“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #242: ALAYNA ANDERSON - Event Manager + Vocal Artist

BABE #242: ALAYNA ANDERSON - Event Manager + Vocal Artist

Alayna is musical babe living and working smack dab in the Music City itself, and experiencing the challenges and triumphs of the industry from all possible angles. As a Nashville-based vocal artist, booking agent, musical events manager, cheerleader for all of her fellow musician friends and the daughter of two professional musicians, music is quite literally in her blood, and we think it’s safe to say she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Basics:

Hometown: Kissimmee, Florida
Current city: Nashville, Tennessee
Alma mater: Florida State University
Degree: B.A., Retail Merchandising and Product Development
Very first job: Office assistant at a local attorney firm
Hustle: Event Manager + Vocal Artist

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
My mother, without a doubt. She’s got the hustle down. She’s always balanced multiple jobs simultaneously while still making it a priority to nurture relationships with loved ones. I was lucky to grow up with her as my music teacher. She took a job at a private school so she could make sure my sister and I got the best education, even though it didn’t pay very much. She supplemented by teaching piano lessons after school, leading music at church on Sunday and singing at dinner clubs a few times a week. She’s still on this hustle and is the strongest woman I know.

How do you spend your free time?
I spend a lot of time supporting my friends. As most of them are musicians, that typically means I’m paying a cover to their show, buying something at the bar and purchasing their merchandise when I can. Living in Music City, there are dozens of shows you could choose to go to per night, so I have to prioritize. Through supporting my community, I’ve learned where to place my love and when to keep it. This ability was a hard lesson to learn, but is relevant to so many other areas of my life. When I do choose to stay home I’m usually drinking tea and doing some sort of self-care ritual, like taking a bath.

Favorite fictional female character? Why?
Her name is Lola and she lives on my arm as a tattoo. She is made up as a hybrid of features from Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop. These women were very powerful and influential, even though they struggled with self-esteem. The figure itself is named after Lola Montez, who was an Irish dancer and actress who used her influence to institute liberal reforms in the 1800s. They remind me to keep fighting the good fight.

Current power anthem?
Diana Krall’s version of “Peel Me A Grape.” It may not sound like a power anthem, but it is powerful. The song was written by Dave Frishberg, who either was inspired by a woman or dreamed up the kind of woman he was looking for in 1962. The lyrics were written for a woman to sing, demanding her wants and needs from a partner in a sexy yet subtle way. As a woman who has been shy to demand all of my wants and needs in the past, this song has empowered me time and time again.

What would you eat for your very last meal?
A big ole platter of sashimi—extra salmon!

Who is your favorite musician (or what’s your favorite album) of all time?
I honestly don’t think I could narrow it down to one, so here are three artists and albums that consistently inspire me: Erykah Badu, “Mama’s Gun”; Kimbra, “Primal Heart”; Nai Palm, “Needle Paw”

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle.
When I’m booking a gig in Nashville for my music, the process begins with contacting the venue. This requires extensive research, a delicate balance of persistence and charm and buckets of confidence. Once the venue is booked, I must find musicians who are available and willing to perform at the scheduled time. This takes collaboration with as many as eight individuals, with unique schedules, to make it happen. Then there’s the whole “finding a time for rehearsal.” It’s crucial to be up front and honest with the band about the amount of time they’re expected to put in and the compensation they will receive. Many times, they’re putting in more work than my budget can give credit for. I make up for the difference by creating an environment to give them the opportunity for artistic growth. As an event manager (when the sun comes up), I take many skills I’ve learned as a band leader into the office such as scheduling, organizing, planning and bringing ideas to life.

What does your typical workday look like?
Forming relationships is the most important part of creating successful events and experiences. To do this, I have to wear many hats, whether it be project manager, logistics coordinator, accounts payable or interdepartmental liaison.

