Thursday, May 8, 2014

ON SCREEN: Nashville

After seeing the title, you may think this is a story about Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Charles Esten or any of the other big “Nashville” stars. However, this one is about yours truly. I’ve been an extra on the show a couple of times and have been asked to share my experience. One of the episodes has not aired, so I won’t be sharing any secrets. Sorry!

My first time filming was for Episode 6 of the current season.  YOUR Williamson’s Cameron McBride was there with me (pictured right), and we had a blast. Our scene was filmed at the famed “Bluebird Cafe". Those quotations are not used because it’s a title.  They are “air quotes” because the Bluebird you see on TV is not the actual Bluebird. I am not giving any secrets away on that one.  Many of you may have already known it is a replica. You can find that little piece of info and much more on Wikipedia. What you may not know is, other than the big pole in the middle of the room in the real Bluebird, the set is exactly like the Green Hill’s venue, right down to the nails on the wall. It was amazing and also a little strange because it felt like we were really there.

The scene we were in was Scarlett’s showcase before she goes on tour, and it included Connie Britton, Jonathan Jackson, Sam Palladio, new comers Chaley Rose and Will Chase, and of course, Clare Bowen who plays Scarlett. We as extras, were cast as “industry people.” It was a scene for only a few minutes of the episode, and we filmed for 13 hours! It takes a long time to get it just right, and they pay attention to every detail right down to the drink I had in my hand.  My drink was my “prop” for the day, and I was to have it with me at all times. One time, I forgot it, and they waited for me to go and get it! Even though you do not really notice it, all the extras were given a little description of who they were and direction of exactly what they were doing. There was a lot more to it than just being at the Bluebird. I even had cues and parts that were only for me. I was not expecting it to be that way! They really made all the extras feel like they mattered. Everyone was extremely nice and a lot fun to work
with.  The next episode I will be on is Episode 11. Again, I am not giving away any secrets! However, I will tell you that I am in a scene with Hayden Panettiere and her TV entourage. Ironically, I am a part of the press in the scene. I’m sure I’m just playing myself, as they, no doubt, would want coverage from

YOUR Williamson!

THEATER: We Will Rock You (November Issue 2013)

If you love rock and roll as much as I do, or even a little bit, then there is no doubt that you love the phenomenon that is Queen.  From 1973, when they released their first recording, until the death of lead singer and keyboard player Freddie Mercury in 1991, Queen was one of the most popular rock groups in the world.  They have released a total of eighteen number one albums, eighteen number one singles and ten number one DVDs worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling music artists.  Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the band is also the only group in which every member has composed more than one chart-topping single. Those singles and their albums, over the top performances and their influence on rock and roll have made them legendary.

In 1996 at the Venice Film Festival, Robert De Niro approached Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor and asked if they had ever considered creating a musical based on the band’s work. Six years later, with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s company Tribeca Theatrical Productions on board as one of the producers, We Will Rock You opened in London’s West End.  Featuring more than 24 Queen songs, this “rock theatrical” – now in its 11th year in London – has since played in some 20 countries and sold over 15,000,000 tickets worldwide. The first North American tour has just launched and will be at the TPAC November 12th-17th.  I am counting down the days!

British comedian, author, playwright, actor and director, Ben Elton, was chosen to write the musical.  In an interview, Elton said, “The reason [Queen] wanted to speak with me is because I principally work in comedy; comedy with content. Queen has always had an immense sense of fun, never taking themselves too seriously. You can see it in everything Freddie did and the costumes they wore; they were very aware of the sort of theatrical silliness of performance. So, they wanted a comedy, and I was kind of lucky that they thought ‘let’s talk to Ben’.” 

