If you love something, you believe in it and you’re excited by it, that’s enough. I think all creatives can get caught up in trying to find approval in other people, but art is subjective and everyone is going to have a different opinion. Over time, I’ve learnt that yes, I want other people to enjoy the work I create, but ultimately as long as I am proud of what I’ve created, that’s what matters the most.
As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sasha McVeigh.
Sasha McVeigh is a British country singer/songwriter, based in Nashville, TN. Sasha moved to Nashville in 2017 after obtaining her green card on the grounds of her “extraordinary achievements” in the country music industry both in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Sasha has embarked on four tours across the US, three tours across the UK and one tour across mainland Europe. She has performed on the main stage at festivals such as Taste of Country, Country Jam Colorado, Country Stampede and more, alongside artists including Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert and many others.
Sasha has over one million streams across all platforms and the music video for her last single, “Rock Bottom”, went to #1 on the CMT music video chart last year. She has performed on the television, radio and has been featured in countless media publications both here and across the pond. In addition to her music, Sasha is a strong advocate for her fellow musicians, having been featured in countless news segments and articles fighting for improved safety measures for musicians who perform on Lower Broadway and also championing musicians during the current COVID-19 pandemic.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/7630eff90d3b0b7a253ad95f7fd07962
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 Hereford, Herefordshire in the United Kingdom. I actually grew up out in the countryside, about 6 miles away from the city, although Hereford is an exceptionally small city when you compare it to somewhere like London. It’s a beautiful part of the country — I actually hated it when I was younger because I felt like there wasn’t anything to do and I wanted to be somewhere busier, but the older I got, the more I came to appreciate it and be thankful it’s the place I call “home”.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve been singing and performing for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I was always singing, so I knew from a very early age that I wanted to pursue “music” as a career. I would put on shows for my parents regularly, I’d be in every school production or talent show. I just craved music and to be performing. That’s why it was such an incredible moment for me, the first time I came to Nashville for my music , in 2012, because I realized that this was a city where you can perform every single day and I was at a point where I’d finished school, so I could focus on my music wholeheartedly.
In terms of pursuing country music, people are often surprised to hear a British girl singing country. Music was always playing in the house when I was growing up, although neither of my parents are actually “musical” — they don’t play instruments and they don’t sing, but they love music. My Dad is a huge country music fan and would constantly play his old vinyl, country music records around the house. I actually have a home movie that shows me receiving a Shania Twain cassette tape for Christmas one year, and I was the happiest kid ever! My Mum also tells stories about my Dad dancing me around our living room to CMT, so I suppose you could say he indoctrinated me into country music from a very young age. When I started writing songs, around age 12, they came out country and I somewhat rediscovered the genre for myself, listening to artists like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts. I love telling stories and I love lyrics — country music is centered around storytelling so I think that’s why I’m so drawn to it and enthralled by it.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most amazing things that happened to me actually happened last year, after I released the music video for my single “Rock Bottom”. The music video was debuted by CMT and within two weeks it rose to the number one spot on the CMT Music Video 12-Pack Chart. It was such a surreal moment because I grew up watching CMT with my Dad, so to then see my music video on that channel and for it to take the number one spot, it was a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?
I think the most interesting thing about Nashville is that even though it’s a big city, it still has a small town vibe. There is somewhat of a notion that everybody knows everybody else. There was this one time that a radio friend of mine was visiting Nashville from the UK. He called an Uber to pick him up from the airport and he got to talking to the driver on the way to his hotel. My radio friend said that he was going to be seeing “his British friend who is a country singer” and the driver says “I have a British friend who’s a country singer, her name is Sasha McVeigh”. My radio friend immediately freaks out and says that that was who he was referring to and then the Uber driver says, “Well, you know Sasha’s song ‘Mr Brown Eyes’, she wrote that about me, I’m ‘Mr Brown Eyes’. I ended up getting a call from both of them separately and it just epitomized how intertwined Nashville is, I love it.
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.
For me, the best part about living in Nashville is being able to immerse myself in music, especially country music, almost 24/7. Growing up in the UK, I always found it difficult because, although country music is making a comeback now, it isn’t as huge as it is here and for the longest time it was nearly impossible to book gigs if the venue knew you were a country artist. Now I perform four times per week on Lower Broadway, which is how I pay my bills, and I also write songs with other songwriters six times per week. I love the sense of community in Nashville, especially amongst the musicians and songwriters, there is a very strong sense of collaboration between creators and that’s something you don’t find everywhere. You can literally meet a songwriter for ten minutes at a bar and the next day you’re writing a song together, or you’ll need a last minute drummer for a gig and there’s somebody a Facebook post away that’s got your back.
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?
I made my first trip to Nashville specifically for music in July 2012. I had an audition lined up at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Lower Broadway because I wanted to have somewhere to regularly perform in order to develop my stage presence and just grow as a performer. I was told that I’d be on stage for 45 minutes, but it turned out I was left on stage for 2 hours which I absolutely was not prepared for. Somehow, despite being truly thrown in at the deep end, I managed to make it through the gig and it lead to countless other performances. Ultimately, it boosted my confidence immeasurably because I was totally out of my comfort zone, but it also taught me to always over-prepare and prepare for the unexpected.
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?
