ISSUE 70 THE HORN COFFEE
A BARBERSHOP FOR MEN & WOMEN OF ALL AGES WA L K I N A N Y D AY O F T H E W E E K F O R A Q U A L I T Y C U T O R S T Y L E
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CONTENTS APRIL 2018 28
48 THE GOODS 17 Beer from Here
21 Cocktail of the Month 24 Master Platers 91 You Oughta Know 95 It’s Only Natural
FEATURES 28 Bantug 38 Motke Dapp 48 Joshua Hedley 58 Literature Spotlight:
The Idle Hour Reading Series
66 The Horn Coffee 76 Emily Sue Laird NATIVE NASHVILLE
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BEHIND THE ISSUE:
Over the past seventy issues, we’ve tried to do things differently at NATIVE—particularly when it comes to our covers. African pythons, illustrated monster battles, LARPers, fibrous concrete plastered self-portraits—all of these and many other oddities have graced that matte-finish paper at some point. And as much as we love and appreciate the fact that our photographers are willing to explore the weirder corners of Nashville with us, sometimes there’s something to keeping it simple—to sitting back and paying respect to the people who make Nashville Nashville. That’s what we’ve tried to do with this month’s cover. Longtime NATIVE contributor Emily Dorio captured Hassan Rasul Sayid, the patriarch behind The Horn Coffee (a Somali-owned coffee shop
and bakery on Murfreesboro Pike) in the restaurant he started with his family. It’s not a glamorous photo per se: Emily didn’t rent out a big studio, there weren’t any live animals on-set (as a matter of fact, there was no “set”), and there were no stylists or hair and makeup people around. What was at the shoot, however, was a family that left a home they could never go back to. A family that struggled to find a new home. A family that made the best out of a situation they didn’t ask for. We’re happy the Sayids can now call Nashville home, and we’re happy to call them NATIVEs. Read their whole story on page 66, and go down to The Horn and get yourself a sambusa or six—you can thank us later.
PRESIDENT, FOUNDER: PUBLISHER, FOUNDER: OPERATIONS MANAGER:
ANGELIQUE PITTMAN JON PITTMAN JOE CLEMONS
SARAH MORRIS LEXIE ROLAND
EDITOR IN CHIEF: COPY EDITOR:
CHARLIE HICKERSON DARCIE CLEMEN
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: ART DIRECTOR:
HANNAH LOVELL COURTNEY SPENCER
NATHAN DILLER KYLE COOKE CHRIS PARTON JONAH ELLER-ISAACS COOPER BREEDEN
SENIOR ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE: ACCOUNT REPRESENTATIVE: PRODUCTION MANAGER:
KELSEY FERGUSON SHELBY GRAHAM GUSTI ESCALANTE
MACKENZIE MOORE JOSHUA SIRCHIO TAYLOR RABOIN
FOUNDER, BRAND DIRECTOR:
FOR ALL INQUIRIES:
NICK BUMGARDNER DANIELLE ATKINS DANIEL CHANEY GABRIEL MAX STARNER AUSTIN LORD EMILY DORIO
- WINNER OF THE NFA EMERGING TALENT AWARD -
WITH GUSTI ESCALANTE NATIVE Production Manager Beer Name: Mosaic IPK Brewery: Little Harpeth Style: India Pale Kolsch ABV: 5.6% Food Pairing: Clawson’s Pub & Deli #12 Sriracha-Buffalo Turkey Sandwich Appearance: Bright orange body and a light, foamy head Aroma: Complex mix of fruit with subtle hoppy bitterness Where to Find It: Clawson’s Pub & Deli Overall Takeaways: “There is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast.” I like to imagine that Herman Melville was quoted saying this while staring down at a beautiful pineapple and pepperoni pizza. After all, what’s better than a little bit of sweet and spicy contrast? Or some sweet and salty? Whichever you prefer, there’s no denying contrast can be one of the best ways to make any meal pop. That might be why I can’t get enough of this refreshing combo. The Mosaic starts with bold hops that give way to smoother, more subtle apple and pear notes. Those fruit flavors fit perfectly between bites of the sriracha-drenched snack. It’s like jumping into a swimming pool on a hot summer day or listening to Kanye pre and post My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Each element is great in its own right, but the contrast just makes combining them that much better.
COFFEE BREAKFAST LUNCH OPEN DAILY 7AM-3PM 700 FATHERLAND ST. 615.770.7097 SKYBLUECOFFEE.COM E S TA B L I S H E D 2 0 1 0
THE DIVANZO BY BEN CLEMONS OF NO. 308 PHOTO BY NICK BUMGARDNER It’s been a privilege to submit these cocktail quips and recipes since NATIVE’s first issue. Over the years we’ve shot and brought you more than 70 of the recipes we’ve offered the masses here at No. 308. Next month, I’m happy to be turning over this role to our new beverage director and dear friend, Sean Glenn. I felt it fitting to leave you with the first drink we served here, The Divanzo. Be good to each other out there. I love you and hope you’ve enjoyed our time together. Mahalo, it’s Daiquiri time!
THE GOODS 1 small slice serrano pepper 2 oz reposado tequila 1 oz freshly juiced cucumber (with skin) 3/4 oz lime juice 1/2 oz agave syrup (1:1 agave nectar and water)
DIRECTIONS Muddle the serrano and combine with the tequila, cucumber and lime juices, and agave syrup in a shaker. Shake and strain into a freshly iced rocks glass and garnish with 2 lightly salted cucumber wheels.
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- CHRIS WILCOX, TYLER BOONE, TOM MACKELL $10 ONLINE PRESALE $12 AT DOOR - LUKE NICHOLSON $8 AT DOOR 3 0 O L D H A M S T.
Visit www.littleharpethbrewing.com for live events calender and online ticketing. 22
MASTER PL ATERS
BY SARAH GAVIGAN COFOUNDER OF POP NASHVILLE
PHOTOS BY DANIELLE ATKINS
SHIO KOJI MARINATED TRI-TIP STEAK WITH BRAISED MUSTARD GREENS
THE GOODS 2 lbs tri-tip steak, â€‚ cut into 1/4-lb pieces â€‚ and trimmed of fat 1 cup shio koji 2 bunches mustard greens 1 shallot, minced 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 cup olive oil, divided 1 tbsp butter (optional)
DIRECTIONS Rinse the meat under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. In a nonreactive bowl, combine the meat and shio koji, cover, and place in the fridge overnight. Meat should be marinated for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours for optimum tenderness and flavor. Thirty minutes before you plan to serve, preheat the oven to 450 F. De-rib, wash, and dry the mustard greens. Add the shallot, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive oil to a wide skillet or pot. Cook on medium heat until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the greens and turn the heat down to medium low, slowing braising the greens. Add a little more olive oil (or water) if the mix looks dry.
Remove the meat from the marinade and rinse it off, then pat it dry again. Heat the butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add the meat as the oil begins to smoke and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until caramel in color. Once the meat is seared, transfer the skillet to the oven to finish cooking. For medium rare, cook to 140 degrees. Remove the skillet and allow the steak to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice each piece against the grain for the best texture. Serve with the mustard greens.
