Archives for category: Music Row

Friday night, Due West will hit the stage of The Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Due West is built like a brick house from the ground up, all three, Tim Gates, Brad Hull and Matt Lopez are accomplished musicians, songwriters, vocalists and performers.

 Due West have been paying their dues over the last few years, from playing on three stools in an intimate venue to rocking some of the biggest stages between Nashville and the Rocky Mountain West.

all photos courtesy Black River Entertainment

Currently, their single, “Things You Can’t Do In A Car” is #43 on the Mediabase charts.

 For Due West, it looks like the time is now.

 You could start with songwriting skills that quickly earned all three Publishing deals and help define their fresh, unique sound. You could start with Producer Garth Fundis, whose credits include Keith Whitley, Don Williams, Trisha Yearwood and Sugarland. Anyone who has heard them sing will tell you that the place to start with Due West is with their vocals, collectively a three-lane road to magic.

 It happened the first time they ever sang together when old friends Matt Lopez and Brad Hull met Tim Gates at a party. The three started harmonizing and the other attendees—Music Row stars, newcomers, and friends—kept asking how long they’d been a group. It’s been happening ever since as they’ve toured the country, visiting radio stations and playing for appreciative audiences along the way.

 “We’ve been told that when we sing harmony, it’s something special, “says Brad, “and we’ve learned to believe it.”

Tim Gates

“It just seems like anytime we play live,” adds Tim, “we usually end up with some long-term fans.”

 That phenomenon is about to get much bigger as Due West puts the finishing touches on new material, being released on Black River Entertainment in 2012, that is already garnering industry buzz.

 “The energy is definitely there,” says Matt. “We’re at a new label with new music. This is all about new beginnings.” They’re especially excited about the chance to work with legendary producer Garth Fundis and engineers Chad Carlson and Chuck Ainlay. Carlson and Ainlay engineered all of Taylor Swift’s work and some of Ainlay’s most recent credits include producing and engineering Miranda Lambert’s Four The Record and engineering Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee.

 Producer Garth Fundis says of the time spent in the studio, “This is one of the most fun and creative musical experiences I’ve had in a recording studio,” he says. “And we’ve only just begun.”

 The Nashville Bridge caught up with Due West just a few days before their turn on the Grand Ole Opry Stage to find out a few things about the Nashville tri-powered roof raisers!

 What should we know about Due West?

Matt Lopez

Matt: Due West is a vocal trio.

Tim: We love what we do, and have a good time doing it.

Brad:  Due West is a group of 3 guys who came from 3 different small towns in the Western U.S., but met in Nashville and became instant brothers from a musical standpoint.  We LOVE vocal harmony and we’ve talked about how amazing it is that when we “lock in” on a chord, we can not only hear it but we can feel it… We hope that the harmony we sing will pay homage to the great vocal groups of the past and pave a way for harmony to be a part of the future of country music.

Favorite concert stop so far? What happened?

Matt: The Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City was my favorite so far. It was a large super-energetic crowd, and a nice big stage to run around on!

Tim:  “The Crystal Palace” (The home of Buck Owens) in Bakersfield California.  Not only was it our first time playing there, but it was our first full band show this year after a long run of radio visits. It was a huge honor to play on that stage. 

Brad Hull

Brad:  We recently played a promotional show at a Kentucky Ford dealership in front of a few hundred radio station listeners.  The promotion would be giving away a 1 year truck lease to the grand prize winner and we were there to play our song “Things You Can’t Do In a Car” from the beds of 3 brand new pick-ups as the entertainment part of the promotion.  The gig was fun, but the coolest moment was when an unsuspecting crowd member won the grand prize.  Something in her eyes seemed to let us know how much of a blessing this prize was to her and how much it was needed in her life.  Obviously, I think anybody wouldn’t mind winning something like that, but we could tell that this was more special than that.  I looked at Matt and Tim as the M.C. called this woman’s name and there couldn’t have been 2 bigger smiles in the whole place!  I looked over at our tour manager and he had big tears in his eyes.  It’s cool to see our music change people’s lives, even if it’s indirectly, that’s the reward.

Biggest musical influences?

Matt: The Beatles, Diamond Rio & Boyz II Men

Tim:  Keith Whitley, Steve Wariner, George Strait and Randy Travis

Brad:  My musical influences span over a few different genres and really come from any musical experience that moves me, but I would say that George Strait and Brian McKnight would be two artists that I’ve really latched onto and drawn influence from. 

If you could only pick three albums out of your collection, what would they be?

Matt: James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Michael Jackson – History, Mark Nesler – I’m Just That Way

Tim: Bellamy Brothers – Rebels Without A Clue/ Steve Wariner- Life’s Highway/ Keith Whitley- Don’t Close Your Eyes

Brad:  George Strait – #7, Brad Paisley – Part Two, Dierks Bentley – Modern Day Drifter

Which guitar or piece of gear you can’t live without?

Matt: My Larivee D10-E acoustic guitar.

Tim: Definitely my iPhone.   

Brad:  A good tuner.  I can’t STAND to listen to out-of-tune guitars!  I think that makes me a little paranoid and keeps me tuning constantly.

Favorite song you have written so far?

Matt: “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You” – recorded by Lady Antebellum.

Tim: “Day Over Beautiful”- its a song that I wrote about my wife. 

Brad:  “So Long, My Friend.”  It may never be heard by the masses but I can never play that song without feeling the emotion I felt when I wrote it, I think because it came from a true, personal place.

Favorite place to eat in Nashville?

Matt: Chuy’s Mexican restaurant.

