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e v i L s m Drea W here





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WATERING THE SEEDS Notes for Notes helps young musicians pursue their dreams INSIDE THE FRAME Singer-songwriter Scot Sax makes a film about songwriting September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


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September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


PUBLISHER Lisa McCauley EDITOR Chuck Allen ASSOCIATE EDITOR Daryl Sanders COPY EDITOR John McBryde CALENDAR EDITOR Emma Alford CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Emma Alford, Skip Anderson, Allison Avalon, Sarah Hays Coomer, Timothy C. Davis, Warren Denney, Randy Fox, Holly Gleason, James Haggerty, Amy Harris, Nicole Keiper, John McBryde, Laura Roberts, Luke Wiget, Tommy Womack CREATIVE DIRECTOR Chuck Allen DESIGN DIRECTOR Benjamin Rumble ADVERTISING DESIGN Benjamin Rumble

ILLUSTRATIONS Benjamin Rumble, Dean Tomasek


CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Kelli Dirks, Eric England, Amy Harris, Laura Roberts Kitchen

Table Media Company Est.2010

CORRECTIONS: In our previous issue, we failed to credit Ron Coons for the photograph on page 75 entitled “Slow Bar daze.” We apologize, Ron, and thank you for bring this to our attention. Also, on page 95, we incorrectly named PORTER HOUSE BISTRO “Porter Road Bistro.” We regret the error and encourage our readers to visit PORTER HOUSE BISTRO frequently.


SOCIAL MEDIA Nicole Keiper ADVERTISING SALES Lisa McCauley lisa@theeastnashvillian.com 615.582.4187 ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Jaime Brousse, Nikkole Turner ASSISTANT TO THE PUBLISHER Victoria Clodfelter

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

©2014 Kitchen Table Media P.O. Box 60157 Nashville, TN 37206 The East Nashvillian is a bi-monthly magazine published by Kitchen Table Media. This publication is offered freely, limited to one per reader. The removal of more than one copy by an individual from any of our distribution points constitutes theft and will be subject to prosecution. All editorial and photographic materials contained herein are “works for hire” and are the exclusive property of Kitchen Table Media unless otherwise noted. Reprints or any other usage is a violation of copyright without the express written permission of the publisher.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015



By Randy Fox

By Timothy C. Davis

By Tommy Womack

49 CHUCK MEAD By Holly Gleason


By Luke Wiget

By Warren Denney

By Luke Wiget

By Tommy Womack & Randy Fox


By Randy Fox

By Skip Anderson

By Allison Avalon

By Tommy Womack

By Timothy C. Davis



98 WATERING THE SEEDS 102 INSIDE THE FRAME Notes for Notes helps young musicians pursue their dreams By Laura Roberts

Singer-songwriter Scot Sax makes a film about songwriting and finds a new dream By John McBryde


Photograph by Kelli Dirks


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM for updates, news, events, and more! CONTINUED ON PAGE 10

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM




15 Matters of Development

26 Artist in Profile: Dean Tomasek

18 Holly Street Rocks!

Your Neighbor 1 33 Know Grant Houston

By Nicole Keiper

By John McBryde

By Emma Alford


By Tommy Womack

Celebrating the Neighborhoods

Your Neighbor 2 97 Know Whit Hubner

By Emma Alford

By Timothy C. Davis

109 East Side Calendar By Emma Alford



12 Editor’s Letter

106 Cookin’ in the ’hood

22 Astute Observations

Shot: 130 Parting My Morning Jacket’s

By Chuck Allen

By Amy Harris

By James “Hags” Haggerty


Tom Blankenship

Simple Pleasures

By Laura Roberts

By Sarah Hays Coomer

128 East of Normal By Tommy Womack


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM for updates, news, events, and more!


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


EDITOR’S LETTER Beltway befuddlement There’s room at the top they are telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill A working class hero is something to be A working class hero is something to be


If you want to be a hero well just follow me If you want to be a hero well just follow me —Excerpt from “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon

t’s been an entertaining summer in the world of political theater. The Donald has been crisscrossing the republic in a private 757 with his circus act, energizing the GOP base in a way we haven’t seen since Viagra first hit the market. Serving as a nativist version of Ashley Madison, his masterful manipulation of primordial instincts brings to mind the image of a teenage stripper at a Family Research Council convention (shout-out to the Duggers). All the while, the so-called Republican establishment (a.k.a. Oligarch Minion Group 1) is flabbergasted and can’t seem to figure out how to flank The Donald (Hint: He’s authentic). This is a tricky proposition, because if they go too far right they’ll fall off the edge of their 6,000-year-old planet. All of this leaves the super-duper rich with a migraine. One of their own has gone rogue and seems to relish thumbing his nose at them. Oh well, so much for strategic investment planning. Back down in the dog-eat-dog world of pandering to craziness, the rest of the GOP field is desperately checking its collective pulse. Choked for media air by the self-anointed one, opponent and self-righteous presidential noncontender Mike Huckabee went on record in support of the antigay marriage and exceedingly confused-by-reality-nonmarriage-license-issuing Kim Davis’ ignorance of things we should all learn in school: (a) America was not founded upon biblical law; and (b) Telling the Supreme Court to piss off can result in jail time for contempt. It’s refreshing to know that we’ve come to the point in our political discourse that a man seeking the highest office in the land snubs the very constitution that office vows to uphold. One wonders how long Davis will have to spend on a baloney-and-white bread diet before realizing that she was being used not by the Lord, but by self-seeking politicos who will forget about her faster than she can say “Obama.” Then again, this entire charade might be a bid


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

for her own reality TV show. Word has it the producers of 19 Kids and Counting could use a job. Perfect. The Lord does indeed provide. The other side of the tent, which contains Oligarch Minion Group 2, finds Hillary wriggling around under multiple investigations into her apparent fast-andloose-with-the-rules email usage. Whatever. She’s had Wall Street’s blessing sewn up for years, and with Trump running wild the “masters of the universe” might decide they have no choice other than bedding down with Hillary 2016. Not that Bernie Sanders isn’t creating quite a stir, mind you (Hint: He’s authentic). But if there’s ever been any doubt that the mainstream media is bought and paid for, a simple search through the headlines about Bernie’s “socialism” should put the debate to rest once and for all. Americans, it seems, would prefer oligarchy to socialism any day of the week, even though most are clueless when it comes to defining either. So long as one has a gun, a Bible, and a job at Walmart, one is “free” in an exceptionally American kind of way, apparently. Nevertheless, what the pundits and prognosticators overlook — willfully so, because it threatens their usefulness — is that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump possess that rarest of traits for politicians: Authenticity. It doesn’t matter if one is a billionaire with inherited wealth. With Trump people get an unedited, unscripted performance. Like Trump, Sanders takes a tell-it-like-it-is approach. One could even go so far as to say they’re working class heroes. Granted, they couldn’t be much more different when it comes to actual policy, but that’s not the point. Americans seem to be over the clubby, measured, shall we say, “full-of-shitness” of their so-called representatives. Would a Trump or a Sanders change that? Who knows? One thing is for sure, and it’s the most refreshing part of the entire spectacle: The beltway insiders are freaking out. Enjoy the show.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


Matters of Development

NEW AND NOTEWORTHY If you read our July-August issue — which included a lengthy feature on The Family Wash’s second act down at 626A Main Street — you were probably, like us, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to resume your regular shepherd’s-pie-and-pint time at an East Nashville institution. That opportunity finally presented itself in mid-August, with longtime captain Jamie Rubin and coconspirators Mitchell Fox, Robert Camardo, and John Stephenson kicking off with a soft opening week, smoothing stray hairs, and introducing a new menu (pie’s still here, don’t worry). The Family Wash/Garage Coffee is now serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight, and getting the show schedule back up and running. To keep up with the schedule and/or get more info about the offerings at the new Wash, visit familywash.com. The Wash wasn’t the only long-awaited opening since our last issue. Sharing a building at 1000 Gallatin Ave., Nomzilla! Sushi Et Cetera and Pepperfire both welcomed East Side diners after a few delays. Nomzilla soft-opened in July and quickly got into the swing of serving creative sushi (etcetera) on the East Side, hosting a grand opening week in mid-August. They’re open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 5-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Pepperfire started slingin’ hot chicken from its new place on Aug. 12, showing off some serious upgrades from its longtime (and beloved) shack down the way — fancy stuff like AC and restrooms. They’re open now Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The folks at those two restaurants will have another neighbor soon, too: The Urban

Juicer is set to open a new location at 1009 Gallatin Ave. The Juicers — also representing 8th Avenue South, Green Hills, and The Arcade downtown — focus on additive-free, fresh fruit and vegetable juice. At press time, the company was interviewing new East Side team members, and aiming for an early September opening. Some months back, we mentioned that owner Greg Delzer was aiming to open his new 5 Points-area book shop, Defunct Books, around Tomato Art Fest time. Tomato Art Fest time came to pass, obviously, and so did Defunct Books’ opening. The shop is open now at 118 S. 11th St., sharing a wide mix of printed pages, from dollar books to collectible tomes. Hours are Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. A recent addition that’s had lots of folks talking recently: Tower Market and Deli, at 1305 Gallatin Ave., near Douglas. The business welcomed new neighbors for a soft-opening test run in August, handing out free sandwiches, fries, and chips while recipes were tested, final pieces were put in place, and shelves got stocked. Styled after the ubiquitous corner delis in New York, Tower has a large central deli station from which those sandwiches, fries, and fried chicken are prepared and served, plus a clean and compact market area with a locavore focus — local milk, eggs, and other staples. Their coffee station is East-powered, too, with Bongo brews. Official opening date was set at press time for Sept. 1. Hours are 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. (7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays). More at delirestaurantnashvilletn.com. Also new: Divine Art Cafe opened its doors on Aug. 18 at 604 Gallatin Ave., Suite 109, near West Eastland. If the “Divine” in the name didn’t tip you: It’s more than your

average food stop, having grown out of Divine Art Toffee, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that uses its candy-making activities as part of a greater mission. That mission: “(providing) training and employment opportunities for disabled adults, the elderly, and those in recovery who would otherwise not have an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.” A new face for fitness fanatics: BarreAmped Nashville East opened up at 805 Woodland St. #319, in the Eastside Station hub, sharing “an ultra results-oriented fitness regime based on modern and classical dance, Pilates, yoga, and deep stretching.” The East Nashville location joins existing BarreAmped spaces on Music Row, in The Nations, and The Gulch. We’re still a little ways out from being welcomed into the new home for another East Nashville institution, The Turnip Truck, but things are indeed moving along. In early August, the concrete foundation for the new, much larger Truck at Woodland and Seventh was poured, officially moving us into the build-out stage and inching us toward the intended fall opening. That was, oddly enough, the smaller bit of news from Truck Central in recent months. The big one: The East-bred natural foods grocer developed and launched its own “value-priced product line,” called Field Day, offering affordably priced grocery staples like olive oil and oatmeal. Field Day products number at more than 100, and were made for the shelves at both our Turnip Truck and The Gulch’s. According to owner/founder John Dyke, the goal with launching Field Day is: “People will be able to fill a cart at Turnip Truck at a comparable price to a big-box grocery run. … Healthy eating should not be a luxury, and we are very passionate about breaking down the cost barrier.”

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



COMING SOON We can expect a collection of exciting new neighbors in the coming months, too. Nashville Business Journal reported in late August that yet another new brewery is coming our way. East Nashville Brew Works — led by District 7 Metro councilman Anthony Davis — is in the works at 320 E. Trinity Lane, taking over the old 4,000-square-foot Binco Cleaning Supplies warehouse. Davis told the publication the “taproom-centered” brewery is set to have a variety of beer alongside “good food.” Although OG East Side craft brewery Fat Bottom is set to leave the neighborhood for The Nations, East Nashville Brew Works joins two other coming-soon East Side breweries: Southern Grist Brewing Company, in the former Boone & Sons space on Porter, and Smith & Lentz Brewing, in the old Worm’s Way building on Main. No word yet on opening timeframes for any of our new beer friends, but we’ll keep you posted. Remember the cute blue Riverside Village house at 1304 McGavock Pike that used to house Old Made Good? It’s set to get a new tenant: espresso and wine eatery Perk & Cork. We’re waiting on further details from the owner, and will share more soon (keep an eye on our blog, at theeastnashvillian.com/blog). Sparkworks Union, a “community of independent and innovative thinkers, dreamers, and makers” (i.e. a kind of coworking/ shared office space development) is shooting for a September opening at 935 E Trinity Lane, and spaces are being preleased now. More info at sparkworksunion.com. In mid-August, Nashville Post dropped


news about a proposed boutique hotel called Holiday Jones, which would include 64 rooms over five stories at 805 Main St. Formers Chicagoans/regular Chicago visitors may recognize the name from the “boutique hostel” in that city, but project partner Robert “Robby” Baum told the Post the East Side Jones would be a more conventional boutique hotel. The Metro Development and Housing Agency Design Review Committee initially deferred a Holiday Jones approval vote, but as we were going to press, developers were surging ahead and addressing issues to move toward approval. Fans of the Fatherland District and its many great shops and restaurants, like Baxter Bailey & Co. and The Local Taco, should be looking forward to November, as the Fatherland family is set to grow. Developer Mark Sanders is hoping to get Fatherland Corner — with 8,500 square feet of business space over three buildings, at South 10th and Fatherland — up and running around then, according to news from Nashville Post. Several Fatherland District businesses were slated to move from their current homes into new Fatherland Corner spaces, including Abode and Chocolate F/X. Among the many in-the-works residential projects we heard about in recent months: • Porter Village, a 40-unit condo and townhome project at Porter and Cahal (construction was underway as we were going to press). • EastSide Heights, with 249 apartments and 8,000 square feet of retail space at 416 Woodland St. (plans were approved in July). • Pennington Cottages, with 17 homes on Pennington Avenue in South Inglewood (an

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

end-of-year groundbreaking is the plan). MOVING AND CHANGING Moves and changes were happening at a mix of East Side businesses these past few months, as well. At press time, the folks at apparel and lifestyle goods shop Wheat & Co were working on moving out of their current space at 719 Porter Road to team up with Scout’s Barbershop at 904 Main St., starting Sept. 1. As of July 18, furniture and housewares shop Nest 615 was out of the Shoppes on Fatherland and into a new space at 1110 Gallatin. Gizmos Vapor Shoppe also opened its new location at 922 Main St. in late July. The Shoppe opened last summer at 1009 Gallatin Ave. (an address you may recognize from the new Urban Juicer space a few paragraphs up there). A big revamp is in the works at Cantrell’s BBQ Pit at 829 Lischey — expect a new look, new chef, and new menu items. We hadn’t gotten word on a reopening date at press time. To go with those new neighbor addresses, here are some new neighbor names: East Nashville art hub KT Wolf Gallery, at 604 Gallatin Ave., didn’t go away, but just took on a new name: Gallery Luperca. The moniker change came as partners KT Wolf and Sara Lederach celebrated six months of curating exhibitions and wrangling our neighborhood art crawl with a twist, the East Side Art Stumble. The folks at Paro South are also starting fresh, name-wise. They’re behind spaces including Center 615 and Main Street Gallery, and those businesses now live under a neat rebranded umbrella: C615.

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EAST SIDE BUZZ Some individual businesses go by new names, too: Center 615 is now Center 615 Main; Paro South Creative Suites is Center 615 Bricks. Not sure what’s what? Keep an eye on c615.co. CLOSED DOORS A few bummer closings to share, too. In late July, Cleveland Park laundro-cafe Madeline abruptly closed, after a brief, but well-liked run. “We want to thank all the wonderful people who came in and supported us over the last five months. Sadly, we have had to close the doors until further notice,” a Facebook post read. “You are all awesome for helping us try to make Madeline work, but we just couldn’t keep it together on our end.” The business was located at 1224 Meridian St. B-Side Salon at 2909-A Gallatin Pike Suite A also closed up shop in June. “I’m sure there were many rumors going around about why I closed and why it happened so fast, so I’m here to set the record straight that nothing bad happened,” owner Kama Yvette updated via social media. “Everything was fine and business was great, but I personally needed to be somewhere else. I thought of a million ways to keep things going, but it all seemed too complicated and


… closing seemed like the best option. We had a great three-year run and I met some amazing people.” Floral design studio Brocade Designs (at 805 Woodland St, Suite 304, in Eastside Station) closed in order to allow owner Hillary Yeager and team to “transition to focus on event design and custom stationery.” —Nicole Keiper Have any East Side development news to share? Reach out to: nicole@theeastnashvillian.com

Holly Street Rocks!

HOLLY STREET DAYCARE’S ANNUAL fundraiser, known as Holly Street Rocks!, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 19. Every year, the 3 Star-certified daycare center hosts a beer and wine tasting and auction. The fundraiser, now in its 12th year, has changed things up a bit this fall with the addition of BBQ plates from Drifters and The Wild Cow, accompanied by some tasty desserts from Nashville Sweets and other local bakers. The tasting and auction will run from 6-10 p.m. at The Building in 5 Points. Sadly, this

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

will be the event’s fifth and final year at this spot, with The Building set to close its doors this November. Bidding farewell to the venue may give event patrons all the more reason to get out and support the daycare’s “Jamie’s Fund.” Holly Street Daycare has a long history of providing financial aid to at-need families who have trouble affording quality childcare. Holly Street Rocks! raises nearly $30,000 every year, which is put directly into offsetting childcare costs for at-need families. Event Chair Emily Covington Waltenbaugh says, “When a parent is facing something like chemotherapy and mounting medical bills and time away from work, not having to worry about the cost of childcare and keeping their child’s day-to-day routine stable can be a godsend.” Jamie’s Fund is named after a beloved member of the Holly Street educational family that passed away three years ago. The fund “provides tuition to families dealing with financial setbacks that threaten their access to childcare.” With about 30 percent of families receiving some form of tuition subsidy at Holly Street Daycare, the need for the fund is apparent. Tickets for the event, along with live and silent auctions and raffle tickets, are the primary means of fundraising. The

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



auction features over 200 different items, ranging from gift certificates to full vacation packages, all donated by local merchants and friends of Holly Street Daycare. There will be a large silent auction and two “very spirited” live auctions for the bigger ticket items. Raffle tickets run $5 and are worth 13 chances in the drawing for cash prizes. These raffle tickets can be picked up at Holly Street

Daycare, from parents, or online. Also, for those who wish to donate but haven’t purchased raffle tickets or can’t make it out to the event, donations to Jamie’s Fund are accepted online through the Holly Street Rocks! website. Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door, which includes a BBQ dinner, desserts, and all-you-care-to-drink wine and beer, provided by Midtown Wine and Spirits. —Emma Alford

Celebrating The Neighborhoods

IN EAST NASHVILLE ALONE THERE are over 10 different neighborhood associations with many, many more sprawled across the city. To celebrate and acknowledge the diversity of this ever-growing city, Nashville’s Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC) is hosting the Nashville Neighborhood Celebration — which is exactly what it sounds like. Neighborhoods from across the city will meet on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the convenient East Side locale of Cleveland Park and Community Center. Every neighborhood has its own wants, needs, and opinions. Enter the NRC’s mission. The nonprofit NRC has worked with neighborhood associations and residents throughout the city for over 18 years, facilitating community action for positive change. It offers itself as a helping hand to the various neighborhood associations, equipping neighborhood leaders with tools to benefit their communities through training and mentoring in classes, workshops, and forums. The third annual neighborhood celebration will also provide a way for each area of the city to show off their chops. NRC Executive Director Jim Hawk expects anywhere from 30 to 40 different groups to participate this year. Complete with a chili cook-off, a neighborhood battle of the bands, and “The Neighbor Games” (a series of teambuilding activities and challenges), the domains of the city will have every chance to make their streets shine. An informational bazaar will feature government organizations, nonprofits, and businesses looking for ways to strengthen the city’s communities, such as Nashville Public Television, The Porch Writers’ Collective, Historic Nashville, and Neighborhood Health. Neighborhood groups will be allowed to set up their own booths to educate attendees on what makes their community special, as well as share some of their 2015 accomplishments. Aside from promoting neighborhoods, there will be plenty of free activities for all ages, along with oodles of dogs and burgers to munch on from Neighbors Who Love To Grill. “This is a place to explore what it means to be a good neighbor and what it means to live in a great neighborhood,” Hawk says. “This is a day to promote and celebrate Nashville neighborhoods and encourage all of Metro to make strong neighborhoods a priority.” —Emma Alford

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for ticket giveaways to shows throughout the inaugural season of Ascend Amphitheater. 20

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Astute OBSERVATIONS James “Hags” Haggerty

Parallel universe


ast Nashville, I try to keep my finger on the pulse of our fair burg. I am always on the lookout for an astute observation to share with you, but I never know where the inspiration will come from. This particular one gobsmacked me right on Forrest Avenue. Parallel parking is the erectile dysfunction of East Nashville roadways. Whoa! Have I gone too far, too inflammatory? Quite the opposite, I say. Downright deflating in fact. Please allow me to explain. On a recent Wednesday, I had the pleasure of playing a gig with the great Kevn Kinney and the most certainly inflammatory punk rock poet, Lydia Lunch. It was one of those early gigs at The 5 Spot, a brilliant time slot and subsequently a great gig. With my upright bass seated next to me in the Lincoln land yacht, aptly christened Frank Sinatra Junior, I trolled the streets looking for a parking spot. Nary a one to be found in the library lot, I piloted Junior down the alley around back of the club. Nothing. I noticed the newly minted and ubiquitous NO PARKING signs. They accusingly informed me of 24-hour reserved parking for this or that business, ONLY. “Since when is a tax place open 24 hours a day,” I wondered. With visions of impound lots and an emptied wallet skittering through my head, I reversed course and headed back around to Forrest Avenue. My progress was impeded by a parade of beards and ankle boots. I felt my blood pressure begin to rise. A few beads of sweat dotted my brow. Frank’s clock read two minutes till six. I was running late, nervously scanning left and right, back and forth, to and fro. Where are you, parking space? Let me in! And there it was, a bit of dark asphalt winking at me from between a Prius and a flashy motor scooter. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Buddha! Thank you,

Ralph Nader! I passed the spot slowly and stopped Frank’s advance midway up alongside the Prius. I announced my intentions with the click of a turn signal. Reverse now. Steady now. Oh yeah, bring it on home. Except I didn’t bring it home. My technique was faulty. I wasn’t steady, I was nervous, I was distracted, I was thinking about the gig and the songs. The boat was big, and the dock was small. Plus, I had a bad angle. “Don’t panic, you’ve got this,” I said to myself, as I began my next attempt. It was at that moment that I caught sight of the line of cars stacking up impatiently behind me. I waved them around. “I am the captain of this vessel! OK, back it up, nice and slow, take it easy, cut the wheel. … Damn it, I can’t get no satisfaction!” I was failing. Behind me, a hipster honked his horn. The guy selling The Contributor just shook his head and looked away. I felt doubt. I felt shame. “Stop watching me! Give me a minute! I can’t do it like this! Can somebody turn off the lights?” The above story is true. It happened to me. It can happen to you. Parallel parking performance anxiety is a problem. Talk to your doctor … . All right, I think I have pushed this metaphor far enough. Or have I? Uber, Lyft, taxis — these are the little blue pill of the parking world. Good for a quick fix in a pinch, but we need a cure. The cure is public transportation. Are you with me, East Nashville? Let’s bring the trolleys back. Let’s run more frequent bus routes. How about parkand-rides and bike racks? Can I get an Amen? Until next time, I’ll see you around the neighborhood. I’ll be the guy trying to drop anchor on a parking spot. Land ho!

Hags is a part-time bon vivant, man-about-town, and contributor to The East Nashvillian. His full-time gig is anchoring the low-end as a bass player. Any donations to the Hag’s Foundation will go directly towards the purchase of side-thrusters for his land yacht.


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

simple PLEASURES By Sarah Hays Coomer


All together now

went to QDP at The 5 Spot last month (Queer Dance Party, for the uninitiated) and found myself — a 30-something, white, married mom — blissfully sweating bullets, surrounded by people of all ages and races, raising our hands to the roof with Alicia Keys blaring through the sound system. I was sporting a turquoise tutu and got a nod of approval from a young, black woman who oozed generosity of spirit. We danced for a while, the music bringing us together, but drifted off as the night went on. I left that night hungry for a lasting connection with her, and if I’m being honest, hungry for access to diversity in general. Her spirit caught my eye, but the color of her skin made me long, even more, for her friendship — and for that, I felt weak-in-the-knees shameful. I saw and differentiated the color of her skin. Did that make me a racist? I’m supposed to be colorblind, right? But I’m not colorblind, and I can’t pretend to be anymore after watching the news this past summer about Sandra Bland, the woman who died in a Texas jail cell after having been incarcerated for three days for not using her turn signal. I can’t conceive of a scenario in which that would happen to me. Hearing her story, I imagined what it must have been like for her to be starting a new life in a new state, and the desperation she must have felt at the possibility that her dream job could be lost due to her arrest. I cannot conceive of how despondent she must have been to take her own life in that jail cell — if, in fact, that’s what happened. Her experience of living in America is one that I will never be able to fully understand, but if I’m not supposed to acknowledge how shocking the disparity is between her experience and mine — and if I’m not allowed to shout from the rooftops that I want to be friends with the woman on the dance floor partially because of the color of her skin — if those things can’t happen, I remain hopelessly powerless

and permanently separate. And I can’t live with that. I moved to Nashville from California eight years ago. On the West Coast, I have close friends of many races, but have found those friendships harder to come by here. That’s not meant to be a broad statement about the South. It’s just the truth. The problem clearly exists nationwide, and maybe I just got lucky in L.A. But I have to acknowledge that right now, here, in this neighborhood that I love so much, it’s notable when I find myself in effortless contact with people of other races — and that divide makes no sense in such a diverse and thriving city. An elderly black gentleman and I had a chat over clementines in the produce section at the grocery store the other day. He wanted to know if they were sweet. I told him kids love them because they’re delicious and easy to peel. He grinned and said, “Well, I’m a kid today then,” and placed a bag in his cart. And I was hungry again. I wanted to know him better, to sit down for a meal. I don’t know if it makes me a racist to reach out for more intimate contact partially based on the color of someone’s skin, so I shy away most of the time. But I got the number of my beautiful dance partner that night. I hope she’s up for a glass of wine, and I hope it’s OK if we talk about race, as well as family, work, and love. I don’t want to be an activist. I just want to be friends, but to do that with an honest heart, I have to admit that we’re not the same. Our experiences, opportunities, and the assumptions made about us every day are not the same. I’m not colorblind. I’m color hungry. Fortunately, we in Nashville (and thankfully in the country at large) have something accessible to bring us together. We have music writhing up through our history, defining us and reliably uniting us when we need it the most. We should take better advantage of it. Music reaches into the gaps, recognizing and shrinking them. It looked to me like the folks at QDP had things pretty much worked out. I think I found a new hang. Kumbaya, people. All together now.

