In 2020, Megan Moroney graduated from the University of Georgia and moved to Nashville with stars in her eyes, one of thousands of musicians who come to town every year hoping to make it big.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Moroney said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week before her first headlining appearance in Atlanta at a sold-out Buckhead Theatre on Sunday, Dec. 10. “”With COVID, it was hard to network and meet people. I made money being an influencer on Instagram and I wrote every single day.”
The Douglasville native released an EP last year as an independent artist, produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush. She opened for a bunch of artists like Jamey Johnson and Chase Matthew. Spotify then reached out and said they wanted her to partake in their Fresh Finds program, a playlist collection that showcases the best emerging independent artists from multiple genres.
It was the beginning of college football season and she had a song she had written earlier in the year “Tennessee Orange” about an inveterate University of Georgia Dawgs fan who is so into her boyfriend and University of Tennessee Vols fan, she is willing to wear his orange colors. It was so DIY, she said, the cover art was a photo of her in a Tennessee shirt she took from her iPhone.
At first, she worried the song would be too provincial but listeners didn’t care. In five days, she said she had a million streams and soon, TikTok fans picked it up. The song reached the top 10 on the Billboard country charts in October based on streaming and downloads. Within weeks, she had inquiries from almost every major country label to sign her.
She ultimately chose Sony Music Nashville/Columbia Records by the end of 2022. “I felt they were going to give me the most creative control and trusted what I had already had done,” she said.
Moroney, 26, purposely signed with both the country and pop labels in hopes of crossing over at some point. (There is a certain Time person of the year who did that.)
“I never truly wanted a cover where I’m on a truck bed with a guitar in a field,” she said. “That’s not me.”
Moroney was born in Savannah but moved to Douglasville as an infant and graduated from Alexander High School. “Douglasville functioned as a small town where you knew everybody,” she said. “That influenced my songwriting like the song ‘Hair Salon’.”
As a kid, she liked to sing and her dad and brother taught her how to play guitar. But she didn’t see a music career as a realistic option.
“I thought I would be an accountant,” she said. “My dad’s in sales. My mom’s an accountant. I decided to do what my mom did. My first two years at UGA, I was an accounting major.”
Then she realized there were jobs in the music business. She said she wanted to drop out and move to Nashville. But her parents nixed that idea. So she majored in digital marketing in the music marketing program and graduated in 2020. She interned at The Classic Center in Athens one summer and with Kristian and Brandon Bush on the business side another summer without immediately telling them of her musical aspirations.
Kristian Bush said once he heard her sing and gave him her career plans, he wanted to work with her.
“She knows who she is and what she wants to say already,” Bush said. “Her ability to communicate is streamlined, which in turn makes her music laser focused in message and her presentation always successful, no matter the medium. I also love her voice and how well she writes the songs she sings.”
The response to “Tennessee Orange” heartened her. While a few UGA fans found it sacrilegious and told her on social media that her UGA diploma should be revoked, she said most Georgia fans believe she redeems herself in the song by singing “I still want the Dawgs to win.”
The video opens with what appears to be video of Moroney as a two year old cheering for the Dawgs. But she said her mom misplaced old-time video like that when they moved so instead she hired an actress to replicate such a scene.
She released a full-fledged album in May for Sony Nashville called “Lucky” because she feels that way.
“It’s been such a whirlwind,” she said. “I honestly haven’t had much time to process it all. It happened so quickly. Nashville has been so accepting of me and my music.”
And when Moroney’s agent told her she was going to headline the Buckhead Theatre, which holds up to 1,600 people, she questioned whether she could sell enough tickets.
Her agent was right. The concert sold out almost immediately. “I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around it,” she said. “My mom is busy making friendship bracelets for everyone. She’s really excited!”
On tour for a few weeks, she has been thrilled to meet her fans, some who bring her homemade shirts evoking their love for her.
“The coolest thing has been the way my fans relate to my music and show up and they care,” she said. “That is encouraging me to keep making good music.”
She was also stunned when Kenny Chesney chose her to open for his stadium tour in 2024, including a stop at Mercedes-Benz Stadium May 18, 2024. (Atlanta’s Zac Brown Band is also part of the tour.)
“I saw him junior year of college at Mercedes-Benz Stadium” in 2018, Moroney said. “I was just a drunk girl in the 300 section!’
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.