Sunday, August 30, 2015

'Tunesmithing' to Celebrate Americana Music Week in Nashville on Sept. 16

         NASHVILLE -- "Tunesmithing" will celebrate Americana Music Week with a songwriter spotlight from 7-10 p.m. Sept. 16 (Wednesday) at WXYZ Restaurant/Bar at the Aloft Nashville Hotel, 1719 West End Ave. (near Music Row). 

           Attendees will enjoy original songs by pop/rock/Americana artist Chakra Bleu ("All of Me"/Number one on NMW Top 40 Indie Chart); country/Americana artist Scott Coner ("Maybe She Lied"/Tanya Tucker duet); folk/Americana artist Mary Beth Cross ("Beyond Good and Evil"/2014 Country-Folk CD of the Year); the alternative/folk/rock band Dark Waters Project ("The Rains" CD); pop/Americana trio East Side Story ("I'll Be Waiting Here"/CD); and Celtic/folk/Americana artist David Llewellyn (Grand Prize Winner/John Lennon Songwriting Competition). 

Scott Coner performs at a recent "Tunesmtihing"
          Admission is free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Publicist Chuck Whiting will emcee the show. Songwriter/audio engineer AJ Bigler will handle sound. "Tunesmithing" songwriters showcase is sponsored by Whiting Publicity & Promotions, Music City Arts Update, and Shine Time Records and Books

          The monthly show was founded in 2003 to spotlight emerging, professional and hit songwriters. The event offers mentoring, career growth and networking opportunities for tunesmiths at all levels. For more information about "Tunesmithing", call (615) 423-9857, write, or visit

Chakra Bleu

Mary Beth Cross

Dark Waters Project

East Side Story

David Llewellyn

Friday, August 28, 2015

Artist/Instructor Gail McDaniel to Teach Eight-Week Watercolor Painting Course Near Atlanta

            ATLANTA, Ga. (August 2015) -- Gail McDaniel, an acclaimed watercolorist who has served as an associate member and demonstrating artist/instructor for the prestigious Winsor & Newton Creative Artist Network in London, will teach an eight-week watercolor painting course this fall in the Atlanta area.

            The watercolor painting course will be offered to beginning, intermediate and advanced artists on Wednesday afternoons starting Sept. 30 at Griffin First United Methodist Church, 1401 Maple Drive in the Atlanta suburb of Griffin, Ga. Sessions will occur from 1-4 p.m. on Sept. 30; Oct. 7, 14, 21 and 28; and Nov. 4, 11 and 18. Tuition is $165 for all eight, three-hour sessions.

            The artist/instructor will provide invaluable insights on composition, perspective, value, color theory and application. She also will demonstrate some of the techniques that have helped make her an award-winning artist, including abstract under paintings, disappearing purples, painting on Masa Paper, white on white, monotype paintings, let it flow, texturize your paintings, portraits, reflective surfaces, and wax-resist Batik. The course is structured to serve artists at all skill levels, from the very raw beginner to the most advanced. McDaniel will close each session with individual critiques.

            Because space is limited for the classes, reservations are required. Payments by check are accepted. For more information or to register, contact the artist by phone at (678) 603-1502 or send an inquiry to Individuals can learn more about the artist/instructor and view her artwork at

            Before moving to Georgia, McDaniel spent more than 20 years working as a professional watercolorist and art instructor in Franklin, Tenn. During that time, she taught more than 1,300 students in classes and workshops around the world. A number of her former students have developed into professional artists with exhibitions and commissions.

            "Some people come to find out if they can paint in watercolor," said the artist, who painted the invitation cover for "A Little Night of Music" starring country superstar LeAnn Rimes. "Like me, others love the look of watercolor paintings and want to learn the medium. Many come for the change of pace and the new, wonderful, relaxing challenge it brings. The intermediate and advanced students come to me to grow in the medium."

            Over the years, McDaniel has seen the positive change that comes over many people when they spend three hours with her creatively thinking from the right side of their brain.