Tim:  Sushiyobi

Brad:  Sushiyobi.  Matt and Tim told me for YEARS that I would love sushi if I’d just try it, but it was my wife who finally got me to try it.  Of all the sushi restaurants I’ve been to across the U.S., Sushiyobi here in Nashville is still my fave!

What are your thoughts about playing the Grand Ole Opry for the first time?

Matt: Because it’s such an amazing honor and privilege, I’m trying to play it way down in my head; so that I don’t get freaked out and keel over dead on the stage!

Tim:  Just like my first kiss, or the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car, I get butterflies.    It’s gonna be a great experience!! 

Brad:  It is a dream come true for me.  I love the history and tradition of the Opry and I honor that.  I can’t wait to step inside of the “circle” and soak in that moment.  I have a lot of friends from my home town in Arizona who, without me even saying what a big deal it is, knew instantly that the opportunity to play the Opry is a HUGE deal!  They will all be there on Friday night to cheer us on.  I cannot wait!

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

David Andersen photo-davidandersenmusic.com

While the Honky Tonks beckon tourists from all over the world, there are two ambassadors that get right at eye level and can play with skill, discuss and share the heritage of Nashville. That is David Andersen in the lobby of The Country Music Hall of Fame, whose recordings are available in the gift shop and “ Mandolin Mike” Slusser with his weathered mandolin usually somewhere near Gruhn Guitars down on Lower Broad.

Both are top quality musicians. Both tell the story of Nashville through their playing, their interaction and approachability.

“Mandolin Mike” Slusser photo- Brad Hardisty

The difference is Mike is no longer allowed to sell CD’s out of his guitar case when he plays. Never mind the fact that the bands that play in the Honky Tonks, who also play for tips, sell their CD’s at the foot of the stage in the same manner.

Slowly but surely, the true Street Musicians have almost disappeared.  

Just four years ago, prior to the recession, a musician could survive on tips while connecting with tourists, other local musicians and figure out how to make it in Nashville.

Townes Van Zandt once commented that he made more money playing for tips on Lower Broad than gigging around town.

J D Simo at Robert’s photo- Collings Guitars

In the last few years, J D Simo did some street gigging before landing a spot with the Don Kelley Band at Robert’s. J.D. has gained notoriety for some great guitar playing and is now seen in ads for Collings Guitars in guitar magazines.

Years ago, Lower Broad attracted tourists because that is where the hit songwriters and musicians hung out. Lower Broad has continued to develop as a tourist playground while the street ambassadors, The Nashville Street Musicians are dwindling and getting no support from City Hall.

The ability to make it as a street musician has been severely affected by The Contributor vendors (not to put down a unique effort), the economic downturn and the fact that more and more tourists and locals do not carry cash.

There has to be a way to support and develop a healthy community of street musicians.

It is possible to develop a hybrid vendor license similar to the system used in Memphis on Beale Street.

“Mandolin Mike” Slusser with tourists Andrew and Rachel Downs from Birmingham, AL – photo – Brad Hardisty

It could be quite simple either by utilizing the downtown ambassadors or a non-profit street musicians union that collects license fees either monthly or yearly for specific locations. The fee needs to be low, as an example maybe $75 per year since musicians earn about 1/3 of what they used to.

The musician or group would receive a license that could be worn like a badge with a strap like a trade show or be displayed in the guitar or instrument case and be assigned to a specific spot like Beale Street in Memphis. A committee could get the spots cleared with the approval of local businesses where they would not be blocking any doors or foot traffic.

There could also be a few spots for weekenders that would need to stop in and get a weekend license and claim the spot.

This would stop random musicians from showing up and creating a nuisance without understanding local ordinances.  Musicians would also need to audition to show some sort of musical viability that honors the traditions of Nashville or shows strong performance, songwriting or playing ability.

I feel this could actually help to build on a great Nashville tradition without throwing musicians into the same category as panhandlers and vagrants.

My 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian, Soldano cabinet and Custom handmade early Samamp 45 watt all tube head made in Birmingham, Alabama by Sam Timberlake.

When I first came to Nashville, I got out on the block for fun, usually playing in front of Lawrence Record Shop, because, I wanted the experience and it was a way to develop chops and make a little money. One of my personal high points was when Little Jimmy Dickens stood and watched me play my 1936 Gibson Electric Hawaiian (that I purchased at Gruhn Guitars in 2007)through a little Roland Street amp and after about ten minutes, threw a $20 bill in the case and said, smiling,”Keep it up.”

Tristan Dunn at Cash Wall, sometime street musician, sit in with local bands. photo – Brad Hardisty

Their needs to be an advocate for the street musicians, true musicians that bring music up close and can discuss what it is all about with tourists and locals. It could be a benefit to downtown Nashville in the Lower Broad Entertainment District.

While Homeless Photographers and Writers are able to develop talents and abilities through The Contributor, homeless musicians and true troubadours are made to feel unwelcome and have all but disappeared.

Somebody start the discussion! We need to make it possible for musicians to be safe and able to ply their trade, making tips, selling CD’s, photos and buttons (making available, not verbally asking to buy) in the Lower Broad District. It can be tough surviving as a musician even with talent and ability.

It would be simple to kick out random wanderers if we had a vendor’s badge system and there were assigned areas along the route. Police would not have to make it rough for everybody, only those operating outside the guidelines.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Eclectic Singer/Songwriter, Brent Byrd is hitting Nashville for some serious showcases and good times.

Brent Byrd – Photo courtesy Morning Sock Studios

30 second Bio?

