Paul Simon

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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Kristin Weber, Carter F. Smith, Tom Eizonas, Ali Sperry, 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 117th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 116, I repeat … 116, 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’ 117. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is someone who teaches criminal justice at MTSU (Go Blue Raiders!). He was in the US Army CID for over 22 years, serving 15 of those at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he and a loosely-organized group of investigators identified the growing gang problem in the early 1990’s. After the Army, he got a law degree and PhD. so you know we’re dealing with another slacker artist again, to be clear. He is a founding and still serving board member of the TN Gang Investigators Association and is a 3-time recipient of an award named for sociologists Frederic Milton Thrasher awarded by the National Gang Crime Research Center. You may recognize him from his appearances in the History Channel’s Gangland series, and you may be seeing him for the first time. Either way, it will be a pleasure. I’m talking about the extremely smart, kind, and talented Dr. Carter F. Smith.

Carter came prepared. He had a special event where he did a talk about his book a few days before East Side Storytellin’ and another one the day after. He had his notes, book, and photos to share with everyone present. Like I said, Carter was ready.

b/w photo of Monk Eastman

Carter jumped into his talk by giving the audience facts and proper context behind his research of gangs in the US military. He couldn’t have gone straight into the excerpts from his book, but he wanted us to get a clear picture of what is going on and how serious the matter is to our civilization as a whole going forward. That said, the historical context and figures he decided to talk more in depth about were truly fascinating to hear about. I knew a few of the figures, but the more unknown the characters were for me, the more impact they had had with the history of our country. I know there is at least two more book projects, whether Carter knows now or not, that he could squeeze out of these lemons.

After Carter set the scene of his book, he dove right in. He shared a few highlighted interviews he did while putting the book concept together and also while going down the wormhole of our criminal justice system and dangerous gangs located throughout our country. I instantly heard the back and forth dialogue as an old time radio show, and told this idea to Carter later for further tread on this book’s tire. Point being, I feel like Carter is only on the tip of the iceberg of this story and, although he’s done a fantastic job with absolutely everything he’s produced and shared so far, I’m hooked to hear more. You can take a listen to Carter on the recording below to hear just how on point he is with his research, writing, and delivery on this important topic.

Then, it was time for our featured music of the night. Our headlining musical guest is a Nashville-based indie artist whose songs are undeniably rooted in folk music, simple and true. Originally from Iowa and two musician parents who encouraged her to sing and create music from the time she could speak, her musical education was taught by Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon, among others. She moved through Syracuse University and around Chicago before being pulled to Nashville via an all-girl band called Sweetwater Rose. I know we’ll speak more about that and everything else musical and life related later, but let’s not waste any more time than we have and get this girl to sing these amazing original songs while we have her here to ourselves. Fresh off of her 2017 release of “Crooked Feelings,” her third record so far, and joined on stage by her tremendously talented friend on the fiddle, Kristin Weber, I was super excited to finally introduce the one, the only, Ali Sperry.

Ali jumped right into her song “Crooked Feelings” off the newest album. I was instantly pulled in by the lyrics “treason if you won’t fight the war” and “I quit for love!” and “I’m gonna be alright.” I thought it was the perfect transition from the dark side of life and current events explained by Carter’s work into a much more comforting and hopeful future prompted by Ali’s words, melodies, and style. I said it a few times to Tom during the performance, but Ali reminded me of a folkish version of Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins. She was serving up the spoonfuls of sugar and it was helping us digest the real life medicine that already went down with Carter. I was feeling alive and okay.

Ali and Kristin were side by side on every note and harmony they dished to us. From the way they told the crowd to “Look at Me” with the lyric of “nobody loves you half as much as me” and “Pay attention.”, they had the entire room spellbound and in the palms of their hands. We even had two toddlers in the crowd who were recording the performance for future notes. It was very inspiring, to say the least.

Ali and Kristin ran through a solid handful of originals, from the inspiring song on hills about journeys going forward, to fictional tales and characters who Ali hopes is really real and happening somewhere in the world today, and finally wrapping up with some sad tunes and tributes to fallen friends and muses. One of the coolest moments of then night, for me, was when Ali and Kristin finished the set by covering Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ song Breakdown. You can hear it in the recording below, along with the rest of the set, but I will say that I thought it was perfect, timing and performance.

