Archive for December, 2009

Interview with Irish singer/songwriter Lynda Lucas

December 31, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head into the New Year, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or by visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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Interview with Dublin, Ireland-based
Singer/Songwriter Lynda Lucas

Editor’s Note: At the recent Gram Parsons Tribute Concert held in Nashville, Irish singer/songwriter Lynda Lucas, who opened the show, was an absolute stand-out. After she returned to Dublin, I asked Lynda if she would grant an interview to “Underground Nashville,” and she graciously complied. Here’s how our conversation went:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: What do you feel is distinct about your music? Who have been your primary musical influences?

LYNDA LUCAS: My music, I hope, is expressed with honesty and passion. I try to feel the essence and underlying message of love and loss. My sound is predominantly country, with a hint of soul. Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zant, and Emmylou Harris have been my primary influences. I grew up listening to Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, The Carter Family, and Roy Orbison. I particularly love the close harmonies of The Louvin Brothers. I also enjoy a lot of the more contemporary artists such as Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, and Buddy and Julie Miller. I am currently listening to an amazing album called Nashville by Solomon Burke, produced by Buddy Miller. [I also love] the old greats like Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, and George Jones. The list is endless.

UN: What is your musical dream?

LL: To reach a wider audience is what every artist wishes for. [To] reach and touch the primal feeling in everybody, of love and life. As a single, full-time mother, I know how challenging that is. And it can be difficult keeping your dreams alive. My motto is “Follow your dreams to the last whisper.” I have a personal childhood dream: to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. That’s a big dream, but it is still alive [laughs].

UN: What are you doing to make your dream come true?

LL: It has always been my plan to come to Nashville, and I made two trips this year. I came with a friend in June to celebrate her birthday .That was a lot of fun. I got to meet up with a friend who I met through MySpace, who is also a fine songwriter, Jim Callahan. We have been collaborating on songs ever since. I also got to sing at a bluegrass session in a [Nashville] club called The Station Inn. It was a real joy to sit in and sing with some fine musicians. The second trip in September was also through MySpace. I was invited to play at the second annual Gram Parsons Tribute Night. That was an honor. I received a great reception, and had great fun meeting all the other bands who traveled from all over the U S.


UN:  What about
Nashville has surprised you?

LL: I was very surprised at the diversity of music in Nashville. I always associated Nashville with country music. I am an old-fashioned girl at heart, and I love that old-time pure country sound.  I suppose music always progresses, and it has come around full circle, which is inevitable.

UN: What are your performing and recording plans for early 2010?

LL: I had a few Dublin dates recently. I am still writing my debut album, which I hope to record in January 2010.I am hoping to release it in summer. I will be returning to Nashville in July 2010 to hopefully play some live gigs. I am hoping to be invited back for the third Gram Parsons Tribute in September. Performing live is where I truly excel and am at my very best.

For more about Lynda Lucas, visit  MySpace.com/lyndalucasmusic.

Interview with Hugh Gusterson, co-editor of “The Insecure American”

December 16, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or by visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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Interview with Hugh Gusterson, co-editor of the new book The Insecure American: How We Got Here and What We Should Do About it

Part II

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: The contributors to The Insecure American offer insights as to how our “anxious country” might be brought onto a more positive long-term path. What are two or three of the over-arching ways we might achieve this?

HUGH GUSTERSON: 1) Shift the balance of power between large corporations and employees/consumers with omnibus legislation breaking up corporate oligopolies (including those banks “too big to fail”) in favor of real market competition; making it harder to evict people in foreclosure; restraining small print fees imposed arbitrarily by banks and credit card agencies; and making it easier to organize unions.

2) Undo the Clinton-era rule that has made the U.S. one of only two countries in the world that allows drug companies to market prescription drugs directly to consumers.  And ban advertising in schools.

