Ally Brown

Phill Thompson, Rob Stewart, Emma Louise Berkey, Chuck Beard, Michael McRay, and Tom Eizonas

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the 120th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 119, I repeat … 119, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is East Side Storytellin’ 120. Let us begin, again.

Our first featured artist of the evening is a young man who has lived, traveled, and written enough for about several lifetimes already. He is a scholar and a gentleman. He received his Master’s in Philosophy, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation from Trinity College of Dublin at Belfast. He is a writer, advocate, adjunct professor, storyteller, and a fellow host. He was a volunteer prison chaplain before being banned for organizing. He is the cofounder of No Exceptions Prison Collective, and is the founder/cohost of TenX9 Nashville Storytelling. He has several books, but the one I sold the most of at East Side Story was Letters from Apartheid Street. You can purchase any and all of his works published to date here- michaelmcray.com. It was a true honor to finally get this friend on out stage, and it was an equal honor to relief him of his usual hosting duties to relax, focus, and enjoy the single act of sharing his stories in front of a crowd without worrying about anything else. As you can guess from reading the title of this recap and the website link in the previous sentence, I’m talking about the honor of introducing my friend and inspiration, Nashville’s patron old soul saint of peace himself, Michael McRay!

Michael had asked me several questions about content to share leading up to the show. When asked if he should share a funny story or a very dark story, I told him that we’ve had everything on the spectrum to this point in the series and that it was totally up to however he was feeling at the moment. He decided to go somewhere in the middle of said spectrum and reveal a very personal incident that has left him heartbroken for the sake of lost friendship yet also feeling good for being proactive and living his proof, letting his actions speak louder than his words could with people of power who have a hard time listening to said truth. I was not alone in the fact that I was excited to hear what Michael had to say.

Michael prefaced his short story, a story that he had originally written for and shared at one of his superb TenX9 Nashville Storytelling shows in the past, by drawing up a proper setting and backdrop to the personal history he invested at Riverbend Correctional Facility in Nashville. He had been serving as a volunteer chaplain, consistently providing peaceful and impactful practices for the prison mates to use to diffuse conflict and find more resolutions that would benefit everyone involved. At some point, like in every great story, there was adversity. The adversity that Michael faced was with the authorities of the prison, seemingly siding with the inmates because of gross misconducts of power and miscommunication and non-action or actions that were not exactly in the best benefits of those living at the facility. Sounds like the current state of our political adversity, right? Well, this story didn’t end in the best of terms. I won’t tell you that the Titanic sinks to ruin the story for you, but I will let you take a listen to the recording below so that you can hear the story straight from the heat and mouth of the man who lived it firsthand.

Michael is one of the most brave and intelligent and altruistic people I’ve ever come across so far in my life. I kid you not, when I say that he seems to have done more and lived more than a hundred lifetimes of service for the good already. I’m excited to follow his journey going forward, on and off the pages of his written word and important interviews, and I’m grateful that I get to be a small part of that journey at times whenever he needs my or other friends’ help. Point being, before I move on to the music of the night, Michael McRay is someone we should all sit and listen to and think about how we can take even a piece of the great things he is doing every day and add that into our lives to help ourselves and others at the same time. I wrote that he is a Nashville saint, but even he would say that he’s just doing what he’s meant to be doing and that every single one of us has the time, energy, and passion to do the same if we put our hearts and minds and calendars on the same page.

Our featured music of the night is a local songbird who brings enchanting electrified folk music wherever she goes that has been described as darkly cheerful and cheerfully dark. Her influences range from indie rock to country to Eastern European folk music, aka folk punk. I was introduced to this lady via one of our most enthusiastic and awesome musicians in the East Side Storytellin’ family by the name of Ally Brown. You may have already met her, Emma and not Ally, at The Patterson House, Rumours East, The Wild Cow, or even at High Garden while she was busy slinging tea and herbs. You may have seen perform in her other band Chicken Little! Originally from Ashville, North Carolina, she now calls Nashville home and she revealed on the spot that she is no longer on the market for a good roommate. She found one! On that great note, I was happy to welcome back our house band of the month with the talented Rob not Rod Stewart and Philly not Philly Thompson so they could rock the house beside and behind the one and only dynamite punk folker Emma of Emma Dilemma!

