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Issue 73 September 2007COWBOY-SIZED WOOOOPS
Nashville seemed like a good idea at first - a countrified version of the recent hit The Hills that focused on the timeless Music City tale of young people looking to break into country music. What could go wrong?  Turns out plenty. The twangy "docu-drama" drew the lowest ratings in its timeslot for any show that season, and Fox axed the show after only two episodes, meaning this September 2007 cover had more run time than the actual show. D'oh! We usually don't let our hometown pride get in the way, but this was a cowboy-sized wooops on our part. - Corey Conley

Mention a reality show about music and everyone thinks of American Idol. That's why Fox is labeling Nashville as a docu-drama. It is real, unscripted footage about the drama of the country music world in Nashville. Nobody is voted off. Everybody has a chance.

From the producers of Laguna Beach: comes a show that chronicles several aspiring artists and their lives. Instead of talking about boys and parties like the teens on the shore, these people actually have a goal. They all want to get their music out to the world. Whether this show turns out to be a step towards big-time exposure or just a chronicle of their struggles, it will at least expose the world to the real Nashville.

"I think people have the perception that Nashville is a lot countrier than it is," artist Matt Jenkins told Dish. "I think some people may think we ride around on horses. We have that but I think there's definitely a false perception and I think people watching this show will [see] Nashville is a really cool city. There are so many musicians and writers that are from the pop and rock side that live in Nashville and create music. It's certainly not just a country city. It's just kind of a Mecca for great music of all genres."

Country music manager and famed songwriter Monty Powell (Kiss Me Baby, What a Beautiful Day), is on the show, as is one of his newest artists, Chuck Wicks, the only cast member with a major label record deal. Powell believes the city of Nashville has universal appeal. "The people in America who have been waiting for some content that really, they can relate to, are finally going to get to see it," said Powell. "I think that there is a lot of content in some of the reality shows that has been intriguing to middle America, but not necessarily that they can relate to. Here, there are people that they can relate to, and I think it’s going to give them a comfort zone to really invest in the characters."

Many of the artists have similar stories, moving to Nashville from other parts of the country and working day jobs while they pound the pavement. Nashville follows each of them at slightly different points in their journey.

"I’ve only lived here two years," said Lindsey Hagar, who currently works at “The Corner Pub” in Green Hills. "I met some great producers. I was working with Denny Hemingson, who is a dance-hall doctor, in the band with Tim McGraw and helps produce Tim’s albums. So I got a lot of connections through him and with him, and he helped produce my demo. You keep meeting people along the way. As long as you move forward and meet as many people as possible, it’s like you start out and you have your own little train, and as you’re going through life here in Nashville, more people jump on and want to help you with your career. So it’s slowly happening for me."

Hagar already feels like a local though. "I fit in Nashville," she said. "I’m the little country/rock singer. I like to rock out! Give a little Dolly Parton with some Pat Benatar. I’ll sneak right in there, and just give a little bit more of a rock feel to country music."

Nashville made Powell's client Wicks take a hard look at his music. RCA's Joe Galante listened to his demo and told him something was missing. Powell helped him fill in the gaps.

"I knew something was missing because if one of the best labels in town said something was missing, I knew I had to figure it out," said Wicks. "That was that. It all begins with the song. I didn’t have the songs yet. I was ready vocally, but I didn’t have the songs. I wasn’t prepared.

Yeah, that’s when Monty…we decided not to go to any other labels. We decided, if there is something missing, let’s dig in. He took me under his wing as a songwriter. Let’s find the right songs. Let’s find who I am as an artist. And that took a good while. I mean it took about four years to find out who I was as an artist and as a singer/songwriter.

So we came full circle back with Dan Huff and Monty, now, co-producing the project. And walked right into RCA, and you know, 15 minutes later, we had a full record deal. Which is funny because…I called my mom and told her, ‘Mom I got a record deal on RCA.’ She goes, ‘That only took you 15 minutes?’ I’m like, ‘Mom, it took me like five years and 15 minutes.’ I think we’re starting off with a great start with Stealing Cinderella."