Sarah Hays Coomer is a certified personal trainer, nutrition coach, and prenatal fitness instructor. She kinda likes to exercise, kinda not, and loves all things sugared, salted, fried, or dipped in dark chocolate. She runs a free wellness group in East Nashville for anyone looking to raise a glass to good health, and her book on wellness will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2016. You can find her at www.strengthoutsidein.com or on twitter @strengthoutside 

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Artist in Profile

Dean Tomasek East Nashville musician is making art his priority By John McBryde As he quaffs contentedly at the Village Pub & Beer Garden, East Nashville artist and musician Dean Tomasek is lending perspective on his beginnings in Chicago, the various states where he spent his childhood and teenage years, and his arrival in Nashville before he reached 20. To help calculate how long he’s been playing bass and creating art in Music City, Tomasek gives an exact number when asked how old he is. “But you don’t have to include that in the article,” he says of his age. “I mean, you can if you want, but … .” What does it really matter, right? Let’s just say Tomasek is well north of millennials and at the southern fringe of boomers. He’s old enough to impart wisdom but not so old as to impart it grumpily. “Art, luckily, is one thing most people get better at when they get older,” he says, looking every bit the ageless rock & roller with his long curly hair, well-worn hat, and tattooed arms. “Most of the best painters were at their best right before they died — or after they went crazy right before they died,” he continues. “I think a part of it is you learn so much about technique. Every time you paint something, you learn. •



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Artist in Profile This page and facing page: A small sampling of Tomasek’s diversity as an artist and illustrator. All works courtesy of Dean Tomasek.


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Artist in Profile

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Artist in Profile

“With music, you’ve probably figured it all out by the time you’re 26 or 27. There’s only so many notes. But with art, there are so many colors, so many ways to look at things.” Tomasek has been looking at things through an artist’s eyes since he was old enough to hold a pencil, drawing dinosaurs, monsters, and the like as a preschooler and later filling in margins of his high school science and math notebooks with all sorts of cartoons. He went chasing after music in his early teens, learning to play bass under the tutelage of Kiss, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith. Nashville has given Tomasek a place to make a living at both of his vocations. And even though art has pulled through as his main line of support — his day job, as it were — it was his passion for music that plucked him out of the mountains of Wyoming and placed him in the Recording Industry Management program at Middle Tennessee State University. He lasted a semester. “I knew I was either going to go to New York, L.A., or Nashville,” he says of his destination after graduating high school. “I just wanted to be in a band. I knew some guys that were going to school at MTSU, and we were going to meet up and start a band. We were going to learn the ins and outs of the music business. But I didn’t realize you had to take math and biology and all that other stuff before you could get to the music.” His misconceptions about college notwithstanding, Tomasek did make a go with the band part of his pursuit. Taking on the stage name of Dean James, Tomasek helped to form the Nashville glam rock band Valentine Saloon in the late 1980s along with William Jewell, Henry Meyer, and Billy Baker. The group played for about 10 years, releasing

a couple of albums on Pipeline Records and touring with bands such as the Ramones, Warrant, and W.A.S.P. Valentine Saloon had a loyal following and occasionally gets back together for reunion gigs. “We played all over the place and opened for everybody,” Tomasek says. Tomasek later had five-year stints with Bare Jr. and Will Hoge, touring steadily as well as spending time in the studio. He has also worked with Spoonful, Garrison Starr, Tommy Womack, and Warren Pash, among several others. His music has taken him across the world, from Canada and Mexico to Germany and Spain, and on a couple of cruise ships for good measure. Tomasek is currently a member of the group Leroy Powell and the Messengers, for which he contributes not only bass riffs, but also designs the band’s posters, album covers, and other pieces. It may have been music that lured Tomasek to Nashville, but it’s his work as an artist that has helped sustain him. As the years have peeled away, Tomasek has come to realize he’s more of an artist who also enjoys playing music. He believes it has to do with ownership, with painstakingly tending to a creation until it bears not only his name, but also his soul. “I used to be the musician who does art, and now it’s kind of turned around the other way as I’ve gotten older,” he says. “Spending a decade being the side guy playing bass, not really making any decisions or having any input creatively, had a lot to do with it. After doing that for a while and just being an artist occasionally but mostly being a bass player on the road playing for other people, I decided to make art the priority because it’s the only thing that’s mine.”

I was talking to someone who said they want a painting with only earth tones. I started thinking about that and thought, well, that’s every color.


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Artist in Profile Of course, Tomasek’s been pursuing his art all along anyway. It’s given him the nourishment he requires for his creative craves, and it’s helped to pay the bills to boot. “When I moved to Tennessee, one of my first jobs was working at a sign shop,” he recalls. “This was back before vinyl letters started to be used on windows and doors, so I was hand lettering business names, addresses, phone numbers. And I was designing signs for people.” Tomasek also did work for Gary Musick Productions for 18 years, designing and painting custom sets for business meetings, theme parties, cruise ship shows, and plays. He spent a year painting sets for the Tennessee Repertory Theater, as well. He now stays busy doing freelance work, with commissions rolling in to a steady beat. Tomasek prefers painting portraits over any other job he may do, and he’s increasingly getting requests to paint peoples’ children and, especially of late, their pets. He is particularly proud of a collection of portraits he did a few years ago called “Outlaws,” which featured acrylic on canvas paintings of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and others. The originals sold out some time ago, but he still recreates them on commission. “If I’m painting Waylon Jennings, I’ll paint until it looks like Waylon Jennings,” he says. “If it looks like Waylon Jennings’ cousin, that’s no good, nobody wants that.” The demands for Tomasek’s works are many. He stays busy doing CD covers, posters for bands and events, menus for restaurants, and illustrations for books and magazines. He has recently been designing sets for country music performers, and of particular note is a set he created for a benefit concert by Hootie and the Blowfish. “I do all kinds of things like that, anything to make a buck and keep

me from getting a real job,” Tomasek says with a smile. The bassist became something of a piano man earlier this summer. He was commissioned to do a psychedelic painting of a piano for Grace Potter as part of her 2015 tour (which lands at Ascend Amphitheater on Oct. 10). Concert attendees are invited to play the Tomasek-designed instrument at the preshow “Magical Midnight Piano” promotion and post photos and videos to Potter’s Twitter account. In stark contrast to the magical world of colors Tomasek created for Potter is the plain and simple black piano shell he constructed for Dolly Parton for a tour she launched in late July at the Ryman Auditorium. Made from plywood, it is used to encase an electronic keyboard and made to look like a baby grand on stage. “I’ve done a number of pianos or fake pianos for people,” says Tomasek, who attended Parton’s show at the Ryman. “The one I did for Grace Potter, we came up with the concept together. I had a vague idea, then she showed me some pictures and said to just run with it. For Dolly, I just painted it black and tried not to screw it up.” Perhaps the black of Dolly Parton’s faux piano shouldn’t be considered plain and simple after all. Tomasek closely values every color the way he does every friend or loved one. They’re the lifeblood of any artist’s creation. “I was talking to someone who said they want a painting with only earth tones,” Tomasek says. “I started thinking about that and thought, well, that’s every color. Every color out there is in nature and the earth, the brightest of blues and the most vibrant greens and craziest reds. “Nature itself is so beautiful, and nothing we can make up is going to be better. It’s the same thing with colors. There is no manmade color that’s not in nature.”

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM





+1 615.516.4664 // stacie@staciehuckeba.com



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


Photography by Chuck Allen

1967 was the Summer of Love and where was I? Living in the Haight Ashbury. In the 1980s, where did I live? On Music Row. Now I live here, in Eastwood, which is getting all this buzz. I don’t know if I’m bringing it with me, or if I just get lucky every place I go.” — Grant Houston


world and success came with it. In a scant two years after he’d first hit town, he was the piano tuner to the stars. “It came much quicker than by Tommy Womack I expected,” he says. “I just took to it like a duck to water.” Since then, he has not only maintained good pianos, he also has refurbished many that had seen better days. He ran a restoration facility in Whenever there’s a show at the Dyersburg, Tenn., (the scene of a proBridgestone that features acoustic piano, or when the sound of one is capfile on Tennessee Crossroads in 2009) tured in a high-end Nashville studio, and a retail store in Green Hills, neither of which survived the recession. there’s a better-than-good chance Grant Houston’s current restoration labor Houston tuned it. Stevie Wonder used of love — in the workshop behind his services at the arena recently; Taylor his home on Benjamin Street — is a Swift, too. A serene, genial presence Friedrich Ehrbar grand piano that was with a spray of gray beard and glasses, built in Vienna before World War II. Houston tunes so many pianos at the “It’s the Rolls Royce of pianos,” he says. Bridgestone that he has his own parking Also in the shop at the moment is Lee space. Ye shall know him by his license Greenwood’s keyboard, not the whole plate: TUNER. piano, just the keyboard and the first His client roster over the years series of hammers, the “action,” as it’s includes Michael McDonald, the known in piano parlance. Nashville Symphony, Willie Nelson, Houston has been active in his Keith Urban, Johnny Cash, Curb Studio, community. He was The Woods Amphitheater the Democratic Party at Fontanel, Warner committee man for Bros., Tim McGraw, District 6 in 1992 (the W.O. Smith Music year of Bill Clinton’s School, Roberta first victory) and was Flack, and on and on. involved in forming the “My first-ever house first Nashville chapter call was to tune a piano in Dottie West’s of NORML in 1994. home,” he says, “and These days, though, he after that, we bowled a takes life a little more few frames downstairs languidly. He paints in her bowling alley.” (quite well), makes music, and writes poetry. (Yes, Dottie West had The spirit of the Haight a bowling alley in her glows in him, and he basement. Three lanes.) appreciates the Zen of In the wake of Lee where he lives now. Greenwood’s massive “The essence of this single “God Bless the area is renaissance,” he USA,” the singer’s staff piano. grand Ehrbar Friedrich the on Top: At work says of life on the East presented him with Bottom: Houston and Hobo at home. Side. “We’re renaisa magnificent Kawai sance people here. I’m grand piano, and for 30 a musician, I’m a painter, years now, Houston has been charged with the care and upkeep of it. Each time he services it, he I write poetry, tune pianos, fly kites; there’s an energy that’s going on first gets the proper pitch of one key with the use of an electronic tuner, here. I’ve seen limousines with tourists cruising right down this street — people from New York, or wherever, who have read about this area and then tunes all the others entirely by ear. He came from San Francisco to Nashville in 1978, not with a piano, want to check it out. There’s a reason why this is where a city popped up. but a guitar. Armed with a fistful of songs, he knocked on doors up and There’s an aura here.” So where does he feel like he fits in this firmament? “What I like to down Music Row. Riches and fame were not forthcoming. “One door think I do,” he says, “is provide harmony.” That he does — one key at closes, another opens,” he says philosophically. He wound up sweeping the floor in a piano store on Second Avenue, a time. For more information about Grant Houston, visit ultimately graduating to taking care of the pianos, and then to learning pianotuningnashville.com them inside and out, including tuning. He had found his niche in the September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


(L-R) Chuck Mead Andrew Combs


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Where DREAMS LIVE introduction | Chuck Allen photography | Kelli Dirks The East Side has long been attractive to working musicians. Singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists of all stripes have wandered streets with names like Fatherland, Chapel, Holly, and Woodland for decades, all with the dream in their heads of a music-centered life. Maybe East Nashville is nurturing ground for the spiritual yearning musicians share. Or maybe it’s just the affordability (for the time being, at least). Either way, there’s an abundance of incredibly gifted folks within a fairly small radius of one another leading music-centered lives. With so many to choose from, how does one begin to approach the process of elimination required by the confines of a magazine? Truth be told, by not having a process, which in of itself reveals the verdant and diverse garden that is our music scene. The “angle” for this annual music issue, as it were, was to take a glimpse inside the head space of a group of working musicians, some younger, some older, but all demonstrating the level of devotion demanded by a musical life. As Bobby Bare Jr. puts it, “… it’s 90 per cent truck driver, nothing glamorous or exciting.” Enjoy.


September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Blackfoot GYPSIES As Matthew Paige, lead singer and guitarist for Blackfoot Gypsies, recalls, the band’s first album, 2012’s On the Loose, was the result of classic DIY spirit and led to an unintentional altered state. ¶“At that point, everything we were doing was self-financed,” Paige explains. “We couldn’t afford to print covers for the LPs, so we made a stencil out of an old, plastic, water bed sheet and spray-painted the covers. We were set up in an unventilated attic and ended up getting violently high from the fumes. Even after they were dry, the covers would stick together and you had to peel them apart to sell one.” ¶Three years later, Blackfoot Gypsies’ live performances are inducing pure rock & roll highs in audiences, without the aid of inhalants. While the sonic highway they’re burning rubber on has been traveled by an endless variety of rock bands, there’s no denying that Blackfoot Gypsies are leaving their own personal tire tracks on that road, and seeing them tear by is sure to inspire whiteknuckled excitement. ¶With the release of their new album, Handle It, on Nashville-based indie label Plowboy Records, Blackfoot Gypsies are hitting the touring circuit hard and winning fans the old-fashioned way — one sweaty, full-throttle, live performance at a time. p

story | Randy Fox photography | Eric England 36

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

(L-R) Matthew Paige Ollie Dogg Dylan Whitlow Zack Murphy

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


2 for 1








. C O N S A N


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he onstage chemistry of the band was not instantaneous. The Gypsies’ brew of roots rock has been simmering slowly, beginning, like so many Nashville tales, with a move to the Music City. “In 2010, I moved to Nashville from Oregon,” Paige says. “I’d been in bands since my teenaged years, and I really liked old school country music and blues. I definitely wanted to start a band and advertised for a drummer. I got responses from three other people who were really ridiculous, and then

The hand-to-mouth career arc of the band found its ultimate expression with the release of their first LP in 2012, On the Loose. After self-financing the recording of the album, Paige and Murphy found that the money had run out on the verge of the record’s release. “The records were sitting at the pressing plant for a month or two,” Murphy says. “We thought we were going to have to do a Kickstarter just to get them. But we had prereleased it online, and somehow we got hooked up with an app called Band of the Day. A lot of people in Spain ended up down-

We had to be either super quiet or super loud. You have to do everything in extreme. For some people I think we were too much for them — just a violent onslaught of noise Zach showed up.” Nashville native Zach Murphy played drums in various bands before hooking up with Paige. Although the original plan didn’t specifically call for the band to be a two-piece combo, the two young musicians were soon rockin’ it as a duo. “We needed to start playing shows,” Murphy says, “and we didn’t have the right people, so we just went out and did it.” “We were doing just what we wanted to do,” Paige says. “But making enough noise to fill out the sound was a challenge. I started playing through two amps, and I played in open tunings almost all the time because you can hit all the strings and make the most sound.” The pair spent the next two years building their reputation through raucous live performances and two self-released EPs, Blackfoot Gypsies (2010) and Dandee Cheeseball (2011). While adding extra members or seeking a record deal may have made their path easier, Paige and Murphy preferred doing what seemed right at the time.

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

loading it because of the recommendation. We were totally like, ‘Where is this coming from?’ We suddenly had $5 in our account and then $800 dollars, and it was like, ‘Thank you, Spain!’ ” More hard touring followed on the heels of the album’s release. But after three years of bashing it out with just guitar and drums, Paige and Murphy felt it was time to expand the lineup. “There’s really only so much you can do with a two-piece,” Murphy says. “We had to be either super quiet or super loud. You have to do everything in extreme. For some people I think we were too much for them — just a violent onslaught of noise.” “We wanted to expand musically,” Paige says. “We tried to do our best, creating a full spectrum of sound. But when Dylan and Ollie Dogg joined, the sound really started melding.” As if the universe was telling Paige and Murphy the time was right, both new members arrived within weeks of each other. “I played a couple of shows with them without Ollie Dogg,” bass player Dylan Whitlow says, “and then he played a couple

with them without me, and then we all just came together.” Originally from Gettysburg, Pa., Whitlow began playing music when he was 11. After moving to Nashville, he played in several bands and had crossed paths with Paige and Murphy before signing on with Blackfoot Gypsies in the fall of 2013. “I’d been playing guitar for about five years,” Whitlow says. “So I hadn’t played bass in a while, and it’s really my favorite instrument. I had gotten to know Matthew and Zach from playing around town. One day, Matthew said he wanted to add a bass player, and I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ ” For harmonica player Oliver “Ollie Dogg” Horton, joining a band was a new experience. “I was raised in Nashville,” he says. “Growing up, I always wanted to play some kind of instrument, but I couldn’t afford it. When I was 16, a girlfriend gave me a harmonica. I taught myself how to play, and I started jamming around town with other people, but I had never joined a band.” A gig at the Marathon Music Works led to Paige and Murphy meeting Horton’s cousin, who was working at the event. “He told them about me,” Horton says. “I met them a couple of weeks later, and played with them at The 5 Spot. They just let me be loose. That’s how I like to play — loose — just take it and make it work. I’ve been playing with them ever since.” Although Whitlow and Horton were both natural fits, adjusting to the expanded lineup took some effort. “For three years we had trained ourselves to create all of the sound,” Paige says. “We had to learn how to share and make it more powerful as a unit, rather than just filling the void. We had to learn how to create space for the other guys.”

from the Faces to the Georgia Satellites, and beyond. It’s a very deep well that many other bands have drawn from, but “startling innovation” isn’t the goal here. Blackfoot Gypsies are following a simple and proven rock & roll formula — put yourself into your music and just play the hell out of it. “You can tell there’s a buzz in the air,” manager McPherson says. “By and large, it’s being built by their live shows, record store appearances, and word of mouth. We’re really seeing a difference

when they play towns they’ve been to before. As Matthew said recently, the best barometer was the record store guy actually gives a shit this time.” “For us, it’s not, ‘Look at this awesome new style of music!’ ” Paige says. “We’re just playing what we play in a way that makes the music a living, breathing thing. That’s the way you connect with other people. It’s like Willie Nelson said, ‘How do you get a million fans? One fan at a time.’ ”


ith the full lineup in place, the band began recording a new album on the classic analog equipment at Fry Pharmacy Recording in Old Hickory. With studio co-owner and house engineer Scott McEwen behind the board, and Kevin Lennon as producer, the band laid down 10 tracks of butt-shakin’ country blues rock. With confidence in what they had accomplished, the group decided to shop the album to labels, rather than going for the DIY spray-paint route. “We got introduced to Shannon Pollard at Plowboy Records, and he really liked it,” Paige says. “We looked at the other acts on the label and their whole philosophy, and it was the right fit. We met Sean McPherson about the same time. He came on board as our manager and helped negotiate the deal.” Released in April 2015, Handle It expands the grits ’n’ gravel sound heard on Blackfoot Gypsies’ earlier releases. It’s the same mix of juke joint blues, front porch pickin’, and snotty-nosed rock & roll that’s powered great records from Bo Diddley to the Animals, September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


The FUTURE There’s an intangible quality talked about in sports called team chemistry. There’s a similar thing in music — band chemistry, if you will. It’s not always something you can quantify — a musician who’s considered a bad egg in one band might be just what another group is looking for to provide a spark to its lineup. While there are few predictors for musical chemistry, rock history suggests you can be born into it. ¶Indeed, family acts have a storied history in pop, rock, and R&B: From The Everly Brothers to The Avett Brothers, it seems whenever blood relatives play music together there’s a closeness, a sort of sonic shorthand, an ability to finish each other’s musical sentences. ¶Brothers Adam and Jordan Culver of the East Nashville band The Future have such chemistry, having “known each other for quite the long time now,” as Jordan puts it. Growing up in North Dakota, they had to learn early on how to amuse themselves because,


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

story | Timothy C. Davis photography | Eric England

to hear them tell it, there was little else to do. ¶“We lived in Bismarck, which is the capitol of North Dakota, which is a fucking amazing city,” Adam says. “That’s not entirely true. It is a city, though! There were times where there’s nothing musical that comes through town for a whole week, maybe a month. Eric [Sadowsky, guitarist for The Future] is from a place called Dickinson, which is even a smaller town than we were from. I remember Jordan and I — and we were terrible — and we would still fill whatever room we were in. ¶“I can see now that it was kind of a good place to come up, because I wasn’t a very good musician at all, and it took me a long time to reach any level of proficiency, and to have all that encouragement was nice,” the band’s lead vocalist and keyboardist continues. “If we’d started somewhere else, especially a place like Nashville, I probably wouldn’t still be doing this. I would have realized straight away that I sucked.” p

(L-R) Adam Culver Jordan Culver Eric Sadowsky John Michael Ford Bryan Feece

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



dam says finding his band’s place in the Nashville music scene was a slow, gradual, uphill climb, made worse by the fact neither the Culver brothers, nor their bandmates, guitarist Sadowsky and drummer Bryan Feece, really knew their way around town after moving here in 2007. The first order of business was seeing shows, scoping out venues, and generally just getting to know people, which meant spending most of their money on bar tabs. It was that last part that was the most Sisyphean task. “More than once we’d have people come up to us and say ‘Dude. Do you guys go out every night?’ “I think we were able to turn that initial outsider feeling into a positive for us,” Adam continues. “I think the competitiveness amongst bands in Nashville is (a) somewhat overstated, and (b) generally healthy. When we first got here, I would go out and see a show, and you’re hit with the obvious: Everyone is pretty damn good here, and if I want to have a chance, I have to get better. Which is what we set out to do, and what we still set out to do. Either you get better, or you quit. Or you do both. It’s that simple. I don’t know anybody that moves here and stays at the same level.” “Initially, we would go to shows and it seemed super cliquey,” says bassist Jordan, the quieter of the two brothers.“You’d see a lot of groups of folks going to different shows, and breaking into that group was one of the goals. And we had no idea [how to become a part of the scene]. But really, it just takes time. You have to book your own shows, book your own support, do all the promotion, do the legwork, and eventually you get to a point where shows kind of book themselves, and you have a crowd there. It just takes eight years! You grow with these other bands, and the people who come to see you, and pretty soon you have your own group of people.” Adam says they are still big supporters of the local scene, especially as regards East Nashville.

“It’s nice to be able to see something great any night of the week for $5, or for free sometimes, because it’s just so inspiring. If you don’t want to go out and bump into 400 people from other bands, this is probably not the city for you. “Bismarck, North Dakota, would probably take you, though,” he adds with a laugh.

It’s nice to be able to see something great any night of the week for $5


or a band named The Future — so coined because Adam would “always have notes or lyrics that said ‘future ideas’ or ‘future plans,’ and because frankly, we didn’t have anything better at the time” — you’d expect the music to be all spongy synths, clattering percussion, and subsonic bass. But what they are more and more these days is a straightforward, guitar-driven, pop-rock band. “I feel like we started off a lot more poppy, more lighthearted,” Adam says. “I think that we have a little bit of a darker edge now, more of a weighty undercurrent kind of thing you can’t see, but you sense, that maybe balances out the brightness of the music. I think people see us live for the first time and think, ‘What a happy and fun band!’ But hopefully if they listen to the lyrics, they see that there’s something there. Something that sticks beside just the hooks, or the melodies.” “It’s just really important that we work on the songs together and explore all the different directions and pathways,” says the band’s

newest member, second guitarist John Michael Ford, who “just” joined the band in February of 2013. “For example, on one of our songs, ‘Feel Something,’ we started off one day with the bridge — which is admittedly a weird place to start — and Jordan was playing this real odd-sounding reggae bit, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is never going to work.’ But then we let it breathe for a minute, and it worked great, and now it’s everyone’s favorite part of the song. We wouldn’t have had that happen if we didn’t make it a point not to control everything. “The genesis of most of the songs comes from Adam, and he’s kind enough to kind of let us deconstruct them and build them back up,” Ford says. “We kind of take it out there and play with it and bend it, and then Adam kind of comes back in and cinches it on the back end to bring it all back together again. It just works for us, and that’s all we need to be worried about, you know?” “At a certain point, we realized that the thing to chase after was not this business thing, but just the next song,” Adam says. “If somebody in the industry wants to get on board and be a part of it and really gets it, that’s great. But that’s not our endgame. Our endgame is making the best songs we can. The only thing we can control is our output. We’ve made three full-length records. I’m really not worried about what happens. I’m more worried about if this verse works, or this chorus.” “Some groups might get together and write 10 good songs, and then they’re done,” Jordan adds. “They’re just people thrown together. They just don’t coalesce. We’re fortunate enough to have all grown into this together. Everything we do seems like the next best thing to us, and that’s all that matters. If we’re not excited about the songs, it stands to reason nobody else would be. If an album doesn’t take off for us, we can withstand it, and get to work on the next one. We’ve already done what we set out to do.”







310 1st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201 • AscendAmphitheater.com @AscendAmphitheater



Charge By Phone: 800-745-3000. All dates, acts and ticket prices subject to change without notice. Ticket prices subject to applicable fees.


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The Smoking FLOWERS Just as family voices are harmonically blessed, so are those of soul mates. Two singers rise and fall like birds on a mission, dangle off the edges of pauses and take flight together with no discussion. For those with ears to hear, they add zing to any pot they’re stirred into. ¶Case in point: The Smoking Flowers’ Kim and Scott Collins. With one album under their belt and another in the bullpen, the duo plays about 100 dates a year all over the country. At a recent show in front of a healthy knot of enthusiasts at The Basement East, they commanded proceedings with a set that was by turns raucous and delicate. ¶Looking alternativehandsome to the bone in jeans and a T-shirt with a shock of long curly hair encroaching his eyes, Scott plays a Gretsch through a giant Fender amp while his manful baritone nestles inside the power chords. Kim, meanwhile, is dressed in white, with long dark hair, a gentle high lonesome voice, and a winsome beauty that belies how she leans into her drum kit with a fair bit of John Bonham whomp and thud. p

story | Tommy Womack photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


We try to still bring the same kind of show you’d get with a four-piece band, but with two people. We’re trying to give that arc of experience. (Speaking of Bonham, she was considered by his former Led Zeppelin bandmate Robert Plant for his Band of Joy project, a role that eventually went to Patty Griffin.) Whereas many electric guitar/drums duos err on the side of noise, The Smoking Flowers tone it down often enough to great effect. At times, Kim will move out from behind her drum kit and pick from a menagerie of other instruments — mandolin, accordion, harmonica — while Scott moves over to acoustic guitar, and they share a microphone center stage. On this night, they pull out an inspired cover choice, blending their voices, the accordion, and acoustic guitar in a trip through (of all things) Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” managing to find an Appalachian folk song inside of that ’80s chestnut. Sitting on a couch sipping merlot, the husband/wife duo expound on their live sound. “I play drums, accordion, guitar, and tambourine,” Kim says. “So it’s funny. It’s quite a challenge at times, especially when we’re limited on time on a set, just running around, making sure I know where I’m going next and making it flow. But it works, and it’s entertaining for the viewers as well, just watching it. Because — no offense to those duos just standing around playing guitar — it just adds to the nontypical married duo.” “We try to still bring the same kind of show you’d get with a four-piece band, but with two people,” Scott says. “We’re trying to give that arc of experience. And regularly people come to us and say they don’t feel like they’re missing anything. It sounds big when we’re both singing and both playing something.” Their first album, 2 Guns, is a panoply of Americana country and rock & roll goodness. “Golden State” and “Young Mind” are deftly crafted exuberance, while “Pistol Whip” is unbridled rockabilly that sounds like a train that could derail at any moment. “The Juggler” comes from a grittier, Neil Youngtype of place — Young is Scott’s primary musical influence. “Heart Darker” isn’t terribly far removed from modern country (in a good way). “The Wrong Kind of Man” is unadulterated, whiskey-drinking honky tonk. And the chiming acoustics of “Something I 46

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Said” betray the odd Beatles chord change and a wall of sound worthy of the man who invented it. One thing that is constant is the impression that one is listening to a duo: two instruments and two voices. There is quite often much more than that going on in the mix, but the sonic appearance of a two people is credibly maintained.


s far as the Collinses are concerned, 2 Guns is yesterday’s news. Recorded in 2011, it was not released until two years later because right around the projected January 2012 release date, Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer. The next year was dominated 24/7 with confronting all the challenges — medical and emotional — that are inherent in cancer battles. All talk of record releases and touring fell by the wayside for a year, and during that time, Kim launched an all-out investigation into alternative cancer treatments. Aside from a surgery, Kim’s approach to her cancer was entirely holistic. “I investigated a lot and did a lot,” she says. “I had several different protocols, and they were steps along the way, because with holistic therapy, it’s good to do several different treatments, not just one, because you never know what’s going to work.” “When you do more than one, it supercharges,” Scott adds. She adopted an entirely raw food diet. “That was probably the biggest thing,” she says. Along the way, she took doses of vitamin B17 and Protocell, a known cancer killer in the holistic world. She eschewed the very notion of chemo. “I don’t buy the traditional therapy of putting poison in your body and depleting your immune system,” she says. “That’s never made any sense to me.” “That’s why recurrence is so common,” Scott notes. “Most people choose traditional therapies, and you’ll obliterate the cancer cells and tumors, but you’ll obliterate everything else as well, and then you go back to the same lifestyle that may have contributed to it. You don’t make changes, and it’s going to come back. You’ve got to change the environment.”