 I was born, didn’t start living until 12…when I got my first guitar, started a horrible band, had no money, joined the army, got out of the army, started a not so bad band and began this long, long journey of becoming a full time musician. I’ve lived and played music all over the US from San Diego to Miami and have performed with many great artists some of which have long forgotten about me and some of which I have long forgotten about, I live in St. Augustine Florida but very rarely and I still have no money!  Ahhh, the life of a musician.
 
What have you been up to lately?

 Well, lately I spend most of the time cruising my RV from town to town playing music. I just finished up my 2nd solo CD “ Evolution Of The Free” and just trying to get it heard by as many    people as possible. So yeah, lately my eyes have just been glued to the pavement!
 
Why Nashville?

 I’ve never been much of a follower and there are tons of really good musicians that head to Nashville with the hopes and dreams of being a full time musician.  I’ve been building a good fan base throughout the Southeast and Midwest over the past 2 years and I’ve kind of avoided Nashville because of that reason but I think it was inevitable. I mean, it is ” Music City” so of course I finally had to throw myself right in the fire and I love it. The vibe, the scene, the musicians, the food, not so much the heat but being around all these musicians just makes me strive to be a better musician. (note- Brent, it is not usually this hot, but, the humidity is good for your guitar and makes for fluid playing and good vocal chords! Ha!- The Nashville sound!)

Found any good food or venues you like to hang at?

The National Underground has given me the opportunity to play there every Thursday through Sept. so I have been hanging out there quite a bit.  They have great burgers and the staff is very cool but I’ve been walking around Broadway going into anywhere that has music, which of course is almost everywhere. I also really like Jacks BBQ and Crema is a cool place to hang out.  I am in search of a great sushi place although I am on a pretty tight budget so PBR’s have become a staple lately.
 

Brent Byrd – Photo courtesy Morning Sock Studios

What should we know about your music?

It’s folk infused rock with a dash of reggae served with a side of southern jam…music that is! I write about real things, my life experiences, my views and mainly I want people to stop and think about life and how we live it. 
 
Favorite gear?

 Well, I recently just purchased a new Boss RC-300 loop pedal which has really enabled me to take my show to a new level. I have been using loops with my performances for the past 3 years but with this new one I can add multiple instruments and control them individually. I tour with a Martin acoustic but I have a Gibson J-200 which by far is my favorite…I just can’t leave her sitting in the RV so she stays home but I did give her a cell phone so we can still talk.
 
Any favorite local songwriters or artists?

 I’ve been really trying to network with some local artists and experience Nashville to the fullest.  I really like Tim Boucher, he is currently touring but I have performed with him at The National Underground and just enjoy his music and talent. I actually grew up with Joshua Jones from Steel Magnolias but I haven’t reconnected with him yet, but we are from the same hometown and he always wanted to play my Gibson at open mic nights…which of course I let him but watch him like a hawk.
 
What would you tell others that would be helpful about coming to Nashville? Preparation?

Watch other bands, get to your show early and support the musicians playing before and after you, don’t show up 2 minutes before your gig and leave right after your gig, thank the sound tech and staff and play your ass off…how’s that!

Upcoming gigs?

I will be performing at The National Underground every Thursday at 7pm in August and September 2012 as well as at Two Old Hippies on Wed. Sept 12th, 2012 at 6 pm.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

 Nashville band, The August, are winners of The Greenbrier Resort’s first annual “Got Country Class” music competition resulting in a $5000 cash prize and the band opening for Toby Keith and Lionel Richie on July 4th at the Greenbrier Classic, a nationally recognized PGA Tournament held in West Virginia at the State Fairgrounds. 

 The event was hosted on April 26th-28th at the esteemed Greenbrier Country Club known as “America’s Resort” which has been welcoming guests since 1778.

Now this is what I am talking about!  They say that cream always rises to the top and Jacky Dustin and the boys know how to put on a show!

 Hundreds of contestants entered this month long contest and the final 30 were invited to the Resort to perform and be judged in front of five prominent music industry veterans including: 6 time Grammy winner Bill Miller, George Thorogood Manager, Michael Donohue and seasoned music industry visionary Charlie Lico. 

 The contest was divided into three rounds and each artist or band had 3 minutes to play one song (8 minutes in the final round) followed by feedback from the judges, similar to the American Idol format. 

 The August solidified their victory in the final round from a competitive field, which included another Nashville artist Katie Admire, by performing an original country ballad called “Outside” about the trials of leaving home to go to a new city in search of their dreams (a sentiment plenty of Nashville can relate to) and then followed by a “funk-country” version of “Me and Bobby McGhee” where The August received the only standing ovation of the night. If you have been able to catch The August with Jacky Dustin on vocals at Douglas Corner Café, y’all should know this one. 

 The August is an Americana/Country Rock band formed in 2006 originally from Chicago, IL but relocated to Nashville in 2009 to further entrench themselves in their musical careers. Their next show in Nashville will be on Friday May 11th at Douglas Corner Cafe.  

DISCOGRAPHY: 

Thistle, Sparrow and the Tall, Tall Grass (2006)

The Uptown Sessions (2009)

Dear Chicago, Love Nashville (2011)

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

 

Shakedown at The Majestic

Brooklyn, New York’s Shakedown at The Majestic (SATM) heard about Liahonaroo  and decided to take a shot at performing their first show in the South.

Liahonaroo will take place April 20-21 at The Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon.

Shantell Ogden

The event was organized by a group of Mormon musicians and music lovers, not as an event to preach, but a family-friendly drug and alcohol free music festival.

Shantell Ogden, event organizer believes it will resonate with all Christians regardless of denomination.