Emma is like dynamite. She quite and petite by nature, but once you light the mic fuse and give her the chance to plug in any number of instruments that she can play and play oh so  well, she will blow your mind. Her stories are deep and her melodies are all over the place, but everything is within your wheelhouse to take in, appreciate to another level, and leave with a new sense of the world you live in after they tickle your eardrums and soul. She started off a song about driving all night underneath the moonlight and it just feeling right. Talk about setting a cool mood for a set. Then, right when you were feeling at ease, that’s when the capo incident happened to add dilemma into the Emma Dilemma namesake. The capo was found exactly where Rob put it and all was back to normal, but it was almost like a reality show of home renovations of insert the made up drama of a deadline 2/3 of the way into the show so they crew can make everything better at just the right time to wrap things up like a bow. I don’t say this to say that the capo was not important or made up. I say this because Emma and the band really did knock out the rest of the set, even with instrument changes that rivaled Cher’s wardrobe changes (again, in the best of ways), with ease and delight.

Between the blur of instrument changes, Phill is steady as a rock that rocks.

Emma went on to sing songs about “No Hard Days”, a protest song, a song about iPhones and having the whole world in our hands, and all of it seemed to perfectly reflect and expand on the sentiments introduced by Michael’s reading about life in prison. I guess we don’t need bars on our doors and windows to feel similar pain and life perspectives in our own daily lives and struggles.

Emma closed her set with a song called “Here We Go.” I told her after the fact that it and she reminded me a lot of Paul Simon mixed with the storytelling and Eastern European stories and sounds of Regina Spektor. Not to sound like I have a firm grasp of the music language and technical terminology, but the changes in the measures and tempo throughout the song was such a treat to listen to for the entire duration. The title of the song was spot on to the musical rollercoaster ride that the band took us on, and I think I could listen to this song over and over again for about a week and it never get old. You can test that theory out for yourself, as well as diving into the other songs on the set list, when you have a moment or two to check out the show link below.

And then I was yet again able to stand up on stage beside these comrades and converse with them about there creative journeys, inspirations, and little nuggets of knowledge that they hold dear to use as fuel for their motivations. Both Michael and Emma have lived in a lot of places, met a lot of interesting characters, and have used their time wisely to learn from others in order to make their lives and others’ around them more purposeful. I can’t say how refreshing it is to meet other people who don’t waste their days with inactivity, while at the same time constantly questioning others and life in general in an attempt to find more truthful answers during the short time we have here together. Emma and Michael both have smiles, personal & communicative skills, and genuinely positive attitudes that can light up any room they walk into. And that fact was on full display at The Post East on this great evening with friends.

Photo Credit to Steve Simpson

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Michael & Emma (and Rob & Phill) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

And here it is, after writing and talking about it throughout the text above, this is the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 120, the night when Michael McRay and Emma Dilemma allowed us to spend a few minutes in the lives of other people to give us positive and good perspectives on our own lives going into the holiday season and New Year. This was recorded at The Post East on Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Feel free to listen to this link and share it with everyone you know, over and over again. You’re welcome.

You can read more of Michael’s writing here- michaelmcray.com

You can listen to more of Emma’s music here –www.emmadilemmasongs.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website, www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own WordsTab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris (and Zach) for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 121
Tuesday, December 19th
at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm
reading- Joseph Ingle
singing- India Ramey

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 120 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there. I repeat. Please remember to be nice to one another.

Much love,
mE

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Tom Eizonas, Rob Stewart, Dale J, Ashley Roth, Phill Thompson, and Chuck Beard

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording of the 119th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 118, I repeat … 118, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is recap and recording of the East Side Storytellin’ 119. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is a writer, mother, and animal activist that currently calls Nashville home. Her work has appeared in decomP magazine, Moonsick Magazine, 100 Word Story, Sobotka Literary Orphans, and others. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, The Great Jazz Baby. I first met her when she brought and sold her children’s book Tiny Tallulah and The Trouble With Zoos at East Side Story. She later slayed a cool crowd with some original poetry outside of East Side Story near the end of our retail run. No matter if its words for kids or adults, this artist knows what she is doing and where she is going. I have no doubt she’ll get proper representation soon, maybe sooner after later once this recap and recording gets out there. Regardless of literary politics, I was as happy as Poppy on Trolls to introduce the pinker than pink and always smiling Ashley Roth.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

