Ask Allison featuring Cole Nesson & Daniella Spadini

Allison Asks

Ask Allison

A Blog Series By: Allison Barrett



[ALLISON] Hey everybody!  Welcome back to a special edition of Allison Asks, this time “Ask Allison.”  I have Cole Nesson and Daniella Spadini here with me today, and the reason they're interviewing me is a fun story.  When they (NSAI) first announced the blog was coming out, they (Cole and Daniella) came up from writing in the basement and they knew about it before I did, which was so fun and they were so excited.  So, I told them that day a year ago, over a year ago, that they were going to get to do the anniversary edition of the blog and they were going to get to ask me questions.  As a lady of my word, here we are.  They gave me a little bit of hints, but not a lot, so we're going to see how this goes.  What's the first question y’all?

[COLE] Where are you from, Allison?

[ALLISON] Ok I can do that one!  I am from a small town in Kentucky called Murray.  It's a little college town, and fun fact, if you know Bart, our Executive Director, it's about 30 minutes from his hometown, Paris, TN.

[COLE] OK, Interesting.  I didn't know that.

[DANIELLA] So, did you always know that you wanted to work in the music realm?

[ALLISON] Pretty much.  I went back and forth on some things before and then I had actually planned to be a music teacher, like a high school choir director.  And I realized that patience and teaching was something that go hand in hand and I don't always have that.  So, I was like, ‘OK, this isn't going to work.’  So I found out about production and that's what I went to school for.  I was like, ‘I want to work in the studio.’  You can see that didn't happen either.


[COLE] What school did you go to?

[ALLISON] It was called IADT over in Donelson, TN for those locals who know where that's at.  They're closed now, kind of like the Art Institute.  So that's another fun story.


[COLE] That’s a different blog.


[ALLISON] Different blog, different day.  Yeah.


[COLE] What jobs have you had since moving to Nashville?

[ALLISON] So, I moved to Nashville in December of 2011.  So, I’ve been here a hot minute and my first, I had some like retail and all those little college jobs, but I worked as the Department Head of the college, his assistant and kind of got intro’d into audio and more music things that way.  That's how I actually got my internship working with Fan Clubhouse.  His wife ran that company, and she's great.  Then I went my first, like, real music job was working for an online radio station.  So, it was a lot of Christian music, and I did a lot of programming there.  Then I went over to BMI and that's when I found out that I love songwriters and then I went to barbershop and now I'm here.

[DANIELLA] Well, we love you too.  Aside from jobs, how else did you ingratiate yourself in the Nashville music scene?

[ALLISON] Yeah, so we tell you guys to network all the time and it's important.  So, I remember meeting people when I first moved here and I still see them out or we're still connected on social media.  I would go to mixers.  There's a couple good groups here in Nashville if you're local.  YEP is one that is really popular I would recommend.  I did a lot of stuff with them.  I was on the MusiCares Ambassador board, which is the local, it's not the overarching one through the Grammys, but it's a local one where we did different events and fundraisers to help spread word about MusiCares.  So I did a lot of their events.  Yeah, just get out there.

[DANIELLA] Do you have any networking tips for songwriters?

[ALLISON] I think it's the same no matter if you're a songwriter or in the industry. It's just you have to do it and it's kind of, it's still intimidating, you know, I've been doing it 10 years and when I take songwriters out to network, I still get nervous too.  So, it's just you have to do it and so I love seeing when I go out, you guys networking so well.  I'm really proud of y'all.

[COLE] How did you get involved with NSAI to begin with?

[ALLISON] I applied for jobs at NSAI for years and it just never quite clicked.  Then I went to barbershop and worked in their membership department.  So things kind of made sense when they called me after COVID to come here.  They reopened the office in July of 2021 and needed a Receptionist.

[DANIELLA] So since you've been with NSAI, have you found any events in particular that you favor, like your favorite event?


[ALLISON] That’s hard.  I love Tin Pan South.  I love the five nights of shows.  It's crazy wild.  My friend Jenna and I would always go, even before I worked here, that was something we participated in.  So, I've been, like I said, I’ve been an NSAI supporter forever.  I also love the Liz Rose event because I like seeing how close the participants can get with her and get her hands on knowledge.  So those two are probably my favorite.

[COLE] How long has that Liz Rose thing been going on?

[ALLISON] Great question.  I'm not sure I know the answer.

[DANIELLA] So also since you've been with NSAI, do you have any memories that stand out to you?


[ALLISON] SO MANY! Meeting you guys and all the members


[COLE] Number one of course.


