Young Americana: Jess Nolan

Young Americana: Jess Nolan

Jess Nolan arrived in Nashville two years ago, amidst the flood of songwriters moving here to both find their voices and be heard. Instead of looking to learn from the great writers that have had their start in Nashville, Nolan was looking primarily to learn from the diverse musicianship in town. Her music aligns most predominantly with classic artists in the soul and R&B genres, thus differing from the majority of Nashville-based acts. However, her differences have earned her an esteemed role in the local scene, and have prompted a focus inward making for songs true to her spirit.

Young Americana: Leah Grams Johnson

Leah Grams Johnson has a tendency to travel off the beaten path. When she moved from Boston to Nashville, she found herself living and working on a large plot of land as a horse trainer in Nolensville. Her desire to create in unorthodox locations led Leah to apply for, and be awarded the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Artist Residency in Taos, New Mexico, which she will attend this coming summer. While appreciating the way songwriting is valued in Nashville, Leah also uses nature and her travels as a primary source of comfort and inspiration for her songwriting. She chatted with us about how working with horses helps externalize her writing process.

Young Americana: Amber Rubarth

AMBER RUBARTH HAS MORE EXPERIENCE ON THE FOLK CIRCUIT, NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, THAN MANY OF HER NASHVILLE PEERS. SHE’S BEEN RELEASING MUSIC SINCE 2005 AND WAS THE WINNER OF MOUNTAIN STAGE’S NEW SONG CONTEST IN 2010 WHICH LED TO THE ALBUM A COMMON CASE OF DISAPPEARING, PRODUCED BY JAQUIRE KING IN 2011.

THE TEAM AT WMOT AND MUSIC CITY ROOTS HAVE BEEN ANTICIPATING RUBARTH’S NEW RECORD SINCE SHE PLAYED THE TITLE TRACK OFF OF IT, WILDFLOWERS IN THE GRAVEYARD, DURING A GUEST APPEARANCE WITH DAVE EGGAR AT MUSIC CITY ROOTS IN 2016. THE WAIT WAS WELL WORTH IT, AS THE RECORD IS BEAUTIFULLY ARRANGED AND PRODUCED, AND THEMATICALLY EPITOMIZES THE FOLK TRADITION. RUBARTH TALKED TO US ABOUT THE PHYSICAL PRESENCE OF WILDFLOWERS IN THE GRAVEYARD IN HER LIFE, AND HOW THAT CAME TO BECOME THE NAME OF THE ALBUM.

Young Americana: Eastland

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM SAYS A NEW BAND SHOULD PLAY LIVE A LOT AND WORK OUT WHO THEY ARE ON STAGE IN SMALL VENUES BEFORE GOING INTO THE STUDIO. EASTLAND FLIPPED THE SCRIPT. A GROUP OF MUSICIANS WHO’D MOSTLY TOURED AND WORKED IN SUPPORT OF OTHERS CAME TOGETHER OVER A SHARED LOVE OF HARMONY DRIVEN 1970S COUNTRY ROCK. THEN THEY FOCUSED ON WRITING, REHEARSING AND RECORDING BEFORE THEY UNVEILED THE PROJECT IN RECENT MONTHS WITH THE SINGLE “OUR TOWN” AND A SERIES OF SHOWS. WE FILMED THIS ACOUSTIC PERFORMANCE OF "FABLES AND FIRE" AT THEIR REHEARSAL SPACE AT CLAIR AUDIO IN EAST NASHVILLE.