Ashley was good friends with about 80% of the packed house, so it wasn’t uncommon to have to wait a few seconds to let the applause and chants of her name from the crowd to calm down before anyone could speak on the mic. Obviously, from the smiles above and below, Ashley was ecstatic to be featured and present for the occasion. She decided to divide her time by thirds to share a little bit of a few projects. The first was a previously published work titled Mice. Holiday-themed and timed, it was a wild story about family, some alive but some gone without being forgotten, and mice in the house that resembled those found in Cinderella. At times, it was haunting. But it was refreshing, from the details of the smells and setting, all of the time. Plus, I love the name Mabel. The second piece was something to be published soon in Sobotka called Adolescent. It was a special 90’s reflection, with two female friends conversing about their likes and dislikes that eventually ended up being a who can top the other person by describing how they would best fantasize their suicide to be more like Kurt Cobain (and definitely not Team Amy Grant). Again, the references, the details of smells and sights, were all spot on.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

Then Ashley closed her reading by giving us a professional tease of her book The Great Jazz Baby. I forget the byline that she gave later in the evening, for all listening publishers and agents (you can catch it in the recording below), but it was a vintage time lapse of an original Ashley Roth story. The characters were instantly intriguing and easy to draw anyone and everyone in, and the conversations were as witty and appealing as all get out. Plus, ever since The NeverEnding Story, I have loved the name Sebastian for any fictional character too. I personally can’t wait to read the entire story, if she lets me before it’s in published print.

Our featured music of the night is a dear friend of Ashley’s and a stellar musician in his own right. He is an experimental folk artist who often uses amplified acoustic instruments, strange projected visuals, and a stomp box created from an upside-down dresser drawer (that he brought for the special occasion), among other things. He tells original stories, inspired from odd observations and humor. He has been described as a fun mix of Frank Zappa, Bill Hicks, Tom Waits, and a touch of Butthole Surfers. His latest album will be called Eye Dropper, but he’s here tonight to share some new and old things to inspire our days. Alongside his very talented friends Rob (not Rod) Stewart and Phill (maybe I’ve been watching An American Tail too many times with my son lately and called Phill Phillie) Thompson, I was delighted to introduce the man, the legend, the talented Dale J.

Dale, like Ashley, jumped right into his groove on stage, becoming instant friends with anyone who wasn’t already his friend before the show started. It didn’t take me long at all to recognize that Dale has a very special condition where he only speaks the truth. I was all ears. From the shout-outs to the West Virginia wine, to the announcement of the fake band name Viking Swimming Pool (I think it’s a keeper), to introducing the band and thanking Ashley, me, Tom, and everyone else to coming out for the show before even playing the first note, I was strapped in for an unforgettable experience. Dale and the crew didn’t disappoint.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

They played and combo of thick and groovy melodies for each jam and intricately weaved in and out of tempos and typos and thoughts and dreams and stories upon stories in and out of song that left my mind reeling from the depths of metaphors that Dale was slinging on stage like some sling spare change on the side walk. Again, I was picking everything up and I wasn’t alone. Everyone, on stage and off, was having a good time and using their presence to the max.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

 

The stories about pet lizards (aka Little Man), a pet who was more family and some people consider their biological families, asking boys where the fear comes from despite knowing they’ve been here before, or being king of the basement steps, being fine down there (here), or trying to settle in when going home, I think I have enough inspirational material to write my next short story to keep me in check. Point being, these stories weren’t just contained in the music. Dale continued his wonderful tales of truth after the music faded and Ashley and I joined him on stage for a talk for the show’s closure.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