[ALLISON] Obviously number one, being around the members and getting to know their story.  I'm trying to think.  I feel like I had some really good answers for this earlier.  We had some kids from Africa come in and play us their songs once, and that was super cool because we had some songwriters play for them.  But yeah, just being here with you guys every day is great.

[COLE] That's a good, good question.

[ALLISON] You came up with it.

[COLE} It's a fantastic question.  So how did the blog originally come about?  Allison Asks.

[ALLISON] So we were all taking turns as the Membership staff of writing the monthly blog post and then I went extra because if you know me, obviously I'm extra.  Mine was about co-writing and I was like, ‘I'm going to interview some people about co-writing, because I don't know anything about it and I'm not a songwriter.’  So I was like okay, I'm just going to interview people and when I put them all together it was like 12 pages.  It was like no one’s going to read a 12 page blog.  And so Jill was like ‘split it up and make a little series about it.’  And I was like ‘well what if I just keep it going and just talk about whatever I want.’  So that's what happened.

[COLE] So what has been your favorite interview for the blog so far, other than this one?

[ALLISON] Other than this one, yes.  I’ve loved them all, but Steve O’Brien did my first audio blog with me and I didn’t know what I was doing yet and he rolled with it so great and we had the best time.  It’s an hour long y’all, but it’s worth it.  He’s got some great advice, I wish I could just clip out all of it, it’s so good.


[COLE] What was the topic? 


[ALLISON] It was just, you know, his life.  It’s called “Steve O’Brien Is Going To Rock Our World” because he wrote “Rock My World Little Country Girl.”  I was trying to be punny that day, and yah he talks about his journey to Nashville and how he got his connections.  Then he wrote a book, which was fun to talk about, but then just like ideas for songwriting.  So, he's got a lot of good, a lot of good nuggets in there.


[DANIELLA] I was listening to it earlier.  Lots of good advice- highly recommend.  Speaking of advice, what is the best piece of advice for songwriters that you've heard from the pros you've encountered here?

[ALLISON] There's so many, but last month when I - so this is coming out a couple months later, but in February, the blog that I did with Sandy Knox, I asked her that question.  I was like, ‘what do you want to tell our writers?’  And she's like, ‘don't stop.’  And I was like, that's a genius, you know?  If anything, just keep doing it.  So, when she said ‘don't stop,’ I was like, ‘I think that's all the questions I have.’  It was so good.


[COLE] That covers it all.


[ALLISON] It did.

[COLE] Working at NSAI, what service do you wish songwriters took more advantage of than they do?


[ALLISON] ALL OF THEM!  But for real, we have so many great services and you get all of your credits that people don’t always use.  The Song Evaluations you can use here or anywhere, online or in the mail, so that’s one that’s the easiest to use and you get 12 of them.  So, definitely start there, but you get credits for all kinds of fun things.


[DANIELLA] So overall, what would you say is your favorite part of working here?


[ALLISON] Um, I just love being around the music everyday. Being around the members and getting to see what they come up with, it kind of keeps my creativity going.  You know I said I’m not a songwriter, but I am very creative minded and yah just being around you guys. 


[COLE] What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?  Are you more country, pop?


[ALLISON] You know, I feel like the answer is ‘I listen to everything’ and people say that but, like,


[COLE] Cop out!


[ALLISON] But literally, because I'll tell you my three favorites.  My three favorite people are Reba, which is, you know, country.


[DANIELLA and COLE] Yes ma’am!


[ALLISON] Then Halestorm which is like a metal band, hard rock metal band.  So that already tells you that I'm on both ends of spectrum.


[COLE] Very wide.  Interesting.

[ALLISON] And then David Cook, he's like a pop rock kind of guy.  He's another one of my favorites.

[DANIELLA] Did you vote for him when he was on American Idol?




[COLE] Cut that out!


[DANIELLA] Cut the cameras!


[ALLISON] No I was a teenage girl so I thought David Archuleta was the coolest thing, but then I won tickets y’all on the radio with a FLIP PHONE because we had those when I was a kid.  And I won tickets to the Idols Live tour and it was on a school night but my mom still took me and then I got to high five David Cook and I think from then on I was a huge fan.


[DANIELLA] He got you.


[ALLISON] He did.  But he’s also a great songwriter too, all three of them.  Reba doesn’t write as much, but specifically Lzzy Hale does all of the band’s music and then David Cook, they’re two songwriters that I really like.


[DANIELLA] I know that you pretty much ran the Song Contest this last year and a lot of great songs came out of that.  Could you take us behind the scenes on what that looks like on your end?