JARED & THE MILL w/ LYDIA LUCE - THE HIGH WATT THE CALIFORNIA HONEYDROPS - THE HIGH WATT ANNA BURCH - THE HIGH WATT CHARLET CROCKETT w/ NIKKI HILL - MERCY LOUNGE SAVANNAH CONLEY w/ AIRPARK & HANK COMPTON - THE HIGH WATT GREAT PEACOCK w/ BELLE ADAIR - THE HIGH WATT RUN RIVER NORTH - MERCY LOUNGE NO THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE - CANNERY BALLROOM MT. JOY - THE HIGH WATT CALEXICO w/ RYLEY WALKER - MERCY LOUNGE OLDEN YOLK - THE HIGH WATT CAITLYN SMITH w/ ANDREA DAVIDSON - MERCY LOUNGE SPEEDY ORITZ - THE HIGH WATT B AHAMAS - CANNERY BALLROOM FAR OUT FEST - MERCY LOUNGE & THE HIGH WATT TAY L S E P R E L E A S E PA RT Y W / L A S S O S P E L L S , O G I N A L I I & M O R E - M E R C Y L O U N G E & T H E H I G H WAT T
ICEAGE - MERCY LOUNGE AN EVENING WITH NADA SURF - MERCY LOUNGE 26
BY NATHAN DILLER PHOTOS BY DANIEL CHANEY
Ahead of her new EP, indie-pop up-and-comer Bantug talks about songwriting, TV, and how sheâ€™s okay with not having a plan
BANTUG DOESN’T PLAN TOO FAR AHEAD.
“I’m weird like that,” she tells me from across a polished wood table by the window at 51 North Taproom, the late afternoon sun tempered by black solar shades. “I think a lot of people out there— and I admire them for it and I wish I could be like that—they’re so thoughtout about everything they do, from their aesthetic to their branding to their songs to what they title their songs. And I don’t know if I’m just lazy or a purist almost, but I just really love music and I don’t really care about anything else. I just want to write, and then everything else is secondary to that . . . I probably should plan things out more often. Whoops.” The twenty-four-year-old dream pop artist released her first single, “Waiting,” in 2015, just to see what might happen. She’d been experimenting with different genres, from folk to indie rock, but on “Waiting” she finally found her niche. That song became one of five tunes on her debut EP, Blue, a collection of serene, ambient tracks awash in lush synth and jangly guitars. Although Blue sounds cohesive, it’s actually a collection of loose singles. Nearly a year later, she’s readying her new EP, Red, which comes out May 25, and she thought it out more this time. “Like, I meant for it to be a thing,” she says, laughing. “This time it wasn’t an accident.” Bantug moved to Nashville from Lilburn, Georgia, a suburb half an hour north of Atlanta, five years ago. “The only cool thing about it is that André 3000 will come through there sometimes and go to this homestyle restaurant,” she about her hometown. Her parents are both originally from the Philippines, but they met in New York when they were eighteen years
old. Bantug’s brothers and sisters were born there. “Everyone in my family was born in New York except for me,” she deadpans. “Thanks, guys.” She’s the youngest of four siblings, and her dad, who was in a rock band, would sit them all down one night a week and teach them guitar chords. She also learned to play drums and keys, and she wrote her first song after the death of her grandfather when she was ten. After that, she couldn’t stop. “Apparently—and I kind of remember this—my mom said I would write songs like Phoebe from Friends,” says Bantug, who is wearing an Adidas T-shirt, frayed cropped white jeans, and a black fanny pack. “I would just go in a room and play guitar and sing about my day.” Bantug came to Music City to attend a yearlong program at the Contemporary Music Center, but after her payment plan fell through, she decided to forgo school. Instead, she worked and wrote songs in her spare time, some of which would become Blue. Those songs began with Bantug (whose given name is Amanda Bantug) messing around on GarageBand—and collaborating with some of Nashville Pop’s finest. One of those collaborators was LANY guitarist and keyboardist Les Priest, who mixed most of Blue and brought out the more ethereal elements of the tracks, which propelled Bantug in a different direction. On Red, she stays on that sonic path, but the record is fiercer and more fiery than its predecessor, thanks in part to producer Grayson Proctor, one half of local electro-pop duo Biyo. The basslines are bigger and the choruses hit harder. Her writing process, however, was much the same. After upgrading from GarageBand to Logic Pro—courtesy of a friend who loaned Bantug her Apple ID—she worked out
most of her ideas in her bedroom, finishing the songs and tracking most of the initial parts herself before sending them to Proctor to flesh out. Bantug does tread new lyrical territory on Red though. Lead single “Our Apartment” is a lustful ode to her husband that sizzles over a crackling beat, with lyrics like, “And our time apart revitalizes all of my sparks, filled with passion . . . I can’t wait till you come back home / Oh, we’ll just take this nice and slow,” which she says is unlike anything she’s ever written. And standout track “Want Out,” with its thumping beat and fizzy synths, was written in a period of intense anxiety she experienced after watching the HBO drama series Big Little Lies and the French film Elle, both of which feature depictions of domestic and sexual abuse. “For a month it just made me very paranoid and scared that I was going to get assaulted or, like, anything could happen to anybody at any point,” she says. “Sometimes I can be very sensitive to things that I’m watching, which is not bad, but it’s also not healthy sometimes if I don’t stop,” she says. “But you have to finish Big Little Lies. It’s so good.” On “ Shapes,” a mellow number with droning guitars and hazy vocals, Bantug takes stock of personal growth and the ways romantic relationships affect transformation. “That one is kind of about how when you introduce someone into your life, like a partner, your entire life changes,” she says. “And then you start to see these changes in yourself.
You’re like, ‘I didn’t know I was capable of being like this’—in good and bad ways.” Each of the tracks is inspired by an intense emotion of some kind, which informed the title. While she jokes that she’s bad at naming her projects and decided to “just slap a color on it,” Bantug felt that each song was “red” in its own way. “There’s no one theme, but I think all of them in some way exude the color red uniquely, and so I think that’s the theme of it all,” she says. “That even if it’s just one color, it can emote different things, which is really cool.” S he worked w it h loc a l photographer and graphic artist Jordan Short on the album artwork, and throughout our conversation, it becomes clear how passionate Bantug is about cha mpioning other a r tists. She cites Porches and SZA as influences and goes into great detail about her favorite aspects of their respective records, from production to songwriting to the elements of their work that caught her ear in the first place. She beams while talking about Nashville’s pop scene, crediting our city’s relative isolation from the hit factories of Los Angeles with fostering a more innovative approach to pop music. “I think a lot of us are still trying to work out what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to sound like, and I think that’s really beautiful because there are a handful of bands here doing something I’ve never heard before,” she says. “Not that we have the upper hand on anything. It’s just that we’re not surrounded by pop music, so we’re kind of just like, ‘I think
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we’re just going to make this shit up as we go and hopefully it sounds good.’ And it’s sounding great.” In addition to music, the recently married singer-songwriter has found a new outlet for her creative energy that’s also practical: woodworking. She began an apprenticeship at Barber Woodworking in January that was supposed to last only a month. When the student meant to take her place backed out, she stayed on, and it’s turned into a temporary part-time gig. She always wanted to buy new furniture but decided she could build something of better quality with her own hands. Bantug built items when she was younger, occasionally out of necessity. She was a skateboarder, and instead of asking her parents to buy her a rail, she made one out of wood and waxed it until it was smooth. “And then I always loved just sanding shit, just because it’s very therapeutic,” she adds. Lately she’s been working on cabinetry, but she says all the same concepts apply to making tables, desks, and other pieces. It’s an exhausting endeavor, especially on top of a coffee shop job, so in her downtime her priority is rest—and songwriting sometimes takes a back seat. “At the end of the day, it’s so hard to go home and be like, ‘I want to be an artist,’” she says. “I’m like, ‘No, I want to be on my couch and keep watching The Office and re-watching Friends.’” On April 19, though, she’ll play one of her biggest shows to date: opening for indie songstress and longtime friend Liza Anne at Third Man Records (then she’ll join Anne for three more dates of her upcoming tour). When asked what she’s preparing for those shows, Bantug considers the question. “I mean, you know I don’t plan,” she says after a moment, laughing. “So, hopefully we can play a good show. I think that’s all I’m planning.”
