At age 14, Levi Orr had his mind made up on the career he’d pursue.
Today, the 2018 Clemson University graduate has made significant progress toward his goal of becoming a country artist. And the now 26-year-old singer-songwriter says his marketing education in the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business was time well spent in his pursuit of making a name for himself in Nashville.
“Without a doubt, my exposure to the strategies of social media marketing has helped promote my career,” the Mills River, N.C., native said. “I essentially market myself and knowing the ins and outs of a vital business tool like social media can go a long way in telling your story and opening doors in this industry.”
Levi wasn’t drawn to Tigertown to further his thirst for a music career but felt having a college degree was important and with some close friends and his brother attending here at the time, Clemson quickly became a natural choice.
“Beyond the classroom, I had my hands in a number of musical organizations on campus and played at a couple of local venues,” he said. “At the time, I thought my path might lead to the business-end of the music industry, but I knew I would always pursue a career as an artist outside of office hours.”
Levi played the Esso Club, Denver Downs Farms and TD’s in downtown Clemson. Some of the musical organizations he was involved with included Tigeroar, the university’s male acapella group, Tigertown Roots, the university’s premier bluegrass ensemble, and he sang as a member of the Clemson University Men’s Choir and Cantorei. He was also president of CMA EDU at Clemson, the Country Music Association’s (CMA) collegiate organization that educates students on the music industry.
Though he played some mandolin and took voice lessons as a pre-teen, Levi’s appetite for country music was really spawned by family visits to CMA Fest in Nashville as a teen-ager.
“I was hooked after our second trip to CMA Fest in 2010, and when I returned home to North Carolina the following week, I remember telling friends that someday I’d be moving to Nashville and pursuing what I truly loved. I felt at that time, as a 14-year-old, and even still today, that music is what I was born to do,” he said. “From that visit to Nashville forward, my passion to make a career in music has never wavered.”
Making Nashville his home and the launch pad for his career was solidified when he graduated from Clemson but didn’t receive any marketing job offers.
“In my last semester, I began applying for marketing and management positions in the music industry and only got one interview and no offers,” he said. “So, I decided to move to Nashville and figure things out there. I took a job as an events coordinator for my first year in town, but the longer I stayed at that job, the more I realized that happiness to me is not a 9-to-5 kind of career. It became clear at that time that I didn’t want to be anything but a singer-songwriter, so I decided to sell myself as just that.”
With a strong social media presence and a good pair of boots, Levi pounded the pavement, going door-to-door seeking out gigs on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville, hoping to connect with each venue’s booking person or manager. But he quickly learned that for an artist to get their foot firmly in the door of an establishment in Music City, it’s all about who you know.
“Unfortunately, nothing came out of all the emails I sent and visits I made. But that legwork did introduce me to people who eventually helped me land some gigs,” he added. “Now, I’m playing three to four times a week at venues downtown and off Broadway and my dream is slowly becoming a reality more and more each day.”
That reality hit home in mid-April with the release of his first single, “Trouble with You.”
“‘Trouble with You’ is a great song that was pitched to me in late 2020 and it truly felt like the right time and right song for me to start out with. I was a little nervous about going into the recording studio with a full band at first, having never recorded a fully produced song before, but I was amazed when the song turned out better than I ever imagined. Since its release, it has been wild to see so many people around the world listening to, connecting with, and sharing the song.”
With wind in his sails, Levi now has a manager who connects him with songwriters and advises him on promoting songs and events. And with regular appearances, he’s not only making ends meet, but the income is more than he is used to making in a corporate job.
Near future, Levi plans to write and record more later this summer and fall and eventually play some name venues like the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C. and the Blind Horse Saloon in Greenville, S.C., where Eric Church played on his climb to fame as a country star.
“Getting a record deal and being on the radio are always two obvious dreams for any artist, but truthfully, I have goals beyond that. One of my biggest dreams is to get that first big check someday that will allow me to pay off any debt that my family owes. Though money is not the ultimate driving factor that fuels my passion for music, when this journey one day leads to a successful career in country music, the first thing I’m going to do is put my family in a position where they’ll be able to leave the 9-to-5 lifestyle, like I did.”
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