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Portraits of Nashville

It’s more important to understand someone than to judge them. We think the first step to understanding someone is asking them the fundamental questions about who they are and how they became the person they are today. Understanding and empathy are essential building blocks for a better, more compassionate world. We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to ask these questions each week through our interview series. Below you’ll find inspiring interviews from in and around Nashville.

Dale Woodfin

I think it might be best to write the story from the Arts in the Burg perspective and I do much better talking about myself and my art in an interview process. Arts in the Burg is the brainchild of our Director, Dale Woodfin. When he returned to his hometown of South Pittsburg, TN in 2014, Dale noticed several of the buildings were vacant and business was less than booming in the downtown area. However, the National Cornbread Festival, a local annual event attracting over 25,000 visitors to our community, was a bright spot and provided some insight to a solution. Through the festival he and other knew that, visitors from outside our area, will come to our charming town if we give them a reason. Read more>>

Terran William

The whole thing was completely unexpected! I made a charcuterie board for a friend’s birthday celebration, and everyone at the party was raving about how pretty it was. I was pretty proud of it myself, as it was the first board I had ever made. I decided to post a picture on Facebook of a said charcuterie board, and from there, the rest is history. Within a few weeks, Simply Sage & Zest was born. I have since provided charcuterie in the form of grazing tables, boards, and personalized cups for many friends, family, and strangers! The support has been phenomenal, and I am still in awe of the way everything has played out. Read more>>

Dakota Poorman

It all started back in the Summer of 2020. I was introduced to a Producer over the phone by some friends of mine. They told him about me and he said, “He had to meet me!” So we spoke around the beginning of January and we made a plan for me to fly out to Nashville around June/July to meet, Jump ahead to the last two weeks of June, I flew out to Nashville where I met Multi-Platinum selling Producer, Engineer, and Mixer – Malcolm Springer (Nashville, TN) whose credits include Collective Soul, Matchbox 20, Fear Factory, Full Devil Jacket, Greenwheel among many others. We connected instantly and got right to work! We started pre-production on three original songs, “American Made,” “When Love Comes Lookin’,” and “Best Mistake.” And right then, we knew we had something special! Read more>>

Nikki Forbes

My name is Nikki Forbes and I am a pop singer-songwriter from Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve been singing and performing for as long as I can remember but I started writing songs when I was just six years old. I got really serious about it at twelve years old when I learned to play acoustic guitar after my mom “assigned” me to learn a couple of chords from YouTube for a homeschooling assignment. After being able to accompany me, my writing really took off and I started seeing myself as an artist. Read more>>

Savannah Rae

I have been singing all my life but started professionally pursuing music at the age of 12. I attribute my parents to my love of music due to the fact that at an early age, they introduced me to all kinds of genres. Everything from country to rock, to jazz to 15th-century lute music, you name it, they played it for me. It was around age 11 that they started to take me to concerts quite often. I specifically remember going to an Evanescence concert and being completely blown away by the lead singer, Amy Lee. I told my mom that I wanted to be just like her and perform and luckily, my parents took me very seriously when I said that. They enrolled me in guitar lessons and vocal lessons and the rest was history! I absolutely fell in love with performing and making music. At 12 years old, I was certain music was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Read more>>

Brandon Owen

I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. My youth was spent surfing, skateboarding, and making art. Shortly after high school, I enlisted in the army. After my time in the military, I went to design school in Los Angeles. I studied set design and at the same time was getting real-life experience working in the editorial photo world. I always had a love for Nashville and would always visit friends, so four years ago, I made the choice to make this my home and have not looked back since. Read more>>

Jen Fought

From as early as I can remember, I loved creating meaningful connections with those around me and being able to be of service to others. This translated well with my first career as a registered nurse. I started my career working as a surgical nurse in my home state of Ohio. My husband’s career moved around the U.S. approximately every 2 years which has led us to our life here in Nashville. With traveling, I had the opportunity to grow as a professional in many locations, and within a variety of specialties. Read more>>

Nora Tirrell

I started out loving music as a kid. I took piano lessons through childhood and discovered a love of writing from the time I was in elementary school. This developed into songwriting over time and propelled me to apply to my dream school, Berklee College of Music, which I was accepted into early admission in 2013. Throughout my time at Berklee, I worked hard on my songwriting skills and was excited to move to music city a year after I graduated. Read more>>

Jeshiqua White

Jeshiqua White, a New York native, transitioned to Nashville in February 2018. She has always had a passion for helping individuals since the early age of fourteen years old. Jeshiqua, best known as J is a social worker at heart and a natural leader. She is not afraid to go the extra mile to ensure the success of a project, the process, and the team involved. Jeshiqua is a fearless woman who takes steps towards growth and change, even when she doesn’t see the full staircase. She is ambitious, goal-oriented, selfless, compassionate, and genuinely cares about the world around her. Read more>>

Leslie Skinner

So, I started my journey as another woman fell victim to an abusive relationship. At the time, it felt like ‘real love’ but in a phase that I thought would eventually change. Unfortunately, I was so wrong. It got so bad I turned to drugs to numb the pain of it all. At that point, my love was drugs and lots of them. For 13 years, I watched my life spiral into a hopeless pit that I could never seem to get out of. Finally, after many incarcerations, mental health hospital stays, drug overdoses, loss of children and family, several attempted suicides, homelessness, and my life as I knew it, I finally met my savior. Jesus Christ! Read more>>

Courtenay Puckett

I am originally from Lawrenceville, GA, and I can remember from an early age that art has always been a part of our family. My great-grandmother, uncle, mom, and sisters all have careers in the arts, so it was only natural to take art classes in High school and continue my artistic studies at the University of Georgia. While in college, my love of art, children, and helping others began to grow stronger. I decided to major in Art Education with a concentration in Drawing and Painting because it combined my passions: Art and teaching. I also realized that as an art educator it was important to continually work and hone my skills as an artist. A language arts teacher may not be an author, but an art teacher should be an artist. Read more>>


Originally, I am from Chattanooga. That’s where I had my first job at a nursery. When I worked there, something just clicked. I knew what I wanted to do. While working with nurseries, I learned about plant care and its characteristics. As a visual artist, I found myself imagining the complementary colors and configurations of plants to develop aesthetic designs based on artistic principles. From there, I moved on to starting a company in my early 20’s but realized I needed to learn more about the industry in order to be a better leader. To acquire a better sense of business itself, I went the route of managing at different companies in Nashville. Read more>>

Allison Avalon

In 2009, I accepted a job working with adolescent gang members. This was meant to be a temporary position that ended up lasting 4 years. Although I never could have imagined it, this job ultimately would change the course of my life. It was while working with these young men that I learned about the power of empathy and my responsibility to pursue equality and social justice in my community through kindness, fairness, and healing. Read more>>

William Stone

The proverbial “inciting moment” was definitely 6-year-old me being very determined to learn a single-note version of the Star Wars theme on piano. From there I tumbled into piano lessons, online guitar tutorials, worship bands in my family’s church, open mic nights at one particular local coffee shop, and eventually leaving rural North Carolina for the “big city” of Nashville to get a music degree from Belmont University. Of course, at age 17, I knew nothing about the music industry. I thought I was coming to town to be some iteration of Taylor Swift – Belmont was a real eye-opener in how many different avenues there are towards making a career in music. I started co-writing with some of my fellow students during my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated I was writing upwards of 10 times a week, all while bartending to pay the bills. Read more>>

Audrey Vardanega and Christos Vayenas

I’m a classical pianist from the Bay Area now based in New York, the artistic director and founder of a Bay Area-based nonprofit devoted to empowering emerging composers and performers, the Director of Operations for The Autumn Salon, and the co-founder of Arium, a free online streaming platform devoted to sharing stories of global artists ( Through my studies and experiences as a performer, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with audiences and fellow musicians around the world. My partner and Arium co-founder, Christos Vayenas have a deep relationship to the arts as well as a self-taught pianist, improviser, and composer. We started Arium together out of our shared vision is to create spaces to help young emerging artists tell their stories to a global audience through our free streaming platform accessible at Read more>>

Carlos Eason

Ever since I’ve started my career, I’ve always had a natural passion to serve the community. I started my professional career as a small business banker. I enjoyed educating small businesses and assisting them in growing and building because I knew that they were the heart of the community. I enjoyed seeing small business owners set goals and accomplish them knowing that I was a part of guiding them towards that. I took pride in their success and I never saw myself being anything but a small business banker until one day my destiny found me. Read more>>

Billy Livse

My story starts in St. Louis, MO where I was born. I grew up in Ferguson where my father worked at a silk screen printing company and my mother was a homemaker. Although neither of my parents played any instruments we heard a wide variety of music on a daily basis from their extensive record collection. My sister and I both took music lessons on a beat-up old upright piano and I remember my uncle who used to visit us from southern Illinois would sit down with me and encourage me to improvise. It was a visiting cousin who heard me playing aged eight and announced that she would be delivering her medium grand piano the next week. The piano is still with me today. This was the start of my love of music that has taken me from a small town in Missouri to both coasts and onward to England, Europe, and now Nashville. Read more>>