MEN. WOMEN. HOME. GIFT.
WITH LINDSEY MILLER
Bantug will play April 19 at Third Man’s Blue Room with Liza Anne. Her latest EP, Red, will be available May 25.
APRIL 19 AT 7PM W W W. N A S H V I L L E J A Z Z . O R G
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No More Parties in L.A.
BY KYLE COOKE PHOTOS BY GABRIEL MAX STARNER
Writer-director Motke Dapp has made his mark on the film world via Nashvilleâ€”and he plans to keep it that way
A STICKY NOTE COVERS THE DOORBELL
on Motke Dapp’s East Nashville home. The toddler might be sleeping, it reads, so please don’t ring the bell. Dapp agreed to meet at this time, Saturday at 1:00 p.m., for that reason specifically—a napping child means free time, something he doesn’t have a lot of these days. I give a timid knock and Dapp answers the door. The writer-director is barefoot, wearing a pair of darkwashed jeans and a flowery buttondown shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. Dapp is genial and casual. He sports a stark undercut and a burly red beard, graying at the tips, that is just messy enough to appear intentional. He looks like someone who makes movies, a snap judgment that would’ve been inaccurate only about ten years ago. A g raduate of Universit y of Tennessee Knoxville’s creative writing program, Dapp initially moved to Nashville as a musician. “I was in bands and did that whole thing. It broke my soul,” Dapp says. “By 2006, I was tired of music. I was just tired.” Dapp eventually worked full-time as a graphic designer, but not before throwing his hat in the authorship ring. “I wrote a book, put everything I had into it, and it was terrible. But I loved it,” he says, referencing the process more than the story itself. He ended up rewriting the same story from scratch after consulting some friends for notes, yet it still wasn’t the book he’d hoped it would be. “But at that point, I had a new way to create.” Dapp quickly applied this rekindled passion for storytelling into making movies. In summer 2007, he directed his first short film for the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project. The festival marked Dapp’s first foray into writing and directing for the screen. He competed again in 2008. In 2009, just two years after his first crack at moviemaking, he won first place.
“But I still didn’t get it. I was writing a second novel at that point, and [filmmaking] still hadn’t grabbed me,” Dapp said. “But we won, so we were like, ‘We gotta do it again, defend our title!’” Dapp and his crew finished runnerup in 2010, and that was only the beginning. Between summer 2010 and summer 2011, he made seven films, including one full-length feature. “We went nuts,” Dapp says. “We just went went crazy. And that was my year of film school. I just learned so much.” Dapp’s rapid success is impressive considering his lack of formal training. He didn’t study film in school, had few connections in the industry, and barely knew the difference between a producer and a director, nevermind the everyday jargon and acronyms exchanged on set. But Dapp finally met a producer in 2010—more than a year after he had already won his first film competition, mind you—and realized they were in charge of everything he didn’t like to do. It was a welcome discovery. Dapp doesn’t believe he became a bonafide filmmaker until summer 2013, when he wrote and directed Sorr y About Tomorrow, the first short film that he was truly proud of. The film screened at seventeen different festivals and won a slew of awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best in Genre at the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project. Although it didn’t win Best Film, Sorry About Tomorrow marked the beginning of a Dapp dynasty. “In 2014, I assembled a crew, and we just wanted to win,” Dapp said, laughing at his competitiveness. His team won Best Film at the 2014 Nashville 48 for Contrary to Likeness. “I’ve won the last four years,” Dapp mentions, somehow casually. “But the third year, I couldn’t win in Nashville again. [The festival organizers] told
me, ‘You can’t win three years in a row,’ so we went up to Cincinnati’s 48 Hour Film Project and won there, then came back to Nashville the next year and won again.” Dapp recounts this litany of career shifts and triumphs within the first ten minutes of our conversation. But then he doesn’t seem interested in talking about the past. There’s a rare lull in conversation. “I’m going to take a sip of water,” he announces, breaking the silence. Dapp drinks from his glass as if he were taking a drag, long and purposeful. He puts the glass down and, recharged, launches into the story of his not-so-distant past—the story of how his soon-to-be-released feature film, Other Versions of You, came to be. The film is based on one of Dapp’s novels, but he and his crew struggled to get the ball rolling. So in the meantime, he put Other Versions of You on the back burner and worked on smaller projects, including his 2014 short film Contrary to Likeness. Contrary was selected to compete internationally against all the first-place finishers of 48 Hour Film Projects across the globe at Filmapalooza in Los Angeles. He placed in the top ten in L.A., which guaranteed a slot in the Shorts Corner at Festival de Cannes. A light bulb went off above his head. Dapp called Ryan Hartsock, his producer, and suggested they shoot a project while they were in Cannes. Hartsock took it a step further—Dapp and his crew should film some scenes for Other Versions of You, and maybe the change of scenery would jump-start the creative process. Seems like a nobrainer, right? “I was like, ‘No, that’s a terrible idea,’” Dapp recounts. But Hartsock was persistent. They were going to be in the South of France with a full crew, so why not? Dapp didn’t have a convincing answer. He yielded. “All of a sudden, my brain is
exploding,” Dapp says with a laugh. The trip to Cannes was a deus ex machina for the movie’s completion. At the suggestion of lead actor Kristopher Wente, the crew even stopped in Iceland on the way to France to shoot on location. It took more than three years to complete, but Other Versions of You is finally ready to go. Without revealing too much, the story involves a man named Diggsy (Wente) who has been in love with a woman named Suzette (Sara Antonio) since he was a child. The feelings aren’t mutual, and Suzette marries another man. Diggsy, heartbroken, gets his hands on a key (delivered by Titans-legendturned-actor Eddie George) that allows him to travel through various parallel universes to find another version of Suzette that might love him back. It’s a story fans should expect from Dapp, who says he likes to put a touch of whimsy in everything he does. His filmography reminds me of a sunnier David Robert Mitchell, or Mark Duplass without the masturbatory surrealism. Dapp’s films aren’t weird for the sake of being weird—they’re deliberate, sometimes dark, and always personal, which is exactly what talking to the filmmaker is like. He freely discusses his shortcomings in painting and music. In 2006 he was opening for Matthew Perryman Jones and Katie Herzig when his band received an awful review from a music critic. It effectively marked the end of his career as a musician. He tried his hand at painting and found moderate success, but when the recession hit in 2008, the art started to pile up in his home office. He turned to graphic design for a steady income, but that didn’t last long either due to not having enough creative freedom. Dapp has thrown everything at the wall, but so far, only filmmaking has stuck. “I just want to keep doing this,” he says. “I want to be able to provide for
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my family and keep doing this, because it’s the first thing I’ve ever done in my life where I felt like I knew what I was doing.” So when is the other shoe going to drop? For someone who essentially tried filmmaking on a whim, Dapp has encountered shockingly few obstacles. Except for one: his adopted hometown. “ T he c h a l le n g e i s b e i n g i n Nashville,” Dapp relents. “I’ve competed internationally, I’ve won best director, gone to Cannes—all these crazy accolades, and I can’t seem to crack through whatever this ceiling is. I think that’s what the roadblock is.” It’s the first time in our interview where Dapp shows frustration. Still, his love for the city is palpable. “A lot of people are leaving Nashville to go to L.A., New York, and Atlanta, and I don’t blame them,” Dapp says. He reminds me of a college basketball coach talking about his best player leaving for the NBA. Disappointed, but understanding. “There’s a decent amount of work here, but I want there to be more. I don’t want to have to leave Nashville.” So Dapp isn’t going anywhere, right? Odd as it sounds, that may be out of his control. When he’s not working on his own films, he directs commercials. It’s not something he seems passionate about, but it pays the bills, he excels at it, and at a certain point, he’s got to go where the money is. Unfortunately, that isn’t Nashville. At least not yet. “I’ve had some people tell me I should move to L.A. Take all your work there and just network like crazy. But then I’ll be in L.A.,” Dapp says with a face like he just took a whiff of spoiled milk. “I want to prove we can make it in Nashville, that people can do stuff here.” Other Versions of You will premiere at the Nashville Film Festival May 10–19 at the Regal Hollywood 27 Cinema. Dapp’s reel and selected filmography are available at motke.net.
