April 17, 2024

Accidentals manager. Intentional mom.

Amber Buist on the joys and insults of co-managing her daughter's band
By Ross Boissoneau | Oct. 27, 2018

 

Amber Buist had pretty much seen it all. A veteran of the music industry, she’d been a performer and worked behind the scenes in marketing and management. Her husband is also an experienced performer, having worked with numerous artists in Nashville and at its Grand Ole Opry.

So when their daughter, Savannah, and her friend Katie Larson started to find fame as The Accidentals, she knew they would have to have someone looking after their various business interests. So she has helped shepherd their career as one of the band’s managers. And please, don’t use the term “momager.”

“My official title is co-manager,” Buist said, noting that she’s part of a team, each with their area of expertise and responsibility. “I handle the touring side of things, logistics, marketing, branding, press.” Others include a booking agent in Nashville, a label rep, and a legal representative. “There’s a lot of people on the team. That’s the key.” 

Buist has managed other bands, and her history in the music industry has provided her with both artistic and personal success. “My husband, Rick, and I met playing music. I was in the music business, in Nashville, by 18. I worked in the studio, was an artist [a vocalist], worked in management. He was with George Strait, Terri Clark, and the Grand Ole Opry.”

When Rick’s father began having health issues in the early 2000s, the family moved to the Traverse City area to help out with his business, TE Technology. They wanted to make sure the company, which manufactures cooling assemblies for various industries — laboratories, telecommunications, and the aerospace industry, and the like — didn’t falter. They thought they’d help out and then move on after a couple years. But life happened.

“I had Sav and was pregnant with our second. It’s gorgeous here, and easy to raise kids,” she said. “We wanted to protect the [TE Technology] employees, and discovered the best way was to buy the company.”

They’ve been here ever since. “It’s still doing well, and it’s been good for us. Now our middle child is graduating,” she said, still seeming astounded that that much time had passed.

Over the years, in addition to keeping up with her music, Buist has held a number of positions in a variety of businesses. She earned a master’s degree in public administration, worked in social services, managed a company, and ran a travel agency. 

She and Rick also opened their home to foster care, and after overseeing some 50 children, they adopted their last foster child, giving them three children: Savannah, Caden, and Ella. “They’re all seven years apart,” Buist said.

When The Accidentals decided they wanted to tour, they approached Buist about going on the road with them. “Katie and Savannah approached me about touring. They were 15 and 16 and wanted to tour for the summer, and they needed a driver,” Buist said with a laugh.

So Buist left her job in emergency services with the state, and they packed up and drove all over the Midwest, doing 41 shows in 32 days. “We wanted to make sure they could see a clear picture of how brutal it can be.”

The job is not without its pitfalls — literally. Buist is recovering from a torn ACL she suffered when coming off a stage. “I’ve been off the road since July. I’m trying to get it back together,” she said. 

Then there’s the fact that as Savannah’s mother, her managerial job can be given short shrift. “I’m offended when I’m referred to on the road as a parent. When that gets confused with my work life, it takes away [from my professional role with the band]. Just because I gave birth I didn’t lose my skills.

 

“After six years I’m tired of it,” she said of being thought of simply as a performer’s mom. “They’re 23. There’s no parenting here. I work. It’s an intense job. It goes far beyond being a parent. I feel it’s sexist.

“I took it on because I believed in them. We put together a team. There’s a lot of incredible minds at the table, and that includes Sav and Katie and Michael [percussionist Micheal Dause, the third member of the band, who joined in 2014].”

Buist said while the three have received accolades for their music, they’re also cognizant that it is their job, and they need to treat it as such. “They function like a business. Their work ethic is off the charts.”

The group is releasing its upcoming song “Heavy Flag” independently. It is described as a call-to-action song about the cost of societal apathy and people’s ability to impact situations, especially through voting. “They’ve toured the United States three times,” said Buist. “Seeing so many people makes you nationally aware.”

She said the song stems from their touring experience in general and was written while Savannah had a book open to the photo of the marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima during World War II. “The weight of that flag being both physical and psychological struck me as a powerful statement,” Savannah says on the group’s website. The song is being released Nov. 2, just in time for the midterm elections.

Keep up on the latest releases and tour information at www.theaccidentalsmusic.com.

 

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