Treat your music career like a business, not like a hobby — Your career is defined by your profitability, your reach, and your marketability. Yes your songs need to be great, you need to be authentic, and you don’t want to just create songs that appeal to an audience, but without treating your career as a valuable brand, you’re going to find yourself getting stuck a lot. Companies, labels, and publishers all want to know how valuable you are before they offer a deal. Your deal is based on just how valuable you really are. Everybody will promise you the world, so don’t just let anybody have a piece of your business/company. Sometimes partners are essential to grow; sometimes it’s best to be patient and not jump at the first deal. Don’t just be a great artist or a great writer, be a smart owner of your craft and your brand!
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dom Colizzi.
“I’m just a small town kid with a big city dream.”
Dom Colizzi is an American Singer/Songwriter, Actor, Composer, and Entrepreneur. Originally a Maine-native, Dom has lived around the country from LA to Nashville, so as to be expected, Dom has a “coast to coast” sound.
Coming from a musical family, it’s only natural that Dom has music in his blood. The multi-talented singer/songwriter plays the piano, guitar, percussion, and produces his own records for Sync and personal releases. Dom’s troubled high school experience turned into an Indie-short film, directed by Zane Stephens (Vampire Diaries, The Internship) in 2016. In the film, his music was featured as the soundtrack; Since then, Dom has been working on additional movie soundtracks.
At the age of 19, doctors cut the cord under his tongue, in hopes of curing his lisp and stutter. Dom immediately moved to LA following the recovery of the surgery, where he re-learned how to speak correctly. From there, Dom found his voice and writing ability and never looked back. He then launched “Somebody’s Hero” National Independent Anti-Bully Tour, sharing his story of battling depression and a speech-impediment, to inspire and encourage the youth’s fair, as well as spread awareness of bullying.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/b05b860fa250896e702c42fe2d269724
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?
Thank you for having me! I grew up in a small town called Oakland, Maine, raised by 2 amazing parents from Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up with the “American Dream” in a very blessed home. When high school rolled around, everything seemed to change for me. It was the first time I had noticed something was different about me; kids started to take notice on how I spoke. I grew up tongue-tied for 19 years, which essentially means I had very little mobility of my tongue which created a lisp. Due to extreme anxiety from not being able to speak like everybody else could, I developed a stutter as well. I grew up playing sports as a very happy kid with my 2 older brothers, but once I broke my knee and ribs in high school football, I needed to give my body a chance to heal, so I started doing music and acting, teaching myself guitar and auditioning for local plays and musicals. To keep it simple, kids can be very cruel. Giving up sports at a predominantly Sport-fueled school, while also talking different than everybody else, sort of made me an easy target. After 4 long years of depression, I decided to try a procedure where the doctors could cut the cord under my tongue, and hopefully, I could re-train myself to speak correctly. At the age of 19, I underwent this surgery. During the healing process, I decided that nothing was going to hold me back from following my dream, so I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, California. A couple years later, I was blessed with the opportunity to sing for Randy Jackson, where he mentioned that if I wanted longevity in the music business, to move to Nashville, the Mecca of songwriting, and learn to write and produce my own songs. That’s exactly what I did in 2014.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Back in High School, I went to a Sugarland concert at the Augusta Civic Center in Maine. Sitting in the nosebleeds, I vividly remember seeing Matt Nathanson open for them with his hit song, “Come On Get Higher” with just an acoustic guitar. When he hit his high falsetto note, it instantly gave me chills. From then on, I knew I needed to have my own moment like that; Matt was able to sing one song that impacted my life so greatly, that to this day, I still sing a cover of “Come On Get Higher” at every show.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I don’t think I could name just one as the most interesting since the industry is full of ups and downs; the “almost maybes”; the “almost deals”; the moments you think you’ve “made it.” I feel that every failure I’ve endured, the broken promises, the bad managers, the “wolves”, all led me to be better. I’ve never let one story define my career so far, but that could always change tomorrow! I wake up to my beautiful family, get to create music every day, and let my story continue to write itself.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
Back in 2014, when I moved to Nashville, I was pretty broke. I wasn’t quite playing around town yet, so in between tour dates back in New England, I would walk down Broadway to do what we called, “city fishing”! Broadway would get so busy during the summer months, that it was very common for people to drop their cash on their way in and out of bars through the chaos. I would walk up and down the strip with my eyes on the ground and would find on average, about $60 scattered throughout the street. It always blew my mind that if people looked down instead of at all the lights, they’d be able to practically drink for free with all the random cash they’d find laying around! Haha
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 believe that Nashville is a big city with a small town feel. It’s always cool to meet the big named artists at local bars, but to me, the best part is finding the talent at Belcourt Taps, The Listening Room, Whiskey Jam, or Tin Roof, to name a few, before they blow up. For example, I remember seeing Luke Combs play Tin Roof in a writer’s round at Tin Roof Revival in one of the first years I lived in town. That booming, rich voice was unmistakable. Luke mentioned that he and his buddies had just written this new song that he released on Spotify called “Hurricane”. After hearing him sing that song live, I checked it out on Spotify when it had less than 1,000 streams. Fast forward to now, he will go down as one of the greatest Country artists of all time. Those are the “Nashville moments” that happen all the time, that I could never forget.
