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Before Nashville was the “it city.” Before there was a hit TV show on ABC and before Hollywood stars like Nicole Kidman had moved into town. Before award-winning, elite ranking restaurants and boutique hot spots existed. And long before The Black Keys, Kings of Leon and even Meghan Trainor were calling Nashville home, there was already a movement brewing outside the walls of the country music scene. Their forward thinking may not have broken headlines, but this community of artists banded together and forever changed the game for emerging indie artists. Meet Ten Out of Tenn.
It’s hard to believe that in 2005, Nashville had little to show for outside of country music. Now, this city maintains its unique temperament fostered by a community of collaborators rather than competitors. And it is this very characteristic that stirred Kristen and Trent Dabbs to develop Ten Out Of Tenn. At the time, many people were skeptical – a coalition of ten artists with repertoires that ranged from organic pop to modern folk, touring the country together. But since its inception, the collective has been highly embraced, garnering national praises from USA Today, Paste Magazine, American Songwriter, Nylon, ELLE and more.
A sort of singer-songwriter supergroup, Ten Out Of Tenn started from a conversation between Kristen and Trent after realizing that much of the music they enjoyed listening to happened to be of their friend’s. From the beginning, TOT tackled the seemingly impossible – 10 artists, all who have their own successful careers and fan bases, rallying together as they swap vocals and instruments during their shows for a unique twist on each other’s creative work. The result is magical.
Artists like Paper Route, Griffin House, Tyler James and Kate York, were the first class in a new school of artistic progress signaling to the rest of the world that there is so much more to Tennessee than country crooners. Along the way band leaders Butterfly Boucher and K.S. Rhoads joined, as well as Erin McCarley, Madi Diaz, Matthew Perryman Jones, Andrew Belle, Andy Davis and so many others have packed their gear and tomfoolery onto a tour bus, taking it out all across the country.
Now, 10 years later, there is much to celebrate. With 27 artists, 7 tours, hundreds of shows, 6 compilation albums and over 500 TV/Film placements shared amongst the group, this journey of Ten Out Of Tenn has seen far more success than anyone could have ever predicted. In 2009, TOT released their award winning documentary, “Any Day Now,” which debuted during the Nashville Film Festival. Throughout the years, TOT artists have shared the stage with musicians such as Rihanna, Bon Iver, Taylor Swift, John Mayer, Ingrid Michaelson, REM and Sarah McLachlan, to name a few.
If you’ve seen a commercial, movie or TV show in the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly heard the work of a TOT alum. Take for example Amy Stroup whose songs have been used by E-Harmony, Walmart and on Parenthood. One of the original members, Tyler James, graduated from TOT and went on to play keys for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and then formed his own band, Escondido and Kyle Andrews, another former alum, has had his song, “You Always Make Me Smile” featured on Microsoft and Holiday Inn commercials. Surely you heard Gabe Dixon’s “Find My Way” opening Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds’ 2009 film, The Proposal. And then there’s Katie Herzig, whose work has been featured on Sex and the City, in the trailer for Saving Mr. Banks, and Target and Carnival Cruise commercials. Renowned artists such as Joy Williams (of The Civil Wars), Mikky Ekko and Ashley Monroe all had their footing as former Ten Out Of Tenn artists. And the thing is, this list goes on and on.
Time sure flies, with 2015 marking the momentous decade anniversary of Ten Out Of Tenn. What originally began as an effort to bring awareness to the music scene in Tennessee has now grown into so much more; with TOT credited as one of the leading forefronts for independent musicians all across the country.
And the remarkable thing is, there was never a fancy record label backing the initiative or a popular digital streaming service heavily advertising each artist’s repertoire. No. Ten Out Of Tenn didn’t start in a manufactured way, the way other success stories so often do these days. Instead, Ten Out Of Tenn started as a big dream from a band of brothers with high hopes and a unique rating system that even the critics couldn’t ignore – a perfect Ten Out of Tenn.
Image by Jeremy Cowart