Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 29 June 2010 16:42
Mandy Ratzloff isn’t where she aspired to be professionally when she left her Lehigh home four years ago to pursue a country-music career in Nashville, Tenn.
But that doesn’t mean she isn’t happy where her life has taken her to this point.
“It’s great where we are now,” Ratzloff said last week as she and her three-member band, Third Wheel Tuesday, anticipates a homecoming concert at Little Pleasures Coffeehouse in Hillsboro Thursday evening (July 1).
“We really just want to pay the bills with music one day—and not ever have to work again,” Ratzloff said with a laugh. “Being famous would be great, but we really just want to get our music out to a large audience and have everybody hear what we have to say.”
And word is spreading. Third Wheel Tuesday, which includes close friends Sarah Fleener and Miles Bosworth, has been posting recorded songs on ReverbNation, a Web site launched in 2006 that focuses on the independent music industry. It aims to provide a central site for musicians, producers and venues to collaborate and communicate.
ReverbNation ranks the artists who participate based on a variety of data gathered on the site, including number of times played, fans, times songs are added to user libraries, playlist appearances and downloads.
Last week, Third Wheel Tuesday was ranked 70th among 273 groups in the “Local” folk/accoustical category—up 22 spots from the previous ranking, one of the biggest climbs on the chart.
Ratzloff said their exposure on ReverbNation hasn’t paid many bills directly, but it has opened doors for shows.
“It’s just a lot easier getting gigs around town and in hotels and places like that,” she said.
Ratzloff’s situation has changed significantly since she arrived in Nashville on March 20, 2006.
“It was rough,” she said about the early days. “I didn’t know anybody when I first got here. I had very little money saved up, so I had to find a job right away.”
Living in a large city was a major adjustment.
“Everything is open and available 24/7 and the traffic was kind of a big deal to me—it’s really hard to drive out here,” Ratzloff said. “There’s a lot of bad drivers.”
That said, she has found the people of Nashville to be warmer than she expected.
“It was easier to adjust to the big-city life because they’re friendly—like small-town people are,” she said.
Professionally, the music environment didn’t match her expectations, either.
“I found out it wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” Ratzloff said. “Everybody out here is actually writing their own music, which caught me off guard because I was not prepared at all to do that.
“Also, there are so many genres of music out here other than country music. I came out here planning to do country, but I’ve been exposed to so many new things that I’m not even doing country anymore.”
To support herself, Ratzloff found a job first at a downtown gift shop, then as a bartender at a Joe’s Crab Shack. She pursued her music career during her off hours.
“I was really aggressive about it at first,” she said. “I was going out to the bars every night to see the bands and introduce myself. I was really trying to break into a band that was already performing, but that didn’t work out so well. That’s really hard to do, I found out.
It was while working at Joe’s Crab Shack that she met Fleener and Bosworth.
“We were just friends for a really long time,” Ratzloff said. “It wasn’t until last Christmas that they proposed the idea of being in a band with me. I thought it was a pretty good idea. So we started out and have been doing it ever since.”
The name of the group is rooted in their relationship.
“Sarah and Miles are actually boyfriend and girlfriend,” Ratzloff said. “I kind of started out as being the third wheel who hangs out with them all the time.
“But I’m also best friends with them separately, too. So sometimes it will be me and Sarah hanging out and Miles will come crash our party. Or maybe it will be me and Miles hanging out and Sarah will come crash our party.
“It’s a very common theme in the relationship between the three of us—like a third wheel.
“Also, Tuesday was always the day we would hang out a lot. It was our favorite day of the week. So we’re Third Wheel Tuesday.”
Looking to the future
One of the goals the group set for itself was to do a show in each of their hometowns. Fleener is from Roanoke, Va., and Bosworth from Denver, Colo. Their stop in Hillsboro will be the first hometown stop.
“We write our own stuff, but with our show, what you’re going to see is that we have a lot of cover songs in there, too, to sort of fill the time,” Ratzloff said.
“We’re all singers,” she added. “So we all sing lead and harmonies and everything else. We’re kind of unique in that way—we’ve got three lead singers.”
Bosworth, in addition to vocals, accompanies the group on guitar.
How does Ratzloff envision her homecoming concert at Little Pleasures?
“We’re all really excited about it,” she said. “I’m kind of hoping the whole town is there, and that we can really bring in a profit for Marissa (Javier, owner).
“I’m just hoping it’s a great night. I hope I get to see everyone, because there have been people I haven’t seen in the four years since I’ve lived out here. It’ll be great to see everybody again and tell them about my life and what I’m doing.”
Ratzloff said her experiences in the big city have changed her.
“I’m a lot more open minded,” she said. “You see so many things in a big city that you never see in a small town. Especially working in the restaurant industry, you just get to know all kinds of people.
“I?have tattoos now, I have a nose piercing—I might actually have dread locks by the time I come back home,” she added.
“I’m very open-minded and it’s great. I’m loving this person that Nashville has turned me into.”
Third Wheel Tuesday will perform at Little Pleasures, 119 N. Main, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free. For a sampling of their music go to myspace.com/thirdwheeltuesday.