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DONâ€™T ROCK THE JUKEBOX
BY CHRIS PARTON PHOTOS BY AUSTIN LORD
With Mr. Jukebox, Joshua Hedley keeps traditional country on repeat NATIVE NASHVILLE
“I’M NOT GONNA SIT HERE AND SAY,
‘I’m country and Luke Bryan isn’t,’” says twangy traditionalist Joshua Hedley, dressed to the nines in the sharp 1960s style of his heroes: grey-on-black suit, horn-rimmed glasses, and a crisp, black fedora cocked to one side. “Because what are the people who are buying Luke Bryan’s records if they’re not country people?” On April 20 Hedley will release Mr. Jukebox, his country-to-the-core debut album on Third Man Records. But even though it highlights just how much the genre has changed since it was referred to as country and western music—yesterday’s string sections and choral singers have been traded for bass drops and funky guitars—he’s not interested in posing as a culture warrior. He just likes what he likes. “There’s good shit in everything, and country music changes every ten years,” he goes on. “There’s differences in all the decades of country music, and there’s good and bad in all of it, so I choose to focus just on the good . . . That said, I’ll listen to Luke Bryan if Metro Boomin starts making beats for him.” A thirty-three-year-old Florida native, Hedley has been repping classic country since he arrived in Nashville in 2004 with a fiddle case and not much else, quickly establishing himself as a versatile sideman to proud outsiders like Jonny Fritz and Justin Townes Earle. He’s perhaps best known in
Music City as the Monday-night bandleader at Robert’s Western World, turning the clock back for boozing Broadway tourists with four hours of late-night cover tunes each week. With Mr. Jukebox, Hedley takes the Robert’s honk y-tonk vibe and gives it some much deserved modern attention. In doing so, he joins labelmate Margo Price in the g row ing vang uard of country’s openly purist faction. But interestingly, he never set out to become a solo artist. “I sort of had this plan of how my life was gonna go, which was to just tour with Jonny and then play at Robert’s when I was in town,” he says, settling in and looking oddly at home behind a trendy, i ndust r ia l-t hemed cowork i ng space’s conference table. He folds his tattoo-covered hands, one of which features a portrait of Hank Williams, his hat partially hidden under a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. “I had a comfortable life as a sideman, and there was little-to-no responsibility involved,” he goes on. “It was just jump in the van when it’s time to go, collect money at the end of the tour, then play 10 to 2 a.m. at Robert’s and go home. Plus, I was drinking a lot and participating in other not-so-good activities that kept me from wanting to pursue anything further. I was just coasting.” His stage presence was always obvious, though . . . and so was the air of authenticity in his bright
baritone vocals. Fritz often let Hedley sing a few originals on the road, and after he sobered up and let a torrent of pent-up songs pour out, people started “bugging” Hedley to make a record of his own. “I didn’t really want to,” he admits. “I kind of just did it on a whim one day. I figured I should maybe try.” Hedley recorded one independent EP which never came out (legally) in the States, so Mr. Jukebox represents his first “try”— and you know what they say about beginner’s luck. Featuring ten two-stepping gems, it’s not really a “throwback” record. Instead, it brings country’s 1960s golden era into the here and now. Produced by Skylar Wilson and Jordan Lehning, Mr. Jukebox even features one of the original Nashville A-Team studio legends, Charlie McCoy. Hedley comes by his love of Nashville country legends earnestly. He first discovered country after his parents gave him a fiddle on his eighth birthday (he initially asked for one at three). He took classical lessons but was soon drawn to the sounds of western swing greats like Bob Wills, then started sawing out tunes with a group at his local VFW. “I was ten and everyone else was fifty,” he says with a laugh. “They were playing Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, that kind of stuff. That’s what they were into, and when you’re that young you just soak everything in. I just really connected with it on a base level.” Now with other retro-inspired artists like Jon Pardi scoring nu mber- one h its a nd C h r is Stapleton selling more records than
anyone in the genre, it seems like a rootsy revival is in full swing. “I feel like people have started to call bullshit on what’s coming out,” Hedley says, adding that he’d be happy to be considered part of the movement, should it exist. But Hedley himself is evidence that it’s already happening. When his lawyer sent that original EP to a handful of Nashville record labels, every single one of them came back with a yes. To put it mildly, Hedley did not expect this to happen. He didn’t expect any interest at all, let alone to have his pick of the litter, and he ended up going with Third Man because they promised not to interfere with his vision. “There is a revival in roots sounds, but it seems to only go back as far as that Waylon and Willie, Outlaw-movement stuff,” he explains. “Which is great, heavy drums and live, acoustic stuff. But nobody was doing anything older than that . . . When I was writing, I was listening to a lot of ’60s countrypolitan, and I thought, Maybe I should call up a string section and some harmony vocalists and see what happens.” With its lagging rhythm, uneasy piano, and simple “Hello honey” opening line, the project’s first track, “Counting All My Tears,” sets the album’s tone, recalling Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’” with all the ooohs and ahhhhs intact. Up next is the quick-step beat and slippery steel guitar of the title track, Hedley’s first single. It’s a song in the neon-coursing vein of Robert’s Western World, which makes sense: Hedley was given the “Mr. Jukebox” nickname by his
Broadway guitar player, Kevin Key. No matter what tourists requested, Hedley seemed to know it. The waltzing manifesto “Weird Thought Thinker” tips a hat to Jennings’ “Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me.” “Let’s Take a Vacation” feels as sophisticated as any Eddy Arnold ballad. And the album’s only cover, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” is a hand-overheart Nashville-sound salute to Hedley’s late father. But Hedley’s new single, “I Never Shed a Tear for You,” is perhaps even more country than the rest. Written about a friend going through a divorce, the song’s structure is actually a variation on a waltz called a 3/4 shuffle—rarely done but made famous by Ray Price’s 1963 classic, “The Twenty-Fourth Hour.” “I came out of the gate with ‘Mr Jukebox,’ which is pretty unabashedly country,” Hedley says. “It did well, so I wanted to see if I could push the envelope even further. It was like, ‘Okay, you like that. How about this country-ass shit?’” Charlie McCoy—the seventysix-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer famous for playing on classics by Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Elvis Presley, and more—plays vibraphone on “I Never Shed a Tear for You” (he also plays bass harmonica on “If These Walls Could Talk,” plus standard harp and vibes on the rest of the album), and was surprised to hear the obscure rhythm. “He was like, ‘Hmm, a 3/4 shuffle. I haven’t heard one of these in years,’” Hedley says. “I was like, ‘I think there’s only been like eight of them,’ and he laughed . . . Then he went and cut his vibes part in like four minutes.” Hedley says working with heroes like McCoy is a dream come true— especially on a modern project
with well-funded support. Actually, the singer-songwriter says he’d love to cut a 45 with the remaining A-Teamers one day, saying, “If I could get Harold Bradley on tic-tac [baritone guitar] and Bob Moore on bass, standing next to each other in the studio, I would quit. I would have reached the pinnacle.” But for now, there are other mountains to climb. On April 20 (the same day Mr. Jukebox is released), Hedley will make his Grand Ole Opry debut, standing in the same center stage circle as the legends who inspired him as an eight-year-old Floridian fiddle player. The station that broadcasts the Opr y, 650 A M WSM, surprised Hedley with the invitation while he was on air. He was completely blown away by the honor. “I had said earlier in the interview that I needed three things to happen with this record for it to be a success,” he explains. “Which was to hear it on 650 AM, play it on the Opry, and sell it in Cracker Barrel, totally not knowing I was about to get blindsided.” That leaves just one delicious goal left. But no matter what happens, Hedley will still be on Broadway every Monday night he’s in town, playing for tips and loving every twangy, rhinestoned moment. His stubborn love of crowded dance floors and shuffling rhythms is what brought him here in the first place, and that’s not going to change. “Robert’s is like crawling back in the womb or something,” he says fondly. “It’s my security blanket. I never have to worry about ‘Are people going to like this?’ I want to do it as long as I can.” Mr. Jukebox is available April 20. Catch Hedley at the Grand Ole Opry on April 20 and The Basement East on April 24.
