Rascal Flatts

Chuck Beard, Destiny Birdsong, Mike Hicks, and Tom Eizonas

Thank you for visiting this blog. If you are a return visitor, 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 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) in order to study why so many people loved the writing behind those series so much and also to further examine the variety of storytelling 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 her personal 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 experienced while trying to choose a favorite between two opposing black girls racing each other made me feel as though Dave Chappelle would be a little jealous that he hadn’t written the same lines first to commentate on the same dilemma.

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 me 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 big finale. She recalled a poem that was inspired by her great-grandmother, a woman who wrote many touching church sermons on the one side of her life and also ended up killing her husband on the other. Again, you really need to listen to the poem in the link below to understand where I’m coming from here. But, that being said, I am forever grateful for Destiny taking the time to start the conversation that was had on September 5, 2017. If I could listen to her read every day, I would certainly continue to become 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 over two years ago, his contribution was titled Uruhu (inspired by poetry/fiction 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). 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 artillery of melodies and love, 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, 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 recording below). 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 currently life itself. Once you taste it, you can’t go back to what you were eating before, and you certainly can’t un-hear 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 dropped 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 and backstory of where he and the song came from. He grew up in the church, and he effortlessly 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 worldwide popular music scene. He sings about injustice with race, financial systems and institutions, and historical figures who more people need to know about and who should never be forgotten, and then he beautifully ties all of that into words that you can relate to without even trying.

photo credit to Chance ChambersMike ended his set with two songs that will not soon be forgotten by anyone in the crowd. Both were about two separate people who have continuously inspired Mike while on his personal journey. The first was about a woman named 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 also because it was a chance for so many white patrons in the crowd and beyond 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. And by everyone involved, I mean we’re all in this thing together. 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 –


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


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,


photo credit to Chance Chambers


Tom Eizonas, Alissa Moreno, Chuck Beard, Alecia Whitaker, and (DR.) Josh Charles

Tom Eizonas, Alissa Moreno, Chuck Beard, Alecia Whitaker, and (DR.) Josh Charles

Thank YOU, hello, and welcome to another fun East Side Storytellin’. If you’ve been living in a cave, good for you … you’ve probably missed the fact that we just rounded out 2 years and 48 other East Side Storytellin’ shows up to this point. Cave or not, welcome to the 49th episode. Like the 48 previous shows we’ve put together from East Side Story, we’ve all arrived at this spot, here and now, to get y’all cultured up just right in the form of a 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. Unlike the previous 48, the featured author in this round is not from or living in Nashville at the moment. You can ask her after the show via email at her website as to why she hasn’t decided to move here already if you’d like. It might help if you drop by East Side Story and buy her book first.

Before I get started, I know I’ll get to it more in detail in the recording of the show below, but I was first introduced to the concept of the story and the theme of this particular show almost two years ago in a graduate level creative fiction workshop while attending the School of Letters at the University of the South at Sewanee. East Side Storytellin’ 17 alumnus (http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-17-where-virginia-was-for-lovers-of-great-literature-and-music-moved-to-tn-alike/), published author, and newly married woman in Kathryn Williams, handed our class the rough draft of a concept that would later become the beginning of a successful publishing series in the making. This past summer, with the series in full effect, Kathryn suggested that I have tonight’s artists on the bill together because they are very talented in their own rights but also because their art was brought together for said unique project. Like Kathryn did for her man, I said yes and these girls said yes and now we’re all here with or without bells on to tell you the next part of the story. Thanks be to Kathryn. Without further ado, this is East Side Storytellin’ 49. Let us begin, again.

The first featured guest of the night also hails from the hallowed ground of the bluegrass state of Kentucky. A graduate of UK in Theatre and Advertising, writing was never too far behind in her overall passions after she won the Soil Conservation Essay contest in the 4th grade, selected as a Governor’s School of the Arts student in Creative Writing in the 10th grade, and then a Top Ten Finalist in the US Southeast Region for the Ten Minute Playwriting competition at James Madison University. Her personal essays have been published in the anthology Blink: Fiction in the Blink of an Eye, several times in Underwired Magazine, and her first novel and proudest artistic accomplishment is appropriately called The Queen of Kentucky. She loves to make author appearances in schools (making several stops in Kentucky before heading to Music City in fact), she’s been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show several times, even dropping a spot as a contestant on the TV gameshow Deal or No Deal, but I’m pretty sure she was most excited about being at East Side Storytellin’ and sharing her stories in Nashville … I’m pretty sure. For this special occasion, she planned to introduce you to Wildflower, the first novel in her three book series about a young girl’s rise to country music stardom, released this year. The new setting indoors and downstairs at Mad Donna’s was filled with happy faces that joyfully welcomed the Kentucky born and New York City livin’ writer to the stage. They were pumped to see and hear from the featured author, Alecia Whitaker.