With the help of a benefit gig and the support of many friends, Kim could afford taking the natural path that led back to health. “It was beyond my wildest dreams,” she says of the helping hands. “I knew I had friends here, but I had no idea.” Her cancer went in remission (and has stayed that way), and in 2013, 2 Guns was finally released, just in time for the duo to have a whole new group of songs they were enthused about. The completed new record — whose working title is Young & Brave — leans a little more toward rock than its predecessor. It is often a shade starker and covers a lot of musical territory. “Snowball Out of Hell” carries a strong whiff of John Lennon’s minimalist Plastic Ono Band period. “Outlive Me” bursts out of the speakers like early U2. Like much Nashville music, their voices have a hint of twang that sits inside otherwise alternative rock or dirty blues soundscapes. The quiet and mournful “One Friend” fully embraces mountain music, and “Woodland Avenue” recounts the story of Nashville’s rapidly evolving East Side. “Heart Before the Head” could send the fussiest baby to sleep. While 2 Guns was a self-released affair, the duo seeks to shop the new one. “We have a couple of labels that might be interested in this, and it would be good to have it off our plate,” Scott says. “The last one was pretty hardcore,” Kim adds. “We were DIY to the max. There were some good things and positive feelings that came out of it, but the literal work was eating into creative time. It really is worth it when you see what you can do, and I think 2 Guns did really well considering what we were working with financially, but we’re not business people. It felt good, but I don’t want to do it again. I’ve checked it off my bucket list.”

he went back to NYC. He asked her out, she said yes, and they went out. He then went back to New York, cleaned out his apartment, broke up his band, and moved to Nashville for good. They were engaged within six months and married within a year. For years, Scott played with his brother, Justin, in Pale Blue Dot, while Kim still had Kim’s Fable going. She joined Pale Blue Dot as a utility player — mandolin, accordion, vocals, etc. — much like her role in The Smoking

Flowers, a project that was formed as a lark. “It was all so effortless, and it was crystal clear to us that this is what we needed to be doing,” Scott says of the side project that quickly took preeminence. “We didn’t really focus on it much until my diagnosis,” Kim adds. “It was oddly timed, I think on a broader level. It made me just go, ‘You know what? I’m not waiting around anymore. Life is short. Let’s just go out and DO this!’ ”


orn and raised in the small river town of Sikeston, Mo., Scott is a college graduate with a degree in theoretical physics, a field of study he decidedly didn’t pursue in the workforce. He wound up in New York with a guitar and a dream. Kim is from south of New Orleans by way of the mountains in East Tennessee. She found her way to Nashville in the early ’90s and became a veteran of the local scene with her band, Kim’s Fable. They met in the fall of 1998, and sparks flew in about as much time as it takes to say hello. Scott was new in town and looking for a job when he came into 12th & Porter, where Kim was day manager. She took one look and hired him instantly — no interview, no application. He was initially just staying in town for an extended visit to check out the scene. The day after she hired him, Kim went to California for a month. The day she came back, Scott had one more day to work before September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM




THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


Chuck MEAD Chuck Mead wraps his fingers around an oversized cup at a window table tucked in the back of East Nashville’s Ugly Mugs, talking about life, old school country music, DIY punk, Broadway shows, and maintaining one’s truth while also maintaining the bottom line. He laughs easily, punctuating his thoughts with flashing eyes — and his mind effortlessly makes pinballfast associations. ¶With his rumpled hair, seemingly tossed together hipster chic, Mead looks like the sexy dad who is grown, but ageless. Evoking actor Sam Shepard, he’s the sort of ageless but full-grown man in the car pool line who makes all the moms restless. To look at him, you’d never think that once upon a time, he’d ignited a Lower Broadway explosion of cool that eventually turned it into Nashville’s drink ’n’ drown destination a la Daytona. “What happened down there, you could not make it up,” Mead says, letting the coffee’s warmth steep into his hands. “It was all over the place, so much happening you couldn’t really tell what was happening. But man, looking back … .” p

story by Holly Gleason photography by Kelli Dirks September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



ooking back, it is hard to imagine. Mead, a Lawrence, Kan., townie with a taste for punk rock and roots music, had fallen in with a DIY/get-in-thevan crowd that included Nashville alt-rockabilly icon Webb Wilder in its outer rings. Growing up playing in his family’s country band at Elks Clubs and VFW Lodges, he was ripe for the post-cowpunk hybrid — and Wilder, as well as Tucson’s Green On Red and L.A.’s Gram Parsons-loving Long Ryders, suggested the hybrid he was creating had a place in the world. But how that would be remained to be seen. Looking back even now, Mead marvels. After all, how many people get nominated for Grammys, tour with The Black Crowes and Bob Dylan, produce tribute albums to Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings that feature Henry Rollins and John Doe, put together postmodern country supergroups with members of The Mavericks, Chris Scruggs, Geoff Firebaugh, and Joe Buck, then find themselves sitting at the Tonys where the play they’ve been the music supervisor/producer on is nominated for four awards? And if BR5-49, the little rockabilly/old-time country band that rose from Lower Broad’s combat zone days, didn’t turn into a franchise of Rolling Stones propensity, it may be better. Along the way, Mead turned into a roots David Byrne, the sort of tastemaking catalyst who straddles forms and genres in a way that finds the art inside the things he’s drawn to. Mead is no dilettante. At 12, he got a drum set and was drafted into the family band — where even his Grandpa played rhythm guitar and sang. Started in the ’40s, singing on WNEM in Nevada, Mo., they were The Hayloft Gang. They played Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, and Hank Williams, as well as “Tulsa Time” and “Looking for Love” from Urban Cowboy — “and my mom sang tons of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, too.” He laughs now, assessing the situation: “We were edgy, because we didn’t play any Alabama, out there in the honky tonks and Eagles Clubs in places like Hiawatha, Kan. I was a kid; I didn’t know. I actually thought my grandpa and dad wrote all those songs. But hey, whatta life! I had money and got to see a bunch of grown-ups getting hammered.” It was fun while it lasted, but then, like a lot of kids, Mead wanted to make his own music. A series of little bands followed, hitting the couch-surfing circuit that moved through Iowa into Chicago, down to Nebraska, then Oklahoma City and Norman, Okla. A true Kerouacian kid, Mead hitchhiked across the country. He slept on couches, jumped trains, and had the rootless drifter period so

many dream of, but never do. He also, like a lot of kids disenfranchised by the music of the day (“You mean, REO Shitwagon?” he chortles), put together bands that played loud and fast in the name of combustion, youth, and rebellion. “I wanted to play in a rock & roll band,” he explains. “My first band was a mod band, that played The Who and The Jam, heavily English rock. But I played all kinds of things in all kinds of bands.” When they couldn’t find places to play, Mead’s bands rented a city park, bought a keg, and charged people to come. In Lawrence, home to writers William S. Burroughs, Langston Hughes, and Laura Moriarty, crop artist Stan Herd, and scientist Charles Michener, self-expression is. In 2005, the city even had International Dada Month. “I always wanted to go pro,” he confesses without a speck of shame. “I saw Elvis in ’76.

Mother Church of Country Music, and it had a real history of its own.” Most movements start in places people have thrown away. CBGB was in the worst part of New York City. The Anti-Club on Melrose in Los Angeles was a seedy hellhole. Even Cleveland’s notorious Flats, where Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys played, was a forgotten strip in the abandoned mill zone by the Cuyahoga River. “There was nothing down there,” Mead says of Tootsie’s. “The Wheel was a peep ’n’ whack. It was rough. There were fights and drunks and whores. But there were also guys in the window playing Haggard and Kris Kristofferson, and I wanted in.” In he got. After getting up one afternoon on a challenge and singing his original “Me ’n’ Opie (Down By The Duck Pond),” he started having shifts as a singer for tips and working the door. Faron Young took a shine to the bright-eyed kid and called him “Jimmy Durante.” To pay the bills, he answered an “Activist Wanted” ad in the Nashville Scene. He rang door bells for Greenpeace during the day like a Jehovah’s Witness for whales. At night, he preached the gospel of Johnny Horton and Carl Smith. For Mead, who wanted to play and experience music at the source, it felt pretty right. “You could fire a cannon off at night and not hit anybody,” noted music historian Robert K. Oermann remembers of Mead and his band named for the phone number (BR5-49) of the car dealer on Hee Haw. “They really deserve the credit for bringing people back: Chuck was handsome, young, and terrifically talented. BR5-49’s attitude was right and their taste was impeccable. “But it wasn’t a given,” Oermann, a longtime East Nashville dweller, continues. “I went with some reluctance because people’s hype seldom lives up to what they say. And it wasn’t packed, but then, within a matter of weeks, it was so packed, you couldn’t even get inside Robert’s!” Robert’s Western World, where BR5-49 came together and exploded out of, was idiosyncratic in its own right. Originally a warehouse and office space for river merchants, it became the factory and showroom for the iconic company, Sho-Bud Steel Guitars, formed by Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons. As Lower Broad fell apart, the space became a liquor store that Robert Moore converted into a clothing store. When Mead wandered in, the “bar” was set up around the boots, and the owner had an unorthodox notion. But Robert’s taste in country aligned with Mead’s, and it wasn’t long until BR5-49 came together. •

But hey, whatta life! I had money and got to see a bunch of grown-ups getting hammered.


I’d been onstage. I didn’t quite know how, but I knew … .” And that’s when Jason & The Nashville Scorchers came to town. Suddenly, Mead’s life had a purpose. Everything he’d lived for fell into place. He became friends with them, as well as Wilder, who’d hired Mead’s friend Mike Janus to tour manage and do sound.


uddenly, the hardcore country fell in line with the rootless kid who wanted to rebel. For Mead, who can hang anywhere, the band house litmus test was simple: “I lived in a place that was a nonstop party for two years. I knew who my friends were when I’d put on the Bob Wills at 2 a.m.” Given his taste, his goals weren’t a Billboard No. 1 hit or touring with Garth Brooks. With a focus that made sense, Mead made the move to Nashville with one goal in mind. “I wanted to get a gig at Tootsies,” he says. “It was dilapidated. It was dangerous. But it shared an alley with the

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Patrick SWEANY In 2001, singer-songwriter-guitarist Patrick Sweany was 27 years old — the same age Delta blues icon Robert Johnson was when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1938. Sweany had been playing blues guitar since his early teens, and when he had the chance to meet Robert Lockwood Jr., the only Delta bluesman to learn guitar directly from Johnson, Sweany jumped at the chance. ¶“He was living in Cleveland playing blues festivals and was still doing his thing,” Sweany says. “I got to open some shows for him, and I went to his house a couple of times. The first time I visited him, I got to play a Robert Johnson song knees to knees with Lockwood. For me, it was a crowning moment. I was thinking, ‘I nailed this. I got to play with a guy who can appreciate that I’m playing it just like Johnson.’ ¶“He was very

encouraging,” Sweany continues, “but then he put his hand on my knee and said, ‘You know, they already had one Robert Johnson, and that’s an old story. You gotta tell your story.’ I was devastated. I cried in the car the whole way home, but that was it. It was the best advice I have ever gotten.” p

story | Randy Fox photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



ate has been much kinder to him than it was to Robert Johnson, but it doesn’t mean the path that Sweany chose has been simple. Born in Massillon, Ohio, he first discovered traditional folk and blues through his father’s record collection. “He was a very hardcore roots folkie,” Sweany says. “He stopped buying Dylan records when Dylan went electric.” For a boy growing up in the Rust Belt region of Ohio in the 1980s and early ’90s, tuning into the traditional blues of the Mississippi Delta was almost an act of rebellion. “I was totally secret about my music,” he says. “I was getting in fights enough. Where I grew up, you were either into hair metal or Hank Jr.”

Clarksdale, Miss. “We did a one-day session,” Sweany recalls. “We just set up and rocked. That was our juke joint record, and it really had the sound I was going for.” Released in 2006, C’mon C’mere scored high with critics, but found little financial success. The next year he returned with another critically acclaimed release, Every Hour Is A Dollar Gone, again produced by Auerbach. Primo opening spots on tours with The Black Keys, The Gourds, and others followed, but sales still lagged. A move to Nashville in 2009 made touring easier, and his artistic vision of melding traditional blues with other influences was getting sharper with each album;

I’m a white kid from Ohio. I was brought up on cereal made with high fructose corn syrup and cartoons all day on Saturday. The story changed once he entered college at Kent State University. Plugging into the local folk and blues scene, Sweany played open mic nights and eventually scored paying gigs, hooking into a circuit of blues clubs and self-releasing an album of acoustic blues, I Wanna Tell You, in 1999. “Every city had a blues bar back then that would be open for about a year,” he says. “I was working four or five nights a week, making my living playing covers of traditional blues stuff that I worked hard to learn the right way, but I eventually began slipping original music into the set.” Forming an electric band, Sweany released three albums and an EP between 2001 and 2005. While the modern blues circuit supplied a steady audience, he soon found the demands of the genre too restrictive. “I was writing originals, but that was not what the blues scene wanted,” he says. “Around 2005, I met Rick Pierik of Nine Miles Records, and he was the only guy that asked me what I wanted to do, instead of what have you already done?” Signing with Nine Miles Records, Sweany began exploring his own fusion of traditional blues and garage rock. With The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on board as producer, Sweany cut C’mon C’mere at Jimbo Mathus’ studio in 54

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

financially, however, Sweany was making little headway. “I was in pretty dire financial straits,” he says. “I had enough money to get another record started, but not enough to finish it. Then all of sudden, these weird digital royalty checks started trickling in for the song ‘Them Shoes’ (from Every Hour Is A Dollar Gone).” Sweany’s past association with Auerbach was beginning to pay dividends after The Black Keys’ 2010 album, Brothers, catapulted the band into superstar status. “Pandora radio had become a thing, and since I was associated with The Black Keys, it became part of the algorithm of what was being played and recommended,” he explains. “And then that translated over to the Jack White channel on Pandora. Suddenly, there was a little bit of capital to work with, and I was able to put out That Old Southern Drag in 2011. But it went nowhere, and I thought, ‘This is it. I’m done.’ ” As if the frustration over lack of financial success wasn’t enough, Sweany and his wife, barely married a year, were soon facing a major family tragedy when both her younger brother and sister died. Pushing their way through the heartbreak, Sweany found the financing and will to record another album. Working with producer Joe

McMahan, he released Close To The Floor in 2013. “I thought it would be my last record,” Sweany says. “I wrote the songs to deal with a lot of the grief we had gone through. When I was first writing them, my wife said, ‘It’s too much. You’re putting our business in the street and it upsets me.’ She couldn’t listen to it. I realized I needed to expunge, but I was doing it in a way that was affecting people I cared about. So I rewrote those songs to be less voyeuristic and irresponsible, and they became more effective.” Hailed by critics, Close To The Floor wasn’t the sales breakthrough Sweany was hoping for, but his live appearances started telling a different story. Many of the new fans were being brought in by the one song. “Because of The Black Keys connection, ‘Them Shoes’ just kept getting bigger, and that translated into bigger audiences,” he says. “The album was 6 years old by that time, but it was soon outselling the rest of my catalog combined. When you added that to the income from live shows, it was like I was a real wage earner. Sometimes there has to be a connection to someone famous for people to discover it, and I’m thankful for that every day.”


n the last two years, Sweany has found much more to be thankful for. His marriage has grown stronger — he and his wife bought their first house — and he’s come to appreciate the truly amazing gift of having a career in music, even if it’s a life of unconventional work hours and a lower-middle class income. All of these themes are reflected in his new record, Daytime Turned To Nighttime. “I’m a much happier person,” he says. “To quote one of my favorite writers in town, Steve Poulton of the Altered Statesmen: ‘I’m a big boy now.’ That’s what the whole theme of this album is — living in the aftermath of something terrible is something that you can only do for so long. You owe it to yourself and other people to start building on top of it. You’re not forgetting anyone or devaluing them, but there’s a time when you have to start living up to life.” That sound is reflected in Daytime Turned to Nighttime through songs that mix Sweany’s blues, rock, and soul influences with sharp and focused songwriting. “This album is also a lot more laid back, that’s something that the producer, Joe McMahan, and I really talked about. I always wanted to be Howlin’ Wolf, but I also wanted to be Brook Benton. I also wanted to have fingerstyle acoustic guitar, and I wanted to play slide guitar, and do these things that connected back to the beginning of my career.” Although Sweany reached back to his hardcore folkie-blues roots for some of the elements on his new record, he’s learned how

to blend those primary colors with more subtle shades. The result is powerful music that proudly displays its origins while also looking to the future. It’s been a long road since he stood at the crossroads of his career, playing for one of his musical idols and being presented with the choice between the path of ersatz bluesman or cutting his own trail, but he made his choice and he stands by it. “I don’t have the right to say I’m a bluesman,”


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he says. “I’m very influenced by the blues, but I’m a rock & roller. I’m a white kid from Ohio. I was brought up on cereal made with high fructose corn syrup and cartoons all day on Saturday. I’m not being dismissive of people who have really embraced and digested that style and can paint with only brushes of the blues, but I’m too all over the place. I’ve got a soul song here and a blues song and a rock & roll song. I just need a lot more brushes to tell my story.”

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Langhorne SLIM “I’m two years sober today,” singersongwriter Langhorne Slim says over the phone from Kentucky, where he and his band, The Law, are in the home stretch of the first leg of a tour supporting their new record, The Spirit Moves. “Today’s my 35th birthday,” Slim, born Sean Scolnick, says, looking forward to returning to his newly purchased home in East Nashville for the final few shows before he and the band rest up and do it all over again. ¶A few nights later, when he introduces his mother and grandmother to a crowd at The Mercy Lounge, he says that now the two of them will be able to see his place fully furnished. Though he’s lived in Nashville for a few years, like so many others here, he says he’s been pretty transient since setting down roots here. ¶“Being still for me is fucking difficult. I’ve started to meditate since I quit drinking and taking drugs. I’m really working on it, but still it’s really tricky for me. From day one, though, Nashville has treated me incredibly well. I immediately found myself feeling more at home here than I had felt really anywhere else. And I stayed.” p

story | Luke Wiget photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



wo years ago on his 33rd birthday, Slim and the band, who’d been together 10-plus years at that point, were in Ham Lake, Minn., to play an Alzheimer’s benefit show. It was a situation already made strange by the setting, a golf course in the middle of nowhere, and an early evening set time with no opener, on top of what Slim had been privately battling. It wasn’t that his bandmates, who are some of Slim’s closest friends, didn’t know about his drinking. “It was no big secret that it was something I was living in,” he says. “We’ve been through a lot of shit together.” What they likely didn’t realize was that their bandleader was seriously considering sobriety. “I remember trying to shift my drinking,

or, basically, being in front of people in any capacity. “I’d always taken something to be a little bit high.” Then, while having a go at sobriety during the festival dates, something happened. “Immediately I felt like my heart was stronger,” he says. “That’s really the best way I can put it. My voice was stronger. The feet I was standing and dancing on felt stronger. I got a taste of what that was like, and I felt good and clear and had more energy for the whole experience.” It came as a surprise, but Slim found that when he started experimenting with not being drunk during the shows, he was reaching a level of intimacy with the audience more often than he had before. “That was a great

drank too much. Most people don’t quit unless they really have to.” As he and the band loaded into the golf course that evening, he remembers keeping to himself, just staying really quiet. “I didn’t want to tell anyone until it was the real deal,” he says. “I didn’t want to let myself down. I didn’t want to let other people down.” Immediately after he stopped, which he did completely and all at once, something he says is “really not recommended by doctors,” he had to deal with what he perceived to be “some really dark energy. I felt like there was a darkness trying to hold on to me — that didn’t want me to enter into another phase of my life. But if you feel like some shit is getting you down, and you keep going with it

I had a lot to prove to myself, I’d never done a record without the quote/unquote assistance of drinking and drugs.” just drink a certain way,” Slim says. “It was classic addict shit. We’d gotten taken on tour in Europe with The Lumineers, and I told myself, don’t drink some of the shows. But I drank every show.” During subsequent festivals, beginning with the Newport Folk Festival, Slim says he managed not to drink at all. It was the first time he can recall performing music — or anything, for that matter — sober since he was in high school; taking pills or whatever was around before hitting the stage for plays


motivation to keep on going,” he says. “It had been coming close to the end for a while,” Slim says of the day in Ham Lake. “For years I knew that my love for life, my love for love, my love for music and all was being shaded, and I wasn’t giving it more feeling or more realness. I was pissing on my soul’s fire. And that’s not something to take lightly.” He stops, then for a second time, says, “I’m not preaching sobriety. If I could do it a way that wasn’t dark, I’d stand by it. People ask, ‘Why did you quit drinking?’ I say, because I

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

for years, that weighs on a soul.” After that darkness passed, Slim says, “I felt freer than I had being that I had been a bitch to something for so long. It’s immediately improved my life.” “We’ve come, and we’re here; we made it home,” Slim tells the Nashville crowd a few days after his birthday. He dances in place at the mic and leans over the dance floor, looking into the audience instead of over the top of it. It’s a loud and tender show, evoking the song, “Wolves,” one of Slim’s personal favorites

from The Spirit Moves: “I’m tough enough to run with the bulls / Yet I’m too gentle to live amongst wolves.” This tension between tough and vulnerable speaks to Slim’s whole aesthetic musically, spiritually and otherwise. Even in conversation, he balances between soft and thoughtful listener to direct, well-spoken truth teller. Early in the set the snare bangs the band into “Put it Together” a swinging, piano-driven song about a repaired heart. Slim pushes his T-shirt sleeves up and sings, “I lost my direction / on the day I was born. / I felt disconnected / since they cut the cord. / If I learn my lesson / I’ll find me some peace. / ’Cause I need protection from this heart on my sleeve.” Maybe drinking protected Slim from the heart on his sleeve. It seems like it’s solely the music that does now. His sweat-worn Martin acoustic distorts a Fender electric guitar amp. His hat falls off and he tries to kick it back onto his head. It’s all part of the show and he’s giving every part of himself to it. During one of the final songs, he jumps down off the stage and winds his way through the audience. “It’s nice to see your faces,” he tells everyone. He’s sung himself hoarse, and you can hear his voice break. “I’m going to open up my heart and see what happens,” he says.


lim grew up with his brother and mother and grandparents in small suburb of Philadelphia and remembers feeling weird, “weird and strange for that place at least,” he says. He recalls being a happy enough kid, but as he got older, he says, “I didn’t feel like I fit the fuck in. I felt like an alien. But I didn’t have a spaceship. Eventually, when my mom picked up a guitar, I started playing that, and then I started buying six packs of Yuengling and drinking those and smoking weed, and then from that you start doing the

other things that are around. “I guess I was trying to get deeper within that feeling. I always wanted to feel the thing. I think that was intriguing to me at the time.” So, along with improving on the guitar, he “got very good at drinking and other drugs,” acknowledging that even as a kid he knew he would have to quit some day. “I can remember being 15-years-old in my high school sweetheart Becky’s parents’ basement drinking beers and thinking to myself, this is either going to take me down someday, or I’m going to have to stop. I like this too much.”


he Spirit Moves was recorded just a few minutes from Slim’s house at Andrija Tokic’s The Bomb Shelter, which was recommended to him by his good friend, Andrew Katz of the band Clear Plastic Masks. “Plus, The Deslondes recorded there,” he says. “They’re one of the best bands making music right now,” Slim says of the New Orleans-based band. With Tokic handling engineering duties, Slim’s longtime producer Kenny Siegal flew in from New York to handle, as he terms it, the role of “Rock & Roll Rabbi.” “Andrija was handling the technical stuff,” Siegal says. “So my mind was free to wander more into the abstract. I was able to concentrate more on the musical ‘feel,’ assessing performances, judging whether the spirit had arrived or the band needed to do another take.” After a breakup that left Slim single for the first time, as well as the aforementioned kicking booze and relocating, there was plenty of fuel for the record. Every few months, the two got together for songwriting sessions at Old Soul, Siegal’s studio in upstate New York. “Slim would show up with all of these really strong ideas that were developed, but only to a point,” Siegal says. “So the task at hand was really trying to finish the tunes without

ruining them. Sometimes getting from 75 per cent of a tune to 100 per cent can be really difficult, but it’s the work I love to do.” Siegal helped untangle and complete a majority of the songs, cowriting eight of the 12 songs, but he downplays his own role, saying, “For this record, I had the distinct honor of helping Slim finish some of the tunes from time to time.” “I had a lot to prove to myself,” Slim says. “I’d never done a record without the quote/ unquote assistance of drinking and drugs.”


s the show winds down The Mercy Lounge, Slim plays an encore, then retreats backstage. People linger with show posters in hand, hoping for autographs or to talk to Slim. He played an amazing set with all the punk rock explosiveness and tender, throat-raw acoustic numbers he’s known for. It’s what’s captured on the new album, the lightning in a bottle Siegal talks about chasing with Slim and the band in the studio. It’s all about that feeling, that love of life that’s been there from beginning with Langhorne Slim. It’s a transcendent place where those brainoff, heart-on moments now arrive, perhaps, by way of the spiritual. “Some of my spiritual vision is unsayable,” Slim explains. What he does know is through “allowing certain channels to open,” he feels a deeper connection to his spiritual life. “But how the fuck to make sense of that? I don’t know. I feel very much in the spirit,” he adds. A lot of the crowd sticks around to drink and talk. After a while, Slim comes out of the side door of the club alone. His mother and grandmother have pulled a black sedan to the bottom of the stairs that lead to the club. Slim comes off the stairs and opens the car door, sets his hat on the dash, drops into the passenger’s seat, and the three of them take off for home.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


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Bobby BARE,JR. To be honest, Nashville is a very strange town. It may be the darling of media far and wide, home to soaring property values and rambling hipsters, but to take a quiet moment and reflect, one must come to the distinctive conclusion — this town is very strange. ¶They say “Keep Austin Weird” in Texas, but here the layers of strange require no tending. An environment in which an aggressive neighbor who yells at your dog might have written a No. 1 hit in 1958 doesn’t exist everywhere. The other neighbor has driven Hank Williams to the liquor store. ¶It is this landscape that has given the world the strange and beautiful career of Bobby Bare Jr. The rock & roll son of country star Bobby Bare is a native — a cardcarrying East Nashvillian. His father’s Grammy-winning hit recording of “Detroit City” in 1963 launched a monster career that gave a definitive shape to his young son’s life. p

story | Warren Denney photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


If I don’t get up there and let you see my darkest, scariest, creepiest stuff, then I’m just another pretty boy up there prancing around.


hen I was born, I lived on Broadmoor,” Bare Jr. says recently, sitting in Mitchell Deli on McGavock Pike. “Now, I only live a mile from the house I grew up in. We thought we lived in Madison when I grew up. And, then we lived in Hendersonville — I went to school there — but I came back to East Nashville. “I mean, we could go and find the house out here where June Carter wrote ‘Ring of Fire,’ ” he continues. “Harlan and Jan Howard living over here. Roger Miller did demos in their studio in the garage. It goes deep. When you think about what Harlan Howard would mean to this town today. These were some of the biggest stars. Kristofferson said the house over on Broadmoor was the first star’s house he’d ever visited. But it was just a normal, little place.” This is Nashville’s peculiar environment,

and it holds steady, producing flesh-andblood fusions of country and rock & roll, as in the barrel-chested, 49-year-old Bare. As proof, he was nominated, with his father, for a Grammy when he was 8-years-old for the Shel Silverstein-penned song, “Daddy What If.” This is the landscape from which Bare has crafted a career and become Americana’s Everyman. Today, he lives the life and hovers between stardom and street minstrel. Bare is honest in his take, and honest with his musical approach — always personal, sometimes rollicking and roots-inflected, and at other times, atmospheric and psychedelic. “I always say it’s Southern, and I rock,” he says. “But it’s not Southern rock. It’s Americana. As long as Neil Young is in Americana, I’m in! But, I don’t want to hear people sing political songs. Even Neil Young acknowledges that you can’t save the world with a song. I’m a strong believer in that. I don’t want to go to the dentist and hear him

about to drill and see a picture of George W. on the wall. Why, just because I’m a musician, should someone listen to me? Or that someone gives a shit. It’s really arrogant.” First signed by Immortal Records in the 1990s with the rocking outfit Bare Jr., he has navigated his way through nine albums, the last five on the Bloodshot label, including the soundtrack from the documentary Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost, which was released at the end of July. The film, directed by William Miller, is a revealing trip into the existence of Bare, who packs his world into a van and a trailer and tours the country, an everyday inspiration. “He [Miller] came up to me at the City Winery in New York and said he’d like to do a documentary with me,” Bare recalls, laughing. “I said sure. I said it’s 90 percent truck driver, nothing that exciting and glamorous. He ended up with a crew of four in two SUVs following our van and trailer around the country.”


