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ESSENCE Network: Mali Hunter Transforms From Starving Artist to Entertainment Executive

Mali Hunter spent years pursuing her dream as a music artist. See how she got in tune with her passions to make a profit.

Mali Hunter spent years pursuing her dream as a musical artist and has the memories of hungry nights to prove it. She realized she could use her natural business skills to be a boss in the industry she loved. Now she helps other artist brings their projects to life—and has the freedom and support to create her own music. See how she got in tune with her passions to make a profit.

Name: Malissa “Mali” Hunter

Age: 42

Title & Company: Chief Creative Officer of The Retnuh Agency and General Manager/Partner at TreeSounds Studio

Location: Atlanta/NY

Hometown: Waukegan, IL

Connect: Twitter I Instagram

The Gig: I am the General Manager for the world famous TreeSound Studios in Atlanta, GA, as well as the Chief Creative Visionary for The Retnuh Agency. I cook and talk entertainment on NBC Atlanta and an artist finishing my record. 

The Best Part: I love being in the studio, meeting new artists, and seeing them rise. I’ve been blessed to have friends like Ne-Yo, Justin Bieber, Keri Hilson, Wiz Khalifa, and other awesomely talented folks who inspire me. The very best thing about the studio and agency is that I can help people with their projects!  

The Journey: I’m just a singer who was a troubled kid that has a natural knack for business. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment world. I had to juggle the starving artist lifestyle in my early twenties. My desire to create music inspired me in everything I do now. I took time to travel the world, but in 2005 I was set to do my own record. I met the Motown President of Urban records and she introduced me to a producer. We decided we could be a light within the industry, so I took off my singer hat and put on my business cap. I have been fortunate to learn the ins-and-outs of this business along the way. 

Her Biggest Lesson Learned: Many mistakes were made along the way in my music career. I had a hard time separating business from passion. I missed out on a lot of opportunities to make money as a businesswoman because I just wanted to sing. Looking back, I turned down a lot of cool jobs and chances that could have helped me get here sooner. One thing I’ve learned is to grow where you are planted and to add to whatever situation comes your way. In any business you have to do a job that may not be what you really want, in order to get where your true passion is. 

The Best Advice She’s Received: My partner Groove Chamber gave me the smartest advice ever one day after we finished a record. We sat down in Clive Davis’ office and were being offered a deal with J Records. He said: “You’re a boss, I’m a boss, let’s learn this business by helping people. Now is a time for us to become facilitators to labels, artists, and brands who are looking to partner with stars. Plant your roots at TreeSound. I promise you will be able to sing later, and you will be huge in this business.” He was right.

Her Biggest Career Accomplishment: It’s a tie between my Grammy nomination this year for my part in “New Flame” by Chris Brown and Usher, and being partners with Paul and Groove in running TreeSound. I run our business without having a boss and I enjoy a beautiful community filled with peace and partners that lovingly help guide me.

Her Previous Jobs: I’ve been a promoter and publicist, produced music for commercials and movie scores. I haven’t had a job that wasn’t in entertainment. 

Her Superpower: My love for people. Several people have hurt me, but I have never lost my ability to love, and that has made all the difference in business. 

Her Stress Relievers: I do yoga and gardening to distress. I also get monthly massages when I’m not watching Netflix or going to fun new restaurants. 

Her Tech Must-Haves: My go-to apps are Uber for travel, and Open Table for last-minute reservations at hot dining spots.

Her Beauty Bag: I can’t live without a clean bar of L’occitane. I also love La Mer for moisturizing and Lancôme Definicils for mascara. It makes my lashes look a lot longer. 

Her Power Accessory: A necklace I created. It has my logo on a ruby and diamond pendent. It’s my signature piece and I wear it daily.

Her Work-Life Balancing Act: I meditate on the things that I’m most grateful for, and this keeps me grounded and happy. I also take lots of deep breaths.

 Her Theme Song: “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John.