“I have a friend in a punk band that plays clubs regularly, and because of the environment and age restrictions his daughter hasn’t been able to see him perform,” she said.

The name, Liahonaroo, is inspired by a compass called the Liahona that a Book of Mormon prophet Lehi used to lead his family through the wilderness, ‘roo’ has become synonomous with ‘music festival.’

SATM, a Sugar Ray meets Peter & Gordon retro Sixties mix, decided to make the submission and made it into the lineup to make their first appearance in the South.

As Taylor Mintz, percussionist of SATM, puts it, “We’ve got a little bit of the old harmony like The Beatles, The Zombies and The Beach Boys. We are like a band from Long Island that went out to California, learned how to surf and then made a record.”

The group is getting ready to release their sophomore effort in a couple of months.

“Run For Your Life,” “Idiot or Liar” and especially “Recipe of Life” are songs that are really getting the crowds going in New York at places like Sullivan Hall and DC Lounge. These songs will be on the new release.

Aaron Kupferberg, Powerpopaholic.com says about SATM, “We get catchy, danceable, stick-in-you-head songs courtesy of this energetic unsigned Brooklyn band.  The harmonies and minor chord shifts on “ Bria” are sweet and compare well to Weezer.”

Acklen Park - photo - Melody Hood

SATM joins an eclectic Liahoanroo lineup that includes Music Row chart toppers, Acklen Park, a duo experiencing success with their recent country radio hit, “Great American Song,” positioned to be one of the country rock summer anthems this year.

Kelcy Lee

Also performing in the nearly 30 acts is country band HWY 52 and singer/songwriters, Kaitlyn Cannon, Kelcy Lee, Kimberly Knighton and Joseph Barrios. For a full line up go to the Liahonaroo website and Facebook pages.

Joseph Barrios - photo - Kaht

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Strange Karma on Nashville set - Fade to Black

Monday Night saw Nashville State Community College’s PEG Studio rocking the campus with Aussie’s Strange Karma on a stopover between live dates in Chicago and Detroit before heading to the West Coast.

To be featured on an upcoming episode of Local TV Show Fade To Black, Strange Karma performed four numbers with hints of classic hard rock such as Led Zeppelin to Aussie style heavy Midnight Oil Rhythms of “America”, this is the first Nashville will get to see of Strange Karma live as well as an interview with show host, Steve Lockett and yours truly.

Jason McDonald - Strange Karma

Jason McDonald sat behind a DW double bass kit reminiscent of Cozy Powell, laying down solid percussion, wearing his DW sponsorship proudly with a full tattoo on his arm of the drum kit. Jason was playing in Australian Van Halen and Led Zeppelin tribute bands before hooking up with brothers Martin and Paul Strange.

Paul, was running his 58’ Classic Ebony Black Les Paul almost straight into the Marshall JCM800 half stack, employing just a couple of pedals, leaving a dense analog wall of sound, with nods to Jimmy Page as well as Paul Kossoff.

Martin & Paul Strange

Brother, Martin Strange fronted the band with a Jim Morrison presence and a little Robert Plant thrown in for good measure. These references may be a little over the top, but, in actual fact this is original Hard Rock with all the grit and none of the digital high end squelch ring of busy activity associated with so much computer processed ADD Ear Candy in today’s metal.

Bassist, Doe Prijono, of Indonesian descent who arrived in Australia in his youth, provides not only six string bass prowess, but, acts as the guy that everybody likes in the band. Everybody wants to hang with Doe, with a demeanor as smooth as a mountain lake and matching musical depth, the four members of Strange Karma spur each other on to higher climes.

Local band, Scarey Larry, had finished a TV taping of their episode of Fade To Black just prior and decided to hang for the Aussie’s set. It has to be said, every time I get the chance to hang with Aussies, the more I want to visit Australia. It may be that they are the only people on par for friendliness with Southerners. The only difference is they still have that daredevil west coast attitude as well.

Australians like to conquer the world and Strange Karma is willing to do it one American fan at a time.  Although their music is rooted in solid hard rock roots, it is their own thing with enough in the mix not to be associated with just one of the branches in the tree.

Dutch, Steve, Paul, Nashville South, Doe, Jason, Martin, Nashville North on Lower Broad

With just a short time between dates up north then on to two Texas shows, 11/24 & 11/25 before headlining a gig at The Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood on November 30th, Strange Karma wanted to make the most of their night in Nashville by celebrating Doe’s Birthday down on Lower Broad, cruising through Legend’s Corner, Roberts, where Eric Clapton found five vintage Stratocasters and built “Blackie” out of three of them when it was partly known as Sho-Bud Guitars, as well as The Stage before ending up at Full Moon Saloon where Megan Ellis just blew away the whole band doing everything from Patsy Cline to Stevie Nicks. The band was immovable till it was time to go crash before heading to Memphis to visit Graceland then head southwest to Austin, Texas.

Strange Karma plans on making a return visit to Nashville in the near future, especially with plans for a new album in the coming year, the current FnA Records release, Volume One is available now and the Fade To Black episode will be aired soon on NECAT Channel 19 in Davidson County and probably YouTube on a computer near you.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Johnny Cash Memorial Wall August 2011

When a new sewer main was replaced just a couple of blocks from The Country Music Hall of Fame, a landmark was almost completely obliterated.  Street art at its finest, the Johnny Cash Memorial by Rex2, Pako, Audroc and Scar at 4th Ave. South and Molloy, was somewhere one could take relatives and tourists just a few blocks off Lower Broad and watch faces light up as they wanted to get their picture taken in front of the mural.