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arly on, Bare did his best to avoid the musician’s life, delaying the inevitable. His parents didn’t want him to do it either, and he was hooked on BMX racing. “I didn’t even play guitar until I was 24 or so,” he said. “I was racing bicycles, BMX — I was building racing bikes. I wanted to be in or around it, somehow. But when I decided I was going to start playing my songs out, I had to put my attention into it.” His voice rises with an open, ironic expressiveness. He was getting by then, working on bicycles at Cumberland Transit, as well as working house lights at different clubs and with a few bands. “Really, I didn’t play a song of mine out until I was over 30,” he says. “I was mostly a light guy for The Cactus Brothers, and Mel and the Party Hats. I was a house guy at 328 Performance Hall and Exit/In running lights. I ran lights for the Foo Fighters’ first two shows, and for the Smashing Pumpkins when they first came to Nashville.” Bare had already seen the road. “I grew up on the road with my dad since the mid-’70s,” he says. “I was in high school and college selling T-shirts on the road. I was on the road at every honky tonk in America during the Urban Cowboy boom. Now, that was a Big Boom. I mean Gilley’s, Billy Bob’s — just being in Austin selling T-shirts.”

Later, he moved to Vail, Colo., to work on a ski lift. It’s the sort of thing Nashvillians do when they try to escape the seventh layer of strange. “While I was in Vail, I was sending some songs to Shel Silverstein, and he was critiquing them,” Bare recalls. “He was critical. He didn’t want to hear any music. He just wanted me to send lyrics. The hard part. Music is the fun part.” Of course, not everyone could call Silverstein and ask for critique, but it all makes sense for a guy who was raised in what he thought was weird old Madison. Things can happen. And they did. “When I started actually writing songs, I got a publishing deal, and a record deal soon after,” Bare says. “Not because I was a badass. I had a song that sounded like a hit, and I went to college with some of these guys.”

marvels at the changes in East Nashville with the ongoing influx of new blood, and he embraces it. For him, the scene is knowable. “It’s awesome — it’s great the way things have blown up here in East Nashville,” he says. “There’s a lot of badass musicians here. I love it. But you know, the players that were the best here 10 years ago are still the best. It’s not like everyone that was just killing it over the last 10 years suddenly got displaced. They got hired by Jack White!

“Still, no one is better than Kenny Vaughn, or Warner Hodges, John Jackson.” Bare understands his neighbor and his neighborhood, and he has no problem with working hard and fitting into his space in the world. “At the same time, if anybody wants me to sell out, I’m ready,” he says. “I joke about what selling out means — who do we know that sold out? They’re not going to ask me to be the next Dierks Bentley.”


ow, almost 20 years later, Bare survives. He even thrives. “I get to play for a living!” he says. “There’s nothing to complain about. People are eager to complain because the label didn’t make them a star. I’m not going to complain about the industry, really. I’ve been around and seen them lose money, too — a lot of it in a day. A tour bus might be $1,200 a day. “I’m in awe that I don’t have to work at Cumberland Transit and fix flat tires,” he adds with a laugh. Bare understands the scene and surveys it with an insider’s eye. He is the man in the documentary, doing his thing. “You have to interact,” he says. “You have to have access. You can’t just be lazy — you have to hustle, and you have to listen to them. It’s a hustle. I have friends who aren’t hustlers. They can’t go out and do house parties. They’re too fragile or whatever. It’s not for everybody — it ain’t for sissies, that’s for sure. “Some people are just way too cool to open up,” he continues. “Way too cool for that. I grew up with great performers who had no problem hanging out at the T-shirt table and hugging everybody.” And when he’s on stage, or sitting in someone’s living room, Bare gives himself over. “When I go see younger or newer singer-songwriters, and, whenever they aren’t good or don’t let you see them, it’s like a stripper that won’t let you see the ugly parts,” he says. “If I don’t get up there and let you see my darkest, scariest, creepiest stuff, then I’m just another pretty boy up there prancing around. “And it’s harder for women. It’s harder for women to be a Lucinda Williams and just get out there and let it fly — you have to let the scary parts show.” Every day, Bare is thankful for his place in the Nashville landscape. He, like others,

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Reno BO Seven years ago, two New York transplants started a ’50s- and ’60s-themed dance party in East Nashville because they wanted to. There was no business plan in place when the two musicians and record collectors, Reno Bo and Jacob Jones, started spinning doo-wop and rock & roll at The 5 Spot every Monday night. ¶“We just started doing it for fun, which is the greatest reason to do anything,” Bo says of the highly successful shindig they call “Keep On Movin’.” From Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” and “Little Queenie” to “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong, or “The Clapping Song,” by Shirley Ellis, Bo can rattle off any number of songs that get people moving — that get things all “sweaty and gritty,” he adds, aptly rephrasing lyrics from “Summer in the City.” “It’s fun as hell.” ¶Electric Western, the name Bo and Jones gave their party-throwing machine, evolved into an umbrella for all of their creative pursuits and now includes an independent record label, which recently released Bo’s full-length record, Lessons From a Shooting Star. The album’s 10 songs are a testament to Electric Western’s motto: Keep Being Awesome. p

story | Luke Wiget photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


I was feeling like, ‘God, maybe I should make my own record and not necessarily just play bass for somebody’


fter logging thousands of hours touring the U.S., U.K., and parts of Europe playing bass for Albert Hammond Jr. (The Strokes), The Mooney Suzuki, and Caitlin Rose, Bo holed up in his Germantown apartment — his “laboratory by night,” as he calls it — to create a smartly sequenced collection of songs that fall naturally into a pop-influenced Side A and more introspective and sonically indulgent Side B. On his first record since 2010, Bo sings about the things rock songs are supposed to be about: traveling and touring; choosing one’s own roads; girls; and heartbreak. All in all, he gives us something familiar even on the first listen, an experience akin to remembering someone you’ve never met before and digging them right away. Bo says his time spent supporting other artists was fun and important, as it stretched his playing and thinking — especially touring with Hammond, who was “meticulous in a good way. His parts are really figured out,” he explains. “I played his music exactly as he’d recorded it in the studio.” But at a certain point, he wanted to be Reno Bo, the artist, again. “I was feeling like, ‘God, maybe I should make my own record and not necessarily just play bass for somebody,’ ” he recalls. So for a few years, he chipped away at songs while on the road, and between legs of the many tours, snuck back to Nashville to build the album an instrument and a track at a time. There’s a reciprocal relationship between touring and recording that seems to energize the New York native, who lived in Poughkeepsie as a kid and Brooklyn as an adult and has called Nashville home since 2008.


Since leaving New York, Bo’s work ethic hasn’t changed even though his rent has. There was a moment some years back when he could have renewed the lease on his New York apartment, which he shared with roommates, but he decided against it. “I thought I could get out of town and open a new chapter in my life.” It was with visions of music havens like the Brill Building in New York or a “Motown-type situation,” places where “writers worked together and churned out music,” that propelled him to Nashville where he was able to rent an apartment and a warehouse where he could make music. Now that the record’s been made, he’s ready to loop back around. “Now I have to go on tour — it’s all cycles,” he says of a pattern familiar to so many Nashville musicians — one of returning from the road to dig into new music in the studio and then being hungry to head back out and tour. While Bo would love a consistent band, he anticipates the usual roving cast of available Nashville musicians to accompany him this fall and winter. He’s set dates in Los Angeles and New York and plans to hit a number of the cities within a van’s ride from Nashville. “You’re so close to so much of the country here,” he says. “Louisville, Atlanta, Birmingham. It’s easy to do the little runs.” He points out that if you live, say, in Austin, “you’ve got to spend an entire day getting out of Texas to go to another state.” You can hear the road in the songs, both in terms of one of the major themes woven throughout the record — one of pushing on, pulling through life’s many turns and curves, getting lost and wondering what it is to be found — and also, the album itself sounds like a band on the road playing together on a stage even though the songs were built a single track at a time in

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

Bo’s apartment. “Nothing on the album’s live,” he says. Instead, he played all the instruments himself. “I’d record drums first, then get the amps cranked up so it was like I was basically playing a show in my home studio.”


t’s a Wednesday night at the Mercy Lounge, and Bo is playing one of his first live shows since the release of Lessons From a Shooting Star, backed by a band of local musicians. The mic is just above his head and angled down at his mouth. He thanks the crowd and even knows the bartender’s name. Within the first few minutes of the set, it’s apparent that Bo and his band are there to have fun, his music wholly embraced by his audience. Even the sound guy is nodding to the beat of the music. As the show progresses, Bo introduces each band member during their turn in the spotlight, such as when Jeremy Fetzer, the guitar player borrowed from the local band Steelism, is about to charge into a solo. The set at Mercy Lounge ends with “Somewhere There’s Something,” a song whose lyrics have only three words in the entire four-minutes of guitar swells and loops, a field recording of chirping birds, and a bed of echoed vocals. When he first sang the melody for “Somewhere There’s Something” into his iPhone, Bo recalls thinking, “These aren’t the lyrics.” But over time, after layering the guitars, bass, and drums together in his laboratory, something happened. “It felt right for me,” he says of the song that started off as a search and stayed that way. After the finale, Bo tells the crowd, “Get home safe.” But one could argue that on that cool August night, in the warm afterglow of Bo’s performance, they were already home.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



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Peter HYRKA There’s far more to Nashville than just Telecasters and commercial songwriting. And while crafting threeminute stabs at the bro country death star or the Americana honor roll is a worthy profession (to a degree), there are other people in town who’ve given themselves completely to more arcane styles of music. We’re talking Brazilian, Hot Club, and Louis Armstrong-style jazz, gypsy folk songs, classical concertos, and self-penned homages to these and more. You do what you have to do to make music like that. You play Sunday brunches and weddings, you put your whole self into the strings of your violin, and you commit yourself to being a gypsy hombre, a musician first and foremost. ¶That’s what Peter Hyrka has been doing for decades. As leader and founder of the jazz trio The Gypsy Hombres, a charter member of the early ’90s art rock group Human Radio, and as a violinist extraordinaire in a fiddlefriendly town, the 59-year-old Hyrka has made a career out of finding a musical niche in what may seem like the most unnurturing soil. p

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native of Memphis, Hyrka exhibited a rebel streak at the early age of 8 when he chose his first musical instrument in the town that gave birth to the blues and rockabilly. “My very first instrument was accordion,” he says. “I’m still infatuated with them. I have five of them here at the house. I played the guitar later, but when I got out of high school, I enrolled in some classes at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). Without knowing anything about reading music, I just dove into the violin at the age of 19. I practiced a lot, maybe three or four hours a day. I was into bluegrass, but I soon got over it and got into classical.”

website and Soundcloud.” Hyrka continued working in Nashville, grabbing the occasional session gig or backing other musicians. In 1996, he turned his attention to his love of gypsy jazz, forming The Gypsy Hombres. The trio soon attracted a small, but loyal group of followers, including one fan who had played with Django Reinhardt himself. “He was rather ill at the time, but Chet Atkins used to come and see us at Boscos in Hillsboro,” he recalls. Over the past 19 years, The Gypsy Hombres have self-released three albums (Café Strut, Nouveau, and a collection of Christmas tunes, Django Bells). Although Hyrka has been the only continual member of the band since its

Hombres, Hyrka has created string arrangements for live performances, and he’s played with John Cowan, Steve Forbert, Todd Snider, and the platinum-selling Christian pop rock band Sixpence None the Richer. “I haven’t done as much (session work) lately, some string bass, a little of violin here and there,” he says. “But people ask me, ‘Do you play violin or fiddle?’ There are a lot of great fiddle players in this town, and I’m not really a fiddle player. I’m a violin guy.”


he source of Hyrka’s brief moment of MTV stardom, Human Radio, has recently made a comeback. The band briefly reunited in 1998 to record with

Without the ambition and impetus of ‘making it in the record business,’ [Human Radio] finds itself free to create its own identity again Hyrka also discovered a love for jazz, specifically the style known as “gypsy jazz” or “hot club jazz.” The style was created and popularized by guitarist Django Reinhardt and his Quintette du Hot Club de France in Paris during the 1930s and ’40s. Reinhardt and his violinist, Stéphane Grappelli, stood jazz on its ear through their combination of swing rhythms and traditional Romany folk influences. Their recordings became a major influence on American jazz players, helping to bring the guitar to the forefront of jazz instrumentation and also became an inspiration for many of the first generation “Nashville Cats,” including Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, and Harold Bradley. Throughout the 1980s, Hyrka worked in jazz, country, rock, bluegrass, and reggae bands in Memphis. In 1989, he was a founding member of Memphis-based Human Radio. The group quickly signed with Columbia Records and released a self-titled album in 1990. They scored a No. 32 hit on the Billboard mainstream rock chart with “Me and Elvis,” but it also typecast the band as a novelty act. “We did a MTV video, and it was radio friendly, but it wasn’t anything like the rest of our tunes,” he says. Moving to Nashville in 1991, the band secured a release from their Columbia contract, and struggled to secure a deal with another label. The frustration eventually led to the band’s breakup. “We had a second album ready to go that never even saw the light of day,” Hyrka says. “You can hear bits and pieces of it on our 70

founding, his musical vision has kept a consistent sound for the group which currently includes Rory Hoffman on guitar and accordion, and Geoff Henderson on upright bass. “We like to call our music jumpin’ gypsy jive,” he says. It’s a label that fits well as The Gypsy Hombres have added other influences to the basic hot club sound. Although the band bases their sound in a style that originated over 70 years ago, Hyrka is firm about the difference between inspiration and imitation, and he definitely sides with the former. “I’m a progressive,” he says. “You know, life goes on, things grow and change. It’s funny because Django Reinhardt’s guitar sound is now very iconic, and many people try to duplicate it, but it sounds kind of two-dimensional to me. He played a cheap guitar. That was what he had and so that was his sound.” In addition to expanding on the sound of gypsy jazz, the group is also dedicated to finding a balance between well-known classics and original material. “We’ve got a handful of originals and are always looking for more ideas,” he says. “It’s fun because it’s a teeter-totter between playing originals and playing stuff that people are familiar with.” One of those new ideas was a classical composition based on The Gypsy Hombres’ original material, specially commissioned for them by Nashville Chamber Orchestra composer Conni Ellisor and performed by the band on NPR. In addition to his work with The Gypsy

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Japanese pop-vocalist Miyako Shinohara, which led to a tour of Japan, but they parted ways again. They reunited in 2012 when a close friend requested the band play a local fundraiser. The second reunion led to the band reforming to work on new music, along with a handful of recent live appearances. Earlier this year, Human Radio launched an Indiegogo campaign that brought in over $16,000 to cover the costs of recording and releasing a new album. As stated on the fundraising campaign’s website, “without the ambition and impetus of ‘making it in the record business,’ the band finds itself free to create its own identity again, and new and exciting music unconcerned with modern trends and techniques.” Along with his work with Human Radio, Hyrka continues to play live dates with The Gypsy Hombres. They play private events and weddings and are currently enjoying an extended residency at The Southern, providing brunchtime accompaniment every Sunday. They’re also looking forward to returning to The Family Wash’s stage as regulars at the club’s new location. Hyrka’s career arc has certainly not been a fast track to fame and riches, but it has been a journey with its own musical satisfaction. “(The Gypsy Hombres) have been called a Nashville institution,” Hyrka says. “I don’t know if that means we should be institutionalized or not, but it is a cool thing to do.”

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Alanna ROYALE One thing Alanna Quinn-Broadus would like you to know is that she is not “Alanna Royale,” a headcase lead singer just itching to go solo, with a bunch of faceless, anonymous dudes backing her. No, Alanna Royale is a band. ¶While Quinn-Broadus fronts the group, she happily rattles off her “boys,” mentioning them constantly in conversation. Along with Jared Colby, who is also her husband, on guitar, the group features Matt Snow on drums, Gabriel Golden on bass, and a rarity in the Nashville music scene, a dedicated horn section: Kirk Donovan on trumpet and Diego Vasquez on trombone. ¶Quinn-Broadus has a big voice. Were it a guitar, it might be a Gibson Les Paul: throaty, warm, powerful, and capable of searing, soaring leads when unleashed. It’s not unlike the jazz singers she loves — Billie Holiday and Nancy Wilson. It’s a soulful voice above all, and, as such, it’s a perfect match for the horns, the drumming, and Colby’s sinewy, sinuous guitar parts.

(L-R) Jared Colby Diego Vasquez Gabriel Golden Matt Snow Charles Ray Alanna Quinn-Broadus


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story story| Timothy | TimothyC.C.Davis Davis photography photography| Kelli | KelliDirks Dirks All of this is on display on the band’s debut full-length, Achilles, which is available as a digital download or on CD or vinyl at their Bandcamp site. The album was recorded at East Nashville’s Bomb Shelter studio and engineered by Andrija Tokic, known for his work with Alabama Shakes, Benjamin Booker, and former Alanna Royale tourmates Hurray for the Riff Raff. The record, which has received raves from the likes of NPR and Garden & Gun, almost never got recorded at all. ¶On tour back in 2013, Quinn-Broadus ruptured a vocal cord during a SXSW appearance. After seeing several doctors and therapists, as well as a chiropractor and vocal coach — she was “given the gift” of having to relearn her craft from scratch, she says. (Bassist Golden suggested the album title after comparing the band’s travels and travails that year to that of the mythical Achilles and his famously vulnerable heel.) ¶But such scares are in the rearview now, she says, and on the eve of beginning a short tour with fellow rock/soul revivalists St. Paul & the Broken Bones, the vocalist is in a reflective, even grateful, mood. p

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e recently played a show at the new Basement East, and it dawned on me that show was three years to the day from when we played our first one (at the original Basement location on Eighth Avenue),” Quinn-Broadus says. “One of the first people I met in Nashville was [Grimey’s/Basement owner] Mike Grimes, when I was waiting tables. And then I met Kate Mills of Old Made Good, who after like a month here put me and my husband in a photo spread in a magazine. After meeting Mike, we played an open mic at The Basement, and six months later we were headlining there. Not even a year after that we played Bonnaroo.” Quinn-Broadus puts a lot of faith in faith. Not religious faith, per se, but faith in follow-

is exciting to me. It’s almost like we needed permission or something. In a matter of weeks, we had a seven-piece band and were playing a show. It just blows my mind how stuff works sometimes.” Quinn-Broadus and Colby both attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which she says was a great education, but only up to a point, that point being graduation day. “Berklee is a wonderful, vast resource,” she explains. “I went, and dropped out, and six years later, I went back. When I went back, my life changed as a musician and as an adult. I’m eternally grateful to Berklee for a lot of things, but it’s really, really insular. Growing up, everyone tells these kids that they’re great, and that they have a future in music, and then you go to this school, and their parents are paying

They’re just interested if you can move them, physically or emotionally. And I think most people would tell you that’s never been a problem for us. ing one’s instincts and believing in oneself and surrounding yourself with people sharing a common vision, and letting the rest work itself out. “I was in a really awesome mall-punk band,” she says dryly. “I am into legit punk music, and I am into legit hardcore music. You can ask anyone I play with. I also love pop music, I really love a good hook, and I’m a big hiphop fan. When I thought about what I liked, it sort of all came together: I like distortion. I like loud guitars. I like theatrical music. I grew up doing musical theatre. But I love the big, soaring thing with Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. And so we’re kind of all of those things thrown together. “But I also always wanted to be in a grunge band,” she continues. “So my husband and I, we started writing these songs, these ’90s alt-grunge kind of things. And when Matt, our drummer, came over to our house to try out for the first time, we played him those grungier songs and asked him if he’d like to play with us. He said, ‘No!’ So we played him the pop/soul songs, all of them really rough, and he said, ‘You throw some horns on there, and I can get down with that.’ That is what 74

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their tuition, and then they move to L.A. or some place when they graduate and they have absolutely no idea what to do. It gives them a false reality. It’s like a really hot virgin. What do you do with all this? You have no idea what to do with all this!” She pauses, then continues. “You know, it’s a domino effect. If I hadn’t gone there, I wouldn’t have gone on my Nashville Berklee trip, where you meet with producers and publishers and songwriters, and you’re in conferences all week. And Jared and I would have never moved here, and none of this would have happened. That said, our horn section almost never happened because of Berklee. One of them said to the other one, ‘Hey man, I’m going to go sit in on a session with these kids, they’re from Berklee. You want to come along?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Just flat out, ‘no.’ He had to convince him that we were cool despite that! “I mean, look: No one knows how you got to where you are when you’re on stage, and the lights are on you, and it’s ‘go time,’ ” she says. “They’re just interested if you can move them, physically or emotionally. And I think most people would tell you that’s never been a problem for us.”