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LITERATURE SPOTLIGHT: The Idle Hour Reading Series
ILLUSTRATIONS BY COURTNEY SPENCER
FOUR WRITERS, FIVE MINUTES EACH, FOUR TIMES A YEAR.
That’s the magic formula behind The Idle Hour Reading Series, which is run by The Porch, Nashville’s literary arts center, and staged at Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern, one of the last-standing OG dive bars in the city. The series spotlights local writers—typically with a fifty-fifty split between prose writers and poets—but every so often, we hand over a slot to an author coming through town on book tour. That’s true this month, as erstwhile Nashvillian J. Peter Moore, of Indiana, will be joining our three locals: Casey Boyd (who runs the all-women series The Muse’s Mouth), Sarah Key, and Olatunde Osinaike. Their work is featured in the next few pages. The Idle Hour is a hand-me-down event: It began as Band of Poets, a monthly series curated by then-Vanderbilt-MFA-student Rita Bullwinkel. When Bullwinkel moved to San Francisco, she handed the keys over to The Porch—and we’ve carried on the readings since, just in a less-frequent format. (We not-so-secretly hope Rita will come back to read in the series once her debut collection of stories, Belly Up, is released next month by A Strange Object.) I love the Idle Hour readings for their brevity and punch—you get four quick shots of diverse writers’ voices in just about the time it takes to drink a beer or two. Then we’re all off to wherever the rest of our evenings may take us. Is it just enough to make you feel like a literary citizen? I say yes. —Susannah Felts The next Idle Hour Reading Series is April 20 at Bobby’s Idle Hour. Readings start at 7 p.m. If you’re interested in reading in the series, contact email@example.com.
Excerpt from “LUSH”
A SHORT STORY BY SARAH KEY
Fortune Cookie Dupree was loaning me hair. It was too big for me, a neon-green wig that hung over my eyes and shoulders and singed a little every time I smoked. It already had twisted bits at the end, like split ends on real hair. I meant to wear it with a red velvet bra and matching candy cane strap-on from Stacy’s Adult Toy Box—thinking to be like Christmas, ho ho ho—but in the end, the look didn’t really come together like I thought it would. I ended up painting myself in a tutu all Grinchy-green to match the wig. I had some wings that were looking mangy, which only happens if the feathers are real, but I spray-painted them the same color on the porch and tied them on. At the last minute, I added a snare drum, which wasn’t green, but kind of worked anyway. LUSH was an empty warehouse on the east side of town, a squat for half a dozen scum punks. In the past, I had spent a lot of time there, but since Fortune Cookie went to L.A. last summer for some man, I hadn’t been back. I heard Fortune Cookie was back in town about a month ago, and she invited me out with her. Sybil War and Anna Freeze would be there too, I figured. I don’t know why I said I’d go with her. Sometimes, I just like to pick a scab, see how much I can take. Fortune Cookie usually performed at a Drag’n Brunch on Saturdays, so we weren’t going to LUSH until she was finished changing her look. She wanted to be a crystal ball that night, a cascade of rhinestones over a nude sparkle bodysuit with a battery-driven pulse of color buried deep between her boobs. With her heels, she stood six and a half feet tall. Fortune Cookie was my best friend. I had known her since she was Nathan the Mormon and my eighth-grade lab partner at Steely’s Bend Middle School. It was one of those warm nights you’ll sometimes get in Nashville during winter. We had the windows open in her Civic, and I’d taken the hair off so I could smoke. Houses were decorated with puffy snowmen and Santas glowing on the grass. Sometimes, there was even music, though who would hear it if they didn’t have their windows down, I don’t know. People really get into this decorating stuff, even people who think queens are freaks. Fortune Cookie’s folks were like that, but we still liked to drive through the neighborhoods, see the lights during the season, think about all the things we would ask for if there were someone worth asking.
How Did We Get Here?
BY OLATUNDE OSINAIKE
don’t look at me the dandelions want to know who spouted blood onto them who ruined the flair of living amongst color called it unfortunate goodness again don’t look at me I’ve been in my room with my headphones at a volume this device warned me against said something along the lines of do this at your risk and that sounded familiar before I wanted to listen to the composition of this era before a few decades of forgotten resolutions had been reminisced on covering ground by not covering it all and I made medicine out of prefixing what is wrong with what I won’t do don’t didn’t didn’t you know the question was rhetorical that the pollen isn’t what is giving us problems its our own sense of smell and sense but don’t look at me I am a shining example of principles here don’t ask me how like curtains resting on infinite air mimicking flight don’t look at me like I opened the window triggering this reaction
the Art of Acrylics BY CASEY BOYD
chips of color dumped out onto my living room floor I was going to purge them into the trash can thinking how I wore my mood or current phase on the dead parts of my body even in death women are taught make it pretty the oil separates in the bottles from the vibrant shades of Wild Raspberry/Rhapsody/Autumn Berry/Rican Rum/Pink Peony & Perfectly Plum moods and expression safely contained in formaldehyde you can wipe the feelings off with a soft cotton ball should they get too overwhelming overbearing too loud . . . better settle on Pink Peony conjuring the devil is consensual after all save Cherry Red for Saturday night when I dress up like a character I saw in an old B movie as a child I can feel what a man wants when I wear Cherry Red like that shadow of hardness against my lower back I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to convex images of Midnight Blue jeans hitting the floor look like your eyes staring at my ass the sound of Belt Buckle Brass rings in my ear when you holler hey girl Rare Ruby a piece of veal the freshest flesh prime for consumption eating it doesn’t count if it’s covered in cellophane a top coat we poke holes in the meat like a child at the grocery store stop doing that mom says you’ll spoil it but even then I knew it “technically doesn’t count” I’d run after my mother and her shopping cart headed toward Aisle C – Cosmetics leaving the spoiled indented remains for an unassuming customer and a day when I’m a grown up and disorders are the new nail polish we wear to cover up our dead parts
From Somalia, With Love
BY JONAH ELLER-ISAACS PHOTOS BY EMILY DORIO
Somali-owned The Horn Coffee spreads acceptance —and some damn good sambusas— on Murfreesboro Pike
parking lot on Murfreesboro Pike reveal changing times. Most of the stores listed are long gone. Balkan Express is no more—in its place, Barwaqo Halal Market. This corner of southeast Nashville near the Lane Motor Museum and Nashville School of the Arts is one of the more diverse parts of the city, and the area is home to most of the city’s Somali immigrant population. Many of the two thousand or so Somalis currently residing in Nashville originally settled here after fleeing their country’s vicious civil war, which began in the early 1990s. Some readers may recall scenes from the capital city of Mogadishu: jeeps overloaded with heavily armed troops. The lawless anarchy of a failed state. Chaos. Brutality. Bloodshed. The war killed an estimated half a million people, and occasional violence continues to flare (including recent American drone strikes). I can understand why someone might want to seek out a safer, more peaceful life. A black banner spreads across the brick wall in front of me: THE HORN COFFEE. Ahmed and Zakariya Sayid welcome me into a space that’s meticulously cared for. The walls are crisply painted, and the north-facing windows are spotless—all the better to watch the crawling procession of commuters. Ahmed and Zakariya are co-owners of The Horn along with their father, Hassan Rasul. They make a world-class chai. They’re also Somali refugees. Though they were young at the time, Ahmed, who’s twenty-seven and the oldest of nine siblings, remembers the early years of their flight. “When the civil war happened in Somalia in 1990, we went from Somalia to Nairobi, from Nairobi to Mombasa, and we stayed in Mombasa for five years.” Mombasa, a Kenyan beach town on the Indian Ocean, is a well-known tourist
