Teddy Gentry’s “Best New Nashville”
By Ted Drozdowski
© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
According to some music business cynics, exposure is something that people die from. But the truth is that for new artists, exposure to an audience, not to mention airplay, publishing, management, production, co-writing and other aspects of the business, is an absolute lifeline.
Teddy Gentry, co-founder and bass player for the legendary group Alabama, is throwing that lifeline out to emerging artists with his Teddy Gentry’s Best New Nashville project.
The first product of this venture is a CD, also called Teddy Gentry’s Best New Nashville, released May 16 in more than 600 Cracker Barrel restaurants across the U.S. (The parent company behind the project, Porter Gentry Productions, is owned by Teddy Gentry and Bernard Porter.) It comes on the heel of a live series at Nashville’s showcase club 3rd & Lindsley, where the artists on the disc, each represented by a Gentry-produced song, perform with Gentry’s band, Rockit City. The package has also spawned a tour underway into the fall of 2011.
“This project was inspired by my love for great music, for discovering great music, writing great music and producing great music,” said Gentry. “Honestly, Best New Nashville is a way for me to continue my love for music and to share my desire to give new talent a fighting chance in a time when the industry is a very challenging place, especially for newcomers who don’t know the ropes.”
Partnering with Cracker Barrel is an important part of Gentry’s strategy. “There was a story in USA Today listing the top five ways to break new music, and No. 3 was affiliating with Cracker Barrel,” Gentry said. “The marketing arm of Cracker Barrel is strong. They give you a 30-day window at the front counter and even put little table tents for the CD on every table in each restaurant, so millions of people become aware of your CD. We even gave all 60,000 Cracker Barrel employees a free download so they could talk about the album — and that’s quite a sales force.”
“Cracker Barrel is pleased to work with Teddy Gentry on this special project to provide a showcase for some very talented artists from whom we might well be hearing more in the future,” said Chris Ciavarra, Senior VP, Marketing, Cracker Barrel. “These are artists who have worked hard and have honed their skills, and with this CD they are stepping up onto a larger stage.”
Gentry found the performers on the album in a variety of ways. Two, Chip Davis and Dillon Dixon, are members of Rockit City. He also meets with several newcomers each week. Some are referred by associates. Others catch his ear with demos and press kits they send to him at BestNewMusicGroup.com.
For 3 Lanes Crossing, an Alabama-based sister trio, being in the program has “given us a platform to reach more people and build a bigger audience and go places we would never have been able to travel on our own,” according to group member Jill Holt.
“We learned that regardless of how we’ve been performing a song, it’s not necessarily set in stone when you get to the studio,” added sister Rachel Robinson. “We had a different arrangement of ‘A Good Place to Turn Around’ when we got into the studio, but Teddy insisted we could do it better, and he was insightful enough to make us see the song in a different light. He’s also a perfectionist, so he coached us to sing it over and over again until we had it absolutely right.”
“Working with Teddy, I have learned mostly that you just have to be positive and keep plugging,” said rocking firebrand Jimmy Stewart, who’s “Every Mile I’m Missing You” is the compilation’s opening track. “Sometimes what you’re working on today might not fully materialize until a couple of years later or even many years later. I was trying to recover from being dropped (from a major label) when we started this. I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough to get things going again for myself. Now, almost two years after Teddy and I started working together, it’s encouraging to finally have music for sale in a store, especially Cracker Barrel.”
“Best New Nashville is my launch platform,” added Dixon. “After being in Nashville for 16 years trying to get something off the ground, the time has come. I’ve never been more confident or comfortable. I won’t be a part of future Best New Nashville projects. That’s not how Teddy set it up. This one will, however, put me on the map.”
And that’s Gentry’s goal. “For the past seven years, I’ve been working with new and undiscovered and underappreciated artists, trying to give them a shot,” he observed. “I love finding great songs and great artists. I hope to make this album with Cracker Barrel an annual event so we can continue to get exposure for folks who need to get recorded and keep new blood flowing through Country Music.”