Aaron Billiot

The Dirty Delusions have been a band for 5 years. It all started as a collaboration between Jacob Smith (Drums, percussion) and myself (Aaron Billiot, lead vocals and guitar). We began writing music as a two-piece rock band in a 10 by 10 storage unit in east Nashville. Jake and I had gone to SAE school of audio engineering in 2011 and began playing together in different projects from that point forward. We worked in retail sales together for many years after graduation and began realizing we both wanted the same things musically. We held auditions for a bassist only about two months into our formation. We were still nameless and had about three and a half songs written when we found Charley Smotherman through a Craigslist posting. We literally drew the band name out of a hat having all thrown in different nouns and verbs that we voted on. By June of 2016, The Dirty Delusions were playing their first gigs as a trio. Read more>>

Ken Thaddeous Partee and Edward Howard

Official Wings, LLC was created in 2020. Ken Thaddeous Partee and Edward Howard are the owners of the official Wings food truck. They have been friends for almost 20 years. Born and raised in Memphis, TN where Memphis is known for its iconic whole wings is where their love for wings began. Ken Thaddeous and Edward’s love for eating a Memphis-style whole chicken wing sparked an idea to start a wing food truck. They both came from different career paths prior to becoming food truck owners. Ken Thaddeous Partee attended Tennessee State University for some time until he had a change in career paths. He Graduated from Nashville Auto Diesel College with a degree in Auto Diesel Machanic. Ken Thaddeous made a great career for himself for almost ten years while working for Waste Industries as a Certified Diesel Machanic. He was also a little league football coach and men Read more>>

Alice Caudill

Being at home during the pandemic, I realized that I needed a creative outlet. I also became more aware of our home because we were spending so much time in it. I wanted to improve it. Make it more beautiful and comfortable for my family, so I began painting to create art for our home. After painting a few pieces, I started posting to my Instagram and created a website and have not been able to stop painting since. Read more>>

Akil Prince

I started making jewelry when I was 15 years old. My mom is an entrepreneur and she was opening up a consignment shop in fives points west in Birmingham, AL and a Latino guy saw me helping her and came over and asked if I wanted to work for him for the summer doing jewelry repair and gold teeth for free as an apprentice and I told my mom, “hell no”. Since at that point in life, I already was making money on my own, and doing a job for free just didn’t sound right to me. But my mom told me to “try it out you never know you might benefit from it in the future or in yo loving it” and I ended up working with him until I was 18 and then at that point, I moved to Houston, TX and I stopped doing jewelry for about a year until I met my wife. Read more>>

Taylon Hope

I started singing in my church when I was very small doing solos at the age of 4. I immediately loved music so much and the larger the crowd to perform in front of the more I loved it. I started playing guitar when I was 7 as I wanted to be able to play for myself and I started playing piano by ear at the age of 10. I just wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about music and advance my knowledge of music. I began traveling and getting to request to perform at venues at the age of 8. My parents started traveling with me and we began traveling all over my home state of North Carolina and the South. Read more>>

Brianna Butler

I grew up as an athlete and was involved in many things like volleyball, dance, tennis, and cheer. I vaguely got into weightlifting when I was in college, once I married my husband is when I found myself in the weight room more often. I became pregnant with my daughter, and during this pregnancy, I did stay quite active. I am a firm believer that this made my pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey so much easier! I was very active after my daughter was born, but one thing I had absolutely no knowledge of, was nutrition! Read more>>

Erin Opre

I got my first personal training certification when I was 18! Granted, I took a detour into the Marines for 9 years. I had 2 tours in Iraq during the invasion era and eventually when I returned I took up training again. While trying to build my client base, I trained in the morning and cleaned those same clients’ houses in the afternoon. Eventually, with the help of word of mouth, I was able to exclusively train and haven’t looked back since. As my kids got older, I was able to invest more into my brand and now am happy to have written two books, “The 4×4 Diet” and “The Power Plate Diet.” I also have an incredible app called “Pretty Muscles” where I’ve brought my incredible workout style, and nutrition! To over 17 thousand users. Read more>>


I picked up the guitar in my early 20s. Not because I had any desire to play but because I wanted to play an instrument myself while I was singing. I was reliable. There were no surprises beyond a string breaking during a song or maybe some feedback on the mic. Prior to picking up the guitar and venturing off on my own as an artist, I was involved in a couple of band projects, church choir, school choir, played piano, and wrote poetry. So playing the guitar to accentuate my poetry and my voice was a natural transition. I formed a band in Portland, OR in 2004, a few months after learning some of the basics of guitar. I had written some songs and was ready to get on stage! I joined with some street performers, Trees (guitar player) and Funk Plastic (a well-known bucket player in the city), and formed the band, Suzy V and the Beat Hustlas. It was short-lived though we did perform live in Portland and Seattle. Read more>>

