We’re bringing you stories from women who are chasing their dreams and building a life that they love with New York Country Swag’s, “Woman of the Month.”
Each month, we highlight a different female pursuing her passions. Introducing you to women who are taking risks, working relentlessly and turning their dreams into reality. These are empowering women who serve as role models and should be celebrated.
This month we interviewed another icon in the music business in Nashville, Evelyn Shriver. Shriver is the second half of the Shady Ladies of Music City along with Susan Nadler who we had the pleasure of featuring last month. The ladies together infiltrated the music business in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming the first women to ever run a music label, Asylum Records. In our most recent phone call, Shriver tells us her secret to a long marriage, all about working with Randy Travis and her advice for women in the music industry.
Growing up, Shriver’s father was in the military, and she tells us about living in Germany when she was 13 years old. She recalls going to the teen club to hear music and although it was all of the music popular in the states, it would take about six months for the “new” music to make its way to Germany. She explains that you could go to the teen club and that’s where you could listen to music, and maybe even find your husband. “My husband who I’ve been married to for 47 years, the very first time I saw him I walked into the teen club in Germany and his band was rehearsing,” she explains. Astounded, we were sure to ask what the secret to a long, happy marriage is and Shriver tells us: “The secret is, there are no rules, you just treat each other like you want to be treated and we’ve followed that our entire marriage and it’s worked out pretty good.”
When she came back to the states she finished up high school then joined her soon-to-be-husband in New York where she started working at a public relations firm. “I didn’t even know PR was a thing before I got started, we are talking about 45 years ago,” she tells us. “The company I went to work for represented Carey Grant, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford who were huge stars, and I thought this was so interesting even though I was just the receptionist at the time.”
After starting her own business in New York, Shriver got sick of living in a one bedroom apartment, she longed for simple things like her own washer and dryer and a BBQ, so while her husband explored the songwriting opportunities in Nashville, she knew she could move there and her business would continue to thrive. She started working with Randy Travis from the very start of his career, explaining that he and his manager then turned wife Lib Hatcher were not familiar with big city living. “The first time we went to Europe on a USO tour, they wanted to go to McDonald’s, that’s not the place you go to in Paris,” she laughs. She also goes on to tell us a story about one of their first trips to L.A. and how they went to a fancy Italian restaurant and Lib ordered a salad, which was only mixed greens with dressing so she proceeded to whip out a fresh tomato from her purse, cut it up and add it to the salad in front of her. “I was just thinking to myself, ‘What the hell is the waiter going to think’,” she giggles.
She talks honestly about being a publicist and giving everything you have for your clients which includes making sacrifices in your own life. “As an older person now looking back, its ‘what happened to my life’. I realize I don’t do anything, I don’t have kids, I don’t have any hobbies,” she explains. “And it wasn’t that I never intended to not have children, I was always just too busy to have children, then I no longer could have children, you give up a lot for people. You have to be available 24/7 for your clients.”
After meeting Susan Nadler in 1988, the two women teamed up to run Asylum Records, making them the first females to ever run a major Nashville label. They went on to sign George Jones and help him release his Grammy-winning album Cold Hard Truth. “I thought it was really good for the town for it to not be one of the usual suspects that got the job, a man and my clients were very supportive, they knew it would be hard to turn it down,” Shriver says of taking the position.
We discussed the nature of women in the music industry and on country radio currently and she tells us how recently she went to an event hosted by her friends Tracey Gershon and Beverly Keel as well as Leslie Fram who run ‘Change the Conversation’. “The place was packed, it must have been 200 women so it’s great that there are all of these women here but I don’t hear the conversation changing much. It seems to be pretty much the same scenario, the guys are running it and the women are doing the cleanup,” she says. “There are a lot of people talking about it but following the press coverage and women on the charts, a year has gone by and there has been one woman to take the top spot.”
After forty years in the music business, Shriver has seen a lot and gives a great few lines of advice for women trying to make their dreams come true in this industry. “My feeling is, you almost have to carve out your own space which is one of the reasons I always had my own company. Just be strong, don’t take the shit from anybody. People always said they were afraid of me or intimated by me because I always told the truth, why is that so scary? I think you just have to stand up for what you believe and if you do that, that will change the conversation.”
The Shady Ladies of Music City podcast is now live and showcases Evelyn and Susan and their hilarious stories about their journies. Check out each of the episodes below.
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