Alecia took to the microphone like a professional. She reminded me of several other featured authors that graced our stage that utilized the full range of her voice and accents to vocalize the conversations from the excerpts that she chose to read from for the evening. It was fascinating actually. Her energy, paired with enthusiasm for the main character called Bird and the musical journey that she went on throughout the book, was something awesome. Without having read the book yet, I was wondering if Alecia was going to sing any songs that were in the book. She did. It made several laugh when Alecia called herself out for being a writer and not a singer, after the fact, but it was honest and innocent and great for the experience. In fact, she called out the crowd to participate as the fictional crowd in a particular scene she read in the story and it really made the story pop off the pages into reality for all to enjoy for ourselves. After several sections of reading, all I can say (and you can tell from the recording below) is that it was a real treat to have Alecia visit and talk about the amazing book and book series she was helping to create.

Before we knew it, it was time for the author to sit back down with her amazing son and let the music come alive from the pages of the book. This project was the treat that kept on giving.

The featured music of the night was someone you have already heard from before, whether you know it yet or not. Born on a Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico to two teachers and raised in creative culture of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, she now calls Nashville one of her homes as she is renowned for her piano, vocal, and songwriting talents near and far. She wrote the Grammy nominated and CMT Video of the Year song Every Day for Rascal Flatts. Her music has been featured on Laguna Beach, The Hills, How I Met Your Mother, Guiding Light, Days of Our Lives, and used for promotion on shows like Army Wives and Grey’s Anatomy, on top of countless others. She normally splits her time performing between Nashville and LA in places like the Grand Ole Opry, Bluebird Cafe, House of Blues, The Viper Room, and The Hotel Cafe, to name a few in both cities, but, once again, I’m pretty sure that she was most excited about being at Mad Donna’s this special night and sharing her songs and stories with you … I’m pretty sure. I was not alone in giving a raucous ovation for the likes of Alissa Moreno.

Alissa was cold, at first, and literally cold enough beside the window that she had to put her jacket back on to perform at the level was comfortable. She quickly warmed up to the stage and the crowd at hand. She dove right into several emotional songs that really struck a chord with the night. Specifically, she kicked off the set with the song Notice Me, a song performed by the fictional character Bird in the book of the evening. Alecia did it justice with her tiny singing segment, but Alissa really took it all to another world altogether. It made me laugh when Alissa made a comment that she didn’t consider herself much of a singer when compared to one of her favorite co-writers because she was so amazingly talented. Again, I was not the only one to comment or say so out loud this evening.

49 singing 2

Before Alissa finished her eclectic set, she brought up her good friend Josh Charles (Dr. Josh as she coined later because he had learned some piano tricks from the Dr. John). Alissa switching to guitar several times during the show, they started off with a song that had an interesting change of tone and melody and backstory to anything that Bird’s book was telling. I believe it was called Tripwire, but I went away from it feeling like it could possibly be a song for Bird by book three or beyond … you know, when she goes on that Taylor Swift/Miley Cyrus PR downfall that inevitably comes along with any ounce of fame in this world these days. It was just a thought for the book series. But yeah, the second to last song really touched me more than any in awhile. It was exactly what I needed to hear after a good long day beforehand, mixed with the bitter cold outdoors lately. Alissa finished the set with her song Every Day, proving that this day, November 18th, 2014, was extraordinary and not like every other day.

I had both artists, who in fact hadn’t met in real life before this momentous occasion beyond calls and emails to inspire one another for writing the books and songs together in their own rights. I thought the event, the performances, and the closing conversation that explained their inspiration from and about this epic project put forward by Kathryn Williams was all very fitting … like baby bear soup, just right. Kathryn wasn’t there in person, staying cold but happily married in Maine, but she was there in spirit.

Before I say proper thanks to everyone that helped make this night so special for #49, I’ll let you partake in a wonderful tradition on these recaps. Here is the recording of the show, edited for your pleasure, so you can listen to Alecia and Alissa do what they were born to do and did for Nashville to help warm our cold season. This is the recording of East Side Storytellin’ 49. Feel free to share with others, over and over, and listen to countless times for yourself. Enjoy, over and over.



art by Clay Brunton, printed by Kevin Anthuis at 5 Points Digital Imaging

art by Clay Brunton, printed by Kevin Anthuis at 5 Points Digital Imaging

Now, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Alecia Whitaker and Alissa Moreno (and Dr. Josh too) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.

You can read more from Alecia Whitaker here – http://www.aleciawhitaker.com

You can listen to more from Alissa Moreno here – http://www.alissamoreno.com

I’d also like to show much love to Clay Brunton for the beautiful artwork for the prints made by Kevin Anthuis at 5 Points Digital Imaging (http://5pdi.com) to celebrate tonight’s show.

I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas, Otis James for my wicked cool hat, my lovely wife and most talented artist in Emily Harper Beard (http://www.efharper.com), 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.

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 –http://eastsidestorytn.com/in-our-own-words/

But we are not finished.

The NEXT East Side Storytellin’ 50 event will be …


TUESDAY, December 2nd, 2014

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- author Jewly Hight (https://twitter.com/rightbyherroots) and music by Angaleena Presley (http://www.angaleenapresley.com)

That’s all for the East Side Storytellin’ 49 show, two years of epic shows in the bag. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word. Remember to be nice to one another out there. Thanks and good day your way.

Much love,