Jonathan Hatcher

Living in the middle of nowhere with the limited beer selection, my friends and I got together in 2013 to start making the types of beer we had to drive over an hour to buy. But beer equipment and ingredients cost money while the muscadines, elderberry, black/blueberry, autumn olive, persimmon, pears, apples, and wild plums that grow around us are there for the picking, so we made lots of wine for the first few years. Every so often, we would pick up get a new piece of equipment or attempt to fabricate our own. Read more>>

Mary Heather Hickman

I was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, and raised outside of Dallas, Texas, in a town called Frisco. I’ve always loved music for as long as I can remember. Both of my parents are big country music fans and growing up, I remember listening to a lot of traditional countries. My dad has always loved the greats like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, and George Strait. When I was little, I hated that country was the only thing we would ever listen to in the car. Now that I’m older, I have such an appreciation for growing up on that kind of music because I think it very much influences my writing style and music today. Read more>>

Courtney Hicks

I am a dreamer and a doer. I absolutely love dreaming and contemplating new ideas and planning and piecing together all the ways to make them happen. I am an entrepreneur with a pastoral heart. I care about people, creativity, quality, and my local community. I have been able to co-found two local nonprofit organizations here in Nashville – Harvest Hands CDC and Cosecha CDC, one social enterprise – Humphreys Street Coffee & Soap, and create a small business of my own – Woodbine Home & Body. Read more>>

Casey Simmons

From beginning tennis at age 7, staying active and healthy was always enjoyable and important to me. I began working with a trainer at the age of 12 and quickly soaked up all of the related information, where it became a big part of who I am. As I continued growing up, my interest in exercise, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle grew and, next to my acquired child development knowledge from teaching Kindergarten (for 3 years after college), fitness became my true passion. Read more>>

Danielle Cormier

I have been singing for as long as I can remember! I grew up in Pinehurst, NC but always knew I belonged in a bigger city. I went to college in NYC at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and studied Musical Theatre. As a kid, I always wanted to be on Broadway. During my time at AMDA, I realized that I didn’t really want to act. I had always written songs and played guitar so after school, I decided that I wanted to move to Nashville to be a singer/songwriter. Before moving here, I recorded and released my first EP, Casino Sessions (2016). Read more>>

Kavita Jain

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and have always had the entrepreneurial bug. I went to school for marketing and even while I worked in digital marketing for almost 10 years, in the back of my mind I always knew there was something else I needed to do. I had my older son 10 years ago and even before he was born, we were thrown into the world of doctors and hospitals as we found out that he would be born with a cleft lip and would need multiple surgeries into adulthood. Read more>>

Cody Purvis

When I was a young boy my mom and dad both played in country music bands locally in Virginia. It was immediately that I realized what I wanted to do. I wanted to entertain. I wanted to sing. I wanted to do what my parents did. After moving to Nashville straight out of high school, I signed with my first booking agency, penned a deal with my first manager (Erv Woolsey, George Strait’s manager), appeared on Real Country (USA Network), landed a top 50 single, “Drinkin’ Terms”, on the Billboard country charts, and racked nearly 10 million streams. Read more>>

Camille Essick

I grew up in church, the daughter of a minister. As a child, I experienced trauma, which I internalized. As a result, I became extremely introverted. Prior to that situation, I was talkative and was even a corresponding anchor for the school news station while attending Dodson Elementary around the second grade or so. However, after that incident, I became very closed off, only speaking to close friends and trusted family members. To this day, I never told my mother or my father (deceased) what happened. I only revealed this to my sister a couple of years ago, around 2019 or so. I grew up in Hermitage and after attending Middle Tennessee State University, I relocated to Antioch. In 2012, Read more>>

Keva Cooper

As a child, I grew up with humble beginnings living in lower Memphis. I had an early interest in fashion and modeling. I was fortunate to have a mother who supported my interest and encouraged my activities in fashion, modeling, and etiquette. And looking back, I think fashion became a bridge expanding my worldview. We often read books to escape reality or expand our vision. For me, it was fashion. I eventually left home to go to college and spent a few years living in larger cities. I spent time in Atlanta and Minneapolis before finally moving to Nashville. I later got married, and my husband and I were determined to travel and further expand our worldview. We spent about seven years jet-setting both nationally and internationally. Everywhere we went, I found the local luxury consignment boutiques. Read more>>

