Oct 11, 2021

Axios Nashville

Happy Music Monday and welcome to another week in the Axios Nashville family!

🌦 Today's weather: Mostly sunny with a chance of showers later in the day. The high is about 83.

Today's newsletter is 865 words β€” a 3.3-minute read.

1 big thing: Christian music gets top honor

Songwriter Ethan Hulse. Photo courtesy of Essential Music Publishing

For the very first time, Nashville's top songwriter is from Christian music, serving as a reminder of the genre's importance to Music City.

  • Ethan Hulse, with Essential Music Publishing, was honored last month as the Nashville Songwriters Association International's Songwriter of the Year.

Why it matters: The award isn't a popularity contest. It's based on a songwriter's performance on the charts and other metrics, meaning Hulse beat out fair and square better-known writers from the country genre.

  • "He more than deserves the honor based on his incredible songs and creativity," NSAI executive director Bart Herbison told Axios. "But it is also important that the genre receives this recognition because of the economic and musical contributions it makes to Middle Tennessee.”

Details: Hulse is your typical overnight Nashville success that actually was a lifetime in the making.

  • He began performing in church, leading worship when he was just 10 years old at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif.
  • He moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting, then signed with Essential in 2016 and scored his breakthrough hit with Zach Williams' chart-topping "Old Church Choir." Hulse has earned seven Billboard No. 1 songs since then, including three in the last year.

What they're saying: Hulse said it was "a bit mindblowing" when he found out he won the top songwriter award.

  • "My goal coming to town was to just do this for a living," Hulse told Axios. "So everything feels on top of all that."
  • Hulse has recently expanded into producing songs in addition to more writing opportunities for pop and country music.
  • "This Christian music stuff and the worship stuff definitely occupies a lot of my time," Hulse said. "I feel my best creative self when I'm able to be a chameleon."
2. Taking on the BEP

Gov. Bill Lee speaking during the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee's announcement that he would seek to review β€” and potentially change β€” public education funding rippled through Nashville over the weekend.

  • The scope of the proposed revamp remains an open question. Lee said he would seek public input for 90 days.

Why it matters: The state's complicated Basic Education Program funding formula, which is used to determine how much money public schools receive, has long been criticized as insufficient. Metro Nashville Public Schools is part of an ongoing lawsuit challenging the funding rubric, which is sure to loom large over Lee’s effort.

Between the lines: Lee's administration suggested the formula would be redesigned to focus on individual student needs rather than broader staffing and administrative needs.

Yes, but: Chalkbeat Tennessee reported that language could create a model which steers more funding toward vouchers and charter schools.

Flashback: Advocacy groups and review committees have proposed many changes to the formula over the years.

  • In a statement after Lee's announcement Friday, the Nashville Public Education Foundation said it was "cautiously optimistic" about the upcoming review.

Context: Tennessee's annual budget allocates more to education than anything else, but the funding still pales in comparison to most other states.

  • "The real problem here isn't the complicated formula to split up the BEP funds. The problem is the uncomplicated decision to invest fewer dollars in education than basically every other state," State Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said in a statement to the Tennessean.
3. Rutherford County investigation

Image courtesy of WPLN

WPLN and ProPublica on Friday published a joint investigation into Rutherford County's juvenile justice system.

Why it matters: Rutherford County's approach to juvenile justice has faced scrutiny for years. The new investigation profiles the 2016 arrests and the adults behind the system, and shows how many of them have escaped serious consequences.

  • The investigation included 2014 data showing Rutherford County locked up kids in 48% of its juvenile court cases. The statewide average was 5%.

Background: The county in June agreed to pay up to $11 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging more than 1,000 children had been illegally incarcerated.

  • As much as $7.75 million will go to children who were arrested or incarcerated under Rutherford County policies.
4. The Setlist: Titans bounce back

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 Titans fans got some relief from a much-needed win Sunday over the lowly Jaguars. (Music City Miracles)

🚚 Bass, Berry & Sims law firm is moving to Nashville Yards. (Nashville Business Journal)

Tensions are flaring within the Southern Baptist Convention. (The Tennessean, subscription required)

5. Music Monday: The Sequel

Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones onstage at Nissan Stadium Saturday. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

As promised, we are returning with more music this week.

  • We've updated our Axios Nashville playlist with a new set of songs that reflect our latest favorites and the latest in the news.

πŸ‘ Thank you to readers Blake, Dan, Tony, Bailee, Michael and Jill for the song recommendations.

  • Please keep them coming for next week's edition. Reply to this email and let the good songs roll.

Our picks: Adam and his boyfriend, Forrest, saw Liz Longley at The Bluebird Cafe last week. A standout from her wonderful set is one of the new additions.

  • Nate's favorite in this batch is "Rodeo" from Charlie Marie.
  • We also added songs from The Rolling Stones and St. Vincent to celebrate their dueling weekend concerts.

Nate is taking some time off this week.

Adam can't resist the tidal wave of accolades: It's time to start watching "Squid Game"!