destination. “It was beautiful,” Ahmed recalls. “But you’re still a refugee.” The family arrived stateside in 1996 with the support of a Catholic Charities refugee program. When I ask how and why they ended up specifically in Nashville, Ahmed gives a wry smile. “We had no choice. We were part of a lottery picking . . . We were supposed to stay in New York at first, but New York was over-congested with immigrants. In the South, there weren’t a lot of immigrants. Nashville wanted to become diverse and they started taking in immigrants, so we were the first wave of Somalis that came to Nashville.” The Sayid brothers have nothing but love for their “chosen” home, but the family’s twenty-two years in Nashville haven’t all been easy. They dive into their tale as I take my first bites of their sambusa, a stuffed savory pie (a.k.a. samosas in India). Bursts of cumin, garlic, and curry overwhelm my senses. It’s marvelous. And it’s only $1.60! It takes effort to avoid getting lost in culinary delight as I listen to Zakariya. “We left Somalia to live in the projects, just to see more gunshots.” Here Ahmed jumps in, as he and his brother are constantly finishing each other’s thoughts. “When we first came to America, we lived in the projects for four years. Shelby. Ugh.” Zakariya follows up. “We moved out. It was too much.” “My dad was like, ‘I left a war country for another war country!’” Ahmed exclaims.“We had a bullet fly through the window—twice! When Mom was pregnant.” He sets the scene. “Mom was pregnant. Looking out the window, a bullet goes right here”—he draws a path across his face—“Barely. And it goes into the fridge!” Zakariya recalls what his distraught mother, Safiya Hamza, said then: “‘I remember when I had you. There were
gunfights, and you could hear the missiles outside.’ And she was in labor with me!” The family did eventually find safer housing, but there was some violence they couldn’t escape. I ask Ahmed about being an immigrant in the South; though Nashville is more diverse today, it wasn’t exactly an international melting pot back when the brothers were teenagers. “My first experience of feeling like an outsider was the day of September 11,” Ahmed tells me. “I walked into class, I’m a little bit late . . . The whole class is staring at me . . . Some of the kids are like”—Ahmed slips from his lightly accented English into an exaggerated Southern drawl— “‘Is that your people that’re doin’ that? This what you guys’re doin’?’” Thankfully Ahmed’s teacher quickly came to his defense. “The teacher’s like, ‘Hey! Don’t do that! Don’t say that to him! You guys are rude!’ . . . It lasted for a few days, but luckily the teachers were really good.” Ahmed also shares a time he didn’t need the teachers. His name was Daniel. “That’s the first person I ever gave a black eye to. And a bloody nose. Cause I’m not a fighter. But if you mess with me? I won’t mess around . . . Danny used to call me turban-head. And a sand n*gger.” Back in seventh grade, he didn’t even know what those words meant. “And one day he pushes me like, ‘Hey, sand n*gger! You wanna fight?’ We’re in the hallway. All the kids are right there.” Here Ahmed pauses, takes a breath for dramatic effect. “I used to watch a lot of WWE.” He chuckles, shaking his head. “I used to practice, me and my brothers and cousins. We would just go at it . . . You best believe that worked! I literally started throwing WWE moves on him! He never messed with me after that day! I’ll never forget Danny.” From Mogadishu to Mombasa to
Murfreesboro Pike, Ahmed, Zakariya, and their siblings survived their journey relying on strong familial ties. Those bonds remain firm—not every family could run a business together without killing each other, and in my presence at least, the brothers are loving and kind. After years of living under the same roof, Ahmed was the first to leave when he married, but even then, he only moved across the street. Zakariya snagged an internship at Boeing and fell in love with Seattle, but he returned to help open The Horn. He considers the fifteen-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule that the business demands. “Why am I workin’ so hard? It’s for family. It’s for my dad. It’s for my mom. For my siblings. So they can be in a better place later on.” I’m so engrossed in the brothers’ stories that I’m forgetting their food. I pick up my nafaqo, a piece of hardboiled egg packed in seasoned mashed potatoes and then deep-fried. The crispy exterior gives way to a silky, richly flavored interior. It’s quite a snack for just a buck and a quarter. I wash it down with a sip of Somali chai, sweet but not too sweet, redolent with cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. Given all the love that goes into their food and their tenderness and respect for each other, I’m surprised when Ahmed, with a mischievous gleam, tells me of the founding of their cafe: “The Horn Coffee started out of spite.” The boys’ father would make sambusas, nafaqo, and mandazi, a Kenyan fried sweet bread, out of their home kitchen and sell them to local markets. Ahmed took over when his dad made a trip back to Africa. “After the first week, I go to pick up my payment. I’m like, ‘What is this?!’” The bill was shockingly low. The shopkeeper explained he’d made a deal with Ahmed’s father, as Ahmed recalls animatedly. “I was like, ‘Nah, that’s not gonna work.’ I said, ‘Man, I want this
" We’re Muslim immigrants and we’re from a country that’s on the banned list, but we’re just like everybody else. Just chasing the American dream.”
much for it, cause this doesn’t even equal the expenses!’ They argued, I said, ‘Fine.’ So the next day, I didn’t take it to them. Second day, I didn’t take it to them. Third day, I didn’t take it to them . . . They agreed to my prices.” A few months later, near the end of 2014, the family opened The Horn Coffee, serving the same goods—but this time at their own prices. Initially, the shop drew a dedicated crowd from their immigrant community. Their entire clientele was Somali, but it didn’t last. By Zakariya’s estimate, 75 percent of the Somali population has departed Nashville since 2014, driven away by skyrocketing rents. Nearly all their childhood friends are gone. But Zakariya sees a silver lining in their need for a broader customer base. “We’ve met a lot of new friends in the Nashville community that aren’t Somali. They come and we introduce them to East African food. And with today’s social climate, the negative political climate, it kinda helps us show everybody. We’re Muslim immigrants and we’re from a country that’s on the banned list, but we’re just like everybody else. Just chasing the American dream.” Business is steady, if a bit slow, on the stormy Monday I’m visiting their shop. A foursome of students from nearby Trevecca Nazarene has their laptops spread across the table next to mine, and they can’t stop gushing about the place. Justienne Coronel calls the nafaqo “life-changing” and the Somali chai “amazing!” Though the group only discovered the cafe a few weeks ago, Joie Jordan says, “We fell in love with it. We’re here two, three times a week!” From another table, friend of the Sayids Israel Hernandez shouts, “Yo, this broccoli is off the chain!”
