Music studio manager wears many creative hats

ATLANTA -- In this "Women in Charge," we meet a regular on the red carpet and a manager at one of Atlanta's hottest recording studios.

As the general manager of Atlanta's 20,000 square foot Tree Sound Studios, Malissa Hunter, or Mali for short, works hard.

"These kids, they're like, 'Damn, does she ever go home? Does she ever go home?' This is my home. And I'm not a workaholic. But I feel like my vocation is a vacation," Mali said.

Plaques on the walls at Tree Sound represent just a slice of the stars who have recorded and collaborated there over the years. Everyone from OutKast to Justin Bieber to Elton John is represented.

"We're all such different people that I think we attract everyone," Mali said.

"We" refers to Tree Sound's leadership team: Paul Diaz, who built Tree Sound two decades ago, his wife Sunshine, Groove Chambers and Mali – a partner since 2005.

In addition to music, Tree Sound's film division, Three Little Digs, records the jam sessions at Tree Sound -- or what they call "home videos." They also capture parties and performances with established artists like Ludacris, Drake and Lenny Kravitz.

The recording industry is unlike many others. At close to 10pm on a Tuesday, many hip-hop and pop artists are just getting started. R&B artist Ne-Yo, who popped into our interview just before his 12-hour recording session:

And like she does with all performers and their teams who collaborate at Tree Sound, Mali will be in the kitchen. In addition to all of her responsibilities, Mali is in Tree Sound's kitchen making meals for artists and their teams.

"I used to hear from people – 'You're going to be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing,'" Hunter said. "I'm thinking, maybe that's what you would be, but I just happen to be good at everything."

Hunter has come a long way since her troubled teen years.

"I had to make a decision: am I going to be a professional criminal all my life? No," Mali said.

Named after her grandmother, Mali didn't want to tarnish the good name. She moved from Chicago to New York and found direction. Now, this petite music manager plans to drop her own record this year.

Her advice for people who dream of working in the music industry?

"Don't have a backup plan. Because everybody who has a backup plan never wins because they spend that backup plan time making sure they're cushioned," Mali said. "If you're going to do it, go 100 percent."

In addition to working in the recording industry, polishing up her own album and writing a book, Mali Hunter also has her own ad agency and marketing firm.


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