We again waited for the joyous chants of Ashley’s name from her fans to subside before we really got into some quality talks. Dale continued to talk more about how his mind works within creativity, making his own art, and the act of sharing it with others. Ashley was able to stress how important becoming a parent was for her to her craft and being able to share that with others too. You can listen to the conversation and everything we recorded below, so I won’t keep you here long. I will say, though, that the entire evening felt like one of those nights I know I’ve had (I’m pretty sure you have too) where you were surrounded by good friends having the best of talks long into the night and early morning. You know, the type where your friends share things from their journals or stories from their pasts or goals in the future or songs they’ve written or grabbing a random instrument laying around in the room and playing it wildly and perfectly, even if you didn’t know they could actually play that instrument they put together on the fly. Again, point being, it was one of those nights where magic happened between kindred spirits and random tidbits of truth are dropped and you wake up the next morning wondering if it all actually really happened and you try to remember every single magical detail or truth dropped to apply it to you day and then you remember it was really real and the magic is already inside you and didn’t go over your head (it hit and stuck on your heart). So yeah.

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Ashley and Dale (and Rob & Phill) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

Go ahead and get you a taste of the magic we all experienced with Ashley Roth and Dale J (and Rob not Rod Stewart & Phill the Phillie Fievel Mousekewitz Thompson) by listening to this edited recording of East Side Stortyellin’ 119 that we hosted at The Post East on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. It was an honor and one-of-a-kind night. Enjoy and share this link, over and over again, with family, friends, and complete strangers over this holiday weekend. Also, remember to be thankful for at least two things today, on top of being nice to one another.

You can read more of Ashley’s writing here – www.ashleynroth.com

Credit to @davidrobetfarmerie
www.instagram.com/davidrobertfarmerie

You can listen to more of Dale’s music here – facebook.com/dalej369

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own Words Tab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be
East Side Storytellin’ 120
Tuesday, December 5th
at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm
reading- Michael McRay
singing- Emma Dilemma

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 119 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,
mE

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RJ Bracchitta, Abigail Flowers, Tom Eizonas, James Collins, and Chuck Beard

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording 116th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 115, I repeat … 115, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is the recap and recording of East Side Storytellin’ 116. Let us begin, again.

Our first featured artist of the evening is a published poet who has earned a wide variety of writing credits that include plays, musicals, book adaptations for theater, national advertising copy and articles for the St. Petersburg Times and other publications. He has also written non-violent curriculum for schools. He taught creative writing for 6 years for 2 Art Councils in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. Since moving to Nashville, he has written and published 5 books for children, as well as 3 books of poetry…such a slacker. On this given night, we were honored to have him share some new, fresh off the kitchen counter, original work with us. I’m talking about the always refreshing and talented James Collins.

James kicked off his set by announcing to the crowd that he is weird, his words are weird, and this reading was going to be weird, all while shuffling through his prepared work that he had continuously edited and prepared up until the last second. Some of the poems had lines through the title, and those lines were put there mere minutes before the show started. That’s how fresh this material was. I told James during the pre-show that sharing creative work that nobody has ever heard or seen before typically gets an astute audience even further on the edge of their seats. This is exactly what happened as James began to deliver his “weird” poetry.

But the thing about it was that none of the poetry or reading was weird at all. James knew exactly where he was going and how he wanted to take us with him, as we walked hand in hand with his poetic walk in the park. And this walk took us places such as trying to find love, natural love, hidden treasures while making journeys through men’s work from the head to the heart, and then several poems about the art of aging. Despite the comedic, self-defecating comments about James aging more than most in the crowd (obviously, like the laws of gravity, we are all aging at the same rate in this room), I think the aging content and ideas behind our various processes of accepting our everyday age increase were spot on and absolutely brilliant. Then, after nearly dropping the mic with a poem about the recent eclipse experience, James ended with a cure and a remedy speech as his official/unofficial encore (as demanded by the crowd). There are so many great lines that I took note of during James’ set, but the overall adventure between birth and death was at the heart of it all … it always is.

Our featured music of the night was provided by someone who was making the third time a featured charm since she had already shared the East Side Storytellin’ stage as a friend to Ally Brown and Kira Hooks. She is a versatile vocalist with a passion for great melodies. Since picking up her first ukulele in 2011, she has been busy combining her smooth vocal tone with the instrument’s simple sound to produce an intimate and emotional musical experience you will soon behold. But on this particular event, she left the trusted ukulele at home and instead brought her trusted and talented friend RJ Bracchitta on the guitar. But back to the featured musician. She is a vocalist and songwriter with specialties in jazz, Latin, and singer-songwriter styles. And she has a heart and voice of gold. I’m talking about the bright star on the meteoric rise named Abigail Flowers.