Johnny Cash Memorial Wall 2004

The Johnny Cash Memorial Wall was an oasis among the fading old glory of the original downtown. Day after day, I watched TDOT as they jack-hammered and imploded the road just a couple of feet from one of my favorite spaces. The wall became covered with debris as the street was dug up like somebody’s backyard getting ready for an Olympic size pool.

The words “Manifested Thoughts” and approaching trains all but gone.

Cash detail before damage

Couldn’t somebody have thought of putting a canvas up on the side of that building?  With all of the blasting shrapnel, eventually all that has been left is parts of the name CASH.  The train murals and phrases all but gone.

Pre-destruction," Andy Warhol style" Cash Multi-prints

Okay, it was street art.  Street art is part of Nashville. There are other more recent murals as well as the old painted logos of businesses of days gone by. These are things that people look for. A remnant of the past is part of what Nashville and Country music is all about. This was a great work of art.  It was an outdoor Andy Warhol/Banksy-“Mona Lisa” of the most recent member of the Sun Records Million Dollar Quartet.

Really, how could anybody do that? This is a meaningless travesty of justice and politics.

Tristan Dunn – 2010 at the Cash wallBrad Hardisty, Cash Wall 2010Hank Williams new appearance on the wall
Brad Hardisty, Cash Wall 2010

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Heavy in mood and lyric, René Breton by all accounts was meant to be a pseudonym for Ryan Hurtgen and Tobin Sio’s current project in order to free up lyrical ideas and explore free form  poetry that took the band in a whole new direction. Now René Breton is an album, a book and a band.

Asleep in Green, Fifth Ace Records LLC, is as much sharing of how Iridium was discovered to Botswana folk tales and answering the big “why am I here?” type questions.

“I often feel like this Thing that is a huge waste of time, asking questions with no answers, wondering how I fit into the universe.”- (Asleep in Green, Page 2)

The book acts as a framework while listening to the music. Each chapter covering the song topic in what may be a cross between Allen Ginsburg and a college guide to advanced philosophy. This was the brainchild of Ryan Hurtgen’s muse in all things art, from words to drawings to arrangements.

Ryan Hurtgen / Photo- Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

Tobin Sio, who has worked with Ryan for several years as percussionist, engineer and studio gear head, makes for great team work. The collaboration between recording, printing, and publishing a dynamic original score took the team to a new level when Nicole Taher discovered their work and the three formed Fifth Ace Records.

When heard live, René Breton as a four piece band almost seems symphonic and works well whether at Mercy Lounge or The Frist Gallery as an art installation. Even though the two groups are not similar in content, René Breton moves the senses much like The Velvet Underground with Andy Warhol’s Factory turning music into art and art becoming the medium of delivery.

Ryan, singer/songwriter, is somewhere between an intellectual Syd Barrett and the man that Jimmy Page wanted for his new band that would be Led Zeppelin, Terry Reid, a sixties British icon, who turned down the gig and told Jimmy Page to check out Robert Plant, a great singer with Band of Joy. That is Rock and Roll History. The Raconteurs did a spot-on version of “Rich Kid’s Blues.” Pure Terry Reid. Ryan’s voice fits that range more than his contemporaries in Coldplay or Radiohead.

Sitting down with some herbal tea in East Nashville, we began a conversation that could go just about anywhere.

Tobin Sio: The music was pretty much worked out in our practice space and there wasn’t whole lot of demoing going on, we had a whole lot of ideas of songs we wanted to do.

Brad Hardisty/ The Nashville Bridge: Where did you record at?

Tobin (Toby) Sio: It was at a studio that is no longer there called Kosmodrome (Mike Lattrell). It was right on Music Row.

BH/TNB: When I listen to it, I hear this great quality.

TS: I went to school for Engineering.

 BH/TNB: Were you playing with different people at the time?

Ryan Hurtgen: We were playing in a couple of bands with Gabriel Golden and Ross Beach.

BH/TNB:  I know you went through a couple of name changes, what were you called during Next Big Nashville?

RH: The first band was called Telephant. Then we wanted to change the project name because we were never really with that.  I was writing under the pen name René Breton.

BH/TNB: So René Breton was kind of like your “Ramone” name?

RH: It was more like Mark Twain.  I was just using it just for the writing. We were like we need to come up with a name and we were just going to put René Breton on the book of short stories with the music. The name is taken from two French Authors René Char and André Breton.  We had the cover figured out and we didn’t know if it was going to have Telephant on it but it looked better as Asleep in Green by René Breton.

TS: We get people who come up after the show and say, “Who’s René?” and we’re like we are all kind of René.

RH: We actually played a gig in Birmingham and there were people there that were like I was expecting to see a hot blond chick with an acoustic. Anyway, we recorded with Donny Boutwell at Kosmodrome, he’s from Texas.

Tobin "Toby Sio" / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

TS: Donny is an equally good Producer and Engineer as well as a drummer; he had a ton of drums around the studio. I thought this is great, we are going to have good drum sounds and I’ll be able to use them.

RH: That’s how we were able to record there; I was helping at the time to build the studio. Donny gave us the key at night so we recorded most of the record at night time from about nine o’clock to four AM.

TS: We tracked for a long time, it was a long process. Over a long time when Gabe or when somebody was available and we could align schedules.

RH: We had a portable hard drive and we did the entire piano at Grand Vista on a Steinway.

BH/TNB: I guess good piano is a real key to your sound.

RH: Yeah, then Donny introduced us to David Henry who did the strings.

TS: He arranged all the parts and recorded them. We gave him the charts and he would do a Pro Tools session and we would get them back and we were completely blown away, it was amazing.

BH/TNB: How long have you guys been here in Nashville?

