Nashville Dinner Theatre CMA Fest Review
A couple of weeks ago I became the talent buyer for the Nashville Dinner Theatre and I had the “opportunity” to throw together a CMA Fest showcase with about four days to make it happen before the biggest Country Music festival in the world kicked off. Four days full of music from 2 pm to 2 am Thursday through Sunday. It was a whirlwind for sure and I faced just about every adversity you could think of during that time but we came out of it clean and ready to make great things happen.
I want to highlight some of the artists that I got to see at our venue during those four days and maybe talk about a couple disappointments so that maybe some other musicians trying to make it can take something away from it.
The first artist that impressed me the most with the total overall package was Julianne Ankley (www.julianneankley.net.) She just goes by “Julianne” for her stage name. Julianne is chasing her dream and started only a short 5 years ago but is so far ahead of the game compared to most whom have been doing this for much longer. Not only is she talented with a rich voice, but has really good phrasing as well. Her songwriting is strong and her presence on stage is captivating and mature. She is very professional, and has a knack for telling great stories, which helps her relate with the audience and she is attractive. Her image is polished and she marketed herself very well at our venue, much better than anyone else actually. I have left all of her material out to this day so that people will find out about her because her marketing material is top notch.
The band Phoenix Drive (http://www.reverbnation.com/phoenixdrive) was very impressive. They had great harmonies, great talent and a very polished sound. Working with them was a real pleasure as they were so nice and professional. Overall their tones were great, playing was top shelf and vocals were catchy and interesting. I wish more bands were this nice and really worked as hard as they did. They were from showcase to showcase with never a complaint of how tired they were. I would have them back anytime.
A new comer with a bright future and a big voice was Brianna Tyson (http://www.reverbnation/brianatyson.) She has an energetic presence about her and a very mature phrasing quality that belies her years. Her ability to mix jazz and soul with her country music is refreshing and she stands out completely from the rest of the same ole same ole here in Nashville. With a year or two of constant gigging she will be a star.
Maybe the biggest surprise for me was Jessica Cayne (www.jessicacayne.com.) This woman has a huge voice, a great sense of humor and best overall ability to interact with the audience. She wrote great songs and kept me entertained and laughing. If you knew me, you’d know how hard it is to impress and entertain me. Jessica just signed a new publishing deal, which will hopefully get her songs out there more, but it’s her voice and big personality that should send her over the top. Keep you eyes on this one as well.
Another artist that really surprised me with his songs was Clay Evans (www.clayevansmusic.com.) Clay is a little offbeat with his presence, which is also really good in this town of Kenny Chesney clones. His songwriting is very catchy and really takes you somewhere different. It was a real pleasure to listen to Clay twice. I expect if nothing else, hopefully he will have some real songwriting success in his future.
Honorable mentions are Brinn Black (http://www.brinnblackepk.webs.com/), Heath Forbes (http://www.heathforbesepk.webs.com/), Liz Moriondo (http://www.lizmoriondo.com/index.html), Shelly Williams ( www.myspace.com/shellywilliamsmusic), Scarlett (www.allthingsscarlett.com) and Heidi Raye (http://www.ourstage.com/profile/heidiraye) in no particular order. They all are good artists with just a few things to work on that will greatly improve their chances of success.
Only two things really disappointed me this weekend. One being that someone didn’t play at all because we were having power issues. If she had waited, she would have only been 5 minutes behind schedule. The other was a female duo that I was really looking forward to hearing. Granville Automatic (www.granvilleautomatic.com) decided that they didn’t like following a dance review that I threw in to fill up 30 minutes of dead space as they gave up their night on Friday so all these artists could perform. Granville Automatic did end up playing but for only 20 minutes, which is sad, as truly, they may have had the most beautiful voices and deepest songs of all of them. It is my personal/professional opinion that no matter what, you act professional and perform. It is your job as the entertainer to win over any crowd and if you truly believe in yourself and your music, you probably will. We all went to a lot of trouble to get this event happening and went through absolute hell all weekend, the least you can do is perform your forty-five minutes in appreciation. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to perform in no where near ideal situations but you put on your professional hat and kick butt. Nothing should stop you from doing what you believe in. That being said, talent wise, these girls have it and have it in spades.
Overall I was very happy with how everything turned out and I was impressed with how hard many of the artists worked in the obscene heat and difficult conditions. CMA Fest is a very tough, long week and most of these people did an amazing job keeping their energy up and their attitude in high spirits.
Keep it up!
Side note: Kris Bell (www.krisbellmusic) is not reviewed in here as he is an artist of mine and I didn’t feel it was appropriate.