Nashville: Paying It Forward With MusicStartsHere.org and 3rd Sundays at 3:00
MusicStartsHere.org was officially launched on March 2, 2010
Doak Turner and Will Carter with Mark Kelly Hall in the background
"It's really a celebration of the human spirit." These words, spoken by Will Carter of MusicStartsHere.org in Nashville, might never have been more sincerely stated or supported by technology, good will, and a city that is truly progressive. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting Will and his colleague, Doak Turner, about their website MusicStartsHere.org, and several other innovative things that are being done in Nashville, the music publishing capital of the world.
Will Carter is the owner of a financial services company with branches in Michigan, Florida, and now Tennessee. He has also been a musician and songwriter at heart for the past 20 years with 3 recorded albums. He moved to Nashville to run his newest business venture, but also wanted to indulge his creative side there as well. Being a business man, of course, he looked to the city for direction as to what he should do to begin his career there.
Will Carter, Michele Wilson-Morris, and Buzz Keifer
"It was like going to Vegas and finding that someone had hidden the slot machines or roulette tables when you'd come there to gamble. Everything I've read and seen about Nashville is part of what makes Music City (Nashville's nickname) such a great place. People come here because they want to see their dreams come true; they want to make it in music. Their dream is the slot machine and they want to pull the lever and see it happen." Soon after arriving in Nashville, Carter met Doak Turner, who gave him several contacts, but Carter found the process to be a bit more cumbersome than he thought it should have been. He was convinced that things could be easier, and began a journey to make that happen.
Avenue Bank was created for the sole purpose of supporting the music industry in Nashville, so Carter started there in January 2009, presenting his case to the President, Ron Samuels. Samuels agreed, and introduced Carter to the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Ralph Schulz. "The Chamber has a musical note in their logo, so everybody embraces the brand as being a musical city. I voiced my concerns about the difficulty of connecting the dots in the city, musically speaking. There were typical things like BMI, PROs, NSAI, who are great at what they do, but their job isn't to teach you the music business." Schultz concurred and recommended moving forward to find a solution. Carter suggested bringing in Doak Turner to help. "After a few meetings, everyone involved knew something great was about to happen, and they asked if Doak and I would champion the cause. We agreed. By May 2009, the site was already being physically put together. In December, we began taping our first video interviews."
MusicStartsHere.org was officially launched on March 2, 2010. The event was held at the Red Rooster Restaurant and hosted 250+ music industry people to introduce the new site with 100+ video clips with music industry professionals, Ralph Schulz, and other music industry songwriters, artists, publishers, PROs from ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, NSAI, an image coach, vocal coach, entertainment attorney, banker and many other professionals giving advice to musically inclined people looking to Nashville as their creative launching point. What I find to be so refreshing about the site is that while there are links at the top to guide you to your particular area of interest, a lot the information provided is given to you by real people on crisp, clear video telling their stories, and welcoming and inspiring you. Of course, Turner and Carter are adamant about acknowledging that none of this would be possible without everyone from Avenue Bank's President to the people who contributed information and videos for the website. Both Turner and Carter vow that the site will be an "ongoing living resource," continually evolving and being updated with new information. But support for musicians in Nashville doesn't end with MusicStartsHere.Org. There's more to know about Doak Turner.
Doak Turner began writing songs in 1989 while living in Charlotte, NC. He worked in radio from 1995 to 1996, and came to Nashville that year for a country radio seminar. After seeing a sign on 17th avenue that read Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), he entered the building and asked what they did. Turner returned to Charlotte and promptly started a chapter of NSAI there, but his heart belonged to Nashville. So, in 2002, he made it his home and began to really concentrate on his music. A couple of months later in 2003 while visiting songwriters in Orange County, California, someone suggested he start emailing where everyone was playing in Nashville for the songwriting community. That was the beginning of the Nashville Muse website and newsletter (which is now sent via email to 5000 subscribers weekly), both of which are owned by Turner. But he didn't stop there. "In March 2003, I decided to have some friends over for Sunday dinner, and about 30-40 people showed up. We ate, played music for each other, and had a great time, so I decided to continue doing it. March 21, 2010 was the 7 year anniversary of the 3rd Sunday at 3:00 at Doak's.
Being a curious person, I wanted to see what the 3rd Sunday at Doak's was about. Having been invited, I went to Nashville to see for myself on what happened to be the 7 year anniversary of the event. People came from both near and far to enjoy good food, good company, and great music.
Doak has several rooms in his home, each of which has great acoustics and lots of chairs. After eating, I began listening as a young man from Indiana by the name of Dakota began an impromptu guitar and vocal solo performance of a song he had just completed in the hotel the night before. That was followed by several other people, including Holly Stewart who performed a couple of songs that she had written, including one called "Dear John" that nearly reduced me to tears. I could barely believe she hadn't been signed by anyone yet, but have no doubt that it's just a matter of time. Then there was Tom Shinness, Dave Isaacs, Chip Bailey, Mark Alan Barnette, Billy Scrapper, and too many more to name. These great and talented artists were all enjoying and encouraging the other - chiming in to help with backup vocals, bass, keyboard and guitar playing. It was an enlightening and amazing environment of the best that we, as human beings, have to offer.
Doak is proud of what he does and very happy about it as well. "Nashville's such a giving town, and so many people have helped me along my journey here. I do the 3rd Sunday's because I've had people to help me with songwriting and in life with knowledge, encouragement, support, and inspiration. People reached out to me when I needed it, and this is the least I can do to pay them back. It's the best thing I can do. I love introducing new people to their peers and remind them that even the big writers were new to Nashville at one time. That's what Nashville is about - we are a family, and we understand each other. It's a "Pay It Forward" community.
Jimmy Borja on keyboard and Tom Shinness on cello
Doak also stated, "One thing that we show on our website is that Nashville is not just all about country music. Nashville supports all genres of music. We have everything from rock bands to salsa bands. The Kings of Leon, Paramore, and Ke$ha are all from Nashville. All around town you have venues that have country writers, but there are other venues with various types of music. R&B, soul, folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, and contemporary Christian musicians are established very securely here. People have come here and made this place their home because they know that they can be successful here. It's because everything is at their fingertips - top of the line studios, it's the publishing capital of the world, there are great session players, musicians - everything you need to create a phenomenal music product here, and they build friendships with people who are just like them.
"Nashville has also become home to other famous musicians who are looking to get away from the New York and LA scenes, such as Jonathan Cain, a member of the group Journey who now lives here. There are members of 80's & 90's bands who have moved here - Gunnar Nelson and Kelly Keagy of Night Ranger. Bob Welch, an original member of Fleetwood Mac just moved here."
I agree with Doak. Nashville is a "Pay It Forward" city. I hope to move there soon.
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