Abigail, who came straight to the show from a church choir practice, immediately brought us good karma, good stories, and a great lead song called “Bobby.” She told a short story behind the song. It was about a homeless man/friend she met while doing social work for a year in the Houston area. It was a journey of questions about life, heaven, and everything in between. It was clear that her time in Houston had been a profound experience because she went into another original song about other long-distance friendships from that time right after Bobby.

From Houston to family inspired songs, Abigail opened her heart and her vocals by sharing the sweetest 60th anniversary gift any granddaughter has ever made and given to their grandparents. As is the case in most of these recaps, I can’t fully give the story or song justice more than you taking time to check it out yourself in the recording below, but know that there were quite a few eyes in the crowd that needed tissues = happy tears, of course. But then, switching from family to relationships with boys who love Hanson, Abigail and RJ revved up the rhythm and soon began playing harmonies off of each other like a dance. They ended the set with a song called “Enough.” It was a beautiful reminder that there’s nothing out there when you’re searching for the wrong things, but there’s more than enough in the world when you are searching for the good stuff. And she sang that we get more things by giving it all away. I couldn’t have said or sang it better on this given day.

From the music ending, I let RJ jump back into the audience while asking James to return to the stage. Then Abigail and James took me on a quite the conversation about their creative upbringings, adversities, support and lack there of, and honestly articulating what makes them tick each time they go to write new material. They have a few years and different insights between them, but there was a similar passion for finding and sharing the truths they find to be self-evident in their stories. It was an absolute pleasure to share some quality time together while talking with these two humble and great artists.

So here it is, the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 116, the show where we featured James Collins and Abigail Flowers (with RJ Bracchitta) at The Post East on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. Feel free to enjoy and share it with everyone you know, over and over again.

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for James & Abigail for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can listen to more of Abigail’s music here – www.abigailflowersmusic.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own WordsTab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 117

Tuesday, October 17th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Carter F. Smith

singing- Ali Sperry

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 116 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,

mE

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Joshua Dent, Kira Hooks, Christina Stoddard, Chuck Beard, Tom Eizonas, and Ally Brown (Abby Flowers pictured in spirit … again)

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the 112th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 111, I repeat … 111, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is East Side Storytellin’ 112. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is the author of HIVE … a work which won the 2015 Brittingham Prize in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin Press and was a finalist for the 2016 Washington State Book Award. More importantly, it had one of the coolest book covers we ever showcased at East Side Story. This artist grew up in Washington and has worked in both the Czech Republic and Japan teaching English as a foreign language and has said that they all speak better English than anyone down on Broadway any day that ends in day … I’m kidding about the last part, but the rest is true. Another truth, she earned her MFA from UNC at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow. I’m not sure what that is but I know it’s important. Her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, storySouth, Tupelo Quarterly, and Spoon River Poetry Review, to name a few. She is super smart, an excellent writer, a supporter for everyone and everything literary everywhere she goes, and we were darn lucky to have her to save the day. You already know who I’m talking about, but I’m talking about the legend herself, Christina Stoddard!

Christina took a stand beside the tilted podium and jarred our minds right off the bat with some historical facts about serial killers from her hometown. A few names that inspired a few of her poems in HIVE, I won’t give them more credit than what they already have received but I will say that the combination of Christina’s background stories mixed with her prolific skills as a wordsmith pretty much slay anything most of the people present had heard in a hot minute. Christina’s poetry is pure fire.