Elton wrote the musical as a satire. It’s set in a futuristic world, the iPlanet, where all entertainment is controlled by the industrial machine that produces it.  He says it’s not just for Queen fans, though.  It appeals to all audiences.  In an interview with Queen’s drummer and guitar player, Brian May and Roger Taylor, May agrees.  “We were conscious that if we just played to Queen fans, even in England, it would be over in a couple of months,” May said.  “So, by and large, we're playing to people who are not Queen fans.”  In that same interview, Taylor said, “I just hope the audiences leave the theater with a feeling of having been uplifted, having laughed a lot and having been ROCKED!”

MUSIC: Emmylou Harris (November Issue 2013)

This past summer, I attended the Second Annual Woofstock held at the Fontanel to benefit Emmylou Harris’ non-profit organization Bonaparte’s Retreat and Crossroads Campus.  I was already a fan of Emmylou’s music, but her passion for the organization was truly inspiring and made me admire her even more.  Emmylou was kind enough to invite me to her home to discuss more about the organization and of course, talk music.

Emmylou established Bonaparte’s Retreat in 2004 with the goal of rescuing dogs deemed unadoptable from the Nashville Humane Association.  She named the organization after her dog, Bonaparte, which she rescued many years prior.  She says Bonaparte was a great “bus dog”.  He toured with her for ten years.  She says it’s amazing how many artists tour with their dogs.  Her music partner Rodney Crowell also tours with a dog.  Emmylou says that makes for three dogs, a band and a crew on one bus.  She loves it, though.  “All I need is a bunk and a TV to watch baseball,” Emmylou said.

Bonaparte was with Emmylou for ten years until he died.  Emmylou did not think she would get another dog, but after seeing a commercial about shelter dogs on TV, she looked at her large flat backyard and decided to become a satellite of Nashville Humane.  Then she started thinking about dogs at Metro Nashville Animal Care and Control because they are high kill.  The first dog she got from Metro was Bella, and she ended up keeping her.  She wrote the song “Big Black Dog” about Bella but says it’s really about all dogs.

Emmylou is only able to keep a limited amount of dogs because Bonaparte’s Retreat is in her own backyard.  “We really need more fosters because the more fosters we have the more we can get from Metro,” Emmylou said.  “Once they get here, they stay until they have a home.”  Bonaparte’s Retreat and Emmylou pays for all dog care expenses anyone willing to foster incurs.  “I’m a working girl, and I will be until the day I die,” Emmylou said. “I have to be.  Vet bills are expensive.”  Emmylou does not mind at all because she loves being on the road and the comradery that comes with it.

Emmylou has done so many amazing things in her music career.  It would be impossible to write about them all, so I chose to ask her about a band she was in called the Nash Ramblers and specifically a show they did at the Ryman.  “My idea of a live album is to do all new material, and the first time we played the songs we would record it,” Emmylou said.  “We were looking around for a venue.   At that time, the Ryman was closed down.  There was even some talk about demolishing it.  We got permission to have a limited audience for 3 nights.”  Shortly after the show, it was decided to not tear down the Ryman.  Emmylou says she doesn’t know if the Nash Ramblers had anything to do with it, but I’m sure they did.

There are a couple of local opportunities to see Emmylou perform before she takes some time off next year to write a new record.  She will be at the Cannery Ballroom on November 16th for an Epilepsy Benefit.  On December 14th, she will be at Miracle on Music Row benefitting Bonaparte’s Retreat.  It will be held at O,Liv Bar in Edgehill.

Emmylou says that her favorite place to play is the Ryman.  “I love it because of the sound,” she said, “but I will play on a porch.  I just love to play music.”  Well, she can play on my porch anytime!

To find out more about Bonaparte’s Retreat and how you can foster a dog, go to   For more information on Emmylou and her upcoming shows, go to

ART: Ryan Musick (November Issue 2013)

Photographer Ryan Musick and I met, while we were both showing art at this year’s Bluegrass Along the Harpeth on the Franklin Square.  He came with one piece of art, “Bingo’s Banjo” (pictured right).  However, someone else took it home. With so many bluegrass enthusiasts gathered together, it was no surprise that it sold.  It was truly a standout piece amongst all the art, and I knew right away that I wanted to feature Ryan in my column.