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Andrea ZONN Andrea Zonn lives in a house filled with sunlight. Odd-shaped rooms, cozy touches, old school architecture. Her laughter fills the room as she reminds you “and it’s officially on what was considered the wrong side of the tracks.” ¶The almondeyed beauty, as exotic as she is wide open when she smiles, mocks East Nashville’s reputation gently. Pushing a shock of ebony hair from her eyes, she reminds you she’s been living on the bohemian side of Nashville since 1986. ¶“I walked into this house — all harvest gold and avocado green, the original paint job and tube wiring — but the space was so inviting,” says the acclaimed violinist and vocalist who has worked with Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, and the past dozen years, James Taylor. “I just somehow knew. This was the medicine I needed after my divorce. It was a healing up house.” p

story | Holly Gleason photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Above all the surrender involved, you have to let go of intentions, It’s not always what people wanted or expected, but if we’re being honest or respectful, people will recognize that.


t was also a refuge for her son, who required several intense brain surgeries. And the place where the classically-trained musician, who has performed at Lincoln Center and the Library of Congress, found her voice as a songwriter. After touring and recording with George Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Amy Grant, Trisha Yearwood, Gill, and beyond, the trials of being a woman coming into her own and facing her son’s life-threatening health crisis, Zonn started writing songs at her kitchen table. Before too long, she realized those songs needed to be heard. Rise, her new album, is also something of a miracle. Scheduled for release by Compass Records on Sept. 25, it marks a coming of awareness for the in-demand vocalist-violinist. Capturing resilience, hope, and life’s embrace in 10 songs, she moves from introspective


singer-songwriter and throwback jazz to country, subdued blues, and warm adult pop. Then there’s the fantasy band Zonn assembled. Start with the legendary rhythm section: Steve Gadd on drums and Willie Weeks on bass. Both masters of their craft, both musicians who’ve toured with the dusky-voiced Zonn in different bands. “Every call was intentional, ... everyone on here,” Zonn says. “I wanted to call it The Love Record, because that’s what we all share: for each other, for the music. Willie played bass with Vince the very first time I went out with Vince, and he’s incredible. Now I’m touring with Steve in James’ band — and I knew, even though they haven’t really recorded together, Willie and Steve loved each other. It seemed right.” It’s one thing to have a notion, another to invite them to your party. But trying to align the schedules of musicians who record and

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tour at this level is a lot like trying to make planets align. Zonn laughs at the thought, nods her head. Ever the humble artist and songwriter, she allows, “I figured what I can do is ask. And it’s still scary. “Steve came to town with David Sanborn, and I went to see him,” she recalls. “I told him I’d started writing, and his name had come up in a discussion with Janis Ian about fantasy rhythm sections. He was like, ‘Call me.’ “There’s the right chemistry and intention to both (Gadd and Weeks). They allow a lot of space, a lot of room for the listener to participate, which these songs need. But there’s also a deep groove and a pocket so delicious — and (playing with) that seasoning takes time to develop. “They really understand songs that way, versus great players who have a tendency to fill up every possible space, to chart out every single thing. They have technique, but lack imagination. But Willie and Steve …,” she says, her voice drifting off, clearly enraptured with the skeleton they gave her songs. And also the incentive to keep writing, keep plumbing her depths in a new creative zone. “History has a way of teaching you,” she admits. “For me, the closer you get to a deadline, the more productive you get.” Writing with Tom Jutz, Bill Lloyd, Peter Cooper, Lovett bandmate Luke Bulla, and Kim Richey, Rise started taking shape. Out of her trials and her defeats, fear and occasional loathing, Andrea Zonn conjured an album of deep hope and reassurance. Lyle Lovett, a friend as well as her former bandleader, hones in on her essence as a creative. “Andrea is a great listener,” he says. “She’s so sensitive and intuitive: her tone, her intonation, her choices. And she’s always had great respect for the arrangements, but her ear — for life, as well as music — gives her a grace that lifts her up beyond a great player or singer; she engages.” She also called some more of her friends, who were only too happy to come make music with her. On Rise, you will hear Gill and Keb’ Mo’ playing guitar and singing. Dobroist Jerry Douglas, Newgrass Revival mandolinist and solo force Sam Bush, Newgrass vocalist and current Doobie Brother John Cowan, and award-winning musician Mac McAnally also make appearances on the record. But with a dream band, there are always

parameters. In this case, “We only had two days to cut all the tracks.” Prepared with good charts, knowing the keys and tempos, Zonn hit the studio with gusto — and just enough Midwestern doubt to make magic. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope I’m not over my head … ,’ ” she marvels. “It’s one thing to imagine this band, another to get in a room with them. Going in the studio any time is a surprise, as it should be when you’re creating. I tried to remember: I’m bringing in people knowing their essence as a musician; I’m going to allow them to do that, let them enjoy playing together on these songs.”

vocals affirming the notion of how friends hold us together. And for Zonn, who won the National Fiddle Championship the same year she was awarded a prestigious violin fellowship at the Aspen Music Festival, it seems to come down in many ways to truly finding a home. “For the first time in years, I’m not waiting for the other shoe to drop,” she says. “I’m solid and grounded, happier than I’ve ever been in my adult life. “I love where I am,” she continues. “Since

motherhood, I don’t get out and soak up the nightlife like I used to, but the mixture of culture and classes, the cross section of community here and the creative circles I live in, that exist in East Nashville, inspire me. Jen Gunderman is over here and Audley Freed; but instead of seeing them at the bar, I see them at The Turnip Truck. “Just everywhere you go, there’s something to inspire you. That’s absolutely the best way to live.”


t helps that Zonn, who studied with Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile as Vanderbilt was building its Blair School of Music curriculum, was mentored by bluegrass legend Tony Trischka. Trischka advised the classical/ bluegrass-straddling artist: “Don’t limit yourself with any one kind of music. Don’t wall off your possibilities, or you will never learn what you were put here to do with your talent.” She honored those truths, signing with Compass Records. Owned by progressive banjo sensation Alison Brown, the label’s entire team understands music that’s not intrinsically about neat little boxes — and they strive to support the best music that is possible. “They let a relative unknown artist (me) cut songs by a relatively unknown songwriter (me) — and that’s amazing. Everyone at Compass recognizes there’s more to music than a format, and Alison encouraged me to do this.” Thankfully Zonn, whose voice evokes Shawn Colvin, Karla Bonoff, and Trisha Yearwood, is one of those artists who is comfortable where the songs take her. It’s the underlying theme of Rise, a theme that emerged from Zonn’s own life. “Above all the surrender involved, you have to let go of intentions,” she explains. “It’s not always what people wanted or expected, but if we’re being honest or respectful, people will recognize that. ‘Rise’ — to me — that’s what we did when faced with adversity, and it’s a good way to live. “When we got four songs the first day, and knew there were six more, that’s what we did. That’s incredible — and funny. The remarkable thing of this music (being made) had me pinching myself, it was so good.” Even getting Taylor on board for the friendship-as-healer “You Make Me Whole” was a “pinch yourself ” moment. “I’m not the kind to over-ask, and I wanted to pad it with a way out, so it wouldn’t be awkward. I started just asking him questions, trying to feel him out … and he said ‘yes’ before I even asked.” The day after Taylor played his annual Fourth of July show at Tanglewood, Zonn stayed over and went in the studio with her “boss.” The result draws you in the same way Sweet Baby James did so many years ago: Taylor’s response

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Andrew COMBS Although 28-year-old Andrew Combs has an easy-going, laconic manner, there’s passion in his voice when he talks about songwriting. “It’s disappointing to see how little some musicians think about their art these days,” he says. “So many just concentrate on their ‘brand’ or their Twitter reactions. There are exceptions of course, but I think the songs and the thoughts behind the songs were much deeper from my heroes than what we’re hearing right now.” ¶Combs’ passion not only manifests itself when he’s discussing his heroes — classic songwriters like Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, and Mickey Newbury who pushed the boundaries of country, folk, and pop in the late ’60s and early ’70s — but is also evident in his own songs. p

story | Randy Fox photography | Kelli Dirks September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Whether it was Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, or Guy Clark, they were intelligent, funny dudes who knew how to turn a phrase. They were truly redneck poets. Behind the often genteel and postmodern countrypolitan sound of his new album, All These Dreams, are carefully constructed ballads of love gone right and wrong, reflections on the mundane and spiritual, and the fleeting nature of joy, sorrow, and life. Combs’ craft as a songwriter and his dedication to capturing the perfect sound to present his words has garnered him rave reviews from critics. It’s also placed him in the vanguard of a new generation of Nashville musicians who have mastered the art of anchoring their sound in tradition while pushing their songwriting into new and brighter fields. While some might look to Combs or one of his contemporaries as the next great “savior” of country music — the artist of “substance” who will turn back the tide of Bro Country or whatever unfortunate dalliance that the mainstream has focused on — Combs, like the heroes he so often references,is just looking to write and record damn good songs. A native of Dallas, Combs grew up with a steady exposure to older music. “My dad was a piano player and worked as a DJ when he was younger,” he says. “I grew up mostly listening to what my parents listened to. They turned me on to the soft rock of the ’70s — The Eagles, The Carpenters, Jackson Browne. My cousin was a professional guitar player in Austin. He gave me my first guitar, and my dad taught me my first chords. I was writing my own material by the time I was in middle school and mostly into high school.”


Although he was first attracted to soft rock sounds and the carefully-crafted Southern California pop of the 1970s, he soon discovered a more rough-hewn tradition to inspire his songwriting. “Towards the end of high school, I got turned on to the songs of Townes Van Zandt and the other Texas songwriters,” Combs says. “The idea that a three-to-five minute song could tell a story or have some sort of lyrical plot really appealed to me. Musically, their songs weren’t complex, but their lyrics were. All of those guys were so smart. Whether it was Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, or Guy Clark, they were intelligent, funny dudes who knew how to turn a phrase. They were truly redneck poets. Kris Kristofferson was the exception, but in his case, he had the Ivy League poet background, but understood how to sound like a redneck, and I loved that.” By the time Combs finished with high school, he had set his mind on pursuing a career in music. Although Austin might have seemed like a more likely destination for a young Texas singer-songwriter, Nashville became Combs’ destination. “Austin never called to me,” he says. “I had a lot of family and friends down there, but I was drawn to Nashville because all my heroes came here. Whether they stayed or not is another thing, but it was something I had to do. Although Austin is a very creative town, it doesn’t have the music business structure that Nashville has. It helps me to stay focused to have a structure beneath me telling me I need to be working.

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Plus, in Nashville, everyone is supportive of each other, but you’re also trying to shine in a town that has the best musicians and best songwriters in the world, and it just makes you better.” After settling in Nashville, Combs began working the aspiring-songwriter, standard-issue food service jobs and perfecting his craft as a songwriter through long nights and open mics. In 2010, he self-released a five-song EP, Tennessee Time, that skillfully invoked the spirits of his songwriting heroes and the “Sunday Morning Coming Down” aura of Nashville in the early 1970s. “I hadn’t really played out much at that point,” he says, “but I wanted something that would represent what I wanted to do. I wrangled up some friends and found some free studio time out at The Castle in Franklin. We were all really green and just flew by the seat of our pants. It’s not something I like to show to people now, but there are moments on it I’m proud of.” Although Tennessee Time certainly didn’t break through to any concept of the “big time,” it served its purpose, announcing Combs’ presence on the Nashville scene. It also gave him the experience to tackle his first full-length album, Worried Man, in 2012. “Worried Man was recorded during an interesting time in my life,” he says. “I was very poor. I was floating around, sleeping on friends’ couches, and working a day job at a restaurant. I would save up enough money every month to record two songs. Usually I’d write those two songs that CO N T I N U ED ON PAGE 121

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Julie CHRISTENSEN Julie Christensen’s performances these days fall somewhere between rock, alt-country, and roots music. As for the alt-country part of that equation, the long and winding musical road she’s traveled began during the seminal days of the genre. She first made her mark in music as coleader, along with her then-husband, Chris D. (Desjardins), of the influential Los Angeles punk band the Divine Horsemen. Between 1984 and 1987, the band produced three studio albums and two EPs. The Divine Horsemen were one of the early practitioners of alt country, as evidenced by the twangy, tremolo-ridden Telecaster in “Tears Fall Away” from their first album, Time Stands Still, on Enigma Records. Chris D. sang low, while Christensen let fly powerful high harmonies. They played the West Coast circuit, including Club Lingerie and the Music Machine, which was a popular venue that often featured punk heavyweights, such as the Circle Jerks. As their popularity grew, they headed east, playing venues on the East Coast, including Washington’s famed 9:30 Club, as well as the legendary CBGB in Manhattan. p

story | Skip Anderson photography | Eric England September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



ut the touring and night life took its toll. Christensen fell into destructive habits, abusing alcohol and using heroin with regularity. “I realized I needed to quit that lifestyle a couple of years before I was able to do it — it had become a daily thing,” she says. “I must have tried to kick it 15 times before I finally tried 12-step meetings. I felt my story was too gnarly for some fellowships and not gnarly enough for others. I related to the guys who had gotten out of prison and had tattoos on their face because I felt like I had been in a prison of drugs and alcohol.” After she and her husband divorced, she redirected her career toward performing in nightclubs as a soulful pop singer. A few months later, she auditioned to be a featured backup singer with Leonard Cohen, an eventual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. At the end of the audition, he asked her to contemplate the rigors of a world tour before accepting the position. “He told me this was going to be a grueling tour, playing four or five times each week,” Christensen says. “I told him that I had just come off the road myself and had recently changed my clothes in the bathroom at CBGBs. Just picture the bathroom in the movie Trainspotting, and you’ll get the picture.” She toured with Cohen from 1988 to 1993. “I was only six months clean when I first went out on the road with him,” she says. “He is a centered, focused individual. I felt safe touring with him. He wasn’t somebody who was out of hand with any of his vices.” It was through Cohen, whom she describes as one of the most centered people she’s ever known, that she met the master Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi. Although she’s not a practicing Buddhist, she meditates using the techniques she learned from Roshi, credited with popularizing Zen Buddhism in the United States. Christensen appears in the award-winning 2005 documentary Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man. “We played beautiful concert halls and opera houses around the world,” she says. “We played Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore. It was a beautiful, magical time.”


hristensen carries a quiet-but-commanding gravity with her. She’s tall and striking, with tight, short blond curls that, at times, seem to be living lives of their own. She dresses stylishly — often offering a tasteful reboot of film-noir glamour. And she moves that way, too — slowly and deliberately. She is not the kind of singer who demurely clears her throat as she sidles up to the microphone. Nor is she the type of singer who delicately clinches her fist to indicate to the audience that she has entered the soulful part of a song. No, Julie Christensen belts out her songs in a way that is demonstrative, expressive,


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forceful even, and at times, explosive. She describes singing as “an athletic event.” “I have exercise-induced asthma, and I usually use an inhaler before a show,” she says. “I was touring with Leonard in 1993, and they used a smoke machine [onstage] and one day I threw a hissy fit offstage. Leonard was in the green room in Norway — I didn’t know that he was talking to a journalist at the time, when I burst in and said, ‘Who do I have to fuck to get those smoke machines turned down?’ ‘That would be me, darling,’ he said.”

People were incredulous that we would leave Ojai [California] for East Nashville. ‘Why would you leave paradise?’ Well, East Nashville is our paradise.

The writer featured the encounter prominently in his article. To say Julie Christensen is a diva would misrepresent the wholeness of her being. To say that she is not would deny an inarguable truth. Her swagger is true to her rebellious punkrock roots, and refined through working with the likes of Cohen, Iggy Pop, Public Image Limited, and Todd Rundgren, who produced a solo album of hers in 1990 that fell victim to record-label politics and was never released. She decidedly goes where the music carries her, until the music doesn’t carry her where she wants to go — then she kicks it with spurs. She was on the bill to sing Cohen’s “Joan of Arc” as a duet with Lou Reed in 2006 in Santa Barbara, Calif. The two had performed the

Cohen classic together earlier in the year, but this time Reed, widely regarded as a temperamental genius, had worked up a new guitar part, raising the key four steps in the process. To hit the notes in the already-demanding song, Christensen brought out the spurs and belted a forceful performance that she would later describe as “well-received” and “favorably reviewed.” But before published reviews could support her claim, Reed wanted to register a review of his own. “It was two-and-a-half keys higher than we did it in Dublin,” she says. “In order to get out my part, I had to really haul off and sing, or else I would have had to sing it falsetto and that wasn’t going to be the same. Lou thought I was trying to hog the stage. When we went backstage, he said, ‘You couldn’t have done that with your jazz guys, this is rock & roll.’ He’s right, and I know not to upstage the bandleader. But that was the only way I could have performed it in that key. That was the last time I spoke to him. And I felt bad about that, especially when he died.”

release The Cardinal, a powerful 12-song album she coproduced with Jeff Turmes. While Christensen wrote five of the cuts and cowrote another three, the record also includes songs written by Dan Navarro, Amelia White, and Chuck Prophet. Perhaps the standout cut on the album is “Saint on a Chain,” by Kevin Gordon. In typical Gordon fashion, the song is an oddly romantic tale of a small-town guy whose bad choices lead him to contemplate steering his speeding car to a

white-knuckle, fiery end. “As he’s driving toward his death at 85 mph, he asks this Saint Christopher medallion to carry him across to the other shore,” Christensen expains. “It feels like a male version of Thelma & Louise. The first time I heard Kevin play it, I was blown away. I could hear my band doing it — I could hear it, the whole thing, it was like an aural hallucination. It just came over me like a wash. That song is like a Faulkner story.”


hristensen moved from Ojai, Calif., to East Nashville in 2013 with her husband, actor John Diehl, who has worked steadily in film for decades, and is perhaps best known for his role as Det. Larry Zito on Miami Vice. Their son Magnus, a recent college graduate, relocated with them. Christensen had met singer-songwriter Amelia White while attending the 2012 Folk Alliance International conference in Memphis. White, who is based in East Nashville, told her about the fertile music scene there, and encouraged her to come to Nashville for the Americana Music Festival later that year — which she did. “Nashville wasn’t on my radar until I met Amelia,” Christensen says. “It felt like Austin, Texas, felt in the 1970s. The unpretentiousness of it, and the willingness of the creative community to be open to new blood while being loyal to the people who are already here.” She played a gig the night before the Americana festival at Two Old Hippies with White, Tommy Womack, and John Jackson, and visited The Family Wash for the first time a few nights later, playing with Doug and Telisha Williams of Wild Ponies. “I immediately felt like the Wash was like a vortex and a place to call home,” Christensen says. She asked Diehl to visit Nashville as a relocation test drive. They moved as soon as they could sell their home in Ojai. “People were incredulous that we would leave Ojai for East Nashville,” she says. “ ‘Why would you leave paradise?’ Well, East Nashville is our paradise.” After getting settled in East Nashville, Christensen put together Stone Cupid with guitarists Sergio Webb and Chris Tench, bassist Bones Hillman, and drummer Steve Latanation. This winter, Stone Cupid will September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


American HOTEL When asked if there was a prophetic moment in his childhood, one that pointed to a lifetime of making music, American Hotel’s Jeremy Lister says, “I remember playing with my junior high band, putting my horn down and listening in awe as all the different parts worked seamlessly together to create something beautiful. I knew then I wanted to create something like that.” ¶On a sticky Tuesday in August, Lister and bandmate Jesse Hall take shelter from one of Nashville’s spontaneous and torrential storms at Ugly Mugs café to talk about their band, their debut album, and The Beatles. ¶“My father was a preacher, so growing up we were only allowed to listen to Christian music,” Lister continues. “We had to sneak the other stuff, the really good stuff.” ¶At age 11, fascinated by melody and composition, he taught himself the guitar and shortly thereafter began composing songs. “When I was young I heard The Beatles perform ‘Hey Jude,’ and that was it for me. It is the benchmark for


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story | Allison Avalon photography | Kelli Dirks everything I create. The Beatles are the predominant influence for American Hotel.” ¶Hall was introduced to The Beatles at an early age, too. “My dad was a record producer,” he says “When I was very young, he shoved The Beatles down my throat, which I, of course, rebelled against, paying more attention to hip hop, metal, and sports. When I was about 18, something changed, and I decided to pursue music. I still love hip hop and metal, but there is not a day that goes by I am not in complete awe of The Beatles and what they accomplished. My dad was right.” With The Beatles as their muse, American Hotel hopes to draw inspiration from the legendary quartet’s creativity and ingenuity. “We want to create something a little bit different, but something that still appeals to the crowd,” Lister says. As American Hotel’s principle vocalists, Lister and Hall are the mainstays in the group’s multi-harmony sound. p

(L-R) Adam Binder Anthony Fiacco Vince Gard Justin Loucks Jesse Hall Jeremy Lister

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Little did I know Nashville is a great melting pot of many different sounds and a ton of support “We have been playing together for years,” Hall says. “It started in front porches and backyards. Eventually we realized when we played, we were really just playing for each other. We were both so captivated by the other’s abilities each session was just a chance to impress one another.” After years of playing together informally, American Hotel was born about a year ago. The name is derived from a poem written by American novelist Richard Brautigan. “His work has always inspired me,” Hall says. “When we were trying to choose a name, I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent us.” American Hotel is the most recent stop on Lister’s musical journey. After releasing a pair of independent EP’s and signing a solo deal with Warner Bros. Records, Lister became a contestant on NBC’s The Sing Off in 2011. The reality series showcased a cappella groups from around the United States battling for supremacy. Lister’s group, Street Corner Symphony, nabbed second place and the hearts of devoted fans. Street Corner Symphony, which included his two brothers, followed up their appearance on the TV series with two albums and a nationwide tour. Hall got his start in Pittsburgh, singing, playing piano and guitar, and writing songs for the folk band Bear Cub, which relocated to Nashville in the summer of 2010. In addition to Hall and Lister, American Hotel includes “a broad spectrum of talent,” as the latter puts it: lead guitarist Anthony Fiacco, multi-instrumentalist Justin Loucks, drummer Vince Gard, and bassist Adam Binder.


Fiacco fronted a Washington, D.C. blues-driven rock band called The Blackjacks. Of Fiacco, Hall says, “He knows more about The Beatles and old school rock & roll than any human I’ve met. He is equally influenced by Willie Nelson. He brings great variety to the band.” Louks, nicknamed “Juice,” is the band’s auxiliary player. He has been performing for over 15 years and has shared the stage with entertainers ranging from small indie acts to major label artists. Additionally, Louks produced Lister’s last solo album, The Bed You Made. “He has an expansive musical pallet and is always turning us on to really great new artists,” Hall says. Gard is a founding member and longtime drummer for the Nashville-based band Mona. He specializes in hard-hitting drums. “He loves rock, but when it comes to Beatles or Stones, he’d likely side with Stones, making him the lone wolf of our group,” Hall says with a laugh. Binder is a veteran of numerous local bands and has been Lister’s chief bassist for many years. “We have all had these awesome solo careers and opportunities with other bands,” Lister says. “They provided us with experiences that shaped us as musicians, but we are pretty excited about all of that coming together into this one band.” In June, American Hotel played the Bonnaroo Music & Art Festival to good response, but there’s nothing quite like playing to their home crowd in East Nashville. “Playing on the East Side is always a lot of fun for us,” Lister

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says. “East Nashville is our home and playing to friends and fans of the area is what it is all about.” Continuing, he says, “When I came to Nashville over a decade ago, I had the preconceived notion it only sustained country music. I planned on staying for six months and then moving elsewhere. Little did I know Nashville is a great melting pot of many different sounds and a ton of support.” The group has been hard at work on their first album, which Lister says they hope to release “early in 2016.” One of the tracks, an infectious bit of Brit invasion-influenced pop rock called “Pretty Young Girl,” is streaming on their website. “Our main goal is to put out the album. We want to dedicate ourselves as much as possible to producing something authentic and unique.” Recently the band wrapped on a track with producer Brendan Benson called “Dizzy Bird.” Benson, who is best known for his work as a solo artist and as Jack White’s bandmate in The Raconteurs, helmed the track at his Readymade Studio in midtown. “Dizzy Bird’ was the first song the band wrote together,” Lister says. “Working on it with Benson made it feel brand new.” With the album underway, Lister and Hall are feeling good about their band. “We are so lucky to have this experience,” Hall says. “Hearing your work on the radio and getting the chance to play with your idols is indescribable.” Lister echoes that sentiment: “It is something we never expected and something we are eternally grateful for.”





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4PM TO 9PM • MONDAY • 21 SEPTEMBER At the East Pavilion • 1006 Fatherland Street Go to peacedayconcert.org for the full line-up. This is an event by Nashville’s United For Human Rights. Find out more at www.humanrights.com. © 2015 CSCCN. All Rights Reserved. The United for Human Rights logo is owned by United for Human Rights.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Tom Mason & THE BLUE BUCCANEERS Songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist (and pirate) Tom Mason sips his coffee at Bongo East and recalls a trip to the Virgin Islands around a decade ago. He was playing guitar for Eric Brace’s band, Last Train Home — two weeks of seaside bars in an island paradise. (Nice work if you can get it.) One day, with an afternoon to kill amidst the warm breezes and sunlight dancing atop the sea, Tom fancied writing something locale-specific. So he wrote “Pirate Song,” a jaunty, swashbuckling ditty that made up for in charm what it lacked in a title. ¶That was where the matter lay for a while. A couple of years later Mason was in the traveling theater company of the musical Ring of Fire, and one night after the show, the whole cast and crew were holed up in a motel without much more to do than pass a guitar around. When the axe made it into Tom’s hands, he chose — apropos of nothing — to play “Pirate Song.” The snarling, minor key chantey, tailor-made for swaying and clinking beers, went down a storm. “Tom,” someone said, “you’ve got to write a musical!” So that’s what he set out to do. p

story | Tommy Womack photography | Kelli Dirks 92

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(L-R) Pete Pulkrabek Tom Mason Leandria Lott Jeff Thorneycroft

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We all know how self-consciousness is the enemy of art, but it’s also the enemy of fun.


started studying up on pirates and found how it is really an interesting time in history,” he says. “Writing songs for a stage musical probably helped keep me away from the hokum (read: Arrrrgh, mateys!), as I was trying to make these people come alive, the characters in the songs.” What Mason got for his efforts was 13 well-crafted tunes about pirates and piracy. They weren’t all pastiche sea chanteys, English accents, and “yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum!” Indeed, they were solid songs and not so far removed from artists who look backward some centuries for melodic and subject matter without forsaking modern ideas of what a song should be. “You’ve Never Seen the Likes of Me” had much in common with Richard Thompson’s reminiscent side, and “In the Service of the King” would fit in well on most any of The Pogues’ albums. But derivative they were not. The collection of songs he wound up with more than held up on their own. The problem — so far as writing a musical theater production goes — was Mason had not a scrap of dialogue, much less a cast of characters or plot. All he had were songs. And when one has a baker’s dozen worth of songs in Nashville, one most likely does one of two things. You either peddle the songs on Music Row (not bloody likely in this particular case), or you make an album. He did the latter. “I got [drummer] Paul Griffith and [bassist] Lorne Rall and a bunch of friends together, mainly friends from East Nashville, and we made a record.” Mason says. The album, The Blue Buccaneer, was released in 2011. And then fate stepped in, dancing a jig. “I found out there were all these opportunities to play — maritime festivals, tall ships festivals, and pirate festivals,” Mason says. Invitations to play poured in, from all around the U.S., Europe, and Australia. As the travel itinerary grew, so did the band, as often as not incorporating local talent in whatever environs the buccaneer minstrels found themselves in. “I always wanted a bigger band — I love it when it grows,” he says. “We’ve become like The Pogues or The Waco Brothers or these other bands that are huge and kind of crazy. I feel like that’s kind


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of like a pirate crew.” Said crew has come to include bagpipes, banjo, and the de rigueur penny whistle. And perhaps it goes without saying that they all dress up as pirates onstage. “Something I’ve found about this band that’s different is that the crowds we draw are less self-conscious,” Mason says. “We all know how self-consciousness is the enemy of art, but it’s also the enemy of fun. And if people walk into a club or a festival or something and see this band dressed up as pirates, they let their guard down. They’re already outsiders, and they stop worrying about themselves as much as they ordinarily would, and we end up having these great sing-alongs, which makes it more communal.” So do they all become pirates for a night? “Yeah, we bring a few extra hats,” he says and laughs. While the first record was ostensibly a solo album, he has since released two more fulllength recordings with the rowdy crew credited to Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers — 2012’s A Pirate’s Christmas and 2014’s The World Is Ablaze. He also released the single Talk Like a Pirate in 2013 in commemoration of Talk Like a Pirate Day. And yes, there is such a thing; it’s Sept. 19. The band works about half the weekends over the span of a year. Mason has his hometown band with players who may be chained to mortgages, and freer spirits who come with him for road dates, along with designated pirates who join the band in different areas of the country, or abroad. Prior to the piracy business model, Mason was much loved for his bluesy, lilting solo work, his slide guitar playing, and genial, low-maintenance ability to complement any act he might be playing with, at home or on the road. He released four solo albums and several singles over his 22 years in town. “I made a record here called Where Shadows Fall, then an instrumental Christmas CD, and then a record called Alchemy, which was pretty ambitious, with a lot of characters in it. It came with a 16-page booklet. I’m really proud of it, but it was expensive to do.” A smiling, ebullient gent, with long, curly strawberry brown hair and a matching goatee, he came to Nashville in 1993 after two years

in Chicago. He was born in the magic ’60s and raised in Minneapolis. (Two decades in Music City has bleached much of the “you betcha” from his accent.) “I had two older brothers and two older sisters, and they turned me on to John Prine, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Doc Watson, and a lot of old blues,” he says. “I was really lucky.” Mason first picked up the guitar at the age of 11, and he caught the slide guitar bug that very first day. “My brother open-tuned a guitar for me, taught me two chords, and off I went playing ‘Waiting For the Man.’ “I started getting into theater in high school,” he continues. “I went to theater school as a kid, and gave it up for rock & roll in college.”

says. “He was a joy to play with.” And what is next on the horizon? Well, what else? Talk Like a Pirate Day is right around the corner. In Nashville that day, Mason and The Blue Buccaneers will be playing not once, nor twice, but a full four times. “In East Nashville, we’re starting out at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center at 10 a.m., we’ll finish the night out at 10 p.m. at the new Family Wash, and in between, we’re going to do the library on Thompson Lane, and one in Spring Hill.”