Matt Jenkins almost made it once, but the show will follow him starting over. "I think that Nashville can be an unforgiving town," Jenkins told Dish. "I think the music industry, different than other industries, a lot of times you get one shot and that's it. It's kind of starting over for me. I was on Universal, got signed when I was 20 and then, due to a label change, got dropped. So many great experiences came from that though, from playing on the Grand Ole Opry to opening up for “Sugarland”. But it's definitely a ‘starting-over at square one’ and dealing with a lot of the struggles. People perceive you in a lot of ways as a has-been almost, even though I didn't have a CD or a video. It's just kind of battling through a lot of those perceptions people may have of me and building new groundwork."

Jeff Allen has his career underway. He has been able to leave his construction job and write songs full time. "I’ve been signed with CAA for about a year now," said Allen. "I’ve had the opportunity to get a lot of exposure playing colleges and playing bars and opened for “Emerson Drive” and “Sugarland” and Vince Gill and “Little Big Town” and shows like that. I think just through doors that [my agent] Jeff Greg has opened and the opportunities that I’ve had, I’ve had a standing relationship with him for seven years and I think he’s really opened a lot of doors for the last two years, even before the show came along."

Clint Moseley represents Nashville’s bigger picture. He is not working in music, but rather working at the family business. "I think they wanted to portray Nashville as a place that has a lot going on, you know, big business," said Moseley. "We own a private aviation company, we buy and sell airplanes. We’ve pretty much sold to every country singer that has a private jet. You don’t have to sing or produce to be in the music business. I think they just wanted a different mix, not everybody just strumming guitars."

Being on a TV show is no guarantee of anything, and the show is not manufacturing any connections for the artists. The cameras are just following them around.

"This is what is so great about the show," said Belmont University student Sarah Gonsulos. "I think that we all have our different styles, but it’s like an exposure to who we are and what we’re doing. We’re all struggling to be something great, and obviously we all bring something to the table, but I think it’s great to let the world know how hard we are busting our butts. And we’re working it and trying the best we can to make things happen, and I think that people will react to that. And they’ll see that we left our home towns to come here to pursue our dreams, and that’s what is so commendable about each person on the show. We’re all chasing something. And that’s the American dream. "

Jenkins added that the music will still have to speak for itself. "We still have to make great music because radio is not going to play junk just because we were on a show on FOX," he said.”

Letting cameras follow you around and editors controlling which aspects of your personality appear to the public is a tricky prospect. Producers Gary and Julie Auerbach won all of the artists' confidence, including veteran Powell's.

We’re both fans of country music – for a long time,” Gary Auerbach explained. And we’d been looking to do a docusoap that kind of encompassed more than just New York or LA. We tried to think of different places where people have dreams. So Nashville was an obvious choice because for music it really is the best place to go, regardless if you’re a country fan or not.”

“Also, there are the kind of universal themes that everyone can relate to, even if you’re not in music, that you could relate to at certain points in time in your life. When you’re going through your twenties and you’re going for your big dreams and you give it a shot, everybody can relate to that.” Julie Auerbach added.

"The timing was right," said Powell. "They were looking for someone on the show that was where Chuck is in his career so that they could follow it in real time. And the thing about Julie and Gary [Auerbach] is that they understand it takes a village, it takes a team of people to get these kids out to where they need to be. It’s not American Idol. That is not a realistic look at our industry at all."

So far, having only seen the first episode, Wicks is not as concerned with the editing as he is with his own self-consciousness. "The weirdest part for me is I'm used to hearing myself sing," said Wicks. "I'm not used to hearing myself talk. When I heard myself talk, I was like, 'Really? That's how I talk? Why do people talk this way?'"

With artists like Wicks waiting five years for a contract, and many much longer, the struggles of the Nashville cast will take more than a single season. Audiences may want to find out what happens sooner, but they'll have to wait just like the artists themselves.

"I think everyone is interested in the story, and I think at the end of the day that people are more interested when they are invested in the life of someone and their ups and downs and how they got to where they’re going to get to," said Powell. "I think that we’ve seen some of that with American Idol. Some of those people have not gone on to be super stars because there’s not really a compelling story. 'I don’t have a chance to get to know who you are. I just get to hear you sing twenty songs over a few weeks.'"

The show could also increase the city's population if other hopefuls see the opportunity. Powell invites them all. "I would say, 'Come on.' It happened before this show. It’s going to happen after this show. Nashville is the last great hometown for dreamers.”

NASHVILLE premieres on Friday, September 14, 2007 at 9:00 pm ET/PT. Don’t miss it! (but plenty did) / Issue 130 - September 2018
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