In this week’s installation of our Meet The Curation Team Series we chat with Ashlee-Jean Trott, one of our Nashville-based Curators. AJ is our Senior Folk Curator, and she’s also an Associate Producer at Music City Roots. In this Q&A, AJ shares her thoughts on Nashville’s ever-evolving music scene, tells us about some of her current favorite artists and lets us know what she thinks makes an artist unique.
What got you hooked on music in the first place? What did you listen to growing up?
I grew up in a Southern Baptist household, and we listened to a LOT of Southern Gospel music. As I got older, I strayed away from that genre, but I still loved the sounds and harmonies of it. Then I discovered Bluegrass, which is very similar but involves all different types of voices. With the Bluegrass community came very close ties with Americana and Folk, both of which immediately draw me in.
What was your first music industry job?
My sister is a musician. While I was in college, I wanted to be like her, but I couldn’t sing or play an instrument very well (or I was shy to), so I started a music festival in Birmingham, AL called The Birmingham Folk Festival and booked some great artists including my sister. We had great attendance and it motivated me to move to Nashville and pursue a job on the business side of the music industry.
You work at Music City Roots. What do you look for in artists when you’re booking lineups for the show each week?
Typically, I look at YouTube videos to see how an artist performs “live” and I ask myself, even if it’s not my thing, can I see other people liking this? Music City Roots is known for introducing fans to types of music that they would normally not gravitate towards. So my job is not only to book good bands, but also to introduce our audience to new and different things. One night a person will come in the room to see Emmylou Harris play and walk out a fan of a new up and coming indie rock band. We’re combining genres and opening ears.
What’s your favorite thing about the music scene in Nashville?
My favorite thing about the music scene in Nashville has to be the diversity. This isn’t just a city for Country music, it has very strong Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, and Soul scenes. If I’ve heard enough of one type of music, all I have to do is walk down the street to a different venue and find something to clear my head.
How did you get involved with ReverbNation and ReverbNation CONNECT?
Emilee Warner, one of my close friends here in Nashville actually worked in this position before me, and gave a handy recommendation when she had to leave. The best thing about the women in the music industry here in Nashville is: we all have each other’s backs!
What are the main things you’re listening for when you’re reviewing music? What makes Folk artists stand out from the rest of the pack?
I typically listen to the songs and how they connect together lyrically. I also pay attention to the singer. You can have a good song and a band voice (song is good, voice is average), and you can have a good voice and a band song (voice is good, song is average). It’s great when an artists can pull off both. And if there’s good production, that’s an added bonus! What makes Folk artists stand out from the pack is that musicians in this genre pull from a lot of what was old and make it new and fresh. Folk music is very popular for that reason. For instance, you have The Avett Brothers, who pull a lot of inspiration from Townes Van Zandt and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Doc Watson. They’re very popular now, and I think that is not only because people can relate to their lyrics, but because they can relate to the sound as something they may have heard before.
Who are you listening to these days?
Some of my favorite acts right now have to be Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, The Stray Birds, Todd Grebe and Cold Country, and HoneyHoney just to name a few!
Who are your favorite ReverbNation CONNECT acts right now?
I am really in love with what Sammy Brue is doing, as such a young artist in this community.
What makes you most excited about the future of Folk music?
I think that Folk Music is always evolving, but always brings you back home. This makes me very excited about the future of folk music, I don’t think it will ever disappear. There will always be a place for this genre in the world and people actively participating in it and enjoying its music.
Check out Ashlee-Jean’s favorite ReverbNation picks below: