyday to be a better musician.
Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.
I’ve experienced what I like to call “Nashville Nights.” Having a “Nashville Night” typically for me means I’m either getting to hang out with some of my music heroes at one of the best jams in town or a night that just filled my soul to the brim and I had to pinch myself because it didn’t seem real.
One of these “Nashville Nights” comes to mind when I was at the American Legion Post 82 in East Nashville for Honky Tonk Tuesday (where you could find me every Tuesday night pre-COVID).. We were all drinking and two-stepping our asses off, and then I got word that there were special guests on the way. Which in Nashville could be any huge artist. Everyone was so curious who it could be, and then a friend leaned over at the bar and said Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and Rodney Crowell were going to do a surprise set. It’s hard to keep a secret in Nashville, everybody knows somebody. Hell, everybody is somebody! Truly a “Nashville Night.” It’s one of the best examples of these unique and intimate experiences you can’t get anywhere else — getting to watch and dance to Emmylou, Vince and Rodney just jamming. It was a night to remember.
I’ve had several small encounters with famous artists in town. For instance, I was down at Robert’s Western World on Broadway and I went to the bathroom and as I was washing my hands I looked next to me and there Kacey Musgraves was washing her hands as well. I think I complimented her outfit and then she said “Thanks!” and we both went back into the bar.
Another time, I took a day trip to Leiper’s Fork to clear my head and just breathe in some fresh air to remind me of home. It was probably a Wednesday around 3 p.m., and I was eating at The Country Boy Diner when I was seated right next to Chris and Morganne Stapleton. That time I said nothing and just let them enjoy their meal, but I was secretly fangirling while eating a fried chicken sandwich.
There’s also nothing like living in East Nashville, being down the block from your friends, and making late night stops to eat at Dino’s, Duke’s, or Cookout after a night out drinking and dancing at any of the great dives in East. The food is great, the people are inviting, there’s always a jam going on — it’s one of the most inspiring places to live as a musician.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, I’ve made a lot of mistakes and probably will forever, but I definitely remember one in particular. I was playing a gig back in OK with my band, and afterwards we partied with some of the folks that came out to the show. We were so distracted with the free beer and crazy conversations, that we left our tip jar on the stage and went back to our cabin where we were staying. Once we realized we never picked up the tip jar we ran back to the stage. It was gone along with the check for the show, which was also in the jar. Thank God, the next morning we visited the office and the promoter was standing there with the tip jar. “Forgot this?” she asked. I can laugh about it now, but I learned a valuable lesson to always take care of business before you let loose after the gig.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, Cindy Scarberry! I call her my “Stage Mama” because she raised me up to be the musician I am today. Cindy runs the Rodeo Opry Show in the Oklahoma City Stockyards and also started a non-profit called Granville Music School that gives quality music lessons to children from low-income families. I auditioned for the first time to be on the Rodeo Opry at 17 and was super nervous. Most people auditioning had backing tracks or played an instrument. But I had neither and was going to sing “I Still Miss Someone” a cappella. After the audition, I thought I wouldn’t make it because I didn’t have music to back me. Then I got a call from Cindy that I made the show, and from then on I played there often and later worked as the booking agent and house band backing vocals. I get hired often to sing harmonies now, and Cindy is the person who taught me so much about the craft of singing harmonies for artists. She has pushed me to always grow as a performer and to just get out there and do it! I’m so grateful for all the knowledge and opportunities she has given me throughout the years and even still today. I’ll always look up to my “Stage Mama,” Cindy Scarberry.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently I am working on recording my first full length album and just finished up a single. I started an Instagram Live show at the start of quarantine where I interview my friends who are artists or involved in the music business, like Kaitlyn Butts, Joshua Ray Walker, Adam Duran, and Sierra Ferrell. I’m taking the recordings from the show and making it a podcast called Mallory Eagles’ Roundup Show. I’m also working on some live studio videos as well as some great co-writes.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You’re only in competition with yourself. I think in this industry it’s hard not to compare yourself to others especially if they are more successful or seem ahead. But truly everyone is just in competition with themselves and can only try to better their own growth, and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.
- Talk is cheap. Something I’ve learned when dealing with any potential opportunity being offered, I pay attention if they are talking really fast at me and making empty promises. The realest opportunities have been slow and not too pushy or full of fluff. As my grandma Martha would say, “An empty wagon makes a lot of noise.”
- Learn how to run your own PA. Many times I had to learn the tough reality that you may have to be your own sound guy for a gig. There’s nothing more stressful than not knowing how to set up your sound and starting the show late because you didn’t know how to even turn your mic on. Haha.
- Be ready to play on the spot. Never have I been put more on the spot than I have in Nashville. There have been countless times where I was hanging out at a friends show and suddenly I’m being asked to come sit in for a tune or two. So, definitely have some songs prepared at all times!
- Read the room. When first moving to an industry town, you want to meet folks and network to get contacts that will help advance your career. Although, most times I’ve had more success naturally networking by just having genuine conversations with people and creating a contact organically.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would suggest to never let yourself get too comfortable. Always find new things to work on or practice to keep you engaged and create something different. Also, I would say take the extra time to take care of yourself, because I know I’ve put myself on the back burner and it results in not being able to grow or accomplish your goals. One of the things I learned is that I don’t have to say “yes” to every gig and that I can be more selective by accepting better gigs that create actual opportunities for growth.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Right now, our country is so divided over seemingly everything, and I think speaking out about showing kindness and empathy to one another would be one step in the right direction. 2020 has been relentless with bad news, and everyone is getting hit with it more and more. The one thing I know is it has also created a common ground. We can choose to show empathy towards each other by being open minded with people that have different views and create a sense of unity through these times. Loving your neighbor and finding ways to help each other through the darkness instead of adding to it and dividing further — that’s how we can change for the better. It’s always better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. And if we can hold each other’s hands as we struggle to find our footing on our way out of the darkness and into the light, well, I’d like to be the first one reaching out, offering a hand to hold and a candle/flame to light another candle. If well all did that, well, the world would shine brighter than the sun.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad has always said to “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” That quote has become a state of mind whenever I’ve found myself in any difficult situation. It’s helped me not get stuck going in circles and to stop and think about ways to resolve whatever I may be going through.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a tough question because there are so many folks I’d love to meet and pick their brain. For me, it’s a toss up between Allison Krauss and Dolly Parton. Both artists have been very influential in my life and career. I’ve loved seeing strong women like them create a way for women in the music industry. Also, I think they are both angels sent from above.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube! I also have a website and my music is streaming on all digital platforms. Check out the links/usernames below!
Youtube: Mallory Eagle
Streaming Album: Red Dirt Home by Mallory Eagle
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!