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?
The funniest mistake I made when I first moved to town was that not everybody gives a high-five when they’re drinking. I ran into Cole Swindell at Tin Roof (literally tripped and ran into his chair). Cole was super nice about it and tried to break the ice by giving me “knuckles”. Well, I went for a high-five as he went for “knuckles”. Instead of changing up my tactic and embracing the “knuckles”, I continued with the high-five until my hand engulfed his. Just when I think this couldn’t get any worse, I tried to break the ice even more with a nifty hand shake, all while my open palmed high-five held his close-gripped knuckles. At the end of it all, I ended up giving him what my kids call, the “turkey”. We awkwardly made eye contact as he ended the situation with, “…aaalright” and turned away. I can’t help but chuckle every time I think about it! Moral of the story, always be ready to change tactics when going for a high-five, since you never know if you might “turkey” a celebrity!
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?
I’m grateful for my hometown music teachers from High School. The Rheins and Mr Forster worked way beyond the hours they were getting paid for, to make sure I could always pursue music. They gave me every opportunity to grow; as a young man and as a musician. By senior year, I was pretty done with school, depressed, and going through a dark time. Mr Forster knew I was having a hard time. He would always send me a text on mornings I’d skip school and convince me to at least come in and go to one class. He took me under his wing and enrolled me into an Independent Study where I learned the basics of ear training and music production. I’ll never forget when Mr Rhein told me to “prove them all wrong” for all those that didn’t believe in me. Those moments and words resonate with me every time I want to quit. Great teachers don’t get enough credit in my opinion. It’s amazing what a few high school music teachers can do for a struggling kid; a struggling kid that becomes a man, a father, a husband, and an artist, still carrying those words of wisdom and inspiration with him.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My most exciting projects I’m working on this year are for self-release and for Sync licensing. I was always told that my songs sound like they belong in a movie, but I never knew how to get involved with Sync licensing libraries until this year. I’ve been blessed to have a few songs pitched with a bright future. I’ve been self-producing all my singles, which just a year ago, wasn’t something that I ever thought I could do. I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to work on releases with Enzo Fitzgerald and Idin Kain out of Nashville as well. I’m on a very creative wave right now!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Be authentic — It’s very easy to fall into a style because everyone around you is doing it. In 2014, I was bringing a Latin-American-Pop style of writing into co-writes in Nashville, and a lot of the time, I was laughed at or disregarded because “that’s not on the radio, it would never get played.” I was convinced that Country and Hip-Hop artists would be integrating the Reggaeton rhythm into their music very soon, but I never got a chance to write that style for another couple years, after artists like Drake and Florida Georgia Line began using it. If your gut tells you to write it, then write it. Don’t chase what’s on the radio now. Be authentic to who you are as a writer/artist
- Treat your music career like a business, not like a hobby — Your career is defined by your profitability, your reach, and your marketability. Yes your songs need to be great, you need to be authentic, and you don’t want to just create songs that appeal to an audience, but without treating your career as a valuable brand, you’re going to find yourself getting stuck a lot. Companies, labels, and publishers all want to know how valuable you are before they offer a deal. Your deal is based on just how valuable you really are. Everybody will promise you the world, so don’t just let anybody have a piece of your business/company. Sometimes partners are essential to grow; sometimes it’s best to be patient and not jump at the first deal. Don’t just be a great artist or a great writer, be a smart owner of your craft and your brand!