After the Tom Petty tribute ended, I was gifted with the chance to talk more about creative journeys and life passions with Ali and Carter. Both were as energetic and honest and positive as I’ve seen any duo of guests in all my time, and that says a lot since pretty much everyone I’ve had the chance to speak with is energetic, honest, and positive. You’ll hear it all in the recoding below, so I’ll save you from reading too much of my rambling post-show.

So here it is, the edited recording of East Side Storytellin’ 117, the night we featured the likes of Carter F. Smith, Ali Sperry, and Kristin Weber at The Post East on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 at 1701 Fatherland. I’m no Yoko Ono, but I was not disappointed with a magical experience with all of these people and numbers aligning with the stars. Feel free to listen to this link and share it with all of your friends 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 Carter & Ali (and Kristin) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can read more of Carter’s writing here – www.gangsandthemilitary.com

You can listen to more of Ali’s music here – alisperry.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’ 118, the 5th anniversary show

Tuesday, November 7th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Dana Malone

singing- Solar Twin

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 117 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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Jamie Zoe Givens, Chuck Beard, Molly Felder, Bill DeMain, Tom Eizonas

Jamie Zoe Givens, Chuck Beard, Molly Felder, Bill DeMain, Tom Eizonas

I can’t believe that I just wrote and said that number above.  Twenty-one shows that we have put together for East Side Storytellin’.  Over the course of ten months, we have had three friendly locations, and over forty-two groups of Nashville artists that have shared amazing talent to those willing to give us a chance and listen.  East Side Storytellin’ 21, the one we just had on Tuesday, September 3rd, at our new location of Mad donna’s, was certainly one for the books.

Although we’ve had twenty-one shows so far and counting, this one was the first for several reasons.  First, it was the first time we have ever featured poetry and spoken word for the author of the night.  It was the perfect time to shake things up a bit and do so.  This was the first show that we have had at Mad donna’s (further from the bookstore than Rumours East, but closer than Fat Bottom Brewing Co. and right down the street from where we house the books.  Above all that, I was really excited to get the chance to put a spotlight on the work and performances of Jamie Zoe Givens.

I had been fortunate enough, through the bookstore and mutual friends, to see Jamie perform a number of times this past year.  She is transcendent.  In my opinion, she is the premiere performance poet anywhere around.  She has been a regular on the Nashville poetry scene and local coffeehouse stages since the mid-90’s, and her style and delivery has been a benchmark for anyone with a notion to do spoken word for miles and cities around.  She is also the treasured author of the collection titled “Never Offer A Chair To A Dancing Girl” – sold at East Side Story on the regular, so come get your copy after you hear some of this (www.eastsidestorytn.com for details).

Jamie took the stage and totally rocked it like the star that she is.  Also perfect timing for this poetry featured moment was the fact that Jamie recently started chemo treatment for a big battle against cancer.  She got the news shortly before I asked her to perform this, a month or so ago, and she was such a trooper.  We had our trademark Christmas lights for a background deal, but Jamie was a bright light that out-shined all of the decor we could muster.

Jamie did something really extraordinary.  You won’t hear all of it on the recording below, but she set up quite the performance.  First, she read from vintage newspaper clips and journals about her great-grandmother and the stories that she lived and shared to inspire Jamie.  Then, Jamie played a recording of her great-grandmother re-telling some of these stories and characters and moments.  Finally, she put the books down and did some heartfelt spoken word right from the heart.  It was more than words and simply fascinating to witness from the crowd.

After Jamie took her just applause, I was fortunate to introduce another first of the evening.  This show was the first time that I’d ever had a second-time musician on East Side Storytellin’.  You see, I had featured Bill DeMain with his group Crackerboots as the last show in December 2012- see here http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-4-jt-crackerboots-121812/), and now he was back with his all-time favorite band of Swan Dive with the partner of Molly Felder.  These two, like Jamie on the poetry scene, have been making music together since the early 90’s around Nashville.

Over the past twenty years, Bill and Molly have constantly renewed their approach to music-making, adding fresh instrumental flavors and collaborators into the mix (such as with fellow East Side Storytellin’ alum David Mead- see here http://eastsidestorytn.com/3-is-definitely-a-magic-number-for-east-side-storytellin/), these two talented musicians always exude a heart full of hope with feelings of uplift and optimism, tempered with an undertow of melancholy.