Does he expect pirates to come out? “Yep. We’ll have little pirates for the early show, and big pirates for the later one. In the morning we’ll have kids acting like adults, and in the evening we’ll have adults acting like kids. And it’ll be a perfect antidote for the Americana Music Association conference.” When asked if he can be quoted on that, Mason roars with laughter; then after taking a sip of his coffee, says enthusiastically, “Yes, please!”


ndeed, while he matriculated at the University of Minnesota in the early ’80s, he joined a band and moved into the band house, where rehearsals were a daily thing. They heard about a hot guitar player and invited him over for a jam. That is how a shy, bespectacled Paul Westerberg wound up in the group for a few months. “We hired him for his guitar playing,” Mason says. “He never once told us he wrote songs. “I wasn’t emotionally into the college thing so much, and I saw this ad for what turned out to be an Elvis impersonation act, but I didn’t know what it was from just reading the ad,” he says, “All I saw was that it paid $300 a week for a traveling musician who played keyboard and guitar. So I got on the road with this Elvis impersonator, playing these little towns. I barely played keyboard, but they had this keyboard that one pedal you pressed would bring the orchestra in, and one pedal you pressed it would bring the horns in. That gave me a lot of stage experience. I was off doing that for a year, and then I came home, moved to Chicago and started doing originals.” He cut a couple of 45s with bands, and also made cassettes to peddle, producing them at home on a dubbing deck and putting artwork on the J-card — whatever it took to get the music out there. Having moved to Nashville in ’93, he became immersed in both the acting and music scenes, often getting work in the former because he could sing and play multiple instruments, which proved useful for some roles. He appeared in videos for Ricky Van Shelton and Alan Jackson. “And then I was in The Green Mile. If you see the scene with 400 prisoners working on a chain gang out in a field, you can’t miss me,” he says with a laugh. “I tried to find me by getting the DVD and pausing it, and I couldn’t. But you know, show business!” Recently, in addition to The Blue Buccaneers, he did a couple of years playing with Phil Lee. “He’s such a great entertainer, in a real old-fashioned vaudeville way,” Mason September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



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Photography by Chuck Allen

hit Hubner is at home in front of a crowd. A popular DJ on Hippie Radio (WHPY, 94.5 on your radio dial), and creator/host of the popular Mando Blues independent radio show, Hubner has promoted, produced, or emceed rock & roll music most of his adult life, after being introduced to the good stuff via Cheap Trick on the Dream Police tour back in 1980.


is when someone allows the music to wash over them completely, oblivious to anyone or anything around them. But that’s not to say by Timothy C. Davis he wants to override other concertgoers’ enjoyment of a show. “It’s kind of a personal place you have to go to really rock the fuck out, you know?” he says. “But I still try to be courteous and not step on people’s feet or whatever.” Hubner tied for third in D.C., which earned him admission to the US Air Guitar finals in Portland, Ore., in early What he hasn’t done much — August. Alas, his Cinderella OK, never — is play a musical story ended there, but not before he was tabbed “Rookie of instrument. the Year,” a grand achievement “I know this might sound for someone competing in a crazy, but I feel like the spirit of sport — which is what air afirock & roll is in me, and I feel cionados call it — he scarcely like it’s never had a way out,” knew existed four months prior. Hubner says. “I’ve never been Like any good athlete, he’s the talent. I’ve talked about the already thinking about next talent, I’ve promoted the talent, season. Hubner’s goals for 2016 but I’ve never been the talent.” include not only a new song or As such, he’s heretofore been two, but also a renewed concencontent to indulge his passion tration on stamina and pickfrom the other side of the studio monitors. That is, until one ing-hand technique. fateful evening this past May, “It’s a 60-second sprint of when Hubner — clad in a kilt, pure rock & roll,” he says. “Not because why not? — decided everyone’s full-on, but I’m fullto go support his girlfriend, a on. It’s a sprint. And you can’t burlesque dancer who was persee this in print, but this is not forming during the 2015 US a sprinter’s body! So I want Air Guitar Southern Qualifier to work on that, so I’m not so and Nashville Burlesque gassed by the second round. Showcase at fooBAR. A tall, “I also want to work a bit on striking individual, whom my technique,” he continues. Hubner would later learn “You have to pay attention to Airway to Heaven was former World Air Guitar what’s being played to get the The legendary ‘Witness’ rocks the fuck out at fooBAR Too. Champion Justin “Nordic higher scores, and what you’re Thunder” Howard, asked him doing with your hands has to what song he was going to match up somewhat believably perform. Hubner told him he to what’s being played. If a guiwasn’t there to perform — he was there to witness. “Not dressed like tarist is playing a complicated solo, though, chances are he’s not jumping around the stage — he’s concentrating. In air guitar, you have to that, you’re not,” Howard said. Intrigued, Hubner decided to give it a shot. He requested some have both.” What he wants to tell those curious about professional air guitar is Blackfoot, but Howard didn’t have any of their music on his laptop computer — which was fortunate, as Hubner would later learn, because that it’s fun, and it’s accepting, and it’s a tribe, albeit a tribe that encoursongs that simply repeat one riff or phrase over and over usually aren’t ages punny, pro wrestling-style monikers. Hubner, whose nom de plume crowd-pleasers. He then requested some AC/DC, and ended up mim- is “Witness,” notes that it’s a sharp contrast from the sometimes-cuting to the their leering ode to the full-figured set, “Whole Lotta Rosie.” throat world of “real” music-making, and that perhaps dropping the By the end of the night, Hubner found himself in second place (along physical gear from the mix also serves to lessen the pretension factor with a “crowd favorite” nod), which earned him an invitation to July’s somewhat. In air guitar, he says, it’s less about how you play the music, Atlantic Conference finals in Washington, D.C., at the legendary 9:30 but how the music plays you. Club. In D.C., Hubner blazed his way through “Rosie” again with his “Everyone’s played air guitar at some point in his or her life,” he says. Angus Young/Pete Townshend/Tasmanian Devil “style.” Hubner says “It’s inclusive. It’s universal. And it’s just fun, which is always the most he has no real style, per se, preferring to “rock the fuck out,” which he says important part.” September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Caryle Esaw listens to a few beats at the Nashville South Notes for Notes Studio.

WATERING the Seeds Notes for Notes helps young musicians pursue their dreams


Story and Photographs By Laura Roberts


verybody here [at Notes for Notes] — they’re hungry,” Queen McElrath says. “They’re hungry to do something better with themselves. I’d rather be around people that’s hungry than people that’s settled where they’re at.” The 17-year-old McElrath is seated on a keyboard bench at the Nashville South Notes for Notes recording studio inside the Andrew Jackson Boys & Girls Club. Her shirt is white with black lettering (“Make sure you get a photo of my shirt”), and her eyes lock in to whomever she’s speaking with. When introduced to a

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visitor, she’s up, hand out, pumping a handshake the way a middle-aged lawyer does when he’s won a case: confident, accurate, assertive. Makes you wonder how a teenager got to be 17 going on 35. “My mama was on drugs when I was younger.” McElrath has a way of pronouncing every word that comes out of her mouth as if on purpose — neither apologizing, nor boasting, just matter-of-fact. “I did poetry,” she adds. “I didn’t know I could rap. I just did all my poetry into a rhyme.” McElrath sits with her feet pointed out from the keyboard bench. “I was 13,” she says, her voice carrying in the studio. “I had a teacher [at LEAD Academy Middle School] who was into music — and he was like, ‘You know, you can turn [your poetry] into music.’ He helped me turn a poem that I had into music, and we did it at the talent show, and I won second place in the talent show.” McElrath’s teacher had another suggestion for the poet-turned-rapper. “I was getting into a lot of trouble in school,” she says. “[My teacher] was like, ‘Well, I know you [are] into music, so why don’t you come into Notes for Notes? They got a cool studio and stuff.’ And I was like, ‘There’s too many kids there, you know, making all of these excuses.’ ” The Notes for Notes studio in the Andrew Jackson Boys & Girls Club is filled with too

many kids, too many kids in red polos, singing with their hands up, big smiles on their faces. Too many kids throwing their heads back laughing, talking with and over each other. McElrath smiles and continues. “When I came [to the Notes for Notes studio for the first time], I just fell in love with it.” Her voice speeds up. “[Notes for Notes has] kept me out of trouble. I was getting into a lot of trouble before I came [to the studio].” She doesn’t go into detail. “But being into something where you surround yourself with other people who do the same thing — now these are my friends. “Poetry was my outlet, but it wasn’t how music is,” she says. “Music, when you perform it, it’s kind of, you getting everything out.” She pauses, then adds, “It’s like a big release for me.”


always wanted to make music,” Notes for Notes cofounder and CEO Philip Gilley says. Gilley is wedged on a leather couch behind the Which Stage at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. “I wanted to compose music, but I had a music teacher that said to me, ‘You can’t read music, you can’t play music.’ And I can’t read music.” Gilley doesn’t look like a CEO. He’s too young — early 30s — too tall, too skinny, his facial hair is too patchy. He looks like a musician. “When I was 17, my mom got me an acoustic guitar,” Gilley says. “I just started learning tabs, and then I just realized I could kinda just listen to something and play it. And I’d never had that opportunity to do that until I just got an instrument.” Following a couple semesters at the University of Vermont in his home state, the East Coaster dropped out and moved west to Santa Barbara — “I knew LA would eat me up” — to become a screenwriter. To keep the lights on, Gilley donned a collared shirt and parked cars as a steakhouse valet. To fill the small-town Vermont community void, he volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Santa Barbara County. Gilley was paired with a boy named Christian. Christian wanted to learn how to play drums. Gilley didn’t own any drums, so the duo headed down to a Santa Barbara music store. “We’d just use the demo kit,” Gilley explains with a shrug. “I don’t know much about drums, but I’d teach him basic drum beats. I’d buy some picks or strings to justify the visit.” During one of their routine music store jams, Gilley had a thought: “There should be a place that youth can go completely for free. And it’s packed with all the instruments that they want to use to make the music they’re listening to.” A tall order. But Gilley would soon hear of a city teen center being built in the Santa Barbara area — a teen center interested in putting a music recording studio in its building. “I was 23 at the time,” Gilley recalls as a Bonnaroo golf cart drives by, dropping someone

Notes for Notes youth Queen McElrath poses at the Nashville South Notes for Notes Studio. Notes for Notes CEO and Cofounder Philip Gillley takes a moment to hit a few guitar chords at the Nashville South Notes for Notes Studio.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


(L-R) Moon Taxi’s Wes Bailey & Spencer Thomson, Miles Slay, a Nashville Notes for Notes youth, and Moon Taxi’s Trevor Terndrup backstage at Bonnaroo 2015.

(L-R) Notes for Notes program directors Will Flores and Cameron Cassell, Notes for Notes studio assistant Jamal Dotson, My Morning Jacket bassist Tom Blankenship, and Notes for Notes regional director Jarrad James are all smiles after a recording session at the Nashville North Notes for Notes Studio.


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

off, picking someone up, tires spinning dust. “I was still parking cars six days a week.” He decided to pitch his idea to the City of Santa Barbara. “I said, ‘I’ll get my parents to ship my old equipment over. We’re starting an organization called Notes for Notes.’ We had the name. We thought out what we wanted it to be.” He pauses, then says, “I mean, I didn’t have any money.” The City of Santa Barbara didn’t care that he was 23, didn’t care that he didn’t have money — “I put everything on a credit card to start; just paid that debt off a few years ago.” The city said yes to Gilley and Notes for Notes. So Gilley’s parents boxed up his acoustic and shipped it to him. In addition, Gilley picked up a Casio keyboard, and raised some funds to buy a drum kit. The teen center already had an old computer, to which he added a version of Pro Tools. “It was bare bones,” he says. “But, it gave us the start.” Four years later, Notes for Notes had acquired a cofounder in California businessman Rod Hare. “Rod was a Big Brother back in college,” Gilley says. Hare helped secure an $18,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation and christen a board of directors for the now 501(c) (3) organization. Notes for Notes had also partnered with the popular retail store Hot Topic. And the nonprofit had launched two more Notes for Notes studios in the Santa Barbara area code — both of which were in Boys & Girls Clubs. “Being in the Boys & Girls Clubs, we’re like, we can do this in other places,” Gilley says. “We thought, we can kinda creep down the coast and get to LA in like, 10 years. Or we can just be like, ‘Let’s establish ourselves nationally now. Let’s just go plant our flags. Where should we do it?’ ” The flag-planting decision was pretty simple. “We had one of our younger board members living in Nashville, and went, ‘Let’s just go to Nashville.’ ” So Gilley hung up his collared shirt and headed east to Nashville. He opened the first Music City Notes for Notes Studio at the Andrew Jackson Boys & Girls Club in the summer of 2011. In 2012, a second Nashville Notes for Notes studio set up shop at the Preston Taylor Boys & Girls Club. “I knew coming to Nashville, there were some people I wanted to get in touch with,” Gilley says. “First, we’re gonna be in Nashville, we gotta find a way to connect with Bonnaroo. And then also, while we’re in Nashville, there’s gotta be a way we can get to Jack White.” “Yes, Third Man definitely gets its share of donation requests,” Ben Blackwell explains via email. Blackwell works out of the vinyl department at Third Man Records and beats on drums — quite loudly — in a band called The Dirtbombs. And he’s White’s nephew. “Notes for Notes just seemed to cut through the usual, everyday, ho-hum requests and was unique

enough to catch our attention.” “They gave us the Third Man record player[s], the headphones, a bunch of vinyl,” Gilley says. “We made a poster. So in each of the studios we’ve got these little Third Man Record stations. [The kids are] like, ‘What are these big black discs?’ ” Gilley grins, then adds, “It’s a cool experience.” Notes for Notes was eventually put in contact with the Bonnaroo Works Fund, the music festival’s philanthropic arm. Notes for Notes became one of the organization’s grant recipients, and beginning in 2014, was invited to set up a backstage recording trailer at the fourday music festival. Bonnaroo artists — Nashville’s Ben Folds and Moon Taxi, among many others — can drop by the trailer to add their music to selected Notes for Notes youth tracks. “This has just been a great meeting ground,” Gilley says, standing near the Notes for Notes trailer in the middle of the Bonnaroo media area. “And the tracks [are] a great introduction to describe what we do as an organization to all these artists.” The Notes for Notes organization has picked up a few other Nashville friends since moving to the area in 2011. The Country Music Association Foundation pledged to open five more Notes for Notes studios across the country, two of which recently debuted in Atlanta and Detroit, bringing the number of Notes for Notes studios to 11 nationwide. LightsOut Events, a local Nashville events company, has begun hosting monthly supporting concerts at East Side Live. My Morning Jacket bassist Tom Blankenship is another friend of the organization. “[When I was growing up], there was nothing anywhere close to this,” says Blankenship, who has stopped by the Notes for Notes recording studio inside the Preston Taylor Boys & Girls Club to record a few tracks. He’s quick to point something out about the studio. “[Nashville regional manager Jarrad James has] got that softball coach kind of thing,” he says of his East Nashville neighbor and friend on the other side of the recording studio glass. “He’s got great energy, he’s really positive. He’s gonna be honest with you about what’s going on. It’s that encouragement that you can’t get from somewhere else.” He smiles, then continues. “And he’s also a cool guy.”

James and the Wild Spirit perform at The East Room on July 25 in support of Notes for Notes.

photos are taken as she raps. “Queen, aren’t you famous?” a girl of 7,with pigtails and big eyes, asks. “Not yet,” McElrath replies, moving the mic stand a few feet back. “But you always at shows and concerts and events,” the girl with the pigtails says. “That don’t matter,” McElrath insists. She tells the girl about coming into the studio and practicing every day, and about the importance of being there, every day, working hard. “You got to water the seeds for them to grow,” she counsels. McElrath slides on the black headphones and closes her eyes, leaning herself into the mic, catching the right beat before sailing off on her music wave. And the little girl with the big eyes and pigtails looks on, never taking her eyes off McElrath for a second. Sometimes, what you say and how you say it is so much more than words.


eing here [at Notes for Notes], I’ve learned more about myself,” Queen McElrath says slowly. “I’m very outspoken, and sometimes that’s not good.” She pauses and laughs, then smiles. “Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” McElrath walks into the studio booth. A few

Justin Weatherbee performs during a benefit for Notes for Notes at The East Room on July 25.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Inside THE FRAME Singer-songwriter Scot Sax makes a film about songwriting and finds a new dream By John McBryde


Photography by Chuck Allen

n a particularly pleasant August afternoon at his East Nashville home, Scot Sax is talking almost breathlessly on everything from why music sounds better on vinyl to the reason he decided to move to Nashville. He is speaking in metaphors about chewing gum and in a very straightforward manner about the importance of family. Then he pauses, and the subject turns to, of all things, frames. Sax, 50, a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter who became a success in the mid-1990s, is discussing frames as they are used not only in the literal sense, but also in how the concept of framing has helped him to shape his craft. It’s been 102

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

especially meaningful, he explains, in bringing clarity to his more recent creative outlet, filmmaking. “People love buying frames,” says Sax, who completed a documentary film earlier this year and in September will release a new album with his wife, Americana and folk artist Suzie Brown. “There’s something about frames. My wife and I were recently shopping for frames, and I had this realization that human beings love to frame things in so many different ways. “If you look around, everything in some way, shape, or form is framed,” he continues, pointing out different items in his living room, such as decorative plates, a stereo

Scot Sax composing a shot at Eastwood Studios. Facing page: Sax directing The Wood Brothers (L-R) Sax, Chris Wood, Oliver Wood, Jano Rix

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Out of the blue she was like, ‘Do you want to open for The Who Friday night?’ receiver, and even an old guitar. “To me a song is a frame. It’s a frame around three minutes of some emotion or something. So making the film was like, ‘Wow, I can put a fucking frame around my life — this experience I’m having as a songwriter, this experience other songwriters are having. This intangible thing in my mind, I can put a frame around it and make it tangible.’ That’s what I love about making a film. To put a frame around all that gray area, those blurry-lined things.” Sax, who moved from his native Philadelphia to Nashville with Brown in early 2014, spent three-and-a-half years painstakingly making his feature-length film. Titled Platinum Rush and available on DVD, the documentary is about songwriters and the impact their craft has had on them. Sax interviewed a long list of writers, including several from Nashville, to get their perspective on the nuances of writing songs. Among his subjects were Steve Forbert, Lisa Loeb, Oliver Wood, Ron Sexsmith, Dave Berg, and others. The film delved into the highs, the lows, the struggles of songwriting. “It’s a human-interest story,” Sax says. “It wasn’t so much the music, it was how it affected [the songwriters] as people. It’s about dreaming, obtaining your dream, realizing your dream, and then reflecting on it. There isn’t a lot of stuff about the actual process of writing, it’s more the experience of it.” Sax’s own songwriting experience dates to when he first became a teenager. As he tells in the film, he was born to parents who had endured the loss of a son to a tragic accident. He took to writing songs as a sort of therapy, and it provided him an outlet to connect with his mom and dad. “I would play my songs for my parents,” he says. “I would go into their bedroom and say, ‘Listen to my new song.’ If it didn’t have music, it would be like, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, let me tell you something real personal.’ What kid does that? But in song form, it didn’t occur to me. They were really personal songs, but it probably benefited me to know I communicated in some way. “I was always unusually enamored with songs, mesmerized by them,” continues Sax, who counts as his early influences the songs of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and The Beatles. “It was this other world that existed three minutes at a time. That just blew my mind.” Sax’s pursuit of songs went from something just mind-blowing to a wise career choice some 104

20 years ago, when his band Wanderlust released its first album and developed quite a following on the power pop scene. The group’s first single, “I Walked,” went to No. 1 on rock stations across the country, and before long Wanderlust was touring with Collective Soul and even opened for The Who at a show in Maryland. “My phone rang, and it was our booking agent in New York,” Sax recalls. “Out of the blue she was like, ‘Do you want to open for The Who Friday night?’ It’s always like that, always like five days before. It’s never this executed, wellplanned thing. Some of the most amazing moments in my life were like that. It was great for us, and it was a rocking show. We kicked ass.” Sax later formed the bands Feel and Bachelor Number One, with whom he recorded and toured, and had songwriting success and recognition with film and TV. His song “I Am the Summertime” appeared on the soundtrack for the 2000 hit comedy American Pie, earning a gold record. Awards-wise, and on the scale of recognition, Sax nailed a 10 in 2006 as cowriter of “Like We Never Loved At All,” a song recorded by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. It reached the Top 10 of Billboard’s adult contemporary chart, Top 5 of the country chart and won a Grammy as well as an ASCAP award. On the heels of that success, Sax later collaborated with Philadelphia singer-songwriter Sharon Little, and in 2008, the duo did a 48-city tour with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. “That was great because I was a little bit older and more prepared,” Sax says. “We got to play some of the nicest arenas.” Over time, however, Sax began to grow weary of trying to make the next song he would write better than the last one. He says the fame and fortune as a Grammy winner began to lose its flavor. “You know, it was great, friends giving you the thumbs up, and the money was great and all that stuff,” he says. “But then it became just another chase. These moments of success in your career are like gum. You chew it and then it runs out and then you have this cold, flavorless shit in your mouth. It was this really great thing, and then you need to put another one in there. I felt like I needed to keep going, but instead I just kept chewing on that flavorless piece of gum. I missed having fun. I forgot what it was. That can happen after you’ve had success like that.” The fun returned from different directions. Ironically, one of those was in Sax’s discovering the blues. He was burned out on the pop rock he had been writing for so long, and felt the change

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

in genres reset his writing soul considerably. He merged the blues and Americana on his 2013 album, I’m in a Mood. Love entered the picture in 2010, when Sax and Brown met at a mutual friend’s wedding in Philadelphia. “We met on the dance floor,” Sax says. “We literally danced before we had a conversation.” They married in 2011, and moved to Nashville a few years later. Not long after arriving here, the couple became parents to a daughter, Josephine, who’s now around 17 months old. In the meantime, Brown, a part-time cardiologist at Vanderbilt Medical Center, had recorded a couple of albums. Her debut album, Heartstrings, was released in 2011, and she then cowrote songs with Sax for her second record, Almost There, which was produced by Oliver Wood and recorded live in Nashville. The duo will be releasing Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either Sept. 25 and will be doing some record release shows in the Northeast, as well as one in Nashville in October. “We’re not trying to be rock stars,” Sax says when asked to explain the title of the new album. “I played that game, and it was great and wonderful. But we’re really happy with where we’re at, making an album that’s 99 percent creative and one percent promotion. We’re not begging anyone to love it.” Sax says filmmaking has been his most significant evolution career-wise, especially in the way it sustains him creatively. He currently is involved in several projects, including videos for the new album, shooting the making of an album by Malcolm Holcombe, and the live filming of The Wood Brothers’ studio performance of new songs from their forthcoming album. And when it comes to his personal life, well, he’s viewing that through a new frame. “The combination of losing a father (his dad died of cancer in 2011), then getting married, then having a child is such a big whack of reality and a crash course in real life,” Sax says. “Being a musician, it was me and my dream, me and my song, and I think that the temporary idea of life never really kicked in until my dad died. I think the true meaning of love and a true relationship never kicked in until I met Suzie, and then the full circle of the whole experience kicked in when we had Josephine. “It was really quite an intense couple of years, and I think something that normally happens over a period of 20 years or more happened to me in a couple of years,” he adds. “So I’m a different person.”

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM


Cookin IN THE ’ ’HOOD Recipes from East Nashville favorites






ood and music — it’s a combination known throughout the centuries for its ability to pack the house. Whether it’s a celebration, a casual backyard gathering, or even a less joyous occasion, food and music are there with us and for us. They comfort us and compel us to enjoy life; they allow us to express ourselves and celebrate our cultures, and, most importantly, they bring us together. With multiple options for attending music and a constant buzz surrounding the culinary delights on every corner of our fair city, it goes without saying that both spoil us. So when BMI Nashville hosted Sync THIS!, they chose to give their guests a true taste of Nashville. Sync THIS! was a two-day affair designed for the top music supervisors in film, televi-


Chili vin 4 jalapeños 3 shallots 2 cups rice vinegar 1 cup champagne vin 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup salt 10 cloves garlic 1/3 cup fish sauce

AVOCADO PURÉE 3-4 avocados 1 ounce lime juice 1 pinch table salt 1/4 cup creme fraiche 106

Little Octopus

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

sion, and advertising to meet face to face with local songwriters and publishers. The event catered to more than just interviews and meetings. The goal is to foster relationships, build community, and support opportunities. With this in mind, BMI built an itinerary filled with exclusive performances, as well as private dinners at two of Nashville’s most talked about resturants. The first dinner was held at East Nashville’s Little Octopus — a perfect venue for showing off our city’s culinary creativity. For the event, owner Sarah Gavigan and executive chef Daniel Herget delivered a menu full of fresh and wholesome dishes with an array of flavors that did not disappoint. The opening act was their specialty cocktail, La Pantera Rosa, paired with a featured acoustic performance

by The Roosevelts. The intimate show set the mood for dinner, which featured a variety of delectable choices, including a gazpacho with almonds, grapes, and spiced date oil, a pan roasted chicken with a salsa verde, herb salad, and our featured recipe, the Koji marinated skirt steak. The rich flavor, crispy outside, and satisfying finish, had everyone savoring each bite. Celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan hosted the second evening at her Nashville restaurant, Chauhan Ale and Masala House. Chauhan’s love of food and her pursuit of creative cooking have taken her all over the world. She is also a featured judge on TLC’s popular culinary show Chopped. Enough said. The atmosphere was brimming with appetite as hors d’oeuvres such as lamb keema

masala tarts, and petite potato samosa’s were passed around during a performance by Shawn Conerton. Dinner was served family style, and guests shared an assortment of colorful dishes like chicken tikki masala, saag paneer, daal tadka, basmati rice, and naan. If you are not an indian food enthusiast, you might not be completely familiar with these dishes, but they were delicious and just about everyone helped themselves to seconds. For dessert, Chauhan served saffron mango kulfi, a traditional indian delicacy and a perfect finish to the evening. Her mango kulfi was cool and refreshing while sustaining the same buttery texture as the mango itself. Chosen as our second featured recipe from the event, this saffron mango kulfi was a beautiful way to surprise and delight.

Though each evening was completely unique in flavor, tone, atmosphere, and style, both provided an experience that brought us closer. You would never believe some attendees were complete strangers because in that moment, as they peered into their dishes with mouths watering, they were family. Roles and titles had been put aside. They were no longer mingling artists, supervisors, BMI executives, or chefs. They were people, simply enjoying life and each other through the passions they share. Author Gregory David Roberts may have put it best when he said, “Food is music to the body, music is food to the heart.eart. pletely uniquewas more than an event, it was a gathering of passionate professionals that had space to become family thanks to their hosts: food and music.


3 cups mango pulp 2 cups condensed milk 1 tsp green cardamom powder 1/2 teaspoon saffron 3 tbsp rose water 1 1/2 cups cashew 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds  


In a blender blend all the above mentioned to a smooth paste. Pour in molds and freeze.

