A Foot In the Door, NMG Acoustic Performance Series at Douglas Corner

[portfolio_slideshow] There is an implicit wall that a person confronts when they decide to embark on a new endeavor. Similar to the pursuit and attainment of my fresh internship with Nashville Music Guide, musicians all throughout Nashville are constantly looking for a break, a way to get their foot in the door. This seemingly small task, like getting a first gig, is actually a monumental barrier that inhibits a career from taking off. While Nashville is widely considered the music capital of the country, it takes more than just living in Nashville and having strong vocals to jump start a budding performer’s career. Not to toot our own horn, but here at Nashville Music Guide, we have provided an outlet that nurtures the up-and-comers and helps to bring to the forefront some established singer-songwriters.

Every few weeks, Nashville Music Guide sponsors an event that provides promising singer-songwriters the opportunity to showcase some of their songs in a thirty minute set at local venue, Douglas Corner. As opposed to a typical in-the-round songwriter night, former Nashville Music Guide owner Dan Wunsch’s initial philosophy was that “writer’s nights are great if you want to listen to songs, but they fall short in showcasing the singer-songwriter as a performing artist.  Because of single downloads, the new business model for the record industry is to sign ‘performing artists,’ who can build a fan base, tour and sell albums at their gigs. Hopefully this night will turn into an opportunity for the industry to hear a few of these ‘undiscovered‘ artists for the first time.“

Last month’s performance marked the nine-month anniversary since the event’s founding. Opening off was ballad powerhouse, Keeli, with her soulful voice and occasional Irish folk twang. Her set mixed powerful jazzy ballads with pop element, giving her a unique style that epitomizes Keeli. Following Keeli was Jim Parker an old-time country ballad singer and guitarist. Beyond his melodic voice, Parker’s songs had incredible lyrics with strong meanings. In one of his songs, he talks about memories and how “you can’t relive old memories, they’re just markers in the sand.” Another song highlighted on the healing process that takes place following a major event or catastrophe. All in all, Parker’s sweet vocals and meaningful lyrics formed a connection with each member in the audience.

Scott Southworth was the next performer to grace the stage. Southworth not only showcased his deep voice and pronounced guitar playing, but his skills on the harmonica. With a thick country twang, Southworth followed Parker’s trend with innovative lyrics and songs, such as “Better Livin’ Through Modern Pharmaceuticals.” Jayce Hein was the next artist to take the stage. Hein, as with the last two performers, was a country singer, but more modern pop country then the others. To most closely describe Jayce would be to compare him to Rascal Flatt’s Gary LeVox as they have a very similar range and tone to their voices. Hein’s songs were quite upbeat and varied in topic, offering tips on learning to lie and comparing life to one big party. Last to reveal their talent was duo Cody White and Laura McGhee, who definitely had chemistry, to say the least. Cody was the quintessential definition of an old-time country artist, complete with a thick grey beard and deep booming country voice. In contrast, Laura offered a sweet native Irish voice and a graceful but eccentric fiddle performance. Together, the two had a lively and exciting performance that highlighted the distinctive harmony between the two dissimilar artists.

The performance was an experience in its own and the best part is that there is a similar night about every month. Since the series’ inception in 2011, there has been an eclectic group of performers, ranging from Grammy-nominated artists, to unsigned artists trying to get their name out into the universe. This year, the program was taken over by singer-songwriter and producer, Sam Cooper. Cooper owns both Jericat Music and runs his label Red Heart Records, giving him a keen ear for selecting viable performers. Cooper takes his role as manager of NMG’s Acoustic Series very seriously, saying that “I’ve probably pissed off a few people who asked me if they can play one of these shows, if they didn’t catch my ear and my eyes as being worthy of it, I’ve turned them down…even people I’m friends with or already know.” While it is seemingly difficult to reject your own friends and acquaintances, Cooper simply uses the realistic mentality that “this is the real world and it’s survival of the fittest.” As a result, he goes with his instincts and is proud of the acts he has and will chose to perform at Douglas Corner each month. Sam’s perseverance to find the ideal acts could be seen in the eclectic group that performed last month, and likely in the group that performs at the next series.

Spencer Hoddeson Copyright: 09/2012

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