Kashena Sampson

Kashena Sampson

KASHENA SAMPSON MOVED TO NASHVILLE WITH A PLAN, AND SPENT THE PAST TWO YEARS SAVING HER MONEY BARTENDING AT THE BASEMENT EAST TO RECORD AND RELEASE HER DEBUT RECORD, WILD HEART. SHE PAID FOR THE STUDIO AND THE BAND IN CASH, WRAPPED IN PAPER THANK YOU NOTES FOR HER RECORDING SESSION AT THE ALL-ANALOG BOMB SHELTER IN EAST NASHVILLE. SHE PLANNED TO MAKE AN EP, BUT STUDIO OWNER AND PRODUCER JOHN ESTES CONVINCED HER TO RECORD 10 TRACKS, ALMOST ALL THE SONGS SHE’D WRITTEN SO FAR. SAMPSON TOLD US WRITING CAN BE A STRUGGLE FOR HER BUT SHE KNOWS WHEN SHE'S ON TO SOMETHING GOOD.

Charley Crockett

Charley Crockett

BETWEEN LABEL PR STRATEGIES AND CROWD-FUNDING CAMPAIGNS, MOST ARTISTS FEEL FORTUNATE TO RELEASE A NEW ALBUM EVERY TWO TO THREE YEARS. BUT THROWBACK COUNTRY AND R&B ARTIST CHARLEY CROCKETT AIMS TO PUT OUT MUSIC AS FAST AS HE CAN WRITE IT OR COLLECT IT, AND HE WORKS QUICKLY. THE LATEST IS A COVERS PROJECT CALLED LIL G.L.’S HONKY TONK JUBILEE, WHICH FOLLOWS 2016’S IN THE NIGHT, WHILE YET ANOTHER ALBUM IS IN THE CAN FOR NEXT YEAR. HE SAYS HE’S JUST TRYING TO FOLLOW THE PRECEDENT SET BY HIS MUSICAL HEROES.

Hugh Masterson

Hugh Masterson

NASHVILLE IS MORE CROWDED THAN EVER WITH NEW AND EMERGING ARTISTS, BUT HUGH MASTERSON HAD A HANDFUL OF FRIENDS HERE TO SHOW HIM AROUND WHEN HE ARRIVED TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO. THE RELATIONSHIPS CAME FROM HIS TIME IN THE WILD BIRDS, TOURING THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST WITH ANOTHER BAND THE LONELY H. SOME OF THOSE MUSICIANS BECAME NIKKI LANE’S BAND AND MOVED TO NASHVILLE FIRST. FOR A PROLIFIC MUSICIAN, HUGH HAS BATTLED STAGE FRIGHT WHEN IT CAME TO PERFORMING HIS OWN ORIGINAL MUSIC AS A FRONT MAN. BUT HAVING HIS BAND’S INSTRUMENTS STOLEN OUT OF A VAN - TWICE - WAS PART OF THE JOLT HE NEEDED TO STEP FORWARD. 

Chastity Brown

AMERICANA MUSIC HAS GAINED A REPUTATION FOR BEING CANDID ITS POLITICAL VIEWS, AND CHASTITY BROWN IS CERTAINLY NO STRANGER TO THAT. CHARACTERIZED BY ACTIVELY SPEAKING AND WRITING ABOUT SOCIAL INEQUALITIES, AND USING THE DEEP UNDERLYING THEMES TO GUIDE HER SONGWRITING, BROWN’S MUSIC OFTEN HAS A HEAVY TINGE OF SADNESS. HER NEW RECORD, SILHOUETTES OF SIRENS, FALLS IN LINE WITH THESE THEMES, BUT PULLS AWAY FROM HER SOUTHERN ROOTS AND MORE PREDOMINANTLY TOWARDS HER NEW HOME IN THE MID-WEST.

Lydia Luce

Lydia Luce

BEFORE EVEN GRADUATING COLLEGE, LYDIA LUCE HAD ACQUIRED AN EXPANSIVE EXPERIENCE IN ALL REALMS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. WITH A MOM THAT SERVES AS A CLASSICAL CONDUCTOR FOR AN ORCHESTRA, LUCE WENT TO A CONSERVATORY FOR A YEAR BEFORE DECIDING TO ATTEND BERKELEY, WHICH RESULTED IN HER PLAYING A FEW GIGS WITH ROD STEWART, WORKING AS A FULL TIME EMPLOYEE AT THE SMITHSONIAN, AND LEAVING THAT JOB TO PURSUE AND EVENTUALLY EARN A MASTER'S DEGREE IN VIOLA PERFORMANCE.