 

Bill and Molly took to the stage like the pros they are and they also lit up the scene.  At one point of the set, I attempted an experiment.  I tried not to smile, and I found it impossible to do that while enjoying every song and note they played.  Their stories , homage to Buddy Holly, and they way they mix creativity with their own realities and personal journeys were really something to experience firsthand.  Every song made everyone in the crowd smile and tap their feet from their seats.  It was such a good time.

And speaking of such a good time, I believe I’ve found my East Side Storytellin’ muse in that of Bill DeMain.  With two musical guest appearances on the show, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be the equivalent of Steve Martin and/or Paul Simon as a multi-talented featured guest as soon as I can have him appear as his world-renowned pen name of Sterling Huck.  During this show, Bill took a moment to read from his latest book that you can now only purchase online (hopefully we can get some in print at East Side Story soon enough) by the title of “The Return Of The Sterling Huck Letters.”  You can listen to the recording below and get a taste of the brilliance and hilarity.

Bill DeMain as Sterling Huck (www.facebook.com/SterlingHuck)

Bill DeMain as Sterling Huck (www.facebook.com/SterlingHuck)

That said, after the music ended, before the lights when out and the drag bingo show began upstairs (never a dull moment at Mad donna’s on Tuesdays from here on out if I do say so myself), I took a second to talk with Bill, Molly, and Jamie altogether.  We only spent a few minutes talking collectively, but overall it was a fun time to chat with a couple of people with such little ego and such immense talent.  One thing you can always expect from an East Side Storytellin’ show, besides amazing music and prose, is that pretty much all of the guests that donate their time and talents are people that you’d want to hang out with and get to know more on a personal level.  These are some of the most authentic and profound Nashvillians out there, trust me.

I just can't stop smiling from all of these shows and wonderful, talented people in Nashville!

I just can’t stop smiling from all of these shows and wonderful, talented people in Nashville!

Before I give you the link for the recording, I’d love to share a round of THANK YOU’s to several people that helped make this event happen.

First, to my wife, Emily Frances Harper Beard (www.efharper.com), I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without your heart, help, and support … I can’t say that or that I loves you enough.

Two, to Tom Eizonas, for recording these shows and helping make everyone, especially me, sound great to everyone who comes to the shows and listens to the links afterwards.  You always put a lot of heart and soul into the shows too.

To the people of Mad donna’s, thank you for giving us the perfect setting for the growth of this show.  I foresee great things and events happening in the near future due to this new relationship.

To Jamie Zoe Givens, you are an inspiration (have I said that yet?).  Your spoken word is always brilliant, your family story is one to admire, and you are always spot on.  I can’t think of a better person to feature with poetry on this show and anywhere and any time in general.  I’m so glad to call you friend.  Stay strong and know you are never alone.

To Bill DeMain and Molly Felder (www.swandive.org), the honor was all mine.  I know that sooner than later, that you will have just as much success in the US as you have overseas.  Whether it is with your music, your writing, or just the awesome people that you are all the time, Nashville and me and everyone you work with is better for having been around your smiles, work ethic, talent, and optimism on life.  THANK YOU for taking the time to make our lives happier.

Now before I go for now and prepare for the next East Side Storytellin’ show …

here is the hour long edited version of East Side Storytellin’ 21 that we recorded from this monumental evening.  Enjoy, listen to it over and over as much as you like, and please be sure to share all of this and this link to any and everyone you know who appreciates Nashville and all of the creative talents that make this city so great right now.  Thanks!

https://soundcloud.com/eastsidestorytn/sets/east-side-storytellin-21-9-3

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ event will be …

Date- Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Time- 7 pm sharp (Central)

Location- Mad donna’s (1313 Woodland Street)- http://maddonnas.com

Need information or details about Mad donna’s, call 615-226-1617.  Otherwise it is first come, first available seats.

Who will be featured- Ben Burr (author of The Nashville Poems) and music by Tim Easton (www.timeaston.com).

 

The t-shirt to help raise funds for Jamie's passion of Poetry in the Brew and her fight against cancer ongoing.  Find shirts at East Side Story- 1108 Woodland Street, Unit B

The t-shirt to help raise funds for Jamie’s passion of Poetry in the Brew and her fight against cancer ongoing. Find shirts at East Side Story- 1108 Woodland Street, Unit B

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