3) The 1986 mandatory minimum sentencing laws for possession of small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine have created a situation where the U.S. incarcerates a higher proportion of its population than any other country—more than 2.2 million people.  Most of those incarcerated are poor, and they are disproportionately black.  Undoing these draconian laws, and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, would go a long way toward alleviating insecurity in many poor communities, especially the black community.  It could also be a bipartisan act since many prominent conservatives have called for legalizing marijuana.

UN:  If you had the length of an elevator ride to tell someone why he or she will benefit from reading The Insecure American, what would you say?

HG: Insecurity is the condition of our times.  Insecure people lose their vision.  They become preoccupied with their own survival and turn on one another, losing sight of the bigger forces that make us insecure together. This book, by the leading anthropologists in the country, restores the big picture and suggests how we could take command as a people of our insecurities about joblessness, bankruptcy, immigration, crime, health, and keeping up with the Joneses.  We don’t have to be insecure Americans.

Hugh Gusterson is Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at George Mason University.  He is the author of ‘Nuclear Rites’ (1996) and ‘People of the Bomb’ (2004), co-editor (with Catherine Besteman) of ‘Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong,’ and is a monthly columnist for the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.’

To order The Insecure American ($24.95, paperback; $65, hardcover, 392 pages) call (510) 642-4247 or visit ucpress.edu/books/pages/11406.php

Interview with Hugh Gusterson, co-editor of “The Insecure American”

December 14, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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Interview with Hugh Gusterson, co-editor of the new book The Insecure American: How We Got Here and What We Should Do About it

Part I

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE:   A central theme of The Insecure American is that we have become “an anxious country.” Do you see this as a temporary phenomenon, principally driven by the recession, or is there more of a sociological or cultural sea-change occurring?

HUGH GUSTERSON: All societies have undercurrents of anxiety.  As for the U.S., there have been times throughout its history when it has been seized by transitory but powerful paroxysms of paranoia: the witch hunts of the seventeenth century, the mass deportations of immigrants after World War I, and the McCarthyist purges for example.  However, we’re talking about something different in The Insecure American: a pervasively deep sense of insecurity, shared by large swathes of society, that comes from a number of simultaneous changes in American life.  These changes derive from: globalization and the off-shoring of jobs; technological changes that threaten the job security of many; deregulation; mass immigration; the relentless commodification of all realms of life; the threat of terrorism; and the endless possibility of mass extinction through nuclear war or climatic catastrophe.


UN:
What federal government policies do you believe have most contributed to a feeling of insecurity and anxiety among Americans?

HG: Globalization—the massive movements of capital, jobs, commodities, migrants, and ideas around the globe—lies at the heart of much of our insecurity.  Globalization is too powerful a process to be stopped by governments, but better policies could have mitigated the pain it has inflicted on so many Americans.

Globalization has tilted the bargaining relationship between employees and employers away from employees, and the result has been declining wages (in real terms) and longer hours with reduced job security for many working and middle class Americans.  The resulting inequality and insecurity experienced by many Americans could have been avoided, or at least softened, by legislation making it easier to organize unions; by stricter regulation of the credit card and payday loan industries and safeguarding of the old bankruptcy laws; and by a more progressive taxation policy than G.W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and by a less punitive reform of the welfare system than Bill Clinton carried out.

The last twenty years have also seen an evisceration of regulatory agencies that has largely happened out of public sight, simply by appointing the wrong people to run them.  Republican and Democratic administrations alike have gradually turned over regulatory agencies such as the Federal Reserve, the Food and Drug Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to appointees pushed by the wealthy interests they were supposed to regulate.  The result has been twenty years of corporate mergers, usurious banking charges, overpriced drugs and increasingly dangerous consumer products—a society tilted against American consumers with the connivance of the regulators who were supposed to protect them.

Then there is the failure to deal with illegal immigration.  It is estimated that there are now 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S..  It is a joke to pretend that more than a fraction of these people can be tracked down and deported.  Our leaders in Washington have lacked the political courage and intelligence to deal with this issue, except by funding border fences with Mexico that do as much good as King Canute’s commands to the sea.  If we can find a way to bring as many of these migrants as possible inside the law, through some sort of amnesty, we will all be the better for it.  Legalized immigrants will pay taxes, join unions, and contribute to a stable society in ways that will make everyone more secure.

