Music manager Traci Thomas is the rare Nashville native in the music industry. Unlike most of her peers in the business, Thomas actually grew up in Music City and never really left.
“I am a rare native. I figured someone from here needs to stay,” Thomas tells Amplify. “Even though I grew up in Nashville, I didn’t grow up around the business.”
The closest thing Thomas did in the music business was spend her summers working for the theme park, Opryland. It was there she met a girl who worked in artist management and decided if she was going to have to work for the rest of her life, that seemed like a fun route to take.
“I changed my degree to public relations. I started looking at the business and tried to figure out where I would fit in,” Thomas says. “It was also late 90s where everybody was having a PR department so I felt like if I couldn’t get a job in the music business I could take that skill elsewhere.”
Around 15 years ago, Thomas opened her own PR firm under the Thirty Tigers umbrella and spent some time managing acts as well. In August of 2017, she left Thirty Tigers to start TT Management.
“I thought it was time to create my own culture. The company was getting bigger and I wanted to create my own thing,” Thomas says. “We always kind of lived on our own little island there, me and my employees. I felt like it was time for us to create our own environment.”
Thomas now works with St. Paul & the Broken Bones, John Moreland, Matt Ross-Spang, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, who have helped her with her other Nashville hobby. Born in a city that is known for its hot chicken, Thomas has created her own hot sauce over the years with assistance from friends.
“It is very popular. I have never sold a bottle, but I have hot sauce junkies all around the world,” says Thomas, who calls her creation Tennessee Traci hot sauce. “The 400 Unit actually helped make it this year, which was fun. We had a pool/hot sauce party. It was hard to keep people focused on making the hot sauce.”
The manager jokes that the hot sauce could be an early retirement business when she slows down enough to make more than the 200 bottles per year she makes now. At the moment, a box always lives in the trunk of her car and she just gives it away to friends, colleagues and musicians.
“It is still naked. There is no label. I’ve always felt that once I get a label, I need to make it legit,” says Thomas. “It is not like anything else on the market. That’s why I feel like I need to make it commercial because it is almost like a roasted salsa. I grill the peppers. It’s got just enough heat with the flavor.”
A local distillery has even offered Thomas their barrels so she can age some of the hot sauce that she says varies slightly in flavor from year to year.
Until that day comes, Thomas will have to continue ‘quarterbacking’ the careers of stellar musicians like Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit who just completed a six-night sold out run at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Amplify caught up with Thomas to learn about five shows that blew her away.
Merle Haggard and the Strangers with Iris DeMent, Dave Alvin, Billy Joe Shaver and Rosie Flores at Fillmore in San Francisco
April 15, 1995
I was doing publicity for Tulare Dust, which was tribute to Merle. We did a show at the Fillmore with Merle and a lot of the other artists on the record. I was just a baby publicist and this blew my mind.
Guy Clark at Douglas Corner in Nashville
Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, 1996
Sugar Hill Records had hired me to do their publicity and my first project was Guy Clark recording a live record. It changed my life. I learned how to love/appreciate a great song from Guy.
Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band at Station Inn in Nashville
Sept. 24, 1997
I was producing a concert series at The Station Inn with No Depression Magazine. I knew the way to get Steve to do it was to pair him with Buddy Miller or Del. Buddy was not available. This night lead to their record together called The Mountain.
Slobberbone and Drive-By Truckers at the Slow Bar in Nashville
Feb. 23, 2002
I had to twist the booker’s arm to book this show. I was Drive-By Trucker’s publicist at the time, they didn’t have an agent yet. This was the first time I meet Jason Isbell. The show was so packed and crazy if you opened the doors people would roll out like a clown car.
Levon Helm at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville
July 19, 2007
I still get chill bumps when I think about this show. Levon was grinning from ear to ear all night. You could tell how happy he was to be there. His dog ran out a couple of times to check on him and then ran backstage.