After moving to Nashville in 2018, Lancaster County native Conrad Fisher was determined to make his music career successful, even if that meant working an unusual job at night to make ends meet.
During his time in Nashville, Fisher worked at Williamson Memorial Funeral Home in Franklin, Tennessee.
“I was picking up dead bodies to make a living because it was something I could do at night,” Fisher said. “It paid the bills so that I could write and have meetings during the day.”
And it worked.
Fisher recently landed a publishing deal with Reversion Music and is working as a full-time musician. After spending a couple of years in Nashville, Fisher decided to move home to his farm in Juniata County once the pandemic hit.
Now, Fisher is playing gigs around the country and has an upcoming performance on Saturday at the New Holland Community Park as part of New Holland Summer Arts Association’s Entertainment in the Park concert series.
Fisher grew up Mennonite and lived on a flower farm one mile north of Intercourse, which his family still owns. On the farm, Fisher’s family cut flowers, and his father would travel to Manhattan to sell them.
Suzan Noll, the organizer of the New Holland Summer Arts Fest, bought flowers from the farm years ago. She thinks Fisher might have been the boy who ran pansies out to her car all that time ago, though she can’t be sure. She’s happy to have him be part of the Entertainment in the Park series this year.
“I like to try and get five or six new groups every year to keep the music fresh,” Noll said. “Conrad was one who was on my radar. I think he will be a good fit.”
Before his rise in the music industry, Fisher attended Summitview Christian School in Gordonville. For Fisher, music was always a part of his life.
“We had one of those little air organs when I was young. I don’t really remember not being able to sit down and play something,” Fisher said. “I’ve loved it forever. I just decided I’m miserable doing anything else.”
In his first band, Forward Son, Fisher performed gospel and country music. Now, he has a harder time putting his music style into a box. But he can point to some of his musical inspirations: Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Don Williams, John Prine and Merle Haggard, to name a few. Although he does not usually perform gospel anymore, Fisher makes sure his shows remain family friendly.
“My show is always really wholesome. I always wanted to be a thing where you people can bring the whole family. No drinking, cheating or killing,” Fisher says, in regards to his songs’ lyrics. “I try to be positive.”
Before his move to Nashville, Fisher performed in a few bands. Once he got to Tennessee, he focused his effort on songwriting.
The process of getting signed was far from easy, Fisher said. In Nashville, there is stiff competition, and the industry inevitably causes self-doubt.
“You have to basically beat down people’s doors and say, ‘Listen to my song,’ ” Fisher said. “Nobody trusts you, and why would they? There’s a million crazy people moving to Nashville every day.”
Being in an environment that is fueled by competition, Fisher explained that “you question yourself a lot” because there is always someone who is better looking or a better singer. The toughest challenge, Fisher said, is the mental aspect.
“Not everybody can stay sane, stay sober and navigate the industry,” Fisher said. “You just have to keep your head down, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you.”
Career takes off
Last year, Fisher sold his first song “Living Left to Do,” to a major label. The song was then recorded by Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers. The song’s success and Fisher’s publishing deal have helped to launch his music career.
“It’s hard to make money as a musician, but because of the bluegrass cut last year, I can get a bit more for bookings, and people want to book me,” Fisher said. “If you get a song cut, more people recognize your name, and then, you can pitch to more people.”
Since “Living Left to Do” was released, Fisher has been able to do most of his songwriting from home and travels to Nashville around once a month. And his hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed: In both 2020 and 2021, Fisher was named Songwriter of the Year by the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame.
Currently, he’s gearing up for the release of his first studio album with Reversion Music.
The first single from Fisher’s upcoming album “Trouble with a Hammer” was released July 25; the full album will drop Aug. 26 on major streaming platforms.
Fisher says this has been his busiest summer yet. He is out every weekend with a four-piece band performing in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In spring 2023, Fisher has a tour scheduled that includes shows in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
But first, Fisher’s looking forward to the New Holland performance.
Noll said the Entertainment in the Park shows attract anywhere from 200 to 1,000 people.
“It’s gonna be pretty high energy. We do some covers and a good bit of original material,” Fisher said. “My band is killer, and I have the best players I’ve ever played with. It’s family friendly, fun and meaningful.”
Later this month, Fisher is also hosting a show at his own farm in Juniata County. The show is titled “Live at the Farm with Conrad Fisher Featuring Dickey Lee.” Lee, a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member, will join Fisher from 6-8:30 p.m. Aug. 28. Find more information about the concert on Fisher’s farm on his Facebook page, facebook.com/ConradFisherMusic.