Nigeria

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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Nathan Wahlman, Aaron Wahlman, Becca Mancari, VeerajaR, Chuck Beard, and Tom Eizonas

Nathan Wahlman, Aaron Wahlman, Becca Mancari, VeerajaR, Chuck Beard, and Tom Eizonas

Hello again and welcome to another wonderful collaboration between East Side Story and The Post. Let me be the first to officially and whole-heartedly welcome you to the 82nd epic edition of East Side Storytellin’. Like the previous 81 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 listening 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 of the featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. So without further ado, fulfilling the entertainment portion of your day, this is the recap and recording of East Side Storytellin’ 82. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of this evening is an admired poet and well-published scientist. Born and raised in what is now Sri Lanka, she earned a doctorate from Marquette University and has been a faculty member at a variety of medical schools in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and right here in Nashville at Vanderbilt University ever since. She is currently calling Nashville home as a trusted consultant Scientific Editor living in middle Tennessee with her three children and loving husband of nearly 30 years. She is the c0-author of the devotional Resurrection Reflections and has been published in the anthology Filtered Through Time (which is also sold at East Side Story alongside her poetry collection titled Joy of Being). She came prepared to read a little from everything she’s done and she was welcomed with the joy and open arms of a packed post house. I’m talking about the likes of the poet known as VeerajaR (pronounced Veera-ja-R).

photo credit Chance Chambers

photo credit Chance Chambers

If you’ve never heard VeerajaR read anything or spoken to her at all, then you really can’t grasp the magic in her voice. She uses words like the rest of us use on the daily, but the way she says them takes it all to another level. In one of her poems about a good morning with God, she must have said the name God at least 30 times. In the thick of this presidential election season, where most candidates and television talking heads use religion and the name of God with various intentions for any given vote, it was more than refreshing to hear the word God with its purest form of love, peace, and understanding as VeerajaR recounted them throughout her prose. I made the off-hand comment after the show that there was a distinct difference between the way she said and meant God than our Republican figure Ted Cruz does on the daily (special note, it wasn’t too long after this show aired when Mr. Cruz dropped out of the race for good = possibly a coincidence, but I digress).

VeerajaR took her time explaining each poem, the back story of where and how she got the idea to write each one and also the intricate details of how each writing session empowered and inspirited her in the creative process. I haven’t heard too many writers that talked about the material at the same time she delivered the material in such a refreshing and original manner. Like her book Joy of Being, the entire reading set VeerajaR curated was filled with faith, spirit, hope, awe, and prayer that would make a literary believer of anyone listening. Don’t believe me? Take a listen to her words in the recording below. I also made another off-hand comment afterwards that if I was ever to have an autobiography published (not on my bucket list at all), I would request that VeerajaR be the voice on the audio book because she would make my life seem more interested and add a deep, spiritual tone to it that could connect with everyman. Seriously she’s that great. Take a listen below and thank me later. But, before I get to the music of the show, I do want to say, sticking with the religious elephant in the room, I’ve never heard more thoughtful proverbs than the set of haikus that Veerajar finished her set with before taking her seat. Each were profound and simple at the same time. She made it appear easy to write and yet very easy to follow at the same time.

Our featured musician of the night is someone who has already made a backing appearance on East Side Storytellin’ way back in East Side Storytellin’ 41 with now new mom Sara Marie Thompson. This lady is not only an extremely talented musician loved by pretty much every other musician in town, she is also a traveler and storyteller to the core at heart. She’s lived like a gypsy from Staten Island, Florida, Zimbabwe, Virginia, India and Pennsylvania, among others, and she has collected plenty of tales while spinning sounds and stories while on her journey. She makes songs that mix the organic stomp of American roots music with the approach and attitude of raw rock & roll. Her music is a snapshot of a musician who’s still on the move, constantly writing songs about the people she’s met and the impression they leave. I asked the crowd to give this young artist an unforgettable impression of applause so she might just write a hit song about us in the future. I’m pretty sure Becca Mancari is writing that song as I type.

photo credit Chance Chambers

photo credit Chance Chambers

Becca is a true original.  A lot of people have heard her Summertime Mama song recently in the Lightning 100 spin cycle, but we’ve been privy to hear her magic for awhile now. Like her journey to Nashville, Becca’s songwriting has been a long process of finding the right stories after living a lot of them. I’m not saying her songs are all autobiographical. What I am saying is that she’s doing a lot of living to inspire herself in between writing songs that in turn inspire us. One such song and tale told about being moved by a poem while working as a part-time janitor was called Long Way Down.

Becca treated the show like I always envision them, like a perfect blend of your favorite house/cafe show. She drew the crowd in with her humility and humor, and slayed the moment with her poignant and poetic stories told through hauntingly great melodies. She, like VeerajaR, makes sharing creativity appear easy and that is no easy feat.

Becca busted out a few brand new songs and one that she had never sang in public before this show. I was not alone in the room to appreciate such dare to share. And, like several of Becca’s friends who have played the show before, she brought up a few musical friends from the crowd. She ended up eventually coaxing her good friends and bandmates and brothers in Aaron and Nathan Wahlman to come up on stage and help sing a lovely cover to bring the great set to a close. Like a true professional, Becca had a plan for us before the show started and she perfectly executed it to entertain and enlighten us all.

And because I always have the opportunity to ask the featured guests some personal and deep questions about their creative processes and passions, the above is a visual take on what you’ll hear in the recording below. The entire night had a casual and meaningful flow of positive energy throughout and it had everything to do with Becca and VeerajaR. A lot of people tell me great job after the shows are over but all of the credit truly should go to these featured artists who give their time and talents to us for the price of the time we take to experience their show. I’ll stop rambling now and let you hear what happened on the night mentioned above right here. These ladies say everything a lot better than I could ever write it.

Here is the recording of East Side Storytellin’ #82 that featured the likes of VeerajaR and Becca Mancari at The Post on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016:

 

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

You can read more about Veerajar’s writing here- www.joypoet.com

You can listen to more of Becca’s music here – www.beccamancari.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.

I’d also like to show much love to Clay Brunton for the beautiful artwork online to promote the show.

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’ 83

Tuesday, May 17th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Justin Quarry (http://as.vanderbilt.edu/english/bio/justin-quarry)

Singing- Megan Palmer (http://meganpalmer.com)

That said- that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 82 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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