Mar 18, 2024 - Music

New podcast examines growth of our Black music scene

The logo for the WPLN podcast making noise.

Image: Courtesy of WPLN

When people think about Music City, cowboy hats and country twang probably spring to mind. But, of course, there's much more to music in Nashville.

Why it matters: Hip-hop, R&B and soul artists also make Music City sing.

  • Reporter Jewly Hight hosts a new Nashville Public Radio podcast, "Making Noise," about a team that has spent 20 years elevating those voices.

Zoom in: The podcast focuses on the history of the concert promotion company Lovenoise, which made room for the city's Black music scene starting in 2003.

  • Hight tells Axios that their story deserves space "alongside all of the other musical histories that usually get centered and held up as the civic brand."

What they did: Hight interviewed several people involved with Lovenoise, which began as an effort to give contemporary Black artists a platform that wasn't available in Nashville 20 years ago.

  • Lovenoise says it started as "Nashville's urban answer to the Bluebird Cafe." Across four episodes, Hight captures the company's evolution from a weekly party to a power player that expanded live music opportunities for a new generation of artists.

In 2021, Lovenoise worked with the Nashville Symphony to bring the hip-hop heavyweight Nas to Ascend Amphitheater.

  • Hight says Lovenoise inspired parallel efforts that continue to add to Nashville's musical landscape.

What he's saying: "We really just wanted the artists to have a platform for Nashville to be able to experience Black culture," Lovenoise co-founder Eric Holt, who is also a music business professor at Belmont University, told "This Is Nashville."

  • Participating in the podcast helped Holt understand the long-tail legacy of that work, he said.
  • "Moving forward, it's like, we have to take care of this thing."

Zoom out: "Making Noise" also examines the broader history of Black music in Nashville, including the rich legacy of Jefferson Street.

  • Hight hopes it will add context to conversations about "the segregation of music" that have emerged in the runup to Beyoncé's country album.

The bottom line: The city's country-centric identity "defines how the outside world looks at Nashville," Hight added while speaking about the new show on a recent episode of "This Is Nashville."

  • "We're not trying to say all of that is invalid. We're just saying it is simply incomplete."
  • "We are offering to help complete the narrative."

Listen: All episodes are out now. They're available at WPLN.org and on podcast apps.

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