LUCE FOUND HER TRUE CALLING IN SONGWRITING, AND HER HOME IN NASHVILLE WHERE SHE HAS BEEN PLANNING OUT HER DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM, WHILE TRYING TO FIND THE RIGHT PLAYERS AND PRODUCERS TO WORK WITH.

WE CHATTED WITH LUCE ABOUT HER TEACHING A CLASS ON HOW TO ENTER THE REAL WORLD AS A STRING PLAYER, HAVING A 9-5 JOB, AND HER FORTHCOMING DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM.

Zach Schmidt

Zach Schmidt

ZACH SCHMIDT MADE HIS WAY TO NASHVILLE, BY WAY OF PENNSYLVANIA AND A WITH A FEW STOPS ALONG THE WAY. THESE PIT STOPS CULMINATED IN THE RELEASE OF HIS DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM THE DAY WE LOST THE WAR, WHICH CAME OUT LAST FALL AND FEATURED THE 10 BEST SONGS HE HAD WRITTEN UP UNTIL THEN. WE FILMED A VIDEO WITH HIM AT SANTA’S PUB, A KARAOKE, DIVE BAR NEAR THE FAIRGROUNDS, WHERE HE PERFORMS EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT. FROM THE WAY THE BARTENDERS GREETED HIM, IT WAS CLEAR THE HE HAS FOUND A HOME IN NASHVILLE, IN SOMEWHAT OF AN UNLIKELY PLACE, AS SCHMIDT SEEMS TO DO.

SCHMIDT TALKED TO US ABOUT NEEDING A CHANGE FROM SMALL-TOWN PENNSYLVANIA, SINGING ON STAGE WITH JOHN PRINE AT NEWPORT FOLK, AND HIS FIRST NIGHT IN NASHVILLE GOING TO TWO DOLLAR TUESDAY AT THE 5 SPOT.

Charlie Whitten

Charlie Whitten

Charlie Whitten

CHARLIE WHITTEN HAS MADE HIS ROUNDS IN NASHVILLE, AND THE WORLD, AFTER RECENTLY COMING OFF OF A EUROPEAN TOUR PLAYING BASS WITH ANDREW COMBS. WHILE WHITTEN IS KNOWN AND LOVED AS A PLAYER AROUND TOWN, HE’S READY TO GET HIS OWN VOICE AND WORDS OUT THERE. WITH TWO PREVIOUS EPS, HIS NEW EP, PLAYWRIGHT, ISN’T HIS FIRST SOLO RELEASE, BUT IT’S THE FIRST OF HIS OWN THAT HE’S PRODUCED HIMSELF. THE EP HAS DEPTH, BUT ALSO A SENSE OF WHIMSICALITY INTERSPERSED BETWEEN THE DEEPLY THOUGHTFUL AND RESONATING LYRICS. THE DECISION TO RECORD THE SONGS TO TAPE OCCURRED IN A SIMILARLY SPONTANEOUS FASHION WHEN WHITTEN STUMBLED UPON A TWO INCH TAPE AT GOODWILL THAT HE WAS THEN INSPIRED TO USE FOR THE RECORD.

WE SAT DOWN WITH WHITTEN TO TALK ABOUT THE NEW RECORD, HIS UPCOMING TWO WEEK WRITING RETREAT TO NYC, AND SLEEPY TOWNS HE DREAMS OF MOVING TO.