Without a doubt, my Mum is the person I am the most grateful for. When I was in High School, she made a deal with me that if I did my best at my exams, she would do whatever she could to help me succeed in the music business and achieve my dreams. I held up my end of the bargain and she has more than exceeded her end. In the beginning, she sold almost everything she had of value in order to fund our trips to Nashville, the tours, recording music etcetera. Since I was only 18 when we started this journey, I wasn’t allowed to drive the rental car, so my Mum would drive the rental car on the 11,000, 16,000, 20,000 mile tours we would do and she was the one who booked all of the shows, by simply having the guts to call up the different music festivals and pitch me because she believed in me. She has sacrificed more than anyone could possibly imagine and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without her or her unwavering support.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am in the process of recording new music and plan on releasing numerous singles over the course of 2021, with music videos to go along with them. I haven’t released music since my single “Rock Bottom” which came out last year and I cannot wait to share what I’ve been working on this year with everyone. There are definitely going to be some surprises!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- How much I would spend on guitar strings!! Haha, in all seriousness I had no idea when I started performing full time, how many sets of guitar strings I’d go through and how much that comes to in dollars at the end of the year. No wonder artists always want guitar string endorsements!
- How money driven the music industry is. One of the saddest things for me was realising just how much of an impact money has on your success in the music industry, even as an independent artist. Of course, once you’re signed to a record label it takes millions of dollars to have a number one song, or take your song to radio, but it really shocked me to realise just how much it costs to sustain a career as an independent artist, and that in a lot of cases, the amount of money you have correlates with the amount of success you have, rather than it being about your talent.
- I wish somebody had told me to document every aspect of my journey. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very active on social media so a solid amount of my journey over the years is documented in full, but I wish I had taken the time to video some of those long hours in the rental car, with my Mum, driving across the United States. Those moments that get lost in our memories that you wish you could look back on.
- Don’t be afraid to write songs in a different genre than the genre you are in. For a long time I only wrote country songs, because that’s the genre of music I write for myself, and I thought I shouldn’t cross genre lines in my writing. It took me until late last year to finally let go of that mindset, after meeting some incredible pop writers and industry folks in Nashville. I am so much happier for it and I’ve noticed such a positive shift in my writing because I’m completely allowing myself to write what I feel without any restrictions or roadblocks.
- If you love something, you believe in it and you’re excited by it, that’s enough. I think all creatives can get caught up in trying to find approval in other people, but art is subjective and everyone is going to have a different opinion. Over time, I’ve learnt that yes, I want other people to enjoy the work I create, but ultimately as long as I am proud of what I’ve created, that’s what matters the most.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You have to make sure you’re always enjoying what you’re doing. Yes, we all have our down days and of course there are certain aspects of the music industry that aren’t fun, but if you’re waking up every day dreading picking up your instrument or whatever it might be, then you need to reevaluate what you’re doing. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and lose the creativity in favour of wanting to succeed in the eyes of others, but success to me is loving what you do for a living and I believe if you make that your focus, then you’re bound to thrive.
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. 🙂
Over the last year I have become very active in advocating for musicians, both specifically in Nashville and on a larger scale. I am a part of the organisation Music Guild of America (MGA) which is a new music union that aims to fight for the fundamental rights and dignity of professional music workers, especially pertaining to fair pay from streaming and live performances, affordable health insurance, retirement benefits and safe, equitable workplaces. We are in the early stages but our members are growing every day and my work with MGA ties in to the work I have been doing in Nashville to aid my fellow musicians who regularly perform on Lower Broadway. I want to make a difference and it would be incredible to know I made a difference within my own community of people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of the greatest quotes I have ever read is from J.K. Rowling and it says, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” That quote is actually what inspired my single “Rock Bottom” and became the catalyst to all the wonderful things that happened to me, career wise, last year. Like everyone, I have been through some very difficult times in my life but that quote reminds me that even though I fall down sometimes, get knocked back, or thrown into the abyss…those experiences actually compound themselves into the bedrock that allows me to stand up and face anything that comes up against me. Rock bottom can certainly be your greatest demon, but it can also be your very best friend.
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. 🙂
Hands down, Lady Gaga. She has been a huge inspiration to me ever since she burst onto the scene in 2008, even though her genre of music is different to mine. When I was in High School, I was bullied for the way my nose looked and I’ve even been in industry meetings where people have told me I’d be better off if I had my “nose done”. But, for years I have been told by people that Lady Gaga and I have a strong resemblance, so it meant the world to me having someone that looked like me succeeding and achieving the things I wanted to achieve. My favourite Lady Gaga song to perform is “You and I” and I perform it at every single gig because I like to take the time to tell the audience how much her music and her heart means to me. It’s funny, I can’t tell you the number of times I get asked to sing “Shallow” when I’m performing, and it makes my entire night every time somebody says “You know, you look a lot like Lady Gaga!”. I actually had tickets to see her in Las Vegas in May, it was going to be the first time I saw her perform live because before now I hadn’t been able to afford tickets, but of course the show was cancelled due to the pandemic. I’ve held on to the tickets and I keep them on my nightstand as a reminder that hopefully one day, I will not only see my idol in concert, but perhaps I’ll get to share the stage with her and tell her just how much of an impact she’s had on my life.
How can our readers follow you online?
Readers can find me on all social media platforms. I love connecting with my fans and just people in general, so I try my best to keep an open channel of communication, and I do my best to reply to every comment and message!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!