Christina introduced us all to a yearbook signing of one said serial killer before he was known as a serial killer, the suicide of a veteran sibling post Gulf War drama, her immense hatred for wearing rings in general, and specific haircuts to get her going in the right place. And speaking of getting things and people going, there were two poems that were more declarative and poignant, again, than anything I’ve heard in awhile. First, she did a brilliant original remix of the Lord’s Prayer that was slanted in honor of a true feminist pledge. Then she gave an opus of seizing the day and charging action in her homage of Ides during the month of July. You really have to listen to the reading below and buy a copy of HIVE as soon as you can to understand the truth I’m talking about (some of those poems will be on her next book as well). But, before I end my love fest for Christina’s poetry, I must single out the poem about her thinking about salmon. It was the major connection between the featured guests of the night and a theme of making a family, and Christina nails it. The imagery of fishing salmon as a child and learning one of her catches was pregnant after the fact and then the linear relationship of her life years later is both heartbreaking and beautiful all in the same light. Point being, Christina tells it how it is, tells it so eloquently, and doesn’t hold any punches. You feel her words in your gut, heart, face, and tears. She’s powerful … and wonderful.

Our featured music of the night is a Nashville based musician who was born in Houston, shout out Texas, but raised overseas in The Netherlands, Nigeria, Scotland, and China. This young artist is always in search of what brings us together and what feels like honest work. A gentle, but powerful, woman and a scholar, she graduated from the Los Angeles College of Music in 2013 and has since gone on to release one album, 3 EP’s, and four singles. She’s an active member of Concerts In Your Home and spends a lot of days performing on the road. Maybe most importantly, she is very close friends with several of our East Side Storytellin’ favorites. This girl is close friends with Joshua Dent, Abby Flowers, and Ally Brown. Alongside these talented local musicians, it was an honor to set up the stage and share the spotlight on the tremendous star on the rise in Kira Hooks!

Kira took a seat on a stool, hooked up her guitar, crossed her legs, acknowledged her side harmony in Ally Brown, and started her set like a needle to a vinyl on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Her voice was like a vintage jazz star from another day and time, her melodies instantly put everyone at ease, and then she set sail for awesome in the middle of her ocean of dreamlike material. In a town that refers itself to music in its nickname namesake and has a million and one singers living inside the city limits, I’ve never heard a voice as unique and fitting her her material as Kira. It’s almost as if Sade and Diana Krall mixed together with the absolute best of every R&B soul singer of the 90’s and churned out this majestic muse and conductor of awesome on a stool for all of us to enjoy for years to come.

Kira gave mad props to every person she brought up to the stage and constantly referenced new respect and love for the art that Christina had shared with the same crowd. Kira was equally as open and honest via her backstories and dreams of someday moving to New York (she will conquer it when she is ready and leaves … hopefully years from now for Nashville’s sake though) and her song about creating a family in Labor of Love. She admitted to being a bit sappy and lovey-dovey while trying to Waltz with an Angel and When I Ran Into You, but I was not alone in thinking that we all could use a lot more lovey-dovey if that’s the case. The classical sounds that Joshua Dent adds to any songs, mixed with the modern take of doo-wop and Motown-ish licks from Ally and Abby having a blast alongside an alternative folk Beyonce, was simply perfect for the occasion and week in general. It all made me think of that phrase, “If the Love doesn’t feel like a 90’s R&B song, then I don’t want it.”

This was actually one of the only shows where I was sad to be the host for a second. When Kira asked us how much more time she had left, and I could see in her eyes that she would have played a few more and was thinking about choosing the next one, I succumbed to the moment and told her we only needed one more. Truth be told, the crowd and I would’ve stayed there in our seats for another week for sure. I guess it’s better to keep the staff at The Post on our side too. It all works out for the best.

Speaking about working out for the best, this pairing was simply phenomenal. Nobody would have known that we had to change a thing or two a mere 24 hours before showtime, and my buddy Steve would call me out for saying serendipity again if I said it another 50 times during the show in the making. It honestly blows my mind how well everything comes together just as it is supposed to when you are doing something that needs to be done.

After Kira’s final track titled If You Got A Dream, a song that to me resembled Christina’s charge the moment poem, I was yet again fortunate to have both of the artists back on stage to talk about their lives beyond their art. I’m always amazed by the honesty and forthright of the guests who take my questions and answer them in ways that if you already call them friends you learn something new and if you didn’t know these people then you feel like you’ve known them forever. Both Christina and Kira were/are so gracious with their personal responses and so professional in everything they delivered from the stage all night long. It was an honor to host the show that paired so much talent and love for words and positive personal growth. I was humbled to be in the crowd.

