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D.C. by Way of Pittsburgh—with the Occasional Nashville Stop

Multiple Wammie winner Melissa Quinn Fox has some advice for songwriters

DMV-based singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox discusses her 2023 Wammie wins, new music, and more.

DMV-based singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox press photo
Melissa Quinn Fox - Photo Courtesy of the Artist

Singer-songwriter Melissa Quinn Fox scored quite a whammy this spring. In April, the artist took home three prestigious Wammie Awards at a ceremony held in Washington. One of those recognitions was best song for her composition “Dear Self Doubt.”

“I’m a four-time winner, which is pretty awesome,” Quinn Fox said, noting that she previously won a best song Wammie for her earlier composition “Back There.” “It really means a lot to be recognized as a songwriter for all the hard work I’ve put in—especially in this area.”

Indeed, Quinn Fox has put in the time and the work. A native of Pittsburgh, she spent several years after college traveling as a performer, appearing in shows domestically and overseas.  Missing the family, she returned to the Iron City and played in various bands while refining her own voice as a songwriter. An old friend convinced her to head down to the Outer Banks to play summer acoustic shows while supplementing her music by working in the restaurant industry.  During that time, she maintained a romantic relationship with someone in Pittsburgh, and the couple eventually made the move to D.C.

“I decided to take a chance on a new city, move here and see how I liked it,” she said, adding that the relationship ended not long after she arrived in the DMV. “I got a day job in sales I really enjoyed while I was playing music at night with various bands.”

A picture of Melissa Quinn Fox
Melissa Quinn Fox - Photo Courtesy of the Artist

She again considered moving back to Pittsburgh, but in 2013 met her now-husband. The couple temporarily set up homes in Newport, Rhode Island, and Destin, Florida, before settling (for now) back in the D.C. area.

“For my experience, I think it’s very supportive,” she said of the music scene of her adopted hometown. “There’s definitely a large circle of musicians that usually keep in communication with each other—sharing gig and venue info.”

Quinn Fox is a self-taught acoustic guitarist and also plays a bit of piano. She considers Fleetwood Mac, Carole King and Carly Simon, all of whom she heard on her parents’ record player back home in Pittsburgh, as early inspirations. Later influences include the ’80s and ’90s pop sounds of Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston.”

“But then I started listening to country music in high school—so Faith Hill, Sarah Evans, Trisha Yearwood, Dixie Chicks,” said Quinn Fox. “Nowadays Miranda Lambert, Brandi Carlile, Serena Ryder. I just take a little bit of them into my own style.”

This method has indeed worked for her. “Dear Self Doubt” marries a vintage country sound with some rather bluesy beats, while “Back There” infuses the Western feel of American music into the song’s country DNA.

“I really lucked out when I met Todd Wright, a local singer-songwriter-producer in Hamilton, Virginia. It really changed my life,” Quinn Fox said of working with the man who has helped refine her own compositions. “A lot of times when you’re an artist, you write these lyrics and you might think no one is going to…relate or think you’re stupid. You really just gotta be open to collaborating.”

Her wish to work with the best writers has led Quinn Fox to make nearly two dozen trips to Nashville—typically with her husband and the couple’s two dogs along for the ride. On her most recent excursion to Music City, she had the opportunity to try out several of her songs in front of various songwriters to receive feedback. Though Quinn Fox has met some stellar Nashville composers whose input can up her own game, she has no “set goal” regarding her trips to Tennessee’s capital—nor does she wish to move south.

“We really love Northern Virginia. It’s a good location, and [within] driving distance to our parents and families,” she said. “And there’s amazing opportunities here to play music all week long. Down [in Nashville] it’s oversaturated, and you’re scrambling to play gigs just for tips.”

The couple moved from Alexandria to Purcellville last summer, and are enjoying the slower pace of life a bit farther from the capital. From their home base, Quinn Fox can easily travel to upcoming gigs around the region, including as far away as Pennsylvania and as far afield as South Carolina with her guitar in hand.

Melissa Quinn Fox performing live with her band
Melissa Quinn Fox performing live with her band - Photo Courtesy of the Artist

The DMV has been good to Quinn Fox, allowing her to write, record and perform—her dream since youth. Her individual songs are leading up to an EP, she says, and potentially a full-length album sometime next year. Her next single, “Crime,” is due to drop June 30.

With several Wammies to her credit now, Quinn Fox said she will continue putting pen to paper, no matter the types or number of awards that may yet be to come.

“I have stuff written down on Post-its everywhere in the house. I had written down wanting to play these festivals [as well as winning] Wammie Awards,” she said. “It’s amazing to feel like it’s gonna happen and then it happens.

“It’s a great feeling to know you have positive energy and working hard pays off.”

Quinn Fox has some rather straightforward advice for anyone seeking to become a singer-songwriter: Be yourself, don’t try to make your music fit into someone else’s paradigm, and find your own unique voice.

“I always wanted to write songs that people relate to,” she said. “I fell in love with music and the story of the song—and how it made me feel.”

*For information on upcoming gigs and to hear more of her music, visit www.melissaquinnfox.com/. *

Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, ScreenComment.com and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Victoria.

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