A Night at the Rutledge – Jenni Finlay Promotions hosts Americana Showcases at Nashville’s Rutledge (w/ Gurf Morlix – 2011)

Next week marks the annual Americana Music Festival and Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.   As I prepare for the long road-trip, my yearly “Call Day Etiquette” panel, my attending artists’ interviews and showcases, I fall into the steady practiced routine of gearing up and getting into “convention mode.”  At one point, I catch my reflection in my office window and get a glimpse from the outside in.   I look a bit weary,  yet confident...like someone who’s done this all before...like someone who knows exactly what she’s doing…
That thought stops me short – the papers I’m shuffling slap together in midair – and for an amazing moment, I see how far we’ve come…  


In college, (pre-AMA), I followed the Gavin Report (that incredible non Top-40 chart) religiously.  I remember first hearing about Joe Ely’s Letter to Laredo from Gavin, and – thoroughly blown away – I immediately ran out to track down a copy.  Gavin made such a huge impact on the music business, yet only lasted about 10 years.  The music lived on, of course…and its people knew that it needed a home…so the Americana Music Association was born.

The first Americana Conference I attended was in 2004.  I remember how tremendously nervous I was beforehand – how intently I studied the panel and showcase schedules – highlighting and compiling organized lists to make the most of my time.   I stayed with friends 20 miles out of town and would have to book it each morning, fighting I-24’s drive-time traffic, to make that 8am seminar.

The awards show that year was held in the Nashville Convention Center Ballroom.  With the low tiled ceiling and dim florescent glow, it felt more like a potluck banquet than a swanky awards show, but – naturally – that was all part of its charm.  That closeness and familiarity among those of us who were there made that particular Honors and Awards one of the most special events we’ve shared.

Compadres Jenni and Logan, circa 3am (Chicken & Waffles – 2005)

I was working for a record company at the time, and was called upon to help host the Chicken and Waffle After-Party in 2005 (which was held at the Ernest Tubb Record Store from 2-6am). It was the first time I’d ever heard of such a culinary combination, but like Americana music itself, I figured you couldn’t go wrong with such a wide spectrum.  Late into the party (or early into the morning – whatever your take may be), a good radio friend of mine stumbled in (quite bleary-eyed) and proceeded to introduce himself to me…five times in a row.  To this day – nearly 10 years later – we still laugh about it every time we see each other.

There is so much about those first few years that I relive each and every time I return to the Americana Conference.  I see myself in all of the new faces in the hallways and doorways – noses pressed into day-schedules.  I recognize that same hope, aspiration and drive that we still share … and that inspires us all.    Though I’ll be a “veteran attendee” this year, it’s hard to see myself among the “Old Salts” of Americana – my business heroes seasoned with years of know-how and innovation.  Most of the time, I still see myself as just plain fortunate to get to do what I do.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be able to be where I am today.

Beyond the music,  what I really love about Americana is our people.  The compassion that the artists, djs, journalists, venue owners, managers, promoters and publicists have for the music and their work shines through all facets of their lives.   This is truly a membership of family and friends… which makes every conference a reunion.  Americana is the catching up on how everyone’s been – the heartfelt “how’s your momma and them?” –  the understanding of where we’ve come from, the dedicated and common focus towards the future….and the promise of what’s to come.

Sometimes, with any association, we get lost in the details…the politics…the “organization” of the organization.  There will always be more that can be done (and much that should be left undone) to make an association the best it can possibly be.

(Clockwise: Louis Meyers, BettySoo, Casey Monahan, Shelley King, Floramay Holliday, Jason Landry, john Arthur martinez, Jenni Finlay, Danielle Talamini – 2009)

But in the end, it comes down to the people.
The people who come together for this music.
Those who give music wings.
Those who make it fly.

…and those of us who give it a place to call home.

Now THAT’s Americana.

See you all next week!