And let’s not forget defense.  Since the cold war ended, we have become a deeply militarized society.  In 2000 the U.S. military budget was $280 billion.  It is now $680 billion—more than the combined military budgets of all the other countries in the world.  And yet we are losing a war with a ragtag militia in sandals in Afghanistan.  We are being eaten out of house and home by the Defense Department and, the more we spend on defense, the more insecure we seem to feel.  The military is taking over our collective fantasy life and diverting to weapons wealth that might have been spent on schools, parks, bridges, playgrounds, medicine, police, environmental cleanup, and public transport—the sinews of shared security and well-being.

Editor’s Note:  Part II of ‘Underground Nashville’’s interview with Hugh Gusterson will be posted on Wednesday, December 16.

Hugh Gusterson is Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at George Mason University.  He is the author of ‘Nuclear Rites’ (1996) and ‘People of the Bomb’ (2004), co-editor (with Catherine Besteman) of ‘Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong,’ and is a monthly columnist for the ‘Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.’
To order The Insecure American ($24.95, paperback; $65, hardcover, 392 pages) call (510) 642-4247 or visit ucpress.edu/books/pages/11406.php

December 11, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or by visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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The “Grow Your Following” Series
for Singer/Songwriters and Bands

Part 5:  Building a Large, Effective E-mail List

by Dave Carew

In my most recent novel, one of the central characters is a female singer-songwriter in Nashville who passionately yearns to perform…then makes sure few people know about it. The mystery of why she does this is a driving force in the story.

But if you’re like most singer-songwriters, you want everyone to know you’re performing. And you hope they’ll all show up at your gig. A key way to make this happen is to have a large, targeted e-mail list. (“Targeted,” in this case, meaning “those people most likely to come to future shows.”)

How do you do that? I posed that question to Josh Jackson, lead singer of The Josh Jackson Band and of Yes Dear. In the year before I asked Josh, he had taken his band from total obscurity to being named “Best Nashville Rock Band” in the Nashville Scene Reader’s Poll.

Here’s what Josh told me:

“When I was launching The Josh Jackson Band, I took some time and e-mailed as many local musicians and music outlets as I could, introducing the band,” he said. “We had about 100 people sign up for our e-mail list just from this one effort. Also, giving family and friends our web address garnered a ton of additions.”

Josh told me his e-mail list grew, in no time flat, to more than 350 names.

A crucial second step is to capture e-mail addresses while you’re actually at your gigs. One standard way is to simply have an e-mail sign-up sheet at the door, often managed by the person taking the cover charge. And here’s another way: Before the show, place several postcard-sized, e-mail sign-up cards on every table in the venue. After you’ve performed about four songs, let people know there will be a drawing for a free CD (or whatever) soon, and that, in order to be eligible, they must complete the e-mail sign-up card and place it in a hat, which a friend of the band can take around the room. In my experience, this commonly results in 20 to 40 new additions to your e-mail list per gig. Multiply that times the number of shows you do per year, and you can see how your e-mail list can grow exponentially.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.

Thoughts from the shadows of a great American city

December 10, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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The “Grow Your Following” Series
for Singer/Songwriters and Bands

Part 4:  Getting Gigs…When You Have No Following

by Dave Carew

“You can’t get gigs if you have no following . . . And you can’t get a following if you have no gigs.”

Right? Wrong. Fortunately, this pseudo-dilemma only resonates for those who’d rather throw their hands up in the air than actually get their music heard and appreciated. So how do you begin?

Sara Beck—who began her singer-songwriter career in Nashville as a complete unknown and who now has done shows with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Kevin Costner and Modern West—told me, “I visited the clubs in person and let the booker know I was interested in opening slots. But I actually think the best way to get gigs [at first] is to get to know other gigging musicians.”