When did you develop your passion for music?
Both of my parents are professional musicians, so it’s always been in my blood. Growing up, I always saw myself becoming a fashion designer. I changed paths when I experienced the bond music can bring to people. I believe it helps people relate on a deeper level than we can understand.

What do you think other people can learn from music?
It can be a place of safety. It can be a place of expression. It can be a place of solitude or connection. It can be there for you however you need it to be.

How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
Starting in customer service was the most humbling way to begin my career. I learned a lot about my strengths and limitations. I had managers who gave me confidence and coworkers who challenged me, which shaped me as a leader early on. I remember the first time I was promoted after only working a few short months in that position. I was excited, but nervous, because most of my team preceded me in age. To my surprise, everyone who was older was excited to have me as a supervisor but those who were my age seemed resentful. I learned I had to work harder to win the respect of my peers more so than the respect from an older generation. This understanding helped me become surer of myself in taking leadership roles. Since I’ve always been a creative, I’ve always been prone to voice my ideas and opinions. I’ll be honest: this has been both beneficial and detrimental, but I would not have become the woman I’m proud to be without speaking my mind. However, nothing prepares you for the rejection you can face when it’s merely based on your race, sex, age or other immutable characteristics.

How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’ve always been someone who puts time and effort into the way I have presented myself. I enjoy using fashion and cosmetics as a form of self-expression. Certain environments have misconstrued my efforts to show my creative side as an indication that unwanted attention was welcome. After a particular instance when I wore a form-fitting dress to the office (which covered my chest and went to my knees), I started wearing pants and no makeup. My supervisor told me I solicited attention even when I didn’t try or even notice. It’s just “who you are,” she said. On stage, this comes as a good thing; but this was the last thing I wanted in the office, where I just wanted to work hard and get my job done. So, I changed, in order to make others feel more comfortable around me. This all being said, I think it’s important to recognize individuals and celebrate who they are. How many women do you know who choose to wear pantsuits instead of dresses to work because men treat them differently when they look more feminine? I believe most women have experienced this and could change this paradigm if they are placed in positions of power, continuing to be unapologetically female.

What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I believe both the event and entertainment industries have been male-dominated in the past, but I do see women on the rise. With more fabulous publications being published to empower women (like this one!), we’re becoming more confident in demanding a seat at the table. When opportunities haven’t presented themselves, we’ve created them. I remember reading an article about the festival circuits maintaining a line-up of male band majority. Shortly after, I saw a surge of inclusion for women and even showcases featuring all women in Nashville. It taught me that some things just go unnoticed, as just a “way it’s always been,” until someone speaks up and makes a change.

How do you remain motivated and enthusiastic in your work when faced with naysayers or negativity?
Music has always been the answer to everything! If I’m feeling motivated, I can put on a song with a fast BPM to keep my momentum up. If I’m feeling weak, I can put on a song that reminds me of a time I was strong. There have even been times where I’ve shared an office with people who weren’t getting along and put on a particular song that brought them together again. Music has always been a way to keep me going and connect me with others.

Jon Gartner

Jon Gartner

How often do you experience creative burnouts? How do you remedy them?
As a workaholic, burnouts do tend to happen. I tend to put a lot of importance on my work and sometimes forget I’m just a person in a massive universe. In order to remind myself that nothing is worth losing my sanity over, I enjoy getting into a car and driving with no destination. The mountains of Tennessee have been very good to me. Some of my favorite memories are just having the windows down on a nice day with good company and good tunes.

Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
The female musicians I know don’t play games when it comes to their artistry. They continuously inspire me to push myself, take risks and not settle for less. To name a few: Maureen Murphy, Stephcynie Curry, Kira Hooks, Abigail Flowers, Kirabelle Frabotta, Alanna Royale, Melanie Dewey, Sissy Dinkle—the list could truly go on and on.

Career and/or life advice for other babes?
You make things harder for yourself when you put yourself last. Remember that your ideas are important, your voice is needed and your feelings are valid.

Connect with Alayna:

Instagram / Email

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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