      Reuben Bidez  BEING HUMBLE IN AN INDUSTRY THAT TENDS TO FAVOR EGOISM IS NO EASY FEAT. BUT REUBEN BIDEZ’S OFFSTAGE PERSONALITY IS REFRESHINGLY MODEST IN CONTRAST TO THE POWER THAT HIS MUSIC EXUDES.  BIDEZ MOVED TO NASHVILLE FROM ATLANTA A FEW YEARS BACK, BUT HIS MUSIC DRAWS FROM ELEMENTS THAT CAN’T QUITE BE ATTRIBUTED TO ANY ONE REGION. HIS MOST RECENT EP, TURNING TO WINE, DRAWS ON AN INTENSE VULNERABILITY AND EXPOSED EMOTIONS, WHILE HIS SINGLE “TOO MANY ALARMS” HAS A MORE LIGHTHEARTED FEEL THAT HE SAYS TENDS TO LEAVE LISTENERS WITH THEIR OWN UNIQUE INTERPRETATION. WE RECORDED THIS VIDEO ON THE DAY OF REUBEN'S BONNAROO PERFORMANCE, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE RELEASE OF THIS SINGLE, "TOO MANY ALARMS". WE SAT DOWN WITH REUBEN TO TALK ABOUT COUNTRY MUSIC, MUSIC FESTIVALS, AND THE NOSTALGIA HIS MUSIC TENDS TO PROVOKE.         </iframe>" data-provider-name="YouTube"                 So what have you been up to?   I’ve been out on the road for the past week. I played some shows in Charlotte, NC and Washington D.C. and New York City. This whole tour was kind of an excuse to go hang out at Newport Folk Festival, so I spent three days in Newport and had an amazing time. The shows were great, too. In New York we had like 70 people come out and it was a cool little hotel that we did the show at - kinda a nonconventional show, but everybody’s so attentive and it was a lot of fun. Newport was really great. I got to see the legendary John Prine do his thing. Roger Waters came out and played a song with him. It just really felt like a big family reunion. A ton of my friends were there playing and hanging out and so we had a grand ole time. A lot of late night jamming around the fireplace. It was actually cold enough that we could have a fire. One day I was so cold - I didn’t pack a jacket because it was like 100 degrees in Nashville when I left - and a cold front came through so it was like in the low 60s and all I had on was a short sleeve shirt. So I was going to buy a Newport hoodie but they were all sold out of hoodies. I guess a lot of people had the same idea I did. So I started poking around vendors and I found a lady that sold Mexican blankets. Best 20 bucks I spent all weekend was a Mexican blanket that I wore like a poncho the rest of the day. But it did the trick though!   You’ll probably use it more than the hoodie after the fact.   That was kind of my thought. Definitely a better story.   Can you tell us a bit about the single we did the video for and the experience of playing Bonnaroo [where we filmed the video]?   The single we put out, it’s called “Too Many Alarms”. We just did it as a stand alone single. It’s a song I actually recorded with my bass player Wyatt Funderburk and we recorded it together as well. It’s been a cool song to play live and also people really grab hold to it in different ways. It’s funny, people say it means things to them that when I wrote it, it didn’t mean that to me, so it’s really cool to see this song take shape in different people’s lives and kind of mold itself into maybe what they needed to hear. We debuted it the day before Bonnaroo. Americana Songwriter put it out on Thursday, it came out Friday, then we played Bonnaroo on Saturday. PLaying Bonnaroo was a huge honor and it was a lot of fun. It’s such a big event that it’s hard to take in the magnitude of how many people are there. It’s a good thing I didn’t think about how many people were there or it probably would have freaked me out. What if they just started stampeding and crushed me? [laughs] This is probably a form of claustrophobia that I probably have. I don’t know; this is really weird.  The performance was a lot of fun and we had my friend Claire Indie Nunn, who has played cello for me over the past few years. We had her come and play cello on the song “Intruder” that’s on the EP I put out last year called Turning to Wine. So we really pulled out all the stops. And I mean, the shows were great, top notch. I felt really honored to play the same place that all these folks were playing. Hopefully we’ll do it again.   The new single is a stand alone, but you just put out the EP this past Fall?   That was September of this past year, so we’re actually coming up on a year, which is crazy, but it’s still new to a lot of people so it’s still got some legs on it.   I feel like the new song has more of the traditional country country elements and some of that Texas sound, and the EP has bit more pop elements. Are you planning on moving in the one direction or are you just kinda trying new things right now?   I think for me it definitely has some traditional country elements to it and I think for me, I can see myself go in that direction. But I’m also the kind of person not wanting to get bogged down in one genre. I also think the sound of the EP versus the single “Too Many Alarms” has a lot to do with who produced it. When you work with the producer you kinda let them mold the sound a little bit. Funny you should ask about Texas and stuff, I’m actually going to Texas next week to record some songs out in Dallas. Not everybody knows about this yet but I’m going to record some new songs. Some guys in the Texas Gentleman are going to play on the record, or EP, I don’t even know what it is yet, but it’s going to be a few songs. My buddy, Jeff Saenz who runs Modern Electric Studios in Dallas is going to produce it for me. The thought behind it for me was - let’s put Reuben in a different environment and see what comes out. There’s probably going to be a little bit of like rockabilly kind of vibe to it. I always say that my definition of country music and my music is like when you say George Harrison played country music. He’s not your traditional country artist at all, but he definitely had some country influence and country vibe to it. And I can’t deny that maybe Nashville has rubbed off on me a little bit.      Hayley [Reuben’s wife] had said something to me that I thought was funny - that it’s always older people that tend to like your music. Do you have anything to say about that?   Yeah, I’ve noticed that and it’s like the more mature listeners tend to like my sound, although I do have some young fans, although they probably have old souls. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain it, but I definitely feel like I’m cut from old cloth if that makes sense. I feel like I’ve always been drawn to older music and I also have older parents so maybe that has something to do with it too. I think maybe for the older folks that like my music, it might just be that they like what they hear and maybe it’s reminiscent of something. Maybe there’s a little bit of nostalgia happening and I don’t mind that at all. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you like my music. [laughs] That was the Backstreet Boys I just quoted, by the way.   It was? It sounded so genuine!   Well when you say it with inflection it’s suddenly not so cheesy.   You’re playing AmericanaFest coming up? What kind of showcases are they?   I’m actually playing Wednesday, September 13th 10pm at ACME Feed and Seed on Broadway. I’ve never played on Broadway before so this is actually the first time. They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway [laughs]. It’s a cool venue. One of these days I need to play Robert’s Western World. Robert’s is the most traditional...So yeah, we’ll be at ACME and I’m bringing the whole band. I’ve got some other Nashville shows coming up. You can check out my  website  and they’re all listed there.

