The Fontanel

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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Tom Eizonas, Alicia Michilli, Jenna Dorian, 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 109th epic edition of East Side Storytellin’! Like the 108, I repeat … 108, 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’ 109. Let us begin, again.

The first featured artist of the night is a powerhouse female artist who originally hails from the mountains of North Carolina where she was raised in an unstructured classroom from home by her mother, an author and nutritionist. Spending tons of time outdoors during her childhood, her early education and upbringing plays a heavy influence on her style and voice. She’s the featured author tonight because her first novella, You Holy Screaming Symphony, has been a treasure at East Side Story for some time now. She has also published works of short fiction and poetry in various magazines such as Perjus and others, and she is an active member of our friends at The Porch Writers’ Collective. Let me just say it. It was an honor to finally spotlight and introduce the very talented Jenna Dorian.

Jenna brought an unrelated trilogy of readings to the stage, and she was ready to roll as soon as I got out of the way. She appeared to be as equally honored to be involved with the show as I was to introduce her. She is an amazingly talented writer, with a work ethic like few around, and she’s just getting started. So, when she stared her set, she let the audience know pretty much everything she was thinking, about the moment and the material.

With a smile on her face and her heart on her sleeve, she went through the levels of her artist insecurities while revealing her true mission of discovering her comedic writing voice someday but settling knee deep into her sad characters and situations for the time being. After she read an excerpt from her novella, she addressed the crowd directly when she called out the comedic genius of Patrick Shaffner. She had recognized him from visiting the Third Coast Comedy Improv night (you should check them out as much as you can). They had some witty banter before Jenna jumped heart first into an original, sad tale about the first time a mother left her … a flash creative non-fiction piece (because that is a thing, as she recently discovered and relayed). Then, when she had the crowd right where she wanted them at full attention, she went into a slightly emotional, very deep story about the grieving of love and life loss between a marriage and the dream of a baby never to be. Like I told you, this girl is great. You can hear the stories in the recording below, but know that the way she casually and candidly throws her joy and secondary thoughts of an outside personal narrator in between the sad notes of her prose really makes for such a delightful and instant classic way to digest Jenna’s art in person. It kinda makes me want her to do an audio book version of her writing in the same style.

Our featured music of the night is someone I first saw sing alongside my wife a few years ago at The Fontanel. Let me clarify, she was not actually singing beside my wife. My wife was beside me in the crowd but equally blown away. This special lady was on stage singing alongside her long time hero, Keb’ Mo’ for his monthly Blues Jam at The Fontanel. It was also the night when we first were introduced to the musician like none other named Mike Hicks. You should check him out pronto. Anyways, back to the musician at hand. This young star on the rise moved to Music City from Motown. With Detroit roots, it may not surprise you to hear a beautiful blend of R&B and Soul from this lady once she gets going. She has a voice as powerful as Etta, Aretha, Ella, and Billie, to name a few of her singular named heroes. She released her first EP in 2015 and did a spell on the national television show America’s Got Talent too. I’m not sure if everyone in the house was as ready as I was for the second powerhouse female with the voice way beyond any of Wonder Woman’s skills, but there was no turning back after saying all of this good stuff and finally aligning up the stars to book this lady. I’m talking about the unforgettable soulstress, Alicia Michilli!

With the same natural nervousness and self-degrading personality as Jenna, Alicia approached the crowd with her guitar strapped over the shoulder and her heart on her sleeve as well. If you had never seen her perform, you might think she was a nervous, fresh out of college, intern at her first day on the job inside a cubicle who stepped out with the new team to do karaoke for the first time. And, as if it had been proclaimed and written in the good book, then Alicia started to sing. Everything changed after that first note.

Alicia mentioned before the show that she has the look of an angel but the mouth of a sailor. You may notice more than one edit in the dialogue of the recording. All that said, I’ll go ahead and say it that Alicia has the look of an angel but a voice of a soul goddess. It is not only a gift from the heavens that she trains and takes care of like a baby, it is a gift for anyone who gets a chance to hear her share it aloud. I could ramble and compliment this artist for a week straight, as you can tell from the first paragraph or two here, but I’ll let the angel do the singing in the recording below.


Like Jenna, Alicia is her toughest critic. I get it. We all need to be our own toughest critis, but in the end we know there are a ton of haters and critics out in the world. So for tonight, in this shared moment, there was nothing but love and appreciation for every personal note and lyric we witnessed. I can’t speak for everyone else in the room, but I know I was just as close to happy tears as Alicia said she was after she sang the song written for and about her recently passed grandfather. If you can’t relate with and instantly fall in love with that song and the way she sang it from the heart, I’d tell you that you need to make an appointment with the closest doctor to examine if you still have one beating. I’m serious. Take a listen to her final happy song and tell me that isn’t the most soulful and, pun intended, heartfelt heartbeat lyrics you’ve ever heard. I was humming it for hours after the show.

But as soon as Alicia was getting revved up and totally in her wheelhouse with the crowd, everyone in the palm of her hands really, she was finished and ready to talk alongside her new best friend in Jenna. Let me know after you listen to the show if you don’t think they are long lost sisters. Yet again, the non-formula of pairing artists has worked its magic and formally introduced two artists who were born to work together and appreciate the talents they both share. It was obvious to me, as the self-declared translator of their personal answers to my general questions, that these two will do something else going forward. They both had smiles and laughs for days, and they are both as ego-free, talented, humbled, and giving of their positivity as anyone I’ve met in quite some time. This evening, this combo, this event was something special to behold. I feel extremely blessed to have been a small part in this sweet picture.

So here it is, the edited version of East Side Storytellin’ 109, featuring the Wonder Women dynamic duo of Jenna Dorian and Alicia Michilli at The Post East on June 20, 2017. It was a night to remember, one nobody will soon forget. Please share this link and enjoy it for yourself, over and over again. You’re welcome.

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

You can read more of Jenna’s writing here – jcdorian.com

You can listen to more of Alicia’s music here – aliciamichilli.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’ 110

WEDNESDAY, July 5th

at The Post (1701 Fatherland Street) at 7pm

reading- Lance Umenhofer

singing- Dylan Lancaster

That said, that’s all for East Side Storytellin’ 109 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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