TS: I moved here in ’01 to go to the MTSU Recording program and I officially moved to Nashville in 2005.

RH: I moved here at the end of ’06.

BH/TNB: Were you coming out of school when you moved here?

RH: Yeah, I graduated in ’05. I went to the University of Missouri. I’m from St. Louis.

BH/TNB: There is a little bit of a music scene in Columbia, Missouri.

RH: Definitely a little Screamo and a lot of anarchists that live there. A lot of hippie bands, jam bands. Like Phish more than Widespread Panic.

BH/TNB: When did you start teaming and writing together?

TS: We actually worked at a restaurant together. Ryan was a waiter and I was a busboy there. This is in ’05. I know it was ’05. There is another side story because Ryan came to record in Nashville in 2002.

RH: That was a solo thing. I was making records on a four track in Columbia, Missouri and some people got a hold of it in Nashville and wanted to do a record so they brought me down.  Steve Wilson, Donny Boutwell, that’s how I met Donny Boutwell. When I came back, I met a girl who knew Donny Boutwell and I said I knew Donny Boutwell and she said, “well come by the studio and say Hi!” so I did. I said, “What can I do to get you to record me?” He said he needed a lot of help around the studio and I said “I’m there.”

TS: Before it was a studio, it was just one of those offices on the second floor of one of those Music Row houses so they just completely tore it out, built new floors, made it all acoustically right. Ryan helped out on that. Ryan gave me his record when we worked at the restaurant and I listened to it. I was like this is awesome, we should play together. That’s how we started playing together.

René Breton live at The Rutledge / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: We partnered together to get the funding to put the project together. Nicole Taher comes from the Publishing world, she had worked with Ron Fair (Record Executive, Music Producer)

BH/TNB: Are you trying to get into the music business L.A. thing, film?

RH: It’s such a changing industry. We have been just going the independent route with hopes of getting a deal, signing with the right group. We distribute ourselves. We’re online.

BH/TNB: It looks like you are doing pretty well with the book concept.

TS: Yeah, the book is doing surprisingly well.

RH: I’m actually surprised how many we are selling because it is quite expensive. I think people want something they can take home. It’s a tangible product that you want to have.

TS: Not just a CD in a jewel case like one of the CD’s you throw on your bed.

RH:  Plus it’s interactive; it’s one of the things I wanted to do.

BH/TNB: I look at it and I see philosophy, folk stories as well as your own artwork. It’s kind of all encompassing.

RH: It’s kind of the thing that inspired me. I’m not a really great musician but I can write a pretty good song. I think being a good artist is being an artist in all kinds of areas. The guys that I admire have come from that kind of background like Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan to a certain extent to. It is about being well rounded, into writing, reading, the higher road, the voice of my culture. 

BH/TNB: What are your influences musically?

TS: The tracks were a natural groove, no click track, my schooling in music had the influence on my training, and I did the high school jazz training. All my drum teachers were old jazz guys.  If I had to choose a rock drummer it would be Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine because I love his grooves and they’re so powerful, not super flashy, just groove. Also Chad Sexton (311) , he has always been amazing as well as Jeff Hamilton.

BH/TNB: What kind of drum set do you use?

TS: I built my own set. I got the idea from a friend jamming down on Lower Broad (Broadway, Honky Tonks). You choose your own shells; everything and they just drill the holes for you. We have been into making our own instruments. We tore out the guts of the piano and put our own keyboard in there.

RH: You want to have a stage presence of what your stuff looks like. We decided, let’s just have cool instruments. Make it about the music, but the instruments can look good.

BH/TNB: Your music is very visual.

At The Rutledge, Nashville / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: It is visual, it’s performance and people want to be entertained.

BH/TNB: As far as songwriting?

RH: I play the ukulele. It’s very useful.

BH/TNB: George Harrison used to write on ukulele, and then he would expand on it.

RH: It’s kind of like those songwriters in Nashville that have the first three frets than nothing. It’s simple chords, that’s sometimes how you get to the real bones of a song.

BH/TNB: Lets’ get to the ideas on these songs. Were you studying Philosophers?

RH: I studied Philosophy in College. It’s interesting how this came about because my intentions when I first moved to Nashville were that I wanted to be more of a political artist.

BH/TNB: Kind of like a Tom Morello (Guitarist/Activist) but more folk style?

RH: More like a Phil Ochs. I was really pissed off at the wars and everything. I realized that my opinions were changing and then I realized I wasn’t sure if I agreed with everything I was saying. I said to myself, I need to get into something different; try to do something based more on artistic ideas about humanity, whereas that includes politics but it’s more about the big picture, what love is. I was reading this book at the time called “The Theory of Everything” by Stephen Hawking. He references another theory by Clare W. Graves and it’s called “Spiral Dynamics.” It looks at humankind in these things that are called “Memes” (systems of core values or collective intelligences, applicable to both individuals and entire cultures)”. There is first tier thinking, second tier thinking, all about consciousness. People fall into certain categories in certain areas of their lives. In the green Memes, everybody feels everything needs to be Democracy, everything should be fair, everybody should have an equal say, but, in actuality, they fight with the people in the red Memes that says that people are not equal and you need to conquer people because they can’t take care of themselves.

That is just one aspect; it goes into everything whether it’s love, family or how man relates to nature. At the time I was reading this book, I thought I’d really like to make an album that had every one of these Memes as a song. At the time I met a guy who was a dancer at the Nashville Ballet and we started working on this idea about writing about it. We started working on it at The Nashville Ballet. We had like ten people involved. It was kind of a failure.