            "It's truly a night-and-day change, not to mention the fun they have," McDaniel added. "Many who come to me with no art background find they really have a true talent for painting. Some of them never had the slightest notion they had any talent. It's such an outstanding reward for them and a source of real pleasure for me."

            A good example is Phyllis Tatum, a watercolorist who studied with McDaniel for 14 years in Middle Tennessee. She and her fellow students were thrilled when she won four blue ribbons and a red ribbon at the Tennessee State Fair. Her crowing achievement came later when she won the fair's "Best of Show", a rare occurrence in watercolor circles.

            McDaniel fondly remembers receiving a thank you note from former student Suzy Foy of Estes Park, Colo., who wrote, "My whole life I have dreamt about being an artist... I never believed I could live that dream, one painting at a time. Because of my workshops, mentoring and support (from McDaniel), it is happening."

            "One of the obvious results of classes is the togetherness that comes upon the group," McDaniel noted. "Friendships develop, and with that interest in each other's lives and the happenings and events in their world. The group watches children grow up, grandchildren being born, and members die. The group celebrates the joys together, as well as the sad times, giving special support. Sometimes, our paintings reflect those experiences."

            The classes in Griffin should be no exception. McDaniel will demonstrate the techniques, shortcuts and concepts that she has developed or learned by doing, reading or studying with others. She plans to show her students everything she knows, holding nothing back. Her goal is to inspire them without making them feel overwhelmed.

            During her career, McDaniel has trained artists from 36 different states (including Alaska and Hawaii), the District of Columbia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea. She has taught 11 workshops at historic Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, a landmark where the late Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted. She also served as a member of the arts faculty of Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art.

            In 2002, she and her husband, Ken, launched the "Students and Friends of Gail McDaniel Awards", raising almost $90,000 for the visual arts in Middle Tennessee public schools. The fundraising effort earned Gail and Ken a nomination in the "volunteer innovator" category of the 2009 Mary Catherine Strobel Award. In 2012, the artist was named the PENCIL Foundation's "Volunteer of the Year".

            Before leaving Tennessee, she received an award for "Excellence in Community Service" from the Travelers Rest Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was inducted into the Cave City, Ky., Hall of Fame and named (as an eighth generation Kentuckian) to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels as one of  "Kentucky's ambassadors of good will and fellowship around the world."

            In 2001, she was invited by directors of the "Art in Provence" program to conduct an eight-day watercolor workshop in Dieulefit, France. She studied under 38 noted art instructors to help build her reputation as one of the South's top artists/instructors. -- even accepting a commission to paint a family landmark for former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn.

            For more information about Gail McDaniel or to see her work, visit

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Country Artist Scott Coner Releases First Music Video from 'In The Studio With Scott Coner'

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (August 2015) – Country artist Scott Coner is adding an acoustic feel to his music videos by launching a new video series called "In the Studio with Scott Coner".

            "Close to You", the first video from the series, was released on You Tube and Facebook on Aug. 18. Other song videos will follow in the coming weeks and months. Coner, who has worked with artists such as Tanya Tucker and T. Graham Brown, says he used an "organic approach" to present his songs in their most basic form. Fellow musicians guitarist Jake Widenhofer, percussionist Bryan Tewell, and bass player Adam Cunningham were encouraged to play the songs from their own perspective.

            To download the "Close to You" music video, visit the artist's website at, his Facebook page at, or You Tube at

            "I wasn't going for the highly polished sound that we have all become accustomed to," said Coner, who hopes to release a full concert on video next year. "I think one of the things we have lost in this digital age is the spontaneity that this type of recording offers. Something that hit home with me years ago was when John Mellencamp released 'Pink Houses' and 'Small Town' on a stripped-down acoustic release. I never forgot that, and I suppose this is my attempt."

(Photo by Cyndi Coner) L-R Jake Widenhofer, Scott Coner, Bryan Tewell, and Adam Cunningham

            For the video shoot, the four musicians sat with their instruments in chairs left to right in front of a brick and wood-accented fireplace. Performances were miked or fed into a soundboard, where engineer Sean Spence monitored volume and reverb levels. Each song was recorded from start to finish without interruption to produce a live acoustic feel. Scott's wife, Cyndi, manned the camera for the Coner family's Cynnamae Media Productions.