Reuben Bidez

BEING HUMBLE IN AN INDUSTRY THAT TENDS TO FAVOR EGOISM IS NO EASY FEAT. BUT REUBEN BIDEZ’S OFFSTAGE PERSONALITY IS REFRESHINGLY MODEST IN CONTRAST TO THE POWER THAT HIS MUSIC EXUDES.

BIDEZ MOVED TO NASHVILLE FROM ATLANTA A FEW YEARS BACK, BUT HIS MUSIC DRAWS FROM ELEMENTS THAT CAN’T QUITE BE ATTRIBUTED TO ANY ONE REGION. HIS MOST RECENT EP, TURNING TO WINE, DRAWS ON AN INTENSE VULNERABILITY AND EXPOSED EMOTIONS, WHILE HIS SINGLE “TOO MANY ALARMS” HAS A MORE LIGHTHEARTED FEEL THAT HE SAYS TENDS TO LEAVE LISTENERS WITH THEIR OWN UNIQUE INTERPRETATION. WE RECORDED THIS VIDEO ON THE DAY OF REUBEN'S BONNAROO PERFORMANCE, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE RELEASE OF THIS SINGLE, "TOO MANY ALARMS". WE SAT DOWN WITH REUBEN TO TALK ABOUT COUNTRY MUSIC, MUSIC FESTIVALS, AND THE NOSTALGIA HIS MUSIC TENDS TO PROVOKE.