BH/TNB: Yes, but sometimes one thing turns into another.

RH: That’s exactly what happened. The ideas I was constructing for this Ballet turned into some of the songs on this album. That morphed into some other songs as the need arised. I was reading about the Surrealists and their methods like Manifestos.

BH/TNB: So what started the process?

RH: I did paintings. There were not any rough sketches or anything.  I would just do it. The aspect of “Automatic Writing” had to do with the songs. Playing a guitar and then just saying whatever I was thinking.  Start off with something automatic like “I’m sailing”, then you had to keep that.

BH/TNB: Kind of like a Mantra.

On stage with the full band / Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

RH: A lot of times like “Botswana”, I had to go back and re-write them so they made more sense. It can make sense. It should make sense and they do make sense.

BH/TNB: It’s more of a “thinking” person’s music.

RH: I’m not saying that is always going to be my method. That is what this project was. Right now, the stuff I am working on is the complete opposite.  It’s very crafted.

BH/TNB: What about “Anne Frank”. What made you think about writing about her?

RH: I was down at The Nashville Library. One day I came across The Diary of Anne Frank and I started reading it. I thought at the time, this had a feeling about it. I could write a song about isolation in the modern world and base it around the idea of Anne Frank. It’s not about being forced into isolation. It’s about choosing it.  How we can create our own little prisons around ourselves.  The idea is from a story about a Japanese girl named “Hikikomori” which translates into “withdrawn youth”.  It’s these kids who get into their computers and they don’t leave their rooms.  They can’t get out.

BH/TNB: Like extreme geekism?

RH: Exactly. It’s like a national problem in Japan.

TS: There are government sponsored boot camps in Japan for youth addicted to the internet.

RH: This is something that has never existed in the history of mankind.  That’s where the original name of the band came from Telephant. It was the idea of global culture.  How is man really changing because we are so connected to each other?  Our attention span is getting shorter. We are constantly getting bombarded with information and it is really affecting us.

BH/TNB: It’s like a couple of years ago; you’d get going with texts with a girl and after a while it was just ridiculous, no verbal communication.

RH: Yes, but now it’s the norm.

TS: It’s de-personalizing. I try to make a point of writing letters now. I have a typewriter from the 1930’s and I’ll sit down and write a letter.

RH: You get that with a Bob Dylan tune.

BH/TNB: Yes, society is all becoming vaporware, like how long is it going to last?

RH: That’s it. A letter you can save. I guess you can save a text of whatever but are you really saving it?  Who does?

TS: My Grandparents don’t have e-mail so I have to write them a letter anyway.

BH/TNB: Okay, so there are four aces in a deck what does the fifth ace mean?

RH:  The fifth ace represents the unanswered question which we all hope we know like the idea of God or religion. It represents the answers to our unanswered questions.  The anchor is important because it represents being stable. It’s like I write in the book, “I’m looking for the fifth ace in order to anchor me.”

BH/TNB: Here was something that made me think from the book, “Dreams are twisted versions of everything that is real in your life.”

RH: Yeah, you wake up thinking, what does this mean?

BH/TNB: Let’s talk about “Botswana”.

RH: I really like that. That song really came out of the idea of automatic writing. All of a sudden I blurted out Botswana. I thought, what about Botswana? Then I went back and did all this research about Botswana. I investigated and found these cultural stories of Botswana being where life began. That is what is going on throughout the album. Like the idea of man being found in the rock of Gibraltar. Gibraltar means the stronghold from where he would rule the world.  The rock of Gibraltar was that fortress that gave you passage into the Mediterranean. Getting back to Botswana, I thought this country has the highest AIDS rate. That’s an interesting fact. I’m getting ecstatically red, thinking that is weird but let’s go with it. Trust it. I found the folk story and I thought I needed to reference the folk story. A lot of the stories in the book are like that. They start out with a thesis and they tie back in a different way. It’s a lot like a dream. It comes with a certain idea and then you go back and interpret it and it ties in with something else. Like when you have a waterfall in your dream. What does that mean?  Am I in danger? Am I about to lose my job? Am I about to fall off? Maybe I’m about to be freed, on top of the world and everything is flowing by naturally.  It’s all this idea of abstraction that I wanted to get.

BH/TNB: Okay how about Robespierre? The line, “One day I was approached with the opportunity to cheat and steal.” Is that a true story?

RH:  No, I became a character. Robespierre was a French revolutionary. He took the Jacobins to oust the King. Soon he realized the power he looked to overthrow, he was becoming himself.

BH/TNB: So, he became what he disliked?

RH: Exactly, the story brings it to a new age and the character is not Robespierre, it can be whomever or whatever you want.

BH/TNB: So what’s next?

RH: I’ll be moving to L.A.

BH/TNB: Will it be René Breton?

RH: Yes.

TS: Ryan will be going first and then I’ll be out there in a few months.

RH: We will be starting on a new René Breton project.  It won’t be about dreams or psychedelia. It will be a lot more grounded. It will be about well crafted songs.  I’m ready to go. I have been in Nashville for six years.

BH/TNB: You’re leaving when things are really starting to change for the Indie thing. It really has only been the last two years that things have really changed in Nashville.

RH: It has and I have really thought about that. I never really got into a “scene”; I spent a lot of time writing. It’s really about just getting into a different city. Asleep in Green is this city, Nashville’s project. I need to get into a different place. Different cities give you different vibes.  You read about different things. You are around different people.  It’s time for change.