            "The approach was anything but technical really," Scott added. "The guys all had a click track with a basic in their ears, but I opted to do my part listening to the room only. The only issue for me with this approach was that I couldn't hear the bass at all."

            The artist describes "Close to You" as a love song for his wife. Other upcoming song videos from the series will include "Sanibel", a song he originally recorded with T. Graham Brown; "Taylorsville Angel", a tune about a truck stop waitress and a lonely trucker; and "Nashville Song", a recent music video about overcoming disappointments on Music Row.

            "I've never attempted to make a record that is technically perfect from end to end," Scott continued. "My music is usually about my life in some way, and I kind of look at my songs the way someone might look at a photo album or scrapbook. My hope is that people will continue to identify with the songs and apply them to their own life in one way or another."

            A self-proclaimed family man, Scott Coner lives with his wife and two daughters on rural farmland near Franklin, Ind. He has recorded songs with a who's who of country legends including Tanya Tucker, T. Graham Brown, and Charlie Daniels. Scott's single "Maybe She Lied", a duet with Tucker on Reedy's Dream Records, hit number one on the United Kingdom's Hot Disk Top 40. Other songs, including "Sanibel" (a duet with Brown) and "Reedy's Dream" (with vocal and instrumental contributions from Daniels) have been heard on terrestrial and online radio stations around the world. Also an emerging author, Scott recently penned the book "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Ronnie Van Zant and Me" with Gene Odom, a survivor of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash.

            To learn more about Scott Coner or to download his songs and videos, visit

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jed Hilly Leads Rousing Toast with Americana Ale


     Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly celebrates the introduction of this year's Americana Ale with Yazoo Brewery Sales and Marketing Director Neil McCormick. Dozens of industry professionals gathered at the brewery off Music Row on Aug. 12 to give a rousing toast to the upcoming Americana Music Festival, which will fill Nashville with music and song from Sept. 15-20. (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Visual Artist Laura Powers Launches Earring Renaissance Jewelry Product Line

            NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 2015) – Internationally known Nashville visual artist/musician Laura Powers has created a new line of innovative custom-made pendants that allows individuals to wear family heirloom jewelry items as necklaces, including single or "lonely" post/stud earrings and pins. 

            Powers officially launched her EarringRenaissance product line on Aug. 12 with a month-long fundraising campaign on She spent more than two years developing an easy-change pendant system for those women who have lost post-style earrings and just have the one earring left. The silver and gold pendants, which easily open and close, are specially designed to securely display and hold small jewelry keepsakes.

            An accompanying contest giveaway called "Pin (Share) It To Win It" allows potential buyers and/or investors to win a free necklace pendant and chain of their choice by sharing personal stories and product information on the company's social networking pages. To learn more about pre-ordering Earring Renaissance limited-edition pendants or entering the giveaway, visit

            "My Earring Renaissance product line essentially gives treasured jewelry new life," said Powers, whose oil paintings have been exhibited and commissioned around the world. "I created my pendant system because I wanted a solution to the lonely earring problem -- a problem I know all too well. Like many others, I have a jewelry box tucked away with unpaired earrings and long-forgotten pins."

            Powers said she came up with the idea for Earring Renaissance after buying a pair of red coral and sterling dangle earrings, then losing one of them at work on the first day. A couple years later, the same thing happened with a pair of small opal earrings. At that moment, she dropped everything she was doing and started working on a solution for people with similar experiences.

            Development of the Earring Renaissance product line has also been a way for Powers to honor her mother, who died unexpectedly of cancer in 2009. One of the unpaired earrings in her jewelry box was a diamond stud earring that her mother had given to her for her college graduation. Now, for the first time, she can reconnect to the earring and her mother's memory by wearing the diamond stud as a necklace.