Taylor Flemming sha res his experience as one of the first white Americans to patronize The Horn. “It felt very welcoming. I loved hearing their story. They told us their story about where they came from, and it felt really personal. A lot of it is just feeling connected to them and wanting to support them.” Flemming points out his favorite dish, the gyro fries. Soon I’m digging into a massive plate of crunchy fries covered with expertly singed gyro meat and slathered with various toppings, with sides of inhouse ranch and chipotle sauces. The serving is large enough for two, if not three, but it’s so delicious, the perfect hearty food for a cold, rainy day, that I struggle to stop myself from finishing the entire dish. “Looks like you lost some weight,” Ahmed calls out to a visiting cousin. “Let The Horn get you fat!” The Horn’s customers are all ages, races, skin tones. Ahmed and Zakariya still cater to what’s left of their immigrant community, but they’ve also created a space for Nashvillians of all backgrounds to connect over Somali chai and piping hot mandazi. Zakariya is inspired by the exchange. “What makes you love it is the times when you introduce the food and the tea—people have never had this type of food. Their reaction is what makes you wanna keep going . . . When I see more Americans here, I’m showing them a different side of a culture that is demonized. Everyone that comes in here, they’re like, ‘Man, you guys are awesome.’ And they’re awesome people. Our customers are awesome as fuck! Forgive my cursing.” The Horn Coffee is open every day 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
2-4-1 SLICES & BEER MONDAYS STARTING AT 4PM
OPEN UNTIL MIDNIGHT MONDAY - SATURDAY
2-4-1 WINGS & BEER TUESDAYS STARTING AT 4PM
1602 21ST AVE S
PAINT BY NUMBERS (AND FRACTALS)
BY NATIVE STAFF PHOTOS BY AUSTIN LORD
Artist Emily Sue Laird is bringing the future to Nashville one UV-reactive, fractalinspired piece at a time
Emily Sue Laird is a visual artist, installation artist, illustrator, production designer, 3D printer, and just-about-everything-else-er based in Nashville. She graduated from Watkins in 2011, and in the time since, she’s tirelessly created work that blurs the lines between nature and technology, art and science, and the big, metaphysical knowns and unknowns that keep us up at night. Laird’s done commissioned work for everyone from West Elm to Jack Daniels to Bongo Java, and she’s also worked as a mentor through programs like Nashville Public Library, YMCA of Middle Tennessee, Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), Make Nashville, and more. Most recently, Laird’s turned her attention to working with the Adventure Science Center. She has two upcoming pieces at ASC: Eureka!, an exhibit that’s part of the Math Inspires Art series at ASC’s Forbes Gallery; and the Eureka Theater Mural, a permanent mural that Laird and ASC created with help from local young women and volunteers. We talked to Laird about the upcoming ASC work, fractals, and why the future may not look so bleak after all.
The list of disciplines you work in— sculpture, 3D printing, illustration, textile work, and more—is practically endless. Do you think we’re entering—or have already entered—a phase in which artists create as makers, rather than, say, as a painter, sculptor, or illustrator? Are the semantics and divisions surrounding different disciplines fading away? These days everyone’s got an online presence, whether you’re chucking merch, showing off your collections/ fa mily/pets/thoughts, promoting events and brands, sharing work, or using social platforms themselves as new media. No matter what your main artform originally was, you’ve most likely become a photographer, digital editor, and self-publisher on top of that. We’ll always have semantics and divisions between disciplines; I don’t think that will ever go away, but the insanely fast pace of our world requires artists to be multidisciplinary in order to be successful. I come from a family full of scrappy Southern women for whom “making” was a daily way of life. Growing up in
rural West Tennessee, I was taught how to cook, sew, garden, and craft from a very young age, so those actions were always a consistent part of my life. When I began making art seriously and considering it as a career, techniques such as painting, sculpting, drawing, and design were tools added to a toolbox of skills with a foundation in traditional Southern homemaking. I don’t know if that comes across in my work, because my art tends to look more contemporary, but my upbringing had a profound effect on my affinity for creative pursuits. I was encouraged to study and learn and create, so that’s what I do. The medium doesn’t matter to me as much as the act of creation. You’re a studio mentor at Studio NPL, a space at the Nashville Public Library where teens learn about music, design, tech, and pretty much any other maker-related skill they could want to learn. Do you consider passing down knowledge part of your creative practice? Absolutely. I was fortunate to have found my artistic family in Nashville, because we have a uniquely supportive
arts community here. From the day I decided to attend Watkins, I had wonderful mentors in my life who were able to guide and advise me on everything from school and business to family, love, and friendship. I consider mentorship to be an essential element of any life plan. No matter what you want to do, there are people out there who have done it before and who would be happy to share their wisdom and experiences with you. While I enjoy teaching to a degree, I’m much more interested in fostering long-term mentor relationships with individuals who are passionate about creative pursuits and willing to put in the hard work and grueling hours that it takes to get anything meaningful accomplished. The best mentormentee relationships are mutual, with both sides contributing to as well as benefiting from the partnership. Those types of connections don’t happen every day. You had young women help you with painting the Eureka Theater Mural, which is interesting considering art communities and STEAM communities are often male dominated. Do you think these communities are becoming more inclusive? And if not, what can we do to make them more inclusive? Women have been studying and progressing science just as long as men have, but we have never had the same visibility in that field. Sadly, this happens often in the art world as well as countless other vocations. I’m thankful that many of these communities are finally becoming more inclusive, but
we’ve still got a long way to go. Last week I came across an article about the Draw-a-Scientist study, which showed that schoolchildren are increasingly drawing scientists as females rather than almost exclusively as males, thanks in part to an increase in women being portrayed as scientists and mathematicians in popular media. The study shows that one of the major things we can do to increase inclusion is representation. We have to consistently represent marginalized groups in these roles. We need to listen to and promote stories of women, indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities, and those in the LGBTQI community, because we all contribute to society, and we all deserve representation. This is true in scientific fields as well as society as a whole. The Adventure Science Center made a deliberate choice to include girls and women in the Eureka Theater Mural project from the beginning. We designed the grant proposal around the idea of working with middleschool and high-school girls enrolled in the Science Center’s Art2Stem & TWISTER programs for young women interested in pursuing STEAM careers. During February and March 2018, over fifty girls and women collaborated with me to paint the Eureka Theater Mural, including local middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, educators, and my mom. We also had a few wonderful male volunteers, as well as the full support of Science Center staff, which made it a very inclusive and rewarding experience for me and hopefully for everyone involved.
