Christina Stoddard

Chuck Beard, Destiny Birdsong, Mike Hicks, 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 recap and recording of the  114th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 113, I repeat … 113, 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’ 114. Let us begin, again.

Our first featured artist of the evening was someone who was born to be an artist by the sound of her name. She was born in Louisiana, but now calls Nashville home. She is a triple threat with her striking words as a published poet, essayist, and editor. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, Indiana Review, Rove, The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature, The Feminist Wire, and more. She is a recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize, and she earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University. Needless to say, we were beyond honored to have her featured with us. After a busy Summer for us both, it was perfect timing to spotlight and showcase the tremendously talented Destiny Birdsong.

Destiny approached the microphone and the audience with a quiet confidence that was both powerful and calming in its silence. She pushed her papers together and started the day’s conversation. She acknowledged that her first poem was a process piece and that her process for this particular piece entailed watching Prime Time television. This instantly put my creative heart at ease because I’ve been binging some older, successful television series (such as The Sopranos, This is Us, and more) to study why so many people loved the writing and what styles compel me to create. Point being, it was a perfect start for everyone to put their guards down and listen to Destiny tell us about life via art. The second piece was another television inspiration, but it went even deeper with visuals of athletics and patriotism and racism as she analyzed what her life meant while reflecting on the Olympics. You can listen to this poem, as well as the others below, but all I can say is that it is brilliant. The lines about  exercising by reaching for ketchup followed by the sadness experiences while trying to choose a favorite between two black girls racing each other made me feel as though Dave Chappelle would be a little jealous that he hadn’t written those very lines first to commentate on the same visuals.

photo credit to Chance Chambers

But Destiny didn’t stop at the Olympic finish line. She dove deeper into politics with an original poem that included the infamous speech that Melania Trump said at the RNC … wait, check that … the same speech that Michelle Obama gave a few years back at the DNC. Either way you heard it, it was fascinating to think about the idea of how different meanings come from two people saying the exact same thing. Then Destiny took us on a trip with her poem that was featured on a poem of the week deal. To say that it was moving and gave chills to the bone while she discussed the Charleston 9 racist/terrorist monstrosity would be the understatement of the year. But Destiny saved a personal tale for her ending. She recalled a poem that was inspired by her great-grandmother, a woman who wrote many touching church sermons on one side and also ended up killing her husband on the other. Again, you really need to listen to the poem in the link below beyond me reviewing the show in my own words. But, that being said, I am forever grateful for Destiny taking the time to start the conversation that was had on September 5, 2017. I could listen to her read every day and continue to be a more thoughtful and better version of myself with every poem.

And then we were gifted with music. Our featured music of the night was someone who I believe is the future of Nashville’s musical soul. I first saw him at a very special show alongside East Side Storytellin’ alumnus Alicia Michilli as they both completely floored me and my wife while they played with Keb’ Mo’ at the Fontanel as part of a residency like none other. He was also part of the Based On anthology we put together just over two years ago, while his song Uruhu was inspired by poetry/story by Rashad thaPoet and Shawn Whitsell. Originally from Warner Robins, Georgia, this artist studied business and marketing at Middle Tennessee State University (Go Blue Raiders) before moving completely to Nashville and making magic happen with his music. He has toured with the likes of Keb’ Mo’ and Jonny Lang, among others, but we were more than happy to share this day with this man as he played his original work that floored everyone in the building and outside the windows passing by. And when I say we were happy to share this day with this guy, this was the only date available for the rest of the year (and I’ve been trying to schedule him for over 2 years so far). I’m talking about one of the busiest and most talented musician I know in show business today … the one, the only, the humble, the man … Mike Hicks.

Mike sat down at his office, behind the self-proclaimed “most expensive shield” he could find to go to battle with his ammo of melodies and love, and tickled the ivories, shook off the dust of the day, and immediately made a near full house light up with smiles from the first note he struck. If you’ve ever seen or heard Mike perform his music, then you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll try to explain (before you just listen to the extended show below too). Mike is not only a musical and creative breathe of fresh air, he is also the first breathe of air you get after being submerged in the deep end of the pool by the man while the lifeguards ignore the dire situation laid out right in front of them. His music and message is life itself. Once you taste it, you can’t go back to what you were eating up before and you certainly can’t unhear the stories and lessons interwoven into the emotional songs he sings. Simply put, his music is a force of life and can easily be used to take the conversation and insight that Destiny drops on us to the next level of action in the streets (or social media if you need to start there).

Mike prefaced each song with a little gem of knowledge of where he and the song came from to meet in the middle of writing and performing them. He grew up in the church and combines the good parts of his childhood lessons with the trials and tribulations, adversity and accomplishments, that he faces on a day-to-day schedule in the current popular music scene worldwide and in the front row. He sings about injustice with race, financial systems and institutions, and historical figures that more need to know about and who should never be forgotten, and then he beautiful ties all of that into words that you can relate to if you have a heart and a mind that work and music that will make you tap your feet and shimmy in your seat (if you aren’t already standing up and dancing).

photo credit to Chance Chambers

Mike ended his set with two songs that will not soon be forgotten by anyone in the crowd. Both were set with the background of two separate people who have continuously inspired Mike while on his personal journey. The first was about Miss Josie and the second was about a local man by the name of Mister Bobby. I told Mike I would spread the message (beyond just sharing the recording below), so here it goes. Mister Bobby is an older black man around the age of 70 who you may hear singing at any time of the night if you are walking around the East Nashville street of Shelby Avenue at any given spot from the park to downtown. Mike hasn’t seen him in years, but if you see a man who fits the description, please ask the man if his name is Mister Bobby. And, if it is Mister Bobby, please tell him to call his friend Mike Hicks. Thank you for sharing the good word and paying it forward.

After the music faded, I was blessed with the opportunity to converse with Mike and Destiny. Typically these conversations last around an average of 20 minutes. I knew this was going to be longer because of the depth and heart that these two artists give on a daily basis and the chance for so many white patrons in the crowd and afterwards with the recording to listen to two black artists who articulate the current cultural, political, and social questions and struggles our country and world is dealing with every single second of every single day. Again, I will do their answers and the conversation injustice if I don’t just let the recording do the talking for this recap. I will end my comments here, unless you reach out directly via the website or email. This recap has ended, but the conversation sparked and lit even brighter due to the efforts of Destiny Birdsong and Mike Hicks on this given show will continue to grow like wildfire until we get this thing on the right track for everyone involved. I’ll just leave it at that for now.

So here is the edited version of East Side Storytellin’ 114, the show when Destiny Birdsong and Mike Hicks spoke, sang, preached, taught, and threw light (the opposite of shade) needed in our worlds more than ever. It was recorded at The Post East on Tuesday, September 5, 2017. I am so thankful these two people took time out of their busy lives to share their talents with us. Once again, serendipity struck with the absolute perfect pairing and timing for this series. I am forever grateful.

You can read more of Destiny’s writing here –

http://destinybirdsong.com

You can listen to more of Mike’s music here –

https://www.youtube.com/user/MHicksMusic

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’ 115

Tuesday, September 19th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Aaron Joel Lain

singing- Joe Nolan

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 114 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

photo credit to Chance Chambers

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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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