            "We've also found that other heirloom pieces such as a father's tie pin or a grandmother's sorority pin also work beautifully in these pendants," Powers added. "I'm excited and delighted to be able to offer something that solves a problem while helping people reconnect to their pasts and to their loved ones."
            For her first Earring Renaissance product launch, Powers is offering four types of custom-made pendants: antique silver, classic silver, antique gold, and classic gold. Pendants feature a unique filigree pattern for the easy insertion of earring studs and pins. Because the front design is different than the back design, each pendant allows the user to have two different looks. 

            "To insert a stud earring or lapel-type pin, all someone needs to do is open the pendant at the top, position the jewelry item in the center, insert the stud, place the earring back onto the post, and reclose the pendant," Powers continued. "Each hinged pendant has a bail at the top that can easily attach to a gold or silver chain. You are ready to showcase your family heirloom in less than a minute, with no modifications to the original earring or pin needed. This will help give amethysts, diamonds, cameos, sapphires, turquoise and other precious gems and family heirlooms new life as a unique pendant."

            Like other entrepreneurs, Powers is looking for investors to help her underwrite the high cost of a professional product launch. She has assembled a team of experts to help organize and promote a fundraising campaign at The campaign will continue through Sept. 5, with investors receiving a range of perks from product discounts and two Giclée paintings to a fully produced family video. Donation levels range from $10 to $2,800 with a fundraising goal of $6,000. Her silver and gold pendants retail for $62 and $70, respectively. Customers and investors will receive their product orders by Dec. 1, 2015. To pre-order a pendant or participate in the campaign, visit

             Earrings, pins and other jewelry items generally have unforgettable stories behind them, and Powers wants to hear them. She encourages individuals to share their jewelry stories at The most touching stories will be featured on the Earring Renaissance blog.

            People can also win a pendant by participating in the "Pin It To Win It" contest at or the "Tweet It To Win It" contest at

            Early buyers are raving about their Earring Renaissance pendants. 

            "No more lonely earrings," noted education professional Kathy Hardin. "Finally, there's a fun, elegant way to dress them up and take them out."

            Author and radio talk show host Barbara Nowak agreed. "I had been keeping my father's fraternity pin in a box for years. Now it looks beautiful attached to the pendant, and I'm proud to wear it."

            "I can customize and create new pieces of jewelry," said professional musician/speaker Lisa Hannah. "It's a beautiful and unique addition to my jewelry wardrobe."

            Powers leads a professional Earring Renaissance team that includes veteran PR professional Chuck Whiting, social media and marketing expert Alex Scanlon, product development coach Lu Anne Puett, and jewelry expert/educator Warren Feld.

              "With my background as a painter, I admit I love the era of the Renaissance when art and science and architecture flourished, so I am drawn to the richness of not only that era, but also the word itself, meaning rebirth," Powers continued.

            Powers is known around the world as an accomplished visual artist, singer, songwriter and composer. She landed national TV coverage in the 1990s after painting portraits of a dozen famous songwriters for a collection of oil paintings called "Golden Muses". Major opportunities followed, including commissioned paintings of Franz Schubert, Frank Sinatra and Jackie Wilson. Her Celtic-accented musical compositions have aired on national television, including PBS. 

            For more information about Earring Renaissance, visit

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Americana Music Association to Honor Buffy Sainte-Marie, Don Henley, Gilian Welch, David Rawlings, Ricky Skaggs and Los Lobos

     NASHVILLE -- The Americana Music Association has announced the selection of Buffy Sainte-Marie, Don Henley, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Ricky Skaggs and Los Lobos as Lifetime Achievement Award winners to be presented at its 14th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony, presented by Nissan, on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

     Each of these artists will perform and the show will be taped for air on PBS later in the year.

     Buffy Sainte-Marie will receive the Spirit of Americana Award, Free Speech in Music co-presented with the First Amendment Center. Since the 1960s, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been arguably the world’s most visible and vocal Native North American folk singer and social activist, but she’s been so much more, including a visual artist with a doctorate in fine art, an educator, and a philanthropist. She is a Cree Indian from Saskatchewan who was raised as an adopted daughter in Massachusetts. She became a prominent artist on the folk music circuit, appearing on Pete Seeger’s "Rainbow Quest", "The Johnny Cash Show" and even "Soul Train". Her songs wrestle honestly with politics, war and identity. At her most effective, she’s blended personal conscience with philosophical perspective, as with the remarkable song “Universal Soldier.” Sainte-Marie remains outspoken and energetic to this day; she’s back on tour with the new album Power In The Blood, her first studio project in seven years.