There’s simply no doubt that opening for other artists is a tried-and-true way to get initial exposure. And Sara Beck’s person-to-person networking strategy is highly recommended. (Note: If you visit clubs in person, be sure to have a demo CD you can leave with the booker.)

Another great way to initially be seen and grow your following is to get involved with one of the more high-visibility writers’ nights around Nashville or your home town . . . with “high visibility” being the salient phrase here. Most of the hosts of these events are very gracious, and are always looking for new talent. And the artists enjoy the synergism of getting exposure and sharing their music with the friends and fans of all the other artists on the bill. Cindy Kalmenson, who hosted the long-running “Girls with Guitars” events in Nashville, told me, “I came to Nashville thinking everyone would go see live music. [But] when I got my first gig, it was only me, the bartender, and the sound man. So I knew something had to be done. That’s when I started inviting friends to perform with me regularly. When we all pool our talent, we all benefit from a loyal and appreciative audience.” By the way, one of the artists who helped jump-start her visibility in this way, specifically through Girls with Guitars, was Mindy Smith.

Finally, another great way to leave obscurity in the rear-view mirror is to host WEEKLY writers’ nights and/or to volunteer to substitute for other hosts. “It’s definitely gotten my name out there,” says Cole Slivka, who hosts the popular “Shortsets” writers’ night at The Family Wash in East Nashville. Typically, Cole opens the night with two or three of her own songs (thus garnering exposure for her music) before turning the night over to some of Nashville’s most respected and popular singer-songwriters. So could YOU host a similar event, substitute for the host, and/or get yourself booked as one of the featured artists?

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.

Thoughts from the shadows of a great American city

December 7, 2009

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a Nashvillian” or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head toward Christmas, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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The “Grow Your Following” Series
for Singer/Songwriters and Bands

Part 3:  How to Get Radio Play

by Dave Carew

In this third installment of my “Grow Your Following” series, let’s take a look at how you can secure radio play for your songs. Although this is more difficult that it used to be (thanks to corporate behemoths such as Clearchannel), it CAN be done . . . especially if you target independently operated stations such as WRLT Lightning 100 in Nashville. [NOTE: For a complete listing of such stations nationwide, see The Billboard Musician’s Guide to Touring and Promoting.] Radio play remains—hands down—the BEST way to promote yourself and/or your band.

To get some real-world guidance on this topic, I turned to my buddy, Todd Adams. These days, Todd is an outstanding photographer [see Toddadams.net] and IT manager, but a few years ago he was deeply involved in the music business. During that time, Todd used a strategy that helped secure widespread radio play for Tony Vincent. (Tony soon will be starring in a nationally-touring stage production based on Greenday’s American Idiot album.)

Here’s the conversation I had with Todd:

UN: What’s the first step toward landing radio play?

TA: Determine which stations to target. The charts are compiled according to what select stations—called “reporting stations”—are playing. The key was to get Tony played on those stations. After that, we serviced those stations with his CD, plus background on who he was and why they should play him.

UN: How and when did you follow up?

TA: We followed up right away—within four days—to see if they’d gotten the package and, if so, had they listened to the single and, if so, whether they’d decided to play it yet. (Not if they’d decided to play it, but if they’d decided to play it YET.)  After that initial call, I probably called more than was welcome, but it seemed to get the job done.

DC: What were the results of your radio campaign?

TA: Tony was added on several stations right away, and some of them moved him into heavy rotation right away. This was key to getting OTHER stations to go along. For example, if a big station in Dallas played the single in heavy rotation, it was much easier to get a smaller station in Cedar Rapids to go along.

After six weeks of calling Program Directors across the country, Tony’s first single entered the national chart. It was the first time an independently released single had ever gotten a spot on this particular chart.

UN: What final words of advice do you have?

TA: To try this strategy. Despite the influence of radio consultants and big media, there are still many stations that make programming decisions locally and give new artists a chance.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.