Photo, Jamie McCormick - courtesy briterevolution.com

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Saturday night in Nashville is always special if you want to take a walk on the wild side. Last night began at the radio release party for Acklen Park’s “Lost” that is going to Country Radio in August. The song co-written by Shantell Ogden, Bill DiLuigi and Scott Jarman, will be Shantell’s first Nashville cut to go to radio.

“Acklen Park is a hard-working band that is going places, and I’m so excited they are taking a song I co-wrote with them!  This is definitely a  moment to celebrate,” said Shantell.

 

L to R: Rob Ray, Casper Resik, Shantell Ogden, Dave Bobrow, Andrea Villareal, Bill DiLuigi and Marcum Stewart

The event started at 7PM in Shantell’s backyard with friends and fans of Acklen Park stopping in for a rare all acoustic set featuring songs off their Otter Rapids Music release with a set ending version of “Lost” which should fit in with Country cross- genre material similar to The Zac Brown Band.

Shantell with Hit Songwriter/Artist Rhett Akins

Shantell had prepared some great Mexican Food including the secret family recipe of sweet pork (anything from pig goes well in Tennessee) with a kind of Pan Pacific-Asian twist,to enjoy in the 88 degree night time heat.  This seems to be one of the hottest summers ever in Nashville.  

Acklen Park represents some of the best of the developing Country Indie scene that is taking root over the last few years in Nashville.

As one fan wrote in their review on Amazon. Com, “Acklen Park has a phenomenal sound and great original songs. They are absolutely hot!!! Keep an eye on them because they are going right to the top!!! I predicted Brad Paisley’s success to friends 7 years ago, and I predict the same for this group. They are headed for the Grand Ole Opry and beyond… and I want front row tickets in advance!!!” (JMR in West Palm Beach, Florida)

Acklen Park under deck lights

The party was still going when I made my second stop, 9PM, at The Rutledge for Hello Kelly’s CD Release Party of (Easy For You To Say), it was excited mayhem as Hello Kelly got ready to take the stage, after a few months on the road, the band is tighter than ever.

Francie / Hello Kelly/ The Rutledge-courtesy Jenni George

Francois “Francie” Goudrealt’s vision when he left Toronto to see what could happen in Music City is beginning to take shape. The record is getting local support at 102.9 The Buzz and is getting airplay as far away as New Zealand.

New Zealand would make sense with the record sitting somewhere between The Ataris, Yellowcard and Midnight Oil. There were some Music City luminaries such as Bekka Bramlett, Stephen McCord (The Service Station, former MCA records) as well as up and coming singer/songwriter Tommy Dalton in attendance.

 

Travis / Hello Kelly / The Rutgledge photo courtesy Jenni George

The place lit up into full sing-along with the radio ready “Better Now Together”, “Ladder” and what could be Francie’s theme song, (not to be mixed up with Led Zep’s “Communication Breakdown”) “The Communication Breakdown”. Hello Kelly will be heading up to the Kingdom Bound Festival in Buffalo, New York.

It’s just one of the first stops in conquering the world. There are already comparisons to being the next Kings of Leon in terms of possibilities. How about an opening slot with Paramore? Hello Kelly’s (Easy For You To Say) is infectious, sweet and relentless all at the same time.

I guess that is what you get when you combine songs written to your significant other and then play them through Mesa Boogie and Matchless Amps with a four piece firing squad.

Up The Arms!

Photo courtesy Jenni George

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville,TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Tommy Dalton could very well be the next Nashville Graduating class’ Jeffrey Steele.  Following “Damn Jeans” endorsement deal with True Religion Jeans, Tommy continues to grow both directions as a Songwriter co-writing new material with Anne Marie Boskovitch and other up and comers as well as the ability to front a band and rock the house.

Tommy had a full band last night for The Billy Block Show at The Rutledge sharing the bill with 80’s teen sensation, Tiffany, who has been spending some time in Nashville recording new material at Yackland Studios. Just like Keith Urban and Elvis, there were girls up front who knew the words to all of his songs even though they may have just heard “Something To Die For” at local showcases for the most part.

Tommy Dalton had a tight band featuring Eric Seals’ Tommy Lee flare, stick twirling and skin pounding under The Billy Block Show banner. I was surprised when Tommy announced that the band had only practiced that morning.

Only in Nashville, like Bob Dylan found out when he recorded Blonde on Blonde, can you find such passionate playing with musicians who get it almost as fast as you can think it.

Okay so why can I say he could be the next Jeffrey Steele? I haven’t met anybody who wouldn’t like to co-write with him whether an upbeat piece or a ballad. Tommy’s songwriting chops have been doubling every year. I met Tommy when he came down from the North Country in 2008 when he played an open mic night at French Quarter Café. He had the charisma and, okay, magnetism, it really didn’t matter that a lot of the structure at that time spoke “Goo Goo Dolls”; it was the potential at that point.

Jeffrey Steele with Tommy

He is one of those guys that you want to see succeed and his willingness to develop both on stage and with a guitar and a piece of paper that has got long-timers like Brent Mason behind him.

There will be those that prefer to see Tommy do his own songs while musicians like Travis Wilbourn (T. Swift, Hello Kelly) say they know him mainly as a songwriter. I don’t know anybody else in town, give or take another year or two, who has the potential to follow in Jeffrey Steele’s footsteps as a great performer fronting a full band as well as being a great Songwriter.

Tommy has been here since 2008 and every year he increases his ability times ten. I met Jeffrey Steele back in 2008 after a sold out gig at 3rd and Lindsley. He said “Brad, it took me eight years before I got my first cut but after that it just kept going. Let me know how you’re doing”.

Tommy Dalton has been here for three. I think by the time year five comes around he will be part of Country Music’s new class of Writers and Performers.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com