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How Modeling Prepared Music City’s Alisa Fuller for Her Music Career

New Episodes Air Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET

The beauty of CMT’s Music City is that it shows an authentic look behind the scenes of what it truly means to make it in Nashville’s music community. And for aspiring artists, part of paying your dues is having a side hustle.

When she’s not working on her own music, Alisa Fuller is surrounded by live, old-school country for eight hours a day at her side gig bartending on Nashville’s Lower Broadway. The job has her interacting with local business professionals, aspiring musicians and tourists from around the world.

“I appreciate every opportunity I’m given,” she tells CMT.com. “And I know that this can be gone tomorrow. So I cherish it, and make the most out of it.”

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Fuller grew up singing in school choirs and in church, but she didn’t get the calling to make music for a living until five years ago when she started writing songs.

“I was dealing with a breakup, and I felt I needed to write something. So I started writing and thought, ‘This is actually pretty good.’”

She enrolled in an 18-month recording industry program at the Los Angeles Film School and moved to Nashville six months after her graduation. But before she relocated, she knew on her first visit to the Tennessee capital that it had to be her forever home.

“I feel like my songs belonged here, but I have never been this far from my family. It took me a little while to feel at home and find a core group of people I trust. I slowly started meeting people like Rachyl. And now that I have that core group of people, and it’s great. I would eventually like to start a family and live here forever.”

I love writing love songs. I feel like all I know is being in love or being broken up with. It’s heartbreak or happiness. But anytime I was going through a breakup, it helped me to listen to heartbreak songs. That’s what I’m trying to do; turning my heartbreak into songs that will help someone else going through theirs.

Carrie Underwood’s music is the direction I’m trying to go. Maybe 10 years ago, I started listening to Carrie and Rascal Flatts, and they started my whole journey in country music. I heard “What Hurts the Most” in high school on someone’s MySpace page. And I bought every single one of their albums that day. I just like the storytelling aspect of their music.

Co-writing with strangers can get weird. You have to talk about your world with a stranger because you have to get into the nitty gritty fast. And I typically don’t open up to just anybody. And you have to constantly find new people to collaborate with because you don’t want to get stale and fall into a creative rut. So for me, it’s just getting out there and writing what you might not think would be good for you because if anything, it’s just an experience.

Because I used to model in Los Angeles, out there the photographers are like, “Oh, you’re a model? we should shoot together.” Out here, it’s like, “Oh, you’re a songwriter? We should write together.” I’m thinking, “Are you interested in getting better at your craft, or are you trying to date a bunch of girls, and this is your in?”

I think being a female in the music industry, no matter what genre you’re going into, it can be a male-dominated industry; not necessarily in the artist aspect, but the people who are higher up are more men, and so it’s harder for people to take you seriously. And then you’re thinking, “OK, do they want to work with me because I look a certain way? Do they want me because they think I’m talented? Do they want me because they’re trying to date me? Does he want to be my manager because he actually wants to help me?” All these questions you have to ask that you shouldn’t have to ask. But you need to ask because you don’t want to get stuck in something that you can’t get out of or you don’t want to sign a deal with someone you thought was trying to help you, and then it turns out he wanted to date you. Now you’ve pissed him off, and you’re in this contract, and you can’t get out. It’s a very fine line, but you have to be aware.

Comparison is the thief of joy. The minute you start comparing yourself to someone else’s journey in music, you’re going to feel like you are a slacker, you’re not good enough, and you can’t do it. I definitely never would have even gotten here if I thought, “I can’t do it because I’m not from the South. I can’t be in country music because I’m brown.” There are so many reasons I could have come up with not to make music, but it’s what I want to do, and this is what I’m going to do.

New episodes of Music City air on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET. Additional videos and full episodes are available at the Music City show page on CMT.com and the CMT app.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.