     Don Henley will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award. With a career that helped take the Eagles to the stratosphere and a string of scintillating, hit-producing solo albums, Don Henley is an icon of California-tinged country/rock and thus Americana music itself. Henley was raised in northeast Texas — a fact celebrated on his rootsy new 2015 collection Cass County. Arriving in Los Angeles after college, he joined Glenn Frey in Linda Ronstadt’s band, forging the core of The Eagles, which launched its epic career in 1971. Henley collaborated with Frey, JD Souther, Jackson Browne and others on hits such as “Desperado,” “Take It To The Limit,” and “Tequila Sunrise.” During the Eagles’ long hiatus in the 80s and 90s, he was the most successful solo artist to emerge from the band, and while his sound leaned harder on modern rock, he also continued to work with country artists including Ronnie Dunn, Trisha Yearwood and Alison Krauss. Henley took on environmental issues in the 1990s, founding the Walden Woods Project and the Caddo Lake Institute for ecological education and research. He’s been a prominent voice for artists’ rights in the recording industry as well.

     The Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting goes to Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
When the duo's first album, Revival, appeared in 1996, it was a shock wave on the American music landscape. With songs like “Orphan Girl,” folk and bluegrass suddenly had exemplars and stars who were young and worldly, traditional and innovative, and who foreshadowed a new generation with interest in and respect for roots music and its many offshoots. Since then, their songwriting has graced seminal albums of the last two decades including "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" ("Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby”) and their own, "Time (The Revelator)". Their songs exemplify the breadth of Americana music and have been recorded by Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, Jimmy Buffet, Z.Z. Top, Joan Baez, and The Punch Brothers. Their timeless tunes have also found their way to campfires and parking lot pickers everywhere. Now, six records and two decades into their career, the songwriting team of Welch & Rawlings has created a catalog that we will cherish and sing for generations.

     Ricky Skaggs will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award as an Instrumentalist.
The 1990s revival of bluegrass music depended on a number of indispensible things happening almost at once, and one of those was Ricky Skaggs assertively returning to his Kentucky roots. His wide ranging musicianship and deep feeling for mountain music had been on display from his appearance at age six on the "Flatt & Scruggs" TV show, and it carried on through career stages with Ralph Stanley and Keith Whitley and then to country radio, where he helped fuel a timely neo-traditionalist movement. Skaggs’ country records and his road bands were charged with top flight picking, including his own on mandolin, an instrument he studied at the feet of Bill Monroe himself. In the years since his era-shaping Bluegrass Rules album came out, he’s promoted the art of the bluegrass instrumental and collaborated with unexpected instrumentalists, such as Bruce Hornsby, with unexcelled evangelism and craft.

     In the category of Lifetime Achievement in Performance, the honor goes to Los Lobos.
Far more than “just another band from East L.A.” as an early album title promised, Los Lobos changed the look, sound and language of roots music, making it more inclusive and reflective of the American story. The founding four members, Cesar Rojas, David Hidalgo, Louie Pérez and Conrad Lozano, plus early addition Steve Berlin, have made music of consistent searching fusion since the mid-1970s. The band’s career was bolstered, but by no means defined, by their chart-topping 1987 cover of “La Bamba” for a movie soundtrack. By negotiating a space between traditional Mexican song, L.A. rock and classic soul, Los Lobos nurtured an identity that’s been adventuresome and unifying.

     “These artists have not only influenced the Americana community, but the musical landscape on the whole,” said Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association.“They all have been an inspiration to our community and we are humbled they will honor us in song at the Ryman this fall.”

     The Americana Music Fest will occur from Sept. 15-19. To learn more, visit