An announcement: I've hung my free lance above the fireplace and gone to work full time for Music City Roots as a producer and writer. My title, which I'm making up right now, is Senior Producer and Journalist, and all this took effect on January 1, even though I’m still sweeping up the worksite on a few year-end String Theory Media projects. Now that the new year is really rolling, so am I.
To say I’m excited about this would be a ridiculous understatement. When show creators Todd Mayo and John Walker looked me up a few years ago out of curiosity about live radio production in the golden age of WSM, it was like so many conversations that seem promising but don’t go anywhere. Except this one did. I knew after our first meal together that these were exceptional guys with great ideas and a commitment to good entertainment in and of Nashville that rivaled those who founded Music Row. They kept me in the loop through a Plan A collapse and a Plan B revival, and they graciously asked me to be part of their crusade to present authentic music in a cool setting, with a reach to the world. They got the show launched on WSM in the auspicious month of October (that’s when WSM went on the air in 1925) and negotiated brilliantly through the crazy Gaylord divorce and the happy WRLT marriage. They found sponsors in a tough economy and now we’re partnered with a remarkable bunch of companies and brands that fit our values and our spirit like almost none other could (and yes, I’ll name and thank them: Nissan, Griffin Technology, The Nature Conservancy, Whole Foods, Ascend Federal Credit Union, Vietti Chili and Ole Smoky Moonshine. Love ya lots)
We’ve staged 101 shows, and I’m proud to say the only ones I’ve missed came during our trip to China to meet and adopt our daughter and one week when I was out working on a film. It’s been a life’s dream to be part of something this good and good-hearted, with people of this caliber. And to think that we’re expanding and investing more in our vision of Americana music with new outlets and media is just kind of awesomely nuts. So I say to y’all now: please get the fever or get out of the way.
I'll be pushing forward on three fronts in our campaign to turn every American into a fan of their own indigenous music...
Priority one is to grow the reach of the syndicated version of Music City Roots, the weekly radio show. Our WRLT live broadcast and webcast is still the core, and I hope fervently it stays that way. And we’ve been making a tidy two-hour version available since March, with spoken commercials removed for non-commercial and public stations. We have a page now where several of those recent shows can be previewed in their entirety and downloaded for personal use. We’d love to see MCR on satellite radio, public stations around the country and overseas. In fact it’s already airing in Great Britain and a half dozen markets around the country. If you know of a station in your area that would be a candidate, please put us in touch.
Second is curation of a new roots radio stream, with 24/7 perfect music, plus some specialty shows, interviews and guests in the evening hours. This stream – basically a “traditional” webcast – will be available mid year on a smart phone app. There are good Americana webcasters out there, and we’ll be one of them, but I hope our wisdom about what to play when, and how we tell the story of the music, sets us apart. Not sure when this can go live, but the servers are all loaded up and standing by.
My third focus is the one I’ve been cultivating for the past five years under the String Theory Media banner: music on film. MCR has impressive video resources and experience webcasting for more than two years. But our cameras and sometimes our crew sit idle and we want to put them to use for Americana artists and their fans. We’re looking for partners and clients with dreams of video productions large and small. We are excited to translate our extensive experience in live show production and broadcast journalism into concert DVDs, webcasts, special events, short films, EPKs, documentaries and music videos. I have one ambitious idea in the works for a feature documentary that will get at the core of the progressive bluegrass movement. And we’re looking for directors and producers with similar sensibilities who want to partner on roots music projects. Our first gig is a modest one, but a most pleasant one. Singer and songwriter Natasha Borzilova, the founding member of Bering Strait who played MCR in July 2011. She’s working on a new album, and we’ll be putting together a few pieces that will introduce her to new audiences. Also on tap for this year, documenting unique collaborations between newgrass fiddle standout Casey Driessen and a series of drummer/percussionists. There will be much more.
I hope our long-time friends and followers don’t think we’re doing anything to violate the traditional rules of the folk music business, which is to say one must stay small and humble to remain authentic. We fully believe that there is a significant audience out there for Americana music that's only begun to discover it or that's never had their epiphany. And where other Nashville outlets like CMT or the Opry have treated Americana inconsistently and more like an obligation or a seasoning to their mainstream fare, it’s the main event for us. We don’t predict we’ll get rich. But we absolutely believe there’s room to enrich the culture and make a living at the same time. Watch for our new initiatives and special events. Watch the Livestream webcasts of Music City Roots and Live From The Station Inn. Watch for a Nashville Public Television series this year with great performances from Music City Roots. Please share and tweet about our artists. These next few years are going to remain a challenging, divisive time for our country, and in all seriousness, our music may be the last glue we have left that can truly unite us in pride and passion.
I want to also note that I will keep my writing up, because I’d die without it. I’m going to aim for roughly one article or NPR/WPLN radio story per month and see how that goes. I’m also sporting two new email addresses and trying to retire my Comcast account. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.