- Be very intentional — I’m a husband and a father of 3. Be very intentional with your time. Don’t let the late nights in the studio keep you from spending time with those that matter most. Whether it’s releasing your music, touring at venues, or even hitting the gym to stay healthy, be intentional with your time and schedule. It can get very chaotic trying to juggle a life beyond music, since music is never going to be a 9 to 5, so when you block some time out to write a song, don’t be thinking about a million other things, just focus on that set 3-hour block to get that song done, then go onto the next thing. Being intentional with my time has helped me tremendously with work-life-balance.
- It’s not going to be an overnight success — Even the artists that have gained immense traction and virability quickly, didn’t get there overnight. A huge selling point with companies, playlist curators, influencers, etc, is the idea of becoming “an overnight success”. “Just pay me this and it’ll blow up overnight” and “This can get your followers up faster than any other method!” are just a couple examples of the propaganda you will hear. We all want to achieve success quickly, because that goes back to the idea of being a profitable brand or entity, which makes your career move a lot quicker. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of moments you want to give up. Don’t compare your career to Justin Bieber or the artists on TikTok because their seemed to be “overnight success”, was really years in the making. Create a plan — short term and long term goals — and stay disciplined and hungry to keep chasing it!
- Remember why you started — There’s going to be a lot of “No’s”. It’s practically going to be nothing but “No’s” if we’re being honest. But they make all the “Yes’s” that much sweeter. I remind myself of the Matt Nathanson show; I remind myself of my wife and 3 kids and the life that I want to be able to give them; I remember the 16 year old me learning to strum the guitar. Remind yourself of every reason why you started, and that’ll help you push through the moments of getting burnt out.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I definitely feel that going back to my 5 things I wish someone had told me, be very intentional with your time, focus on your brand and goals, and remember why you started this career in the first place. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the little victories. My Father always told me that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, so through all the frustrations and tribulations of trying to figure out how you will ever reach the end game, focus on the small strides and prepare for your moment!
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. 🙂
I’ve been doing my “Somebody’s Hero” Anti-Bully Tour since 2014 — What started as a platform to tell my story and hoping that kids could relate to it, and change the way they treat others, turned into a full on inspiring movement. I honestly just gave the kids a platform where I could tell them what I went through, how I came out on top, and that they aren’t alone. I let them share their stories with me on my website anonymously or include their names if they’d like. Being able to just talk about their anxieties, depression, or home-life situations and feeling like someone else understands what they are going through, really gave them an outlet to let go of those “demons” and start the road to recovery. I never looked like a kid that was going through depression and anxiety since I always had a smile on my face, so I can only imagine how many other kids were exactly like me in school, but nobody ever knew. I’m sure I could’ve faced those issues much sooner in life if I had someone that shared their story with me and gave me that platform without any fear of ridicule or even keep anonymity if I wasn’t ready to own it. I feel that schools should offer more programs similar to a “Big Brother Big Sister” platform, and to offer a way for these kids to talk about the issues and have that release before it becomes a horrible situation such as isolation, deep depression, or suicide.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“ My story isn’t over ; “
I got this quote tattooed on my forearm. I love its complexity, yet simplicity. If you think about your life as a story, you realize that the best parts of your life are still unwritten. Imagine if your favorite movie growing up, never had a conflict. Imagine if Simba never lost Mufasa and had to fight to become king; the conflict is just one part of the story that leads to the resolution, or the happy ending. I went through some dark times growing up, but I knew that anything bad happening, was just one bad chapter, and to keep writing more pages and continuing the journey. By the end of my life, I knew I would have a heck of a story to tell. Including the semi-colon is very dear to me as well — symbolizing suicide awareness, but also acting as a reminder that not even the sentence is over; that there’s more waiting to be said that continues the original thought. To me, that feels very symbolic.
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. 🙂
Gosh, if Justin Timberlake is reading this, I’d love to grab coffee and pick his brain. He is one of my idols as an entertainer, and has highly influenced my songwriting and vocal style since I was a teenager. He is the reason I even got into Pop music, dancing, and acting!
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can follow me on –
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!