Ryan calls himself “a gypsy kid”.  He grew up in South Carolina but has moved from coast to coast.  This is his second stop in Nashville.  After moving back to South Carolina for a while, he returned on the day of the flood and has been here since then.  Ryan feels that the artistic culture is a good fit for him. 

Photography has only been a professional career for Ryan in the past year.  He has had his hand in many things, such as massage therapy, architecture and assisting in the buying of rugs in Mexico.  He has always had an artful eye and appreciated the beauty in his surroundings.  He photographed as a hobby, until he realized that he was capturing something really special.  When Ryan moved back to Nashville, he was fortunate enough to apprentice under artist Jack Spencer.  Jack taught him the difference in art and photography and how to print well.  “Jack is a genius,” Ryan said, “And I feel lucky to have worked with him.”
Ryan works in three different forms of photography.  He photographs musicians; he does commercial work in architecture and advertising; and he does fine art.  His first fine art photograph was “Six String Lottery” (pictured below).  He decided to let go of all of the technical aspect of photography and just see what happened.  The result was obviously beautiful, so he continued on to the banjo.  He has also photographed Mickey Raphael’s harmonica and Jeff Coffin’s saxophone, but the banjo is his favorite.  He is not stopping there, though.  He already has another instrument in the works. 

Since photography has become a career for Ryan, he feels honored to be hired to do it. He enjoys working on his own time with no art director the most.  “Although I appreciate assistance in a commercial shoot,” Ryan said, “being able to do it myself is amazing but most difficult because I’m my own worst critic.” 

You can see more of Ryan’s work at

THEATER: Into the Woods and Jersey Boys (October Issue 2013)

When I ask my two year old if he wants something, like a cracker, his response is always, “Two cracker, two cracker!”  This is has been my attitude for this month’s theater story because I want to talk about, “Two shows! Two shows!”  October is full of great theater (see the menu), and the two I’m sharing about here are Into the Woods put on by Studio Tenn and Jersey Boys at the TPAC.   They have a very interesting connection so read on.

Into the Woods has been on Studio Tenn’s short list for a long time.  I spoke with Managing Director Jake Speck and Artistic Director Matt Logan about why that is and what makes this show so unique.  Jake and Matt really love this “absolutely fabulous” show that tells what happens after “happily ever after”.  They have just been waiting to do it, when the timing is right.  “It’s not as a popular a name as Sound of Music or My Fair Lady,” Jake said.  “We’re at the point now that we’ve created a rapport with our audience, and it’s something people will trust us on.”  Being in October also makes this enchanting show come at a great time with all the fairy tale characters, witches and the like.  Those components make it a kid friendly show.  However, make no mistake, this is not “children’s theater”.  There is something in it for everybody.  “Seeing the story unfold through a child's eyes reminds us how we are all shaped by our own childhood validations,” Logan said. “In the end, it's not so much about children as it is about the child that manages to endure in each of us—in our hopes, fears, dreams, expectations and imaginings.”

Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. It tells of how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were thirty.   

So what’s the connection between Into the Woods and Jersey Boys?  Jake Speck is that connection.  He played the role of Bob Gaudio for three and a half years, with two of those years being on Broadway.  After our discussion on Into the Woods, Jake let me pick his brain a little about being in Jersey Boys and his thoughts of the upcoming performance at the TPAC. 

Bob Gaudio lives in Nashville, and Jake stays in contact with him.  Jake said he had to actually audition for the role in front of Gaudio.   “Gaudio was around a good bit, “ Jake said.  “He was always full of incredible information and critiques.”  He also said that Bob will tell you that his character in Jersey Boys is a very heightened version of himself.  Playing Gaudio was an incredible time in Jake’s life, and he will be on the panel during TPAC’s Art Appetizer before the show on October 3oth to discuss it further. Gaudio is a big supporter of Studio Tenn and comes to their shows, which brings this all full circle for Jake, and of course, for my “two shows” story.  To find out about both, go to and