[ALLISON] Yeah, you know, we have the contest open for two months, but it takes me all year to run the Song Contest.  I mean maybe not the whole year, but so we start in, you know a couple months ahead, getting marketing team starts getting the website together.  I start getting things prepped, hiring the judges, making sure they have everything they need, testing the website platform, make sure it works.  And then once day one opens, we start getting songs in the queue, I start giving them to the judges, making sure they are ready and then they have the two months to judge.  We have like a month that we like wrap things up and then we go into the other rounds of judging, which I think it ends up being 5 rounds.  It's all on our website.  But yeah, so then there's all the multiple rounds of judging.  The live one that you see is always really fun to record to you know, hear the pros feedback because yeah, like I'll go in with a favorite song and then I'll hear them talking like ‘Oh no, but they're right.’  Even when I give song feedback, I'm like, ‘man, that is goals of giving song feedback.’  Then after that, after we announce the winner, I'm working with them to get all of their meetings booked and all their prizes fulfilled.  So it's really fun getting to know the winners and helping them get to meet all these cool people.

[COLE] Well, on the other hand, Tin Pan South seems to be one of the bigger things that NSAI puts on.  How far in advance does that planning start?  I assume that's almost year round too.

[ALLISON] It is.  The admin team handles all of the shows and they also do the awards, so if they're not working on one, it's the other. When I was Bart’s and Jenn’s assistant, I helped a lot with solidifying venues and all that kind of thing and that was really fun.  So it is, it feels like a year-round process for that too, just because there's so many shows.  Then we have the Member Awards and the Seminar, which Lisa does great with and Coordinator Training.  So when they're working on the shows the Membership team is working on all of these other events too, so it's a big week.

[COLE] It's tough, a lot of planning to go into that.



[COLE] It's pretty neat.


[ALLISON] But we’ve got a good team here.


[DANIELLA] Absolutely.  And there's so much to learn from just going to the shows or going to seminar like it’s Hollywood Week for songwriters.  Back to American Idol. 


[ALLISON] Yes!  We should do that.  Hollywood week, I love it.

[DANIELLA] There are so many cool events coming up this year, but are there any in particular that you're most excited for?

[ALLISON] That's a great question.  I'm excited for them for different reasons.  I'm excited for the Member Awards because that's something I've got to put a lot of work into and I know that that's something that you guys hopefully will really enjoy and appreciate.  And I love the shows of Tin Pan Week and Lisa's got a great lineup for Seminar.  But then we hopefully are going to do a RISE this year if we haven't already started that by the time this comes out.  So that's always fun because we get to engage the out-of-town members.  I love doing my rise group last year, working with them.  So yeah, I think, I don't know I love every event.  With my event background, like that's just one of the things, just another way to get to know you guys.

[COLE] So, a couple of light hearted questions to close us out. 


[ALLISON] Uhoh!!


[COLE] What is your favorite food place in Nashville?


[ALLISON] OK, so I love Mexican food.  So, I love Mas Tacos over in East Nashville.  Yeah, I'm trying to think that's just the first one that comes to mind.

[COLE] I don't know if I've had Mas Tacos.

[ALLISON] Let's gooooo.

[DANIELLA] I've never.  Let's do it.  I’m so down.  I've heard a rumor.  I've heard a rumor.  You can tell me if this is true or not.  That you have a cat.




[DANIELLA] Tell me more.  What's her story?  His story?

[ALLISON] She is a 16 pound ball of fluff and her name is Dinosaur.  She's one of the sassiest cats.  I have never met a cat this sassy.  So, when I adopted her, I took her and I was not prepared for that and I was kind of wondering why they named her Dinosaur and very quickly I understood the attitude that she came with.  But now she travels home with me.  If you ever see me, I'll show you pictures of her riding in the car.  She has been mistaken for a dog as recently as this weekend because she's so big.

[COLE] So you're more of a cat person than a dog person?

[ALLISON] I love both.  I would- fun story real quick.  I tried to pet a coyote at my last house and my neighbor was nice enough to stop me from doing that.  I just want to pet anything that will let me, I’m just not home enough for a dog.


[COLE] Well, you'll have to bring Dinosaur into the office.

[ALLISON] I have been trying to do that.

[COLE] Bring your pet to Work day.

[DANIELLA} Absolutely.

[ALLISON] Well thanks everybody for tuning into this “Ask Allison” edition of Allison Asks.  It's been so fun getting to hang out with Cole and Daniela.  When we were prepping for this, I asked if this is what a co-write is like and they both reassured me that it is.  So, it's been fun hanging.  Thanks y'all!