Eureka!, your current exhibit at Adventure Science Center, draws inspiration from “fractals, cosmology, and the natural world to create remarkable UV-reactive artworks.” Walk us us through the inspiration and making of the series. The work in Eureka! stems from a lifelong fascination with the natural world, mathematics, and science. I have always loved being outside and experiencing nature—I draw energy and inspiration from exploring outdoors. My free time is often spent hiking, biking, kayaking, gardening, or just sittin’ around outside and soaking it all in. As a kid in school I learned to love mathematics, and at some point, I began to appreciate math as a way of explaining the universe in comprehensible terms. I believe that mathematics provide us a glimpse of the spiritual realm by empowering humans to translate the rhythms of the natural world. This is especially apparent when looking at fractals and the golden spiral, because these shapes follow the rules of divine proportion to illuminate our universe’s infinite repetitive nature of self-similarity. Fractals can be seen in veins, rivers, branches, lightning, snowflakes, coastlines, weather patterns, roadways, footpaths, and countless other aspects of the natural and artificial world. In mathematics, fractals can be used to model structures in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, distribution of information, and galaxy formation. The Eureka Theater already had UV lights installed for a hilariously ’90s black-light painting on canvas that used to sit awkwardly across one corner of the room but has now been removed. When I realized that the mural could have multiple layers of lighting options, my mind
exploded with possibilities. We decided the mural would be able to be viewed in at least three different lighting scenarios: natural (incandescent or fluorescent), ultraviolet (black light), and phosphorescent (glowin-the-dark). Since I had very little experience pa i nt i n g w it h U V-reac t ive or phosphorescent paints, I proposed that first I would create four large painted panels where I could work out the concepts for the mural and figure out which specialty paints would work best. The series is titled Eureka! because it was a way for me to have many “Aha!” moments figuring out what we would paint in the Eureka Theater and how it could be painted. The Science Center was also working on a planetarium show about fractals, so the concepts around painting a math-based mural fell right into place. The final mural will be an amalgamation of the concepts and imagery presented in the four panels, titled Existential Cosmology, Remedial Divination, Tennessee Waterways, and Eureka Mural Prototype. Do you feel artists have a responsibility to evolve and update their work as new materials and methods emerge? In my mind, the only responsibility an artist has is to make honest work that doesn’t hurt other people. I don’t think it matters so much what materials you use, as long as you are making work. For a long time I resisted the pull of technology. The first few years of my college experience were spent working exclusively in classical and traditional art-making techniques such as drawing, painting, ceramics, sewing, writing, and film photography. It wasn’t until 2009 that I discovered 3D printing and began to get involved in more technologically driven artforms, but that interest has always been rooted in a conventional fine arts training and exists
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in both conversations. The things I like to 3D print most are planters, jewelry, picture frames, miniatures, and scale models of people, which are all very crafty objects. It’s the kind of thing you’d find on Etsy or at a flea market, but in my case a robot is doing a lot of the handiwork. Are there any emerging technological advancements that will impact the future of the art world, or maybe become ubiquitous in years to come? Are there any advancements that you plan to use in your own work? In 2011 I suffered a severe back injury that completely changed the way I live. While I’m still very active and able to work, I have to be very careful about the way I use my body. Traditional methods of art-making are surprisingly physical, especially things like carving, building, and painting. 3D printing has provided me a means to rapidly prototype incredibly detailed sculptures in a fraction of the time and physical effort that handmaking these objects would require. Fur ther more, these technolog ical advancements are pushing media forward by allowing people to create work by methods that were previously impossible. I’ve used robots and printers to create devices that help me make other types of work such as painting, drawing, and embroidery. The possibilities seem endless, which gives me hope. Laird’s Eureka! series will be on display at the Adventure Science Center through May 13 and is accessible with general admission. The Eureka Theater Mural is a permanent installation and will be accessible during the Science Center’s upcoming adults-only event, Way Late Play Date, on Thursday, April 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
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YOU OUGHTA KNOW: SAVANNAH CONLEY PHOT O BY EMILY D OR IO
We’re not betting folks around here (the only March Madness bracket we filled out was the Kanye one that’s been making the rounds online), but there is one thing we’d put our money on: if super-producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) put his name on something, it’s probably good. Sure enough, that’s the case with Cobb’s latest project, Savannah Conley’s TwentyTwenty, out now via the producer’s Low Country Sound imprint. And while Cobb’s trademark less-is-more approach is great on this EP, something tells us Conley would be brilliant no matter who produced her. On Twenty-Twenty, the twenty-one-yearold singer-songwriter injects Nashville’s
contemporary Americana sound (or whatever you want to call it) with a heavy dose of detached melancholia. This is country ennui delivered with just the right amount of Dolly-esque twang, and when Conley sings lines like, “I’d like to see the world / with the innocence of a girl / but I’m older now . . . But I’m stuck with the same old eyes,” you can’t help but feel a little deflated. Like her taste in producers, Conley’s taste in local cuisine is hard to beat. “Thai food is my ultimate weakness,” she says. “You can actually never go wrong with the green curry at Smiling Elephant. I love how small and unassuming the restaurant is. It never changes, which I love.” Here’s to hoping Conley never changes.
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Cedar Glades If you haven’t suffered the wrath of the spring bloom yet, I hope you’ve managed to escape it. I know the clock is ticking for me. I’ve heard it said that allergies in Nashville are worse than many other parts of the country because the city sits at the bottom of a large basin that acts like a bubbling cauldron of pollen. I have no idea if that’s true about the pollen, but if it is, it’s an unfortunate legacy for this basin that’s so rich in natural history. The Nashville Basin, as it is formerly known by naturalists of all types, is home to a unique ecosystem known as a limestone cedar glade. At first glance, you might mistake a cedar glade for an abandoned, overgrown parking lot, and in some cases this might not be too far off. After all, the defining features of a cedar glade are its exposed limestone and gravel, thin soils, low-growing grasses and wildflowers, and sparse shrubs and trees (particularly cedar trees). However, these conditions all play a part in making the glades a special gem of our state’s natural heritage as long as you know what to look for. Before exploring what you can currently find in these glades, we should look to the past to understand their origin. The rocks that you see in cedar glades today were formed from loose sediment at the bottom of the ocean somewhere south of the equator roughly 450 million years ago—that’s pre-Pangaea times. As time passed and tectonic plates collided, a dome was formed in what we now know as Middle Tennessee. Sediment of all types continued to layer on top of the dome. Eventually the dome became a landmass and the top crumbled away, creating the basin we know and love today. This revealed that pre-
Pangaea ocean floor again, but this time as limestone and not loose sediment. The epicenter of the Nashville Basin is actually much closer to Murfreesboro— Nashville is on the northwestern edge. Because of this, we see exposed limestone outcrops and shallow soils—two of the cedar glade’s most distinctive traits— primarily in the inner part of the Nashville Basin. Since the soils in this area are shallow and underlain by bedrock, they get hot and dry in the summer. But regardless, some plants have found a way to get by in these harsh conditions. Some, like the Tennessee coneflower, grow deep roots, reaching in between the cracks in the limestone to access water underground. Others, like several different species of gladecress, simply don’t mess with the hot temperatures—they grow as winter annuals, leaving their seeds to go dormant in the summer and germinate again in the fall. And a few others, including the limestone fameflower, are succulents that use water very efficiently. During the rainier, cooler months, the shallow soils and bedrock have the opposite effect that they have in the summer. The bedrock prevents drainage in many areas of the cedar glades, creating a temporary wetland and another unique habitat. In some of the cedar glades that have these temporary areas of saturation in the spring, you can find the charismatic and lovely sunnybell. In other glades, you might find the extremely rare and federally endangered leafy prairie clover. Most of these plants are considered endemic to the limestone cedar glades— meaning you won’t find them anywhere else in the world besides these cedar glades
in the Nashville Basin. One of the things that makes these cedar glades special is that there are quite a few of these endemic species, an unusual characteristic for most places in the world. And cedar glades are not just home to unique plants. A few years ago, an entomologist discovered an entirely new species of grasshopper in a Wilson County glade. As of now, this grasshopper is not known to exist anywhere else. Another rare critter, the streamside salamander, is a resident of some cedar glades. This salamander lives underground in the warmer months and moves to small streams in the winter to breed. Ceda r glades a re chock-f u ll of threatened, endangered, rare, and endemic species. As with many other rarities in Middle Tennessee, cedar glades are threatened by our region’s rapid growth. Fortunately, our state has done a good job of protecting them. In fact, one of the first plants that was ever listed as federally endangered, the Tennessee coneflower, was also one of the first plants to be removed from the endangered species list due to successful conservation practices. The Tennessee Natural Areas Program has also protected many cedar glades by creating State Natural Areas, a number of which are easily accessible from Nashville. You can see a list of the natural areas on the state’s website,* but a few you might start with are Couchville Cedar Glades, Flat Rock Cedar Glades, or the Cedars of Lebanon State Forest. *tn.gov/environment/program-areas/ na-natural-areas/list-of-natural-areas.html
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Featuring The Horn Coffee, Joshua Hedley, Bantug, Motke Dapp, Emily Sue Laird, The Porch, and more.