Chuan Ale and Masala House September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015





Star Party’s Be Real Mini Festival Friday, Sept. 11, The East Room

Star Party is serving their usual dose of bazaar and psychedelic with a petite festival at The East Room. This fest is all about honesty, hence the name “Be Real.” Drop your BS at the door and revel in your you-ness. They’ll have eight bands playing inside AND outside in the garden, where you can peruse the greenery and pick up a cacti, medicinal herbs, and fresh veggies. If you’re looking for a shot of the healthier variety, they’ll have wheatgrass up for grabs, too. Oh yeah, you also can get your Reiki, Qi Gong, or YogaArt on as well. Many other odd and interesting things will go on through the night, including a spirit science presentation and a handshake glory hole (shake at your own risk). Added bonus, they will have alien face painting. Whether they’re painting faces like aliens, or painting aliens’ faces was still unclear at the time of publication. $10 at the door or $5 “pre-shells” at Grimey’s and OMG. 2412 Gallatin Ave.

SIX MONTHS OF STUMBLING East Side Art Stumbles 6-Month Celebration 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, multiple East Nashville galleries

East Nashville’s art crawl has something special up its sleeve for its six-month mark. Gallery Luperca (formerly KT Wolf Gallery — same locale, same folks) will have their opening reception for artist John Buko’s “An Exercise in Patience.” The new exhibit will be accompanied by bands, noms, dancers, and more. From 9-10 p.m. you can catch a full show in the back courtyard behind the 604 building. There will be a squad of galleries participating in this month’s special stumble: Red Arrow, Sawtooth Print Shop, Main Street, DADU (Jodi Hays’ pop up gallery), Idea Hatchery, Art and Invention, and POP. To keep you stumbling, there will be an after-party at Fond Object open to the public. Chronicle your adventures with the hashtag #STUMBALOOP. Also of note, Gallery Luperca is looking for gallery submissions for the month of November. Stumble on.


Cumberland River Dragon Boat Festival 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, Cumberland East Bank

Flex your biceps for Nashville’s very own dragon boat race. This cultural festival celebrates traditional Chinese dragon boat racing. If you’ve never seen a dragon boat before, don’t miss this. Twenty-two folks slide into a boat that is 40-plus feet long, with a drummer banging out the beat that every other paddler will row along to. Bring the family out for this truly one-of-a-kind festival. They will have a handful of tasty vendors on site and plenty of fun and educational activities for the tiny spectators in attendance. The money raised for this festival goes toward supporting the Cumberland River Compact. Whether you want to participate in the race or just be a spectator, this festival guarantees to be like no other in Nashville. 592 South First St.


Holly Street Rocks Fundraiser 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, The Building

It’s no secret how expensive having kids can be, and finding quality daycare for those little tykes stretches a budget even further. East Nashville’s Holly Street Daycare has been looking for ways to help families who can’t always foot the bill for childcare services. Holly Street is hosting its annual Holly Street Rocks Fundraiser and Silent Auction to raise money for “Jamie’s Fund” which helps provide tuition for families who need assistance. This year’s event includes a silent auction, as well as a beer and wine tasting. Tickets are $50 for the event in advance and $60 at the door. 1008C Woodland St.


Americana Music Association Festival and Conference Sept. 15-20, citywide

Once again, it’s time for the Americana Music Festival and Conference. The festival will take place over five days with educational sessions by day and oodles of musicians taking the stage in various venues across the city by night. The conference will feature an array of panels, seminars, and lectures with top music biz professionals. A twist on this year’s fest incorporates the new Ascend Amphitheater with

a show from Loretta Lynch, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Valerie June, and more. Tons of musicians will perform throughout the weeklong event, including Jewel, Patty Griffin, Luther Dickinson, and many more. If you want to check out all the showcases, you might want to invest in the fest’s wristband. It will get you into all the shows — unless the place is packed out to capacity. Otherwise, you can buy individual tickets to showcases for $20-25. For those looking to get educated at the conference, you’ll need to register online to attend the conference portion of the event. Basement East will be hosting shows each night as part of the festival if you’re looking to stay on this side of the river.


Talk Like a Pirate Day at The Family Wash Saturday, Sept. 19, The Family Wash

Batten down the hatches, swashbucklers, Talk Like A Pirate Day is sailing this way. Tom Mason & The Blue Buccaneers will be celebrating their favorite holiday with performances across the city. Captain Mason will lead his crew with seafaring serenades about life on the high seas as a pirate. Check their website (yeah, pirates, Facebook), to learn about all of their performances that day. These buccaneers will end their day by dropping an anchor at The Family Wash for a final performance. Folks of all ages will enjoy, pirates or not. Walk the plank. 626 Main St.

WORD TO YOUR GOLFER Southern Word Golf Classic Scramble 7:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 19, Historic Shelby Golf Course

Don your funkiest outfit and don’t forget a fiveiron. This all-ages, all-skill levels golf scramble will support the folks of Southern Word, an organization that helps youth build literacy skills through workshops, school residencies, open mics, and shows. The morning will kick off with catering from Alexander’s Catering and end with a slam poetry BBQ at Drifter’s. Sign up for the scramble for $50, which includes breakfast, greens fees, and a cart. If you just want the BBQ and words, lunch will cost you $10. Proceeds benefit the work of Southern Word. See you on the green. 2021 Fatherland St.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM





Movies on the Lawn 8 p.m., Sept. 19, Eastwood Christian Church

Come on in. We can help.

Catch a show in the summer air with the whole family on the front lawn of Eastwood Christian Church. The September installment is the last of the year for this summer movie series . The best part, it’s free. Film starts rolling at sundown. 1601 Eastland Ave.

Defunct Books in Five Points 118 S. 11th St. 615.928.8963

BURNING DOWN THE EAST ROOM Talking Heads Tribute Party 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 25, The East Room

The East Room is throwing a Talking Heads tribute for no reason at all, just because. Do you really need a reason? A supergroup has been put together with members of CHALAXY, Body of Light, The Subnovas, and more. They will be covering everyone’s favorite Talking Heads songs, nothin’ but hits. There also will be music from other bands. The East Room is finalizing that lineup. All we can say is, This Must Be The Place. 2412 Gallatin Ave.


East C.A.N. Adoption Event 12 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26, Anthropologie

Fashion AND furry friends? Yes, please. East C.A.N. is hosting an adoption event at Anthropologie in Green Hills. This pack of pooches will feature mostly small dogs, but there will be iPads on site to show off the XL nuggets as well. Buy a candle, a new blouse, and adopt a pint-sized Pekingese. Or just pet some cute dogs, eat the free human snacks, and donate some bucks to this great East Nashville organization. 4031 Hillsboro Pike

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD Nashville Neighborhoods Celebration 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 26, Cleveland Park & Community Center

So, we know you think East Nashville is the bees knees, obviously — but it’s time to give credence to all the different neighborhoods of this city. The Neighborhoods Resource Center is hosting a soiree to celebrate all the nooks and crannies of our metropolis. There will be a few ways to show your turf ’s chops, including a chili cook-off and a neighborhood battle of the bands. There will also be a showcase to allow different organizations to show off what they have accomplished for their neck of the woods over the last year. They’ll have “The Neighbor Games,” think The Hunger Games without the human sacrifice. There will be


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

plenty of free activities for the kiddos in tow, too. Show pride in your kingdom. 610 Vernon Winfrey Ave.


Blue Terra by Blue Moves 5:30 p.m., Sept. 26 and 27, Shelby Park

Blue Moves Dance Company is getting in touch with Mother Nature for this earthy romp. This free outdoor dance concert has a broad Earth theme, featuring not only groovy terra firma dance moves, but also booths focused on green living and sustainability from Urban Green Lab and Earth Matters Tennessee. Drummer Ed Haggard will lead the audience around the park, from one site-specific choreographed work to the next. Saturday’s performance will end with a moonlit stroll led by the Nature Center staff. Arrive early to see dance performances from youth at DancEast (Saturday) and Second Story Studio (Sunday) at 5 p.m.

MUSIC IN THE EAST East Side Social Saturday, Oct. 3, East Park

This jamboree has had some scheduling issues, but now the date is set — so don’t miss it. East Side Social is a daylong music festival at East Park, with Nash locals The Features headlining the stage. You can expect some tasty vendors to keep you well fed and there will be some fun, family-friendly activities for everyone there. The fest kicks off at noon. A special show for the young guns starts at 1 p.m. with shows from Sparkman’s Magic and Mr. Bond and the Science Guys. We can also guarantee there will be face painting, balloon artists, and opportunities for selfies with Sounds mascot Booster. Advance tickets are $10, $15 at the gate, and $35 for VIP. Kids under 12 get in free. Proceeds from the festival will benefit charities ASMBA, The Star Foundation, and CASA Nashville. Stay tuned to East Side Social on the interweb to learn more details about the event. 700 Woodland St.


Fall Break Camp: Theater Bug Originals Songwriting Camp 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 5-9, Theater Bug

Find your song with Theater Bug’s one-week songwriting camp. They’ll look at what it takes to write a song as a group and give the more experienced songbirds a chance to hone in on their own material with teachers and peers. It’s a chance to learn the basics of song structure and lyricism — ending with a performance showcase to close out the camp. Friendly for ages 8 through 18. 4809 Gallatin Pike (back building of New Life Baptist Church). 615-818-7358.


IT’S A BEER fEASTival 5th Annual Nashville Beer Fest 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct.17, East Park

This day kicks off with the Funky 5K before the festival begins. From there it’s hops galore. Onsite at this year’s annual festival will be over 100 craft beers from national and regional brewers. Food trucks, games, contests, and giveaways will keep you fed and entertained. Tickets have sold out every year, so early bird gets the worm on this one. Tickets are on sale for $45, which will get you unlimited tastings and a souvenir sample glass. They also offer discounted $20 tickets to all designated drivers. Dogs get in for free, as long as they’re friendly when they drink. Costumes recommended. 700 Woodland St. www.nashvillebeerfestival.com.

NASH TO THE FUTURE Back To The Future Party 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 21, The East Room

Oct. 21, 2015 marks the exact day Marty McFly and Doc traveled to the future, so naturally, we should celebrate this momentous occasion. The film will be on loop all night, but prepare for an evening of the best of ’80s. Re:Wind ’80s VJ Jimmy will be bringing the best of the decade’s music videos, and DJ Baron Von Birk will be spinning the jams — it’ll be just like the Enchantment Under the Sea dance you always wished for. Of course, ’80s attire is recommended, and there will be a costume contest with cash money prizes. There will also be a photo booth to remember your time travels AND a Back to the Future pinball machine. Thank god Biff never got rich and Marty never made out with his mom. We still aren’t cruising on hoverboards, but life is pretty cool, right? This night only happens once; unless you’ve got a DeLorean, so don’t miss it. 2412 Gallatin Ave.

BROTHERS GRIMM IN HYPERSPEED Snowderella by Nate Eppler 7 p.m., Oct. 23-24, Theater Bug

All of your favorite fairy tales have been condensed to 30 minutes, at least that’s the idea. Baby Bear Theatre Troupe presents to you, “From Snow White to Cinderella: The Complete Works of the Brothers Grimm.” Think about it like this: that’s 231 stories packed in one punch of a performance. Things may get a little out of order and abridged, but Theater Bug has assured us they’ll end it all with a big musical number, so who cares. The moral of the story is don’t blink, because you might miss something. Tickets are $5. 4809 Gallatin Pike (back building of New Life Baptist Church). 615-818-7358

MAS TEQUILA POR FAVOR Day of the Dead Festival

6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 30, The Pavilion East

Spirits are rising … and pouring. Pavilion East is holding its own Dia de Los Muertos festivities. There will be some spooky good music, bites from Local Taco, painted faces, piñata busting, and most importantly, tequila. A ticket gets you 16 samples of tequila and free range of the salsa bar. Ticket proceeds will benefit Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, so cheers to the cause. 1006 Fatherland St.


ART EXHIBITS Main Street Gallery Macon St. Hilaire’s Between Two Cities

Opening reception Saturday, Sept. 12

Art & Invention Gallery Elizabeth Foster

Saturday, Sept. 12-Sunday, Oct. 11

Duy Huynh

Saturday, Oct. 17-Sunday, Nov. 15

Red Arrow Gallery Betsy Stirratt’s Twilight Zone

Opening reception 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 Sept. 26-Oct. 18

Lindsy Davis’ Negative Space: the perception of depth

Opening reception 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 Oct. 24-Nov. 15

Gallery Luperca (formerly KT Wolf Gallery) Jon Buko’s An Exercise In Patience

Opening reception 6-10 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12-Oct. 5 Sept. 12-Oct. 5



10-11 a.m., Friday, Sept. 11 Ages 11-14, registration required

Color Me HAPPY!

6-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 30 21 and up, registration required

Seed Trade

2-3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 3 10 and up, no registration

Spider Hike

7-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9 All ages, registration required

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM




Saturday, Oct. 17 Details TBA

Pumpkin Party

1-3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 All ages, registration required

Full Moon Mosey

8-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27 All ages, registration required

“Art by Nature” opening reception 4-6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7 All ages, no registration

Autumn and Art

2-3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14 All ages, registration required

Sunrise Hike

6:30-7:30 a.m., Friday, Nov. 20 All ages, registration required


12 p.m. Sept. 27 vs. Indianapolis Colts 12 p.m. Oct. 11 vs. Buffalo Bills 12 p.m. Oct. 18 vs. Miami Dolphins 12 p.m. Oct. 25 vs. Atlanta Falcons 12 p.m. Nov. 15 vs. Carolina Panthers 12 p.m. Nov. 29 vs. Oakland Raiders 12 p.m. Dec. 6 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 12 p.m. Dec. 27 vs. Houston Texans

TSU TIGERS 6 p.m. Oct. 17 vs. Eastern Illinois (Nissan Stadium) 2 p.m. Oct. 31 vs. Austin Peay (Hale Stadium) 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7 vs. Murray State (Hale Stadium)


East Side Storytellin’ 7 p.m., the first and third Tuesdays in September, The Post

Looking for something to get your creative juices flowing? They’ve partnered with WAMB radio to present an all-out affair with book readings, musical performances and author/musician interviews in just one evening. Look for this event twice each month. If you want some adult beverages, feel free to BYOB. Check the website to see who the guests of honor will be for each performance. The event is free, but you may want


have to reserve a spot by calling East Side Story ahead of time. Check the Storytellin’ website to see where the events will be held in October. 1701 Fatherland St. Suite A,. 615-915-1808 (East Side Story).


Cornelia Fort Pickin’ Party Sept. 19, Oct. 17, 6 p.m., Cornelia Fort Airpark

You don’t have to give Nashville a reason to pick, but this one is a pretty good one. Running through October, Cornelia Fort will be host to a pickin’ party fundraiser to help save and preserve the historic airpark. Picking and grinning will start at 6 p.m., and the band goes on two hours later at 8 p.m. A $10 admission includes one free Yazoo beer (two if you bring your strings to jam). All proceeds from the series will go toward supporting the restoration of Cornelia Fort, so put your money where your neighborhood is and scoot. Sept. 19 - Off the Wagon Oct. 17 - Bradford Lee Folk & the Bluegrass Playboys

VIVA LA LOCKELAND TABLE Lockeland Table Mexican Street Food Dinner Series Wednesdays, Oct. 7, Nov. 4, Lockeland Table

Lockeland Table is continuing their Mexican street food dinners through November with Sous Chef Danny “Boston” Bua. The series features Bua’s own take on the Mexi-street cuisine, with an array of fresh ingredients. There are only 20 available seats for each event, so grab your tickets early, $55 per head. Ándale! Ándale! 1520 Woodland St. 615-228-4864


Shelby Park Picture Show 7:30 p.m., Sept. 9, 23, Oct. 7, Old Timer’s Baseball Complex (Shelby Park)

As summer dwindles down, it’s time to squeeze in all the action you can. Who doesn’t love an outdoor movie? There will be showings of some crowd favorites, family-friendly films on a big ole LED screen in our very own Shelby Park. Food trucks and local vendors will provide concessions and there will also be a full beer garden for the of-age folks. Even better, this Wednesday outdoor movie series will benefit some great East Nashville organizations — SANDLOTT Sports and Friends of Shelby. The event will be donationbased, but if you want to reserve a spot in advance you can do that online for a suggested amount of $5. Old Timers Baseball Complex in Shelby Park.

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


Grassy Knoll Movie Nights 7 p.m., second Sunday of every month through October, side lawn, Bongo Java East

Bring your own blanket, relax, and enjoy the show! They’ll be playing our favorite cult classics all summer. Get out and enjoy the summer breeze. Who needs IMAX, anyway? Park it on the grass next to Bongo East instead. It’ll only cost you $5 to watch, or $4 with a canned food donation to Second Harvest. Only $1 for the kiddies. Food trucks and local brews will be on standby, so you won’t go hungry or thirsty. Check Grassy Knoll Movie Nights’ Facebook page for their monthly schedule. 109 South 11th St.

EARFULLS FOR FREE Live On The Green 5-11 p.m., every Thursday through Sept. 12, Public Square Park

We’re seeing green again. Live On The Green is back, and there will be free shows every Thursday through September, ending with a three-day festival Sept. 10-12. The free outdoor concert series has a great lineup this year, with performances from Ben Folds, Passion Pit, and more. Local acts All Them Witches and Turbo Fruits will also take the stage. Check Live On The Green’s website for the full lineup for each week. 408 Second Ave. N.


East Nashville Farmers Market 3:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays, Shelby Park

Stop by the East Side farmers market before the season runs out. Take a detour from your usual trek to Kroger and stop by Shelby Park. They offer the “cream of the crop” in locally grown organic and fresh foods. Peruse the local cheeses, milk, breads, herbs, fruits, vegetables, jams, and jellies. A few merchants even sell handmade goods, such as soaps, candles, pottery, and jewelry. Go out and meet the farmers who grow your food. They also accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits. Grocery shopping has never been this fun — or homegrown. The East Nashville Farmers Market will wind down on Oct. 28.


Trivia Time! 8 p.m., each week, 3 Crow Bar, Edley’s East, Drifter’s, Edgefield, Lipstick Lounge

East Siders, if you’re one of the sharper tools in the shed (or not, it’s no matter to us), stop by one of the East Side locales to test your wits at trivia. They play a few rounds, with different categories for each question.There might even be some prizes for top scoring teams, but remember: Nobody likes a sore loser. Monday at Drifter’s Tuesday at Edley’s BBQ East, Edgefield Sports Bar and Grill, and Lipstick Lounge (7:30 p.m.) Thursday at 3 Crow Bar



M.A.S.S. (Mutual Admiration Society of Songwriters) 7-10 p.m., every other Sunday, Mad Donna’s

Join Mad Donna’s for their night dedicated to all you songwriters out there (which is most of Nashville, right?). The first half of the night is dedicated to a singer/songwriter set, with an open mic at the end of the night. Check out the sweet drink specials, too. 1313 Woodland St.

HIP-HOP AT THE SPOT The Boom Bap 9 p.m., fourth Sunday of every month, The 5 Spot

Once a month, The 5 Spot brings the beats and you bring the moves. Think of it as a hip-hop roundtable. A mess of DJs — resident hosts and guests — spin their favorite tracks, rotating throughout the night. Let their records bring the ruckus to you. This soiree was so popular it’s spread to other cities, but you can catch it where it started here in East Nashville. 1006 Forrest Ave., 615-650-9333

EAST ROOM HAS JOKES Spiffy Squirrel Sundays 6 p.m., Sundays, The East Room

The East Room is making a name for itself in Nashville’s comedy scene in part through Spiffy Squirrel Sundays, started up by The East Room head honcho Ben Jones through NashvilleStandUp.com. Hosted by local comedian Chad Riden, the shows bring in an array of national and local funny guys and gals, and it’s quickly become one of the best places in town for up-and-coming comics to flex their funny bones. If you’re looking for a laugh, check it out. Five bucks gets you in the door. They usually have some music planned for post-laughs, so stick around to see the bands. 2412 Gallatin Ave.


East Nashville’s Musicians Swap Meet 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the first and third Sunday of every month, The Building

If you’re among the sea of musicians and songwriters in Nashville, you might want to drop in on the monthly Musicians Swap Meet at The Building in 5 Points. The musically inclined gather to buy, sell, and trade their gear, and there’s always a smattering of various musical odds and ends: guitars, drums, amps, fiddles, horns — you name it. You’ll also find vinyl, artwork, clothing, and other music-related memorabilia. This folky flea market of sorts is free and open to the public. Stop by, grab a coffee at Bongo Java, grub down at

Drifters, and check out the musical arsenal. The Building will be closing its doors this fall, so stop in for one of their many monthly events before they call it quits. 1008C Woodland St., 615-593-7497


Community Hour at Lockeland Table 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, Lockeland Table

Lockeland Table is cooking up family-friendly afternoons to help you break out of the house or away from that desk for a couple of hours. Throughout the week, they host a community happy hour that includes a special snack and drink menu, as well as a menu just for the kiddies. A portion of all proceeds benefits Lockeland Design Center PTO, so you can feel good about giving back to your neighborhood while schmoozing with your fellow East Nashvillians. 1520 Woodland St., 615-228-4864

HIT THE OPEN ROAD Open Road Monday 8 p.m., Mondays, The Building

The Building’s four-year tradition of “Open Road Monday” rambles on. It’s a weekly show that features one or two different bands every week, promptly followed by an open mic sesh. It’s just a $5 cover and BYOB. Check out some of the budding talent The Building is showcasing over here on the East Side. Visit The Building before they close their doors in November. 1008C Woodland St., 615-262-8899


Keep On Movin’ 10 p.m. until close, Mondays, The 5 Spot

For those looking to hit the dance floor on Monday nights, The 5 Spot’s “Keep on Movin’” dance party is the place to be. This shindig keeps it real with old-school soul, funk, and R&B. Don’t worry, you won’t hear Ke$ha — although you might see her — and you can leave your Apple Bottom jeans at home. If you have two left feet, then snag a seat at the bar. They have two-for-one drink specials, so you can use the money you save on a cover to fill your cup. 1006 Forrest Ave., 615-650-9333


Scott-Ellis School of Irish Dance 4:30-5 p.m., ages 3-6, and 5-5:45 p.m., ages 7 & up, Mondays, Eastwood Christian Church Fellowship Hall You’re never too young — or too old — to kick out the Gaelic jams with some Irish Step dancing. No experience, or partner, required. Just you, some enthusiasm, and a heart of gold will have you dancing in the clover before you can say “leprechaun.” 1601 Eastland Ave., 615-300-4388

JAZZY BOTTOM FOR YOUR BUCK East Nashville Jazz Jam 7-9:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Fat Bottom Brewery

What’s even better than cheap craft beer and a tasty meal? A: Cheap craft beer, a tasty meal, and a jazz jam. Fat Bottom Brewery offers their $10 pint and entrée special accompanied by a jazz jam hosted by local drummer Nicholas Wiles. It’s a chance to meet some other jazz cats and play your poison. Peruse their menu and beer garden and pick a brew; they’ve got plenty of options for the seasoned beer drinker, and they’re always kegging fresh batches and pouring cold ones. 900 Main St.

DRAG B-I-N-G-O WAS HIS NAME-O Drag Bingo 8-11 p.m., Tuesdays, Mad Donna’s

Drop by Mad Donna’s Loft for the rotating cast of Drag Bingo-callin’ queens. Each week, they’ll have prizes for the first to get to B-I-N-G-O, plus drink specials. They’re calling your name — and possibly your number/letter combo. 1313 Woodland St.

NO LAUGH TRACK NEEDED Ultimate Comedy Show by Corporate Juggernaut 8:30 p.m., Tuesdays, The East Room

Local jokesters have taken up residency in The East Room for Corporate Juggernaut, a weekly series of open-mic comedy shows put on by Gary Fletcher, Jane Borden, and Brandon Jazz. Brad Edwards is your host and his backing band is The Grey Grays. You can always expect to see fresh material and new talent. Doors and sign-up are at 8 p.m. Get out and help support Nashville’s growing comedy scene. 2412 Gallatin Ave.


Small Batch Wednesday and Vinyl Night 6-9 p.m., Wednesdays, Fat Bottom Brewery

Fat Bottom has plenty of things happening on Wednesday nights — reason enough to move your own bottom over there. Each Wednesday they have food specials and a small batch brew release. They’re called small batch for a reason, so get there early enough to sip one. They’ll also have special guest DJ’s every week spinning their own vinyl, but you can even bring your own records if you’ve got a special song request. It’s an excellent way to get through hump day. 900 Main St.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM




East Nashville Green Drinks 6-9 p.m., third Wednesday of every month, Village Pub & Beer Garden

Tired of talking sports and gossip every night out? Village Pub has something in mind for the greener East Nashvillian. Once a month, they host an evening for environmentalists to sit down for a drink and discuss ideas for a more sustainable future. Think about it like this: You’ll be saving the planet, one drink at a time. 1308 McGavock Pike, 615-942-5880


Comedy Pug Hugs 7:30 p.m., third Wednesday of every month, Mad Donna’s

Contrary to the name, you won’t see pugs taking the stage with their stand-up routine. You can, however, expect to see a fresh lineup each month full of local and national funny dudes and dudettes. Nashville comedians Paulina Cornbow and Mary Jay Berger host this pugnacious evening. Performers will show off their storytelling, stand-up, sketch, and musical comedy acts. If the $5 price tag and laughs aren’t enough to make your tail wag, a portion of ticket sales will benefit MidSouth Pug Rescue. 1313 Woodland Ave.

ART IS FOR EVERYONE John Cannon Fine Art classes 6-8 p.m., Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m., Saturdays, The Idea Hatchery

If you’ve been filling in coloring-book pages for years, but you’re too intimidated to put actual paint to canvas, it might be time to give it a try. Local artist John Cannon teaches intimate art classes at The Idea Hatchery, and the small class size keeps the sessions low-pressure and allows for some one-on-one instruction. If you’re feeling like you could be the next Matisse with a little guidance, sign yourself up. 1108-C Woodland St., 615-496-1259

WALK, EAT, REPEAT Walk Eat Nashville 1:30-4:30 p.m., Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fridays, 5 Points

What better way to indulge in the plethora of East Nashville eateries than a walking tour through the tastiest stops? Walk Eat Nashville tours stroll through East Nashville, kicking off in 5 Points, with six tasting stops over three hours. You will walk about 1.5 miles, so you’ll burn some of those calories you’re consuming in the process. This tour offers the chance to interact with the people and places crafting Nashville’s culinary scene. You even get a little history lesson along the way, learning about landmarks and lore on the Eastside. Sign up for your tour online.


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015


“Dame’s Day” Happy Hour 6:30-10 p.m., Thursdays, Pomodoro East

It’s ladies’ night and the feeling’s right. Pomodoro East is making a happy hour just for the broads. Gals can grab a Genny Light for $2, bubbly for $3, wine for $4, and well-crafted Hangar 1 cocktails for $5. They’re calling all contessas and queens — go wet your whistle. 701 Porter Rd., 615-873-4978


Palaver Thursday Showcase 9 p.m., Thursdays, fooBAR Too

Looking to hear some fresh new tunes without paying a pretty penny to do it? Head over to fooBAR on Thursday nights — East Nasty-based record label Palaver Records hosts a weekly showcase to promote both local and traveling acts. It gives them a chance to scout performers, bands an opportunity to promote themselves, and music lovers a cheap show to catch during the week (only $5 at the door). You can see an array of different genres from week to week, and the beer always flows easy at foo Too with $3 Yazoo drafts. 2511 Gallatin Rd.


