I'm embarrassed to admit that I've spent most of my time in Nashville intimidated by the music scene. Musicians in this city are so talented and so numerous, it can be overwhelming. And I don't exactly qualify as an "audiophile"; I was the kid in high school who needed someone to make me a mix CD so I would know what music was cool. Maybe you were that kid too. Now, we're both in luck. Tone Tree Music* just released the second annual Nashville Indie Spotlight, an album featuring 30 songs by 30 of Nashville's best independent artists, exclusively on iTunes. It's like Nashville made you a mix CD. Jackpot. Below, check out four Nashville Indie Spotlight artists I can't take off repeat. (HINT: RT any of my tweets about the album, you could score your very own digital download.)
Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden
Track #3: Blue Hotel
THE HISTORY: Kate Tucker moved to Nashville two years ago from Brooklyn. Before that, she lived in Seattle, where she met bandmates Wes Chandler, Matthew Thompson and Ethan Place. The band plans to release a Kickstarter-funded album and film project, The Shape the Color the Feel, in February 2014.
THE SONG: "I usually write songs with the guitar player, Wes Chandler," Kate says. "But this time we had finished rehearsal and everyone still felt like playing around. That song came out of the blue. We'd already recorded our record, but we loved it so much, we figured out a way to get back in the studio and get it on the album [The Shape the Color the Feel]."
ON LIVE MUSIC IN NASHVILLE: "My favorite place to hear live music in Nashville is The Basement," Kate says. "It's sweet and intimate and there's a great history there."
Track #28: A Thousand Nights
WHERE YOU'VE HEARD HIS SONGS: Trent Dabbs' music and lyrics have been featured all across the tube: Grey's Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars, Hawaii Five-O, and many more. Recently, a song he wrote with Kacey Musgraves called "Undermine" played on ABC'S Nashville. His eighth full-length release, The Way We Look at Horses, came out last month.
THE SONG: "A Thousand Nights' is about the reality of surviving in this industry or questioning your motives," Trent says. "It was an idea based on a brutal response to a question I asked many years ago. 'Does it really just take one song to make it?' The answer given to me was, 'I sure hope not because I have friends who have written thousands of songs and still not made 'it'.' As harsh as that answer was for me to hear it stayed with me for more than eight years now and it only made me work harder and understand that nothing comes easy. I thought it only made sense to put it on the compilation because its feels like an honest depiction of where I am."
ON FOOD IN NASHVILLE: "The gnocchi at City House is my favorite dish in Nashville," Trent says. "I also love the 'fire burger' at Burger Up. It's off the menu, but I order it every time. It's perfect!"
Track #15: Squint
WHERE YOU MAY HAVE SEEN HER: Brooke Waggoner played piano at the 2013 Grammys with Jack White. She's toured all over the world, and also just happens to live in my neighborhood. Her vocals and classically-inspired songwriting are unmatched, as is clear on her newest album, Originator.
THE SONG: "[Squint] is my favorite song on [Originator]," Brooke says. "I wanted to write something that was throwback to jazz, without being overtly jazz. There are short verses and choruses, so it was kind of a 'less is more' song for me. The original song was recorded live, so for the remix, JT Daly (frontman of Paper Route) basically had to start over. I re-sang the vocals, and we re-recorded each of the instrumental strands. So it's not a traditional re-mix, but he took a song that started as this melancholy piece and turned it into something that feels huge and cinematic."
ON LIVING IN NASHVILLE: "I love how much is going on in Nashville right now," Brooke says. "And not just in music, but in the food scene and real estate and everything The city feels alive right now. It's been great to see our city grow and I love being around such incredible talent. Even when I'm having dry spells, I feel like there's enough going on that I'm constantly being sharpened."
Track #30: Walking on Water
THE MOMENT I KNEW THEY WERE BIG TIME: Leagues' track "Walking Backwards," off the band's debut album You Belong Here, blew my mind when it blasted from my speakers during the 8th episode of Orange is the New Black. Lead vocalist Thad Cockrell acknowledges the importance of that moment. "As far as buzz or notoriety," he says, "its probably done more than anything else we've done, combined."
THE SONG: "We wanted to put something out there for people who have been fans for the last year but wanted to hear something new," Cockrell says. "Like a thank you for people who got on board early and supported us from the beginning." On the lyrics, he says, "Relationships are really tricky. There are these conversations that you need to have, that you avoid because of fear, but they don't really go away. That's what this is about."
WHEN HE'S IN NASHVILLE: "I find myself hanging out with friends as much as possible. When you get off the road, it's really easy to find a hole and isolate yourself, but the good thing about Nashville is that everybody has a lot of grace for the ebb and flow of going out and coming back and not needing to apologize for being gone. Because life does happen when you're going out. I love to cook for my friends, that's one of the things I love to do. I never make this same thing, but this morning I made sweet potato hash and eggs with avocado and a green taqueria hot sauce O make out of avocado, jalapeño and lime juice."
GIVEAWAYTo enter a random drawing for a digital download of Nashville Indie Spotlight, RT any of the tweets I've shared about Kate, Brooke, Trent, and Thad. Each RT equals one entry—so you can enter up to four times to win. The winner will be announced Monday... so get to tweetin!
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Tone Tree Music as Tree Tone Music. Trees don't make tones. My apologies!