“Music City Roots” is a popular weekly live music show, broadcasted on radio and internet from “The Loveless Café” in Nashville. It features a variety of genres such as Americana, alt-country, western, rockabilly, blues, bluegrass, folk and others. It is similar to the “Grand Old Opry”, but less fancy and more affordable.
Each broadcast features 4-5 artists in 20 minute segments and short interviews. Nashville’s legendary Keith Bilbrey is the announcer; Jim Lauderdale and other leaders of the music community host the festivities.
The first Wednesday in November I visited the show and was amazed by the attendance – a huge number of people sitting on benches or standing and mingling around the Loveless barn. I could enjoy performances of Jim Lauderdale, Left Over Salmon and Amanda Shirer. I could interview Craig Havighurst, one of the show’s MCs and renowned radio DJ and music writer.
A couple of days later, in East Nashville I met Ashlee Jean Trott, a young studious lady, who is responsible for the program of “Music City Roots.” She books the bands and looks after the artists.
Here is what she shared with me…
How did you start working for Music City Roots? Are you a musician yourself?
– I started working at Music City Roots back in late 2009, right after the first season that the show started. I had just moved to Nashville and was managing a band at the time that was routing through Nashville to play Music City Roots. I attended a show, and loved it. I had met a few of the producers that day and offered to volunteer my time when they needed me. After all, I didn’t know many people in Nashville yet, and it seemed like a good opportunity to meet some folks. I started volunteering, and then I was hired on as one of the producers, and then very quickly started booking the show. I have not looked back since then. I grew up taking piano and fiddle lessons, and I own a ton of instruments. But I am no musician, I merely love being a spectator
Do you like country music? Why? What is so great about it?
– Country music can be such a broad term these days. Yes, I like country music. But not the country music you hear on the mainstream country radio stations. I like classic country – Roger Miller, George Jones, Kitty Wells, Buck Owens to name a few. That, in my eyes, is real country. There are some artists coming around these days that are making the same type of music that I call real country – Sturgill Simpson, Daniel Romano, Whiskey Gentry. They don’t overproduce, and the songwriting is wonderful. I think country music is a very relateable genre. Generally the songs are about love gained, or love lost, moonshine, or beer. But generally, they all go back to the “Love” of “something”, which is relateable.
How do you chose the bands? Based on popularity, sales, quality?
– I find bands by attending festivals and conferences, going to shows like last night, or just browsing the internet. I rarely look at popularity. If I like it, I like it, and they should be booked. If I am unsure about it – then popularity comes into play. I do find myself listening to something that many people have recommended to me and I don’t like it, but I have to say to myself “Even if I don’t like it, will other people like it?” If I can get out of my head for second and listen to the music from the outside, that helps me decide. Quality overall – even if I personally do not have taste for your music, I can still tell if you are a quality singer and/or songwriter.
How long has the show been going? Why is it so popular? Why does it appeal to people?
Music City Roots has been a show since 2009. Our executive producers built the show from the ground up with passion for the music and the community. I think it is so popular because it reminds people of something simple. You can come pay 10 bucks to sit (or stand) in a barn filled with happy music lovers and watch a “sampling” of 5 great bands you may or may not have heard of. You can walk in to go see The Doobie Brothers and walk out a fan of Sturgill Simpson. We cross genres all in the same night, and open people up to new music. We have comfort food and comfort drinks. Hard to not appeal to folks with that.