International Update: What's Happening in Nashville

Monday, 06 Jul 2015

Mark Moffatt is the APRA AMCOS Nashville Ambassador who has lived there for 20 years, almost a ‘local'. Mark Moffatt is well qualified as a ‘touch point’ for the local members. He has more productions in the APRA AMCOS Top 30 Songs of All Time than any other single producer and has produced an astonishing 15 ARIA Hall of Fame inductees.

Mark recently hosted a unique member event – APRA Nashville Connect - at Blue Bar in ‘Midtown’ which opened up networking opportunities and performance showcases for the many successful songwriters ‘embedded’ in this city. 

Some 120 people listened to the advice of Steve Bloch of Speed Pitch who is known for getting writers in front of leading Nashville industry professionals, followed by Bobby Rymer of Writer’s Den Publishing. A host of APRA AMCOS Nashville residents performed - Kristy Cox, Travis List, Sue Ray, Anthony Snape, Sam Hawksley Band and Matt Scullion. The line up of visitors playing included Troy Kemp, Damien Baguley and the Adam Eckersley Band.

Adam Eckersley Band performing at CMAUS

This networking event followed the first, and very successful, SongHubs held at Nashville Quad Studios last year. 

Mark is passionate about overseas artists being part of the American music community, “Over the years Australia has had the highest number of artists signed direct to major Nashville labels out of any territory outside the US and there's a growing understanding amongst the Nashville writing and publishing communities that Australian writers get it. Australian publishers traditionally pay little attention to mainstream US country nor do they understand much else about Nashville, and I'm hoping they will ultimately engage and enable more writers to share in these opportunities.”

“The biggest change has been the shift from the major country labels holding the keys to the door which was largely brought about by the Taylor Swift/Big Machine success story. Taylor had the clout and smarts early on to avoid all the pitfalls that usually turned major label country artists into cookie cutter acts. Sharp, new young management/distribution companies like Thirty Tigers have taken it one step further and are re writing the rules with artists like Sturgill Simpson.

“The massive industry infrastructure in Nashville (tour bus companies, stadium-ready rehearsal facilities, musicians, studios) grew out of the scale afforded by the country industry, and artists like Jack White and the Black Keys saw this was something they could use and moved here. Nashville may not have the star-making/pop-allure of LA but it has the largest concentration of writers, studios and musicians on the planet and Jack White certainly helped shine a light on that when he moved here from Detroit.

“Some of our APRA AMCOS members here are in the top few per cent of music writers in the US right now but in Australia they are virtually unknown.

“The Connect meetings gave resident APRA AMCOS writers a sense of camaraderie and belonging, an opportunity to catch up on what each other have been doing and to share contacts and experiences. It's fantastic that APRA AMCOS quickly got to understand the importance of Nashville as a global writing and recording hub as this support has definitely raised the organisation's profile in town and will continue to do so.”

Sam Hawksley is one such songwriter who feels the ‘warmth of the Aussie embrace’ and ‘Urban-effect’ in Nashville. Ten years ago, Keith Urban heard Sam’s debut album while driving in his car and tracked him down to sign him up as the opening act for his 2005 Australian tour. A gifted guitarist, Sam has performed and recorded with a veritable who’s-who of the Australian music scene, a list that includes the likes of The Whitlams, John Farnham, Adam Brand, Wendy Matthews, Vanessa Amorosi and Richard Clapton.

When we asked Mark asked what was the most important thing the the local and state governments have done to facilitate the music business in Nashville, Mark was quick to reply, “The Nashville TV show has done an enormous amount to attract this current rush to what the US now calls the "it” city. Over its three seasons the show received around US $30 million from the state of Tennessee, the city of Nashville and various other industry bodies. It's a massive mainstream network success in the US and was a great blow to the Australian Country, Roots and Americana music communities that the free-to-air networks in Australia passed on it,” he said.

What else is going on in Nashville, Mark?

CMA Global Live (part of CMA Fest) is a huge event hosted recently featuring eight invited artists from around the world, where APRA AMCOS members were well represented this year: Morgan Evans (who also hosted), Adam Eckersley Band and Mickey Pye from Australia and Cam Luxton from New Zealand. Besides those artists, a large contingent of Australian writers and artists were in town for the festival,” he said.

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