Again, because I could ramble on about how great these people are and how much fun the show was in person, I’ll just cut to the part where I share with you the edited version of East Side Storytellin’ 112. You know, the show we recorded at The Post East on Tuesday, August 1st, 2017, that featured Christina Stoddard and Kira Hooks (alongside Ally Brown, Abigail Flowers, and Joshua Dent). Here it is, enjoy and share it over and over again. Thank you!

Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Christina and Kira, Ally, Joshua, and and Abby for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can read more of Christina’s writing here – www.christinastoddard.com

You can listen to more of Kira’s music here – www.kirahooks.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own WordsTab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 113

Tuesday, August 15th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Susan McBride

singing- Mary Bragg

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 112 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there. I repeat, please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,

mE

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Tom Eizonas, Nick Rossi, Zach Ryan, and Chuck Beard

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the 111th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 110, I repeat … 110, previous shows East Side Story has put together, we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is East Side Storytellin’ 111. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is not just an amazing writer and human being, he is also a publisher of beautiful weirdos. It’s true, this guy, alongside Eric Benick, started the oober-awesome Ursus Americanus Press. With several hit projects in the bag and more on the horizon, this guy barely has time to do anything else … but alas, he persisted. When this guy isn’t eating too much sugar, spending too much time on his phone, or staying up too late for no reason, he endlessly churns out original stories on the page, over the interwebs, on countless white t-shirts, and more. His diligent work ethic is only matched by his positive attitude and energy for everyone around him. To say that he has a lot of friends and literary peers would be the understatement of the year. He has a busy year ahead with a move and work appearing in MESMER, Souvenir Lit, MAYDAY magazine, Chicago Literati, Vanilla Sex Magazine, and a few bathrooms around Nashville. He also writes and plays in a band called Choovanski. Point being, this guy rocks. It was truly an honor to introduce the man, the legend, Nick Rossi!

Nick took to the microphone like a caged animal who had been drinking caffeine all day while trying to decide if he needed to make brand new prose and poetry ready for a reading or if he should just rely on his old and trusted friends. I believe he ended up drinking a few pony high life’s and doing a little bit of both. All in all, Nick was in his zone. He apologized for his Chicago voice, gave a multitude of personal shout outs throughout the reading and night, and set the mood of the event perfectly with his tales of life on the road and not so light material that felt right at home for this day and age.

photo by Chance Chambers

I though Nick did a beautiful job of tying together the three stages of his Nashville experience. He shared a poem that explained why he decided to first come to Nashville (he apologized for the lack of edits for parts he claimed that sucked but everyone else in the room agreed that his words and reading did everything but suck). He spoke about the places he had come from and where he is going soon. Somewhere in the middle, he shed light and a deep perspective of privilege that he and so many of us other white males live with on the daily in this country, all the while sharing vivid examples and imagery of references with the abuse towards African Americans in this world. Like Nick’s shirts, his words and thoughts are extremely powerful. The sooner you get in the groove of how to digest the manner in which he races through his words, thoughts, and pages, the better you are to understand the pure heart and passion for literature and life and connecting with other people that Nick exudes on the daily. It’s all right there in his work. You can hear it as plain as day right there in the recording below.

Our featured music of the night is someone who has been playing music regularly since the age of 11. He’s chased his dream under a multitude of names and across several genres, but he’s still truckin’ and searching for his truth. After spending years doing the solo artist thing, his current project is The Wanderers (not to be confused the That Thing You Do’s The Oneders). Drawing inspiration from sounds and folks like Tom Waits, David Lynch, Chet Baker, and Dick Dale, The Wanderers just finished a record due to be released in late September. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to wait until September to here this guy play his great music. Via a wonderful connection and introduction with our mutual friend Shane Tutmarc, I was thrilled to finally be able to shed a spotlight on the one and only Zach Ryan!