East Nashville Crime Prevention Meeting 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Thursdays, Beyond the Edge

Join your neighbors to talk about crime stats, trends, and various other issues with East Precinct commander David Imhof and head of investigation Lt. Greg Blair. If you are new to the East Side, get up to speed on criminal activity in the area. If you are a recent victim of crime, they want to hear your story. 112 S. 11th St., 615-226-3343


Bluegrass Thursdays with Johnny Campbell & the Bluegrass Drifters 8 p.m. until close, Thursdays, Charlie Bob’s To celebrate your post-Hump Day, head to Charlie Bob’s and bring your axe along. Watch North Second Street’s own Bluegrass Drifters kick things off, then join in on the pickin’ party afterward. Have a burger, buy a few beers, and add a little ’grass to your life. 1330 Dickerson Pike, 615-262-2244



No Shame Theater 8-10 p.m., third Thursday of every month, The Building

Call it an open-mic night of theater. No Shame gives everyone a chance to show out their material in front of a live audience. The only rules are your act must be no more than five minutes long, totes original, and no harm to the audience in the process (physical or emotional, be nice guys). For every installment, 10 slots will be open with sign-ups an hour prior to show time. If you just feel like watching, cough up $8 at the door and BYOB. For you local filmmakers, they also accept digital short submissions. Get out to The Building for this unique no-shame night before they close up shop in November. 1008C Woodland St.

YARNING IS CONTAGIOUS Stitch-n-Bitch 6-8 p.m., Fridays, Nutmeg

We all know the quintessential image of an old woman knitting by the fire — so take that, add a few more stitchers and seamstresses, throw in some wine, and you’ve got yourself a Stitch-nBitch. Bring your supplies, or better yet, buy some there. Get hooked. 1006 Fatherland St. #204


Tim Carroll’s Friday Night Happy Hour 6-8:30, Fridays, 5 Spot

Your local watering hole has rocker Tim Carroll’s band playing their way through happy hour every Friday. It’s a great Spot to grab a beer and hear some tunes to kick off the weekend — drinks are discounted and the music is free. 1006 Forrest Ave., 615-650-9333

SHAKE YOUR FOOBAR Sparkle City 10 p.m., Friday, fooBAR

Foo’s best dance party with their freshest DJs happens every Friday night. Spinmasters David Bermudez and Jonas Stein drop the needle on vinyl all night with the numbers that’ll make you shake what ’yer mama gave you. 2511 Gallatin Rd.

DO THE JITTERBUG Jump Session Swing Dance Classes 8 p.m.to midnight Fridays, DancEast

Grab your partner and swing on over to Jump Session’s swing dance classes at DancEast. They’ll be dipping and hopping all night long

to 1920s-1940s jazz. Put on your zoot suit and give it a twirl. If you’re a newbie, they have a beginner lesson from 8-9 p.m., with the full-on, dance hall party starting after. You can hit the floor for just $7, or $5 if you have a student ID. 805 Woodland St.


Queer Dance Party 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., third Friday of every month, The 5 Spot

On any given month, the QDP is a mixed bag of fashionably clad attendees (some in the occasional costume) dancing till they can’t dance no mo’ at The 5 Spot, which was coincidentally named the second-best place to dance in Nashville. Help pack out the cozy club, shake a leg, slurp down some of the drink specials, and let your true colors show. 1006 Forrest Ave.


Luxury Prestige III and Perfect Timing 7 p.m., third Friday of every month, The East Room

The East Room always has you covered for Friday nights. You’ll be able to get all your giggles and grooves in one spot. At 7 p.m., Luxury Prestige III, a scripted comedy competition where the audience chooses the winner, kicks off the evening. (They were selected Nashville Scene’s 2014 winner for best sketch comedy night.) Each night features live sketch and scripted video competitions for prizes, plus a musical guest. Pay $3 to get your kicks. Starting around 9 p.m. after Luxury Prestige III, it’s East Nashville’s very own comedy game show. Three teams of two compete, with the audience helping judge the winners of each round. Think classic game show with a mix of humor and local tastes intertwined. Sorry, Wayne Brady or Drew Carey will not be hosting. 2412 Gallatin Ave.


Music City Improv 8 p.m., third Friday of every month, The Building

Music City Improv proudly puts on their highenergy show at The Building in East Nashville each month. Every show is different, featuring a healthy mix of short- and long-form improv, plus live and video sketch comedy. Think of it as your own local Saturday Night Live on a Friday night. This gig tends to sell out, so buy your tickets in advance online. 1008C Woodland St.

September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING … First Time Stories 7-10 p.m., first Friday of every month, Actor’s Bridge Studio

We all have our firsts, some better than others. Whether it’s a story about that first prom night

when you weren’t crowned king or queen, your first concert, or maybe that first kiss, these stories are the stuff of the stage. Actors Bridge hosts an open mic night for which such soliloquies are made. They call it “storytelling karaoke,” and they only ask that you tell it straight from the heart in less than five minutes. Bring your first, and it won’t be the last time you make it out. Admission is $5 (bring a few extra bucks for the cash bar). 4304 Charlotte Ave.

TURN THIS ONE OVER Palaver Records Presents at Turn One 9 p.m., Saturdays, Turn One

Palaver Records is casting out its net a little further into the dives of East Nasty. They have their weekly showcase spot at fooBAR and now they’re moving down Gallatin with another evening of music at Turn One. Each Saturday, they will have three bands to get your grooves going. Tip: This haunt is cash only with games galore. Get your shuffleboard on, shoot some pool, or throw darts while you listen to the Palaver lineup. Bring enough dough for the $5 cover and your tab. 3208 Gallatin Pike


East Side Art Stumble 6-10 p.m., second Saturday of every month, multiple East Nashville galleries

We don’t art crawl on the Eastside, we art stumble. Every month, local galleries and studios will open their doors after hours to showcase some of the fabulous work they have gracing their walls. Participating venues stretch across East Nashville —Gallery Luperca, Red Arrow Gallery, Sawtooth Printshop, and Main Street Gallery, to name a few. You can expect to see a diverse, eclectic mix of art, affording the opportunity to meet local artists and support their work. Local retail stores are stumbling in as well, with some businesses participating in a “happy hour” from 5-7 p.m., offering discounted prices on their merchandise to fellow stumblers. Be sure to check out the happy hour deals in The Idea Hatchery.

PARTY FOR A CAUSE LightsOut Events 7:30 p.m., fourth Saturday of every month, The East Room

The East Room is getting a little philanthropic. Every month, the venue hosts a show in partnership with LightsOut Events to benefit selected charities. Four bands perform and proceeds go toward the cause of choice for the month. One of the event’s most notable benefactors is Notes for Notes, which provides musical instruments and lessons to children. (We know how much you love that, Music City.) Come on out, and listen to some local acts for a good cause. 2412 Gallatin Ave.



6:30 p.m., second Monday of each month


THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

EAST SIDE CALENDAR Quarterly meetings are held at Mad Donna’s Locations vary, visit www.lockelandsprings.com for more information.

Shelby Hills

Neighborhood Association 6:30 p.m., third Monday of every odd numbered month, Shelby Community Center 401 S. 20th St. www.shelbyhills.org


Inglewood Neighborhood Association 7 p.m., first Thursday of every month, Isaac Litton Alumni Center 4500 Gallatin Road www.inglewoodrna.org

McFerrin Neighborhood Association

Maxwell Heights Neighborhood Association

6:30 p.m., first Thursday of every month, McFerrin Park Community Center 301 Berry St.

Eastwood Neighbors

6:30 p.m., third Thursday of every month, Memorial Lutheran Church 1211 Riverside Dr.

6 p.m., fourth Monday of every monthMetro Police East Precinct 936 E. Trinity Lane

6:30 p.m., second Tuesday of every month, Eastwood Christian Church 1601 Eastland Ave., Odd Month Happy Hour: Sept. 8, 5:30 p.m. @ Eastland Cafe www.eastwoodneighbors.org

Greenwood Neighborhood Association 6 p.m., second Tuesday of every month, House on the Hill 909 Manila St. www.greenwoodneighbors.org

East Nashville Caucus

5 p.m., first Wednesday of every month, Metro Police East Precinct The East Nashville Caucus provides a public forum for East Nashville community leaders, representatives, council members, and neighbors. 936 E. Trinity Lane

Chamber East

8:15-9:30 a.m., first Wednesday of every month, location changes monthly The Chamber East meets every month for a networking coffee to discuss community updates and how to grow and improve the East Nashville area. www.nashvillechamber.com/calendar


6:30 p.m., second Wednesday of every monthMetro Police Precinct East 936 E. Trinity Lane

Cleveland Park Neighborhood Association

6:30 p.m., second Thursday of every month, Cleveland Park Community Center 610 N. Sixth St, www.facebook.com/groups/ClevelandPark

Rosebank Neighbors


6-8 p.m., second Tuesday of every month, location varies HENMA is a cooperative formed among East Nashville business owners to promote collaboration with neighborhood associations and city government. Check the association’s website to learn about the organization and where meetings will be held each month. www.eastnashville.org

inspire. be inspired

Dickerson Road Merchants Association

4 p.m., last Thursday of every month, Metro Police East Precinct 936 E. Trinity Lane www.dickersonroadmerchants.com

MOMS Club of East Nashville

10 a.m., first Friday of every month, location varies by group MOMS (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club is an international organization of mothers with three branches in the East Nashville area. It provides a support network for mothers to connect with other EN mothers. The meetings are open to all mothers in the designated area. Meetings host speakers, cover regular business items of the organization including upcoming service initiatives and activities, and also allow women to discuss the ins and outs, ups and downs of being a mother. Check their website for the MOMS group in your area. www.momsclubeast.blogspot.com

Friday, October 23: ArtBash Gallery party and art sale open to the public 6:30 -9:30 p.m. $10 per person Saturday, October 24: Great art, POPclectic market, children’s activities, fabulous food 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. University School of Nashville 2000 Edgehill Avenue



9/2/15 12:24 PM

Chuck Mead CONTI N U E D F R O M PAG E 5 0

September 22

INDIGO GIRLS with Kristy Lee

September 25

THE NEIGHBOURHOOD with Bad Suns and Hunny

October 4

BEACH HOUSE with Jessica Pratt

October 13


with Gill Landry from Old Crow Medicine Show

November 12


November 16 and 18


December 6

THE BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA 12th Annual Christmas Rocks! Tour

December 13 and 14


February 27

TOMMY EMMANUEL with Paul Thorn

March 11 and 12


with Chris Smither (Mar 11) and Iris DeMent (Mar 12)


More than come together, though, there were symbiotic convergences. In 1995, the Independent Newspapers Conference was in Nashville, where the scrappy traditionalists played a few songs for the conventioneers at the newly reopening Ryman Auditorium. After the show, the entire crowd, including activist Michael Moore, moved to Robert’s. The buzz was on. A few months later, Billboard’s editor in chief, Timothy White, was in town for Fan Fair. The Mavericks’ Paul Deakin brought him down to the airless, overstuffed bar to check out the band who could seamlessly play classic honky tonk, rockabilly, and swing. White, a longtime Rolling Stone editor, knew good when he heard it. After more than a couple rounds, he announced, “I’m gonna put them on the cover of Billboard.” He did. The bidding war began. But more importantly, the band were committed to their aesthetics. At the time of Brooks & Dunn’s strip mall honky tonk, they insisted on playing their own instruments, keeping the sound authentic and creating a future for music that had been forgotten. Then came the Grammy nominations, tours with Brian Setzer and The Black Crowes, the Late Night with David Letterman appearances. They couldn’t get their retro sound or quirky lyrics — something almost akin to the Ramones on the Louisiana Hayride — on country radio, but the band made an impression. The kind of impression that sticks. Mead, Gary Bennett, Don Herron, “Smilin’” Jay McDowell, and “Hawk” Shaw Wilson started something that was bookended by Greg Garing at Tootsies. RB Morris and Paul Burch were also making the scene. Just like Max’s Kansas City, the hipoisie were coming — from iconoclast videomaker Sherman Halsey to haute cowboy couture designer Manuel. Connie Smith and Marty Stuart also came by. “We knew we were doing something,” Mead says. “There were no bands on our side of the street, just one guy in the window with a guitar. It’s cool. But this was a whole other kind of energy.” The band signed to Artista Records, releasing the covers/original Live From Robert’s as an introduction in April 1996. Then in September of 1996, they went into Castle Recording Studios to make BR5-49, a move that allowed them to play on their recordings. “Back then, labels weren’t so tight-assed,” Oermann says of the fuss around them. “Creative people were still allowed to be on major labels, could still make music without being on the same grid as Alan Jackson.” Ultimately, they would release three albums and two EPs at Arista before parting in the industry downturn of 1999/2000. They then

THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM September | October 2015

signed with Sony’s indie-leaning imprint Lucky Dog, where they released one album. After that, they recorded two albums for Dualtone Records. Like the classic Tareyton cigarette ads, they’d rather fight than switch. Vintage, loud, proud, BR5-49 never lost the reverence for country’s true roots. And when each phase was over, Mead noticed a pattern: each time something had run its course, they’d return to Lower Broad, which had grown increasingly robust. There were bad realignments. There were supergroups. But mostly, it was about playing music and maintaining momentum. “I wanna stay on the same vibe as Doug Sahm,” Mead offers. “I just wanna do what I wanna do and have fun.”


ead became creatively restless. He loved his band — but there were other things. After producing the tributes to Jennings and Cash, he started thinking about solo records. He started wondering about taking his own music on the road. He pondered how to pay the bills. In 2009, he released Journeyman’s Wager, a churning record that feels like Steve Earle with a bit more vintage country. He toured behind it. He also got a call from the noted music historian Colin Escot about a Broadway show he was trying to write about the Million Dollar Quartet that emerged from a spontaneous convergence at a Carl Perkins session at Sun Records, with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Perkins participating in a jam session for the ages. Mead knew nothing about musicals, but he figured he knew the artists and the music. With that, he could figure it out. Shaking his head, he marvels, “I knew nothing, so I just acted like a record producer. Asked a lot of questions and trying to focus on what was being played.” The Million Dollar Quartet was originally staged in Washington state, then Chicago. It currently plays Branson and Las Vegas. Its 2010 Broadway run at the Nederlander Theater earned four Tony nominations, including a win for Levi Kreis, who played Jerry Lee Lewis. The late “Cowboy” Jack Clement was one of the early sit-ins, as was Lesley Gore. Before it was over, everyone from Kathie Lee Gifford to Jerry Lee himself had been part of the show. Given the entire play is eight people including the band, the challenges facing the creators to move story, integrate music, and honor what happened were inherent. The cast had to learn to play the music like they meant it. Mead had to understand the reality of “getting the story across” without losing the energy that made Cash, Lewis, Presley, and Perkins the firebrands of their day.

“It’s a whole different kind of show business, fitting little narratives inside larger narratives,” Mead says. “But at the same time, keeping people invested and being real.” If Meade’s retro romp through Columbia’s legendary Studio B resulted in Back at the Quonset Hut with his Grassy Knoll Boys, a collection of country classics from the likes of Boudleaux Bryant, Charlie Rich, Johnny Paycheck, and Perkins that also features legendary studio players Bob Moore, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Harold Bradley, and a vocal from Bobby Bare, alongside turns at the mic by Old Crow’s Ketch Secor, Jamey Johnson, and Elizabeth Cook. What emerges is a perfect time capsule — or lapse — that pays homage to the kind of country coming out of tube radios in the ’50s and ’60s. But it was last year’s critically acclaimed Free State Serenade where all Mead’s lives converged. Straddling the line between stark roots rock and the timeless hillbilly music he’s known for, the man who’s now considered an influence created a record steeped in stories that unify across the setting of the heartland’s flatlands. “If my first record was the result of songs I was writing to pitch to other artists because of my publishing deal, Free State took what I learned from the theater and all these songs from me growing up in Kansas,” Mead explains. There’s a song about the In Cold Blood murders, another about UFO’s. There are good girls abandoned, but ultimately, a sober-eyed look at fame’s abandonment in “Sittin’ on Top of the Bottom.” Previewed at USA Today and reviewed on NPR, it proved the man across the table is no less formidable than when he was burning down Lower Broadway two decades prior. “It’s amazing to see all that he’s done,” says Scott Robinson, who owns Dualtone Records. “Whether it’s a solo record or a Broadway musical, he’s able to make them work. When he made (BR5-49’s) Tangled in the Pines for us, I thought it was the best BR record they’d made. … The band kept getting better. Who does that? “Maybe it’s because he never compromises for the industry, for the Row,” Robinson continues. “When I think of Chuck, he’s a visionary curator of art. He’s an artist and his palette is huge — whether he’s moving forward or looking back. But he’s also been able to make it work, which so few artists are able to do.” Practicality is part of it. If the big dollar days of a major are behind him, he’s invested in a Mercedes Sprinter, put in bunks, and figured out how to make the road work for him. Taking the music out is part of it. If many of his fans have hit the age where kids at home make going out to see music a rarity instead of a raison d’etre, he’s suddenly found himself as “influence,” often opening for Old Crow Medicine Show as an inspiration for their own archival country. “You have to change and adapt,” he maintains. “It’s the old cliché if you don’t bend, you’ll break. Nobody’s just one thing, but I don’t want to have ‘a job,’ so when I go in, I go all in — sometimes to my detriment. But without a master plan, I’m doing OK.” He smiles when he says this. It’s the kind of smile the smart kid in class gets when he finds the answer to the question nobody’s supposed to have. “There are varying degrees of success — and I don’t mean monetarily or for recognition, but for self-expression. And I do that.” Oermann concurs in a mighty way. “He forged a different musical identity as a solo artist, and that’s something to tip your cap to given how defined the band was,” he says. “Songwriter artists and revivalists in a place where country radio doesn’t go is hard, and he figured out how to do that — twice.

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“When you look back at the roots of Americana, you have to talk about BR5-49,” he continues. “They’re the people who coalesced that identity in a lot of ways. Now there’s a culture that exists around this music, so he’s part of a movement. So Chuck, who follows his heart, now has a niche to start from in making it work.” The second cup of coffee is now gone, the afternoon’s fading away. Back home there’s a dog who needs to go outside, and a trip to pack for. Mead knows in some ways making music is a crazy notion, but he also knows he has no real choice. “To paraphrase George Clinton, ‘move their ass and their mind will follow’ — and it works,” he explains, trying to ground what and why he does. “I get people talking to me about lyrics, because that’s part of my angle of it. If you make them think, they’ll invest in what you’re doing. “If you read, it’s gonna come out; I read to inspire myself. Lots of people think country music is dumb, filled with frivolous clichéd ideas. Well, Willie Nelson isn’t dumb. Hank Williams may’ve been a hillbilly, but he put complex thoughts in very simple terms.” Mead pauses, runs a hands through his hair and looks off. “I think if you can bring all that together in the songs — whether it’s a Broadway play or just what you sing down on Lower Broad — that’s how enlightenment happens.”

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month, so there wasn’t a whole lot of preproduction or thinking about the direction of the album. We just went in the studio and did it, and that’s what it sounds like — raw and unproduced.” Although Worried Man might have fallen short sonically, the quality of his writing and his maturation as a songwriter was plainly evident. Hal Horowitz, writing for American Songwriter, said, “As singer-songwriter first albums go, it’ll be tough to beat this as one of the year’s finest, from a newcomer who is hopefully just tapping into his talent.” In addition to the rave reviews, the album also led to new opportunities for Combs on the road. “I was touring a lot, but I didn’t have a booking agent,” he says. “It was just me and my manager, who was in Chicago, slogging it out. I was mostly booking my own stuff. I am lucky to have a lot of great friends. Caitlin Rose took me out on three tours, two of them in the U.K. that were especially great. Shovels & Rope, Johnny Fritz, and Houndmouth also took me out, and I got to use their bands on the road.” The good press for Worried Man also led to a deal with Razor & Tie Music Publishing. “They called me out of the blue one evening and asked if I’d be interested in signing with them,” Combs says. “I didn’t really know a lot about that world. It took about six-to-eight months of them trying me out with their other writers and them seeing what I was writing on my own. Then it took another five months for the lawyers to pull everything together. Since then, I write just about every day.” By the final months of 2013, Combs was ready to start work on his next album. This time, however, he had a definite sound in mind for the record. “In terms of words, I’m drawn to the Texas guys, but musically, I’m drawn more to the chords and structure of the California folk-country of the early ’70s — J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash — but sometimes their words are a little too wispy for me. I really wanted to blend the two and harken back to that time without the record sounding like a throwback.” • September | October 2015 THEEASTNASHVILLIAN.COM



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The sonic feel of the album wasn’t Combs’ only concern. The songs had to match the feel of the sound he wanted. “I’d like to say the lyrics were all thought out to match the sound, but ‘Month of Bad Habits,’ for example, was written very shortly after Worried Man came out,” he says. “At that point, I wasn’t thinking I’ve got to write this kind of song for this record. But because of the publishing deal, I’d written so many songs that I could pick and choose which ones would make a cohesive unit.” With a definite sound in mind and the right songs in hand, Combs entered the studio with Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson as producers and several of his longtime friends and musical collaborators, including guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, steel guitarist Spencer Cullum Jr., bassist Mike Rinne, and drummer Ian Fitchuk. “I paid for the first six songs that we recorded, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for the next six, so we shopped it around,” he says. “Thirty Tigers was interested in marketing and distributing the album, and my publishing company put up some money to finish it. They both dug what I was doing and didn’t want it to just come out as an EP.” Released in March 2015, All These Dreams was met by a cascade of praise from music critics who extolled the album’s integration of sharp, intelligent songwriting with a lush, sonic tapestry — drawing comparisons to classic recordings from Roy Orbison to Glen Campbell. “The album has exactly the sound I wanted, but the credit for that really goes to Jordan Lehning and Skylar Wilson,” Combs says. “They made it happen. They can do anything, but that Phil Spector-ish, big, lush sound is what they’re really great at. The songs were far more complex than on Worried Man, and they really lent themselves to using strings and more instrumentation.” Although the almost-universal praise All These Dreams has received is a heady experience, Combs hasn’t lost his perspective. “The critic’s love it but that doesn’t mean it’s moving units,” he says with a laugh. “I’m really proud of the album, and this year has been really good. I’ve done a lot of touring, but at this stage of the game it’s not very plush. It’s a lot of hard work and long drives, but we’re having a lot of fun.” Looking ahead to his next record, Combs’ main concern is to keep moving his game forward. “I’m starting to write stuff for the next record,” he says. “I have a general idea of what I want to do, but I don’t want to say what it is because it might change in a week. One of my main goals as an artist is to never make the same record twice. It’s really easy to fall into that trap. I wouldn’t mind spending a little less money on the next record, but that can be really hard when you have a specific vision.” Although Combs may have the courage or simple stubbornness to continue following his vision, that doesn’t mean he’s comfortable being portrayed as any type of “great hope” for the salvation of country music. It’s a role his heroes had little use for and one that he wants no part of, nor does he see any of his contemporaries rising to that exalting position. “We’re all just doing what we know how to do, and people are starting to respond to it,” he says. “I’m not a staunch, old-schoolor-die kind of dude. I think some of that type of thinking can be really regressive instead of progressive. I don’t like a lot of what’s happening on commercial country radio, but I also think there are talented people in the commercial side of things that are just trying to make a living doing what they know how to do. “I’m at a point in my life where searching, seeking, and trying to find out what I’m doing here on this Earth is very important to me. That’s the thinking part of what I’m doing, but I’m also trying to write a simple love song from an angle that hasn’t been done before, and that’s really hard to do.”


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Like father, like son

collect Rolling Stones bootlegs. I have about 50 maybe. They drive my wife crazy — CDs without sleeves, sometimes unlabeled, lying around the house. She doesn’t know what to do with them. I have a six-CD set of outtakes from Their Satanic Majesties Request. It’s unlistenable, but I’m glad I have it. Of the crown jewels of my collection, Brussels Affair is a live set from 1973 that is probably better than any studio record the Stones have ever made. It cements Keith Richards’ reputation as the greatest rhythm guitarist in rock history, all the more impressive considering he was 10 miles higher than anyone else in Brussels when the tape was rolling. (They were the only band on the planet that followed the rhythm guitarist instead of the drummer; hence they were impossible to copy.) Another five-star treasure is known as Hampton 81, a two-DVD set of the entire show from Dec. 18 of that year (Keith’s birthday) in pro-shot video and 24-bit remastered sound. My son and I have been watching that video religiously since he was 8 or 9 years old, half his life ago. He’s been joining me onstage almost that long, sitting in on drums to play “When The Whip Comes Down.” Because if you can’t sing a song about a gay street hustler with your prepubescent son, who can you? So when the Stones came to town this past June, we were going. And no silly thing like me being in an auto accident the week before and stuck in a wheelchair was going to sway our pilgrimage to the altar. We suited up and showed up, my son pushing my wheelchair over every agonizing bump in the parking lot to get there. The wheelchair area, directly across the stadium from the stage, is not huge. But maybe they know something I don’t, since there wasn’t

a backed-up traffic jam of wheelchair-bound rockers muscling their way in. It was quite comfortable actually, or at least as comfortable as you’re going to get with four fractures in your pelvis. I looked at my son’s face as much as I could without getting caught. During Brad Paisley’s set, I was seeing his last moments as somebody who’d never seen the Stones, and then I watched him see Keith Richards start the show with a “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” punch to the gut. Through him, I got to see the Stones for the first time all over again. They were great. Were they Hampton 81 great? Not really. Keith isn’t the rhythmic force he once was, but given how he’s 70, with bulbously gnarled, arthritic fingers and a brain of melba toast, he wasn’t bad. Mick? Forget about it. His performance is an athletic tour-de-force. I’m told he runs a total of six miles in the course of the show — up and down the catwalks, around and around from one lip of the stage across to the other, arms in the air, pointing out to the masses, singing the whole time. I personally wish he’d dance more and run less, but maybe a 70-year-old man doing anything sexually suggestive would be bad on so many levels. Charlie Watts is a rock. He doesn’t follow Keith anymore, he follows Chuck Leavell’s count-offs, and sometimes a click track, siphoning off some of the old magic, but he’s still Charlie Watts. Even Ronnie, always the wild card, brought his A-game. I didn’t share any quibbles with my son. The whole point is really that I now have a son who can tell his kids he saw the Rolling Stones. Pretty soon, other kids won’t have that chance; and click tracks or not, the world is a better place with the Rolling Stones in it than it will be after they’re gone.

—Tommy Womack is a singer-songwriter, author, and longtime member of Government Cheese. Their first album of new material in 23 years, The Late Show, has just been released and is available from govtcheese.com.


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Profile for The East Nashvillian

The East Nashvillian 6.1 Sept-Oct 2015  

3rd Annual Music Issue, Chuck Mead + Andrew Combs (Cover), Julie Christiansen, Peter Hyrka, Reno Bo, Alanna Royale, The Future, Bobby Bare,...

The East Nashvillian 6.1 Sept-Oct 2015  

3rd Annual Music Issue, Chuck Mead + Andrew Combs (Cover), Julie Christiansen, Peter Hyrka, Reno Bo, Alanna Royale, The Future, Bobby Bare,...