I recently watched a segment of CBS Sunday Morning that featured John Mellencamp. They were talking about how Mellencamp had originally moved to New York City on a visual art scholarship but then got a record deal as soon as he got there. When he first played an original song for the suits at the label, he didn’t believe they heard any of his words and could just tell from the first five seconds of his playing that he had that special something. Mellencamp later mentioned in the interview that he really believes you can tell when a person has that special something of talent in any creative medium in the first few moments. Fast forward to hearing and seeing Zach Ryan play the guitar at The Post and I was not alone to be completely blown away by his virtuoso skill and sounds and musicianship that struck us all like lightning in the first few chords he played and sang. Again, you can hear what I’m talking about it the recording below.

Zach’s music is guitar driven and guitar led, and surrounded with the air of cinema. Some of the people in the crowd mentioned that he looked like the great actor Robert Mitchum, and I said I’d love to hear Zach play his melodies to old Robert Mitchum movies that are filmed out West and have the uncertainty of death and dark subject matter … almost like a not-so-funny but still as brilliant version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I’m sure there are a million great references that came out of this specific show from the music and story themes, but nobody could deny that Zach was on the top of his game, even without the extra players in his band. Zach, like Nick, came correct to the show with some stories and melodies that took our breath away and blew our minds at the same time.

During the conversation portion of the show, we learned that both Nick and Zach had roommates by the name of Carl (with a C, not a K, because that’s much cooler) … shout out to Carl Carbonell. What was not planned before the show and with the pairing but was acknowledged by Zach very early into his set was that the darker subject matter shared by each unprompted or pre-curated artist reflected like a perfectly symmetric swampy sunset that made you appreciate the glow of the sun descending but at the same time scared you to death about what was hiding in the dark to come. Not to make you jittery while reading this, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was plenty to smile about, during the talking and the reading and singing. In fact, one of Zach’s happy songs was about a man finding joy in moving away and getting away with murder. You really need to take a listen to it below to get where I’m coming from about loving these guys so much.

photo by Chance Chambers

It was my pleasure and an honor to share the stage and shed the spotlight on this unique pair of troubadours. I do want to add a little note here for the sake of big transitions and moves for Nick Rossi. He told me when I booked him for the show that this would be fitting  for him since East Side Storytellin’ was one of the first literary events he attended when he moved to town and it would be one of his final public readings (outside of a fun Life is Boring reading event the Friday before he moved later that week). In between those two shows, Nick has become a beacon for the literary community at large and we were lucky enough to promote and share his books and journals while we ran the retail portion of the first chapter of East Side Story. We are gonna miss him, but we are thankful he will continue being awesome in Chicago and connecting our Nashville family with people and ideas beyond the city limits for years to come. Plus he is going to come back and visit often. Plus plus he is going to hire me when he gets his white t-shirt company off the ground and going. This will happen.

That said, before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Nick and Zach for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us. These are two of the good ones doing great things and both are just getting started. The best is yet to come.

So here it is, the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 111, a show when we were lucky to feature the likes of Nick Rossi and Zach Ryan at The Post on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Feel free to listen to this one and share it with everyone you know, over and over again. You’ll thank me afterwards.

You can read more of Nick’s writing here – www.ursusamericanuslit.com

You can listen to more of Zack’s music here – zachryansongs.bandcamp.com

You can listen to this show, edited, soon, alongside the previous shows too, on our website,www.eastsidestorytn.com, at our In Our Own Words Tab – see here – www.eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (efharper), and everyone that came out live to support the show … and to everyone who has helped continue to spread the word and support the show online afterwards.

Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to Tonya and Chris for making The Post so welcoming and positively life-changing for the East Nashville community at large.

Our next show will be

East Side Storytellin’ 112

Tuesday, August 1st

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Eric Benick

singing- Kira Hooks

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 111 and another fabulous event at The Post with East Side Story at the helm. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Please remember to be nice to one another out there.

Much love,

mE

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East Side Storytellin’ 105: When Ally and Robyn howled at the moon & rain and made us howl too

April 23, 2017

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording of the 105th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 104, I repeat … 104, previous shows East Side Story has put together, […]

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East Side Storytellin’ 104 – When the Iowa City and Nashville connection came alive with Gregory and Alexis

April 10, 2017

Thank YOU, thank YOU, thank YOU. Hello Again! Welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially, whole-heartedly welcome you to the recap and recording of the 104th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 103, I repeat … 103, previous shows East Side Story […]

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