Shawna Vassallo

Where to begin… I would like to think that my love for art came at a young age. Ever since I could write I was drawing and my favorite thing was a new box of crayons. All throughout my school years art was my favorite subject so much so that in high school I was in all higher-level creative courses. I wasn’t sure what career I could make out of the art field, so I went to college to become an art teacher but that was short-lived after I discovered Makeup Desigory. Read more>>

Carli Kahl & Mandy McMillan

Carli & Mandy are two soul sisters that met in Nashville, TN! Both of us came from small towns but were eager to fulfill BIG dreams that eventually led us to Music City (which we call the City of Dreamers). We became really good friends when we started working together about 4 years ago. Mandy is an artist and Carli was assisting her with projects and doing tour management for her at the time. Mandy had been working on the release of her song called Dream Catcher and had an idea for a podcast that had the same message. Read more>>

Allie Potter

I love food – but I didn’t always. I’d always wonder, “Am I eating too much? Too little? Do I meet society’s (unrealistic) expectations of what a woman should look and be like? Will I ever?” Then I started CrossFit in 2016; and for the first time in my life, I felt strong and powerful. The more passionate about fitness I became, the more I realized that it mattered what I was putting into my body. For appearance, sure (who doesn’t love to see some abs?!); but also for how I could perform. And if I wanted to kick a$$, I had to be giving my body the nutrients – and the fuel – it needed. Read more>>

Natalie Jones-Jacobsen

I started doing hair when I was in Jr. High just styling my friend’s hair for dances and graduations. Throughout high school, that’s what everyone knew me for, and one day one of my friend’s mom’s said “You’re good at this, you should go to cosmetology school!” After some extensive research and not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, I found it! I was going to be a hairstylist! The name of my business “SheHasRadHair” was actually thought up in beauty school! Read more>>

Kerisha Tidwell

Our passion for forming Define U Foundation derived from the lack of proper development and guidance for adolescents within the community. We believe that it is vital to have a caring and trustworthy individual who provides a young person with advice, support, motivation, and personal enrichment. In the beginning stages, Define U solely focused on mentoring young girls between the ages of 13-18 years old. Two public schools, one community center, and roughly 40 girls later, Define U has expanded our horizons. We now offer Community Outreach, Health and Wellness, and Mentorship programs. Read more>>

Rachel Gallagher

For as long as I can remember, the act of painting has been a fascination and curiosity to me. As a child, I spent long weekends taking painting and drawing classes with local artists, or in galleries near my hometown. Any new artistic discovery I could make was like gold. The creative process is not black and white, answers cannot be given to anyone who paints. I have always enjoyed that sort of mystery behind creating a work of art. This genuine desire to learn as much as I could, drove me to study art further in high school as well as in college. Currently, I hold undergraduate degrees in art as well as education. Throughout my schooling, I was able to expand my knowledge of mediums, and expand my comfort level regarding scale. Read more>>

Sarah Martin

I have been a part of the music industry- performing since I was in 7th grade- so about 19 years. I started in a band when I was in middle school, I was a part of a duet through high school and some of college, and then decided to go solo when I was 21, after learning how to play guitar. I decided to go full-time with music, when I was 24, after not feeling fulfilled at my first job after graduation, and when I was 25 I visited Nashville for the first time. I just completely fell in love with the town. I came back home to Massachusetts and moved my life to Nashville 7 months later. I’m proud to say I’ve been able to continue doing music full time, since turning 24, and I am grateful for all the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve been able to learn along the way. Read more>>

Angelica Bockman

I have always loved chocolate, I mean, who doesn’t! BUT, my journey as a Tempered co-owner actually started right at the pandemic started, slightly after the tornado hit us. I was an Event Designer for a company that put on large corporate events and when the pandemic knocked out all events, my husband urged me to take over Tempered. I received my chocolatier certification while we were in lockdown and learn daily from our AMAZING pastry chef and head chocolatier, Haylee Swartz. Tempered has been in the area for 7 years, but due to the pandemic we got to rebrand and I was able to put my personal flair into the design of everything. Read more>>

Anthony Billups

I was born and raised in Missouri (Missourah). Marceline to be exact, the boyhood hometown of Walt Disney, and me! Moved to Illinois when I was 11. I loved sports, music, and art my whole childhood. I dreamt of being a professional baseball player. I started throwing 90mph when I was 16 years old. I went to college to play baseball. Then, the summer after my sophomore year, which was my best year, I came to Nashville to play summer baseball. Shortly thereafter, I began having headaches. Unbearable headaches. Before I knew it, I LOST MY SIGHT! I found myself in the hospital and I couldn’t see. All I had was my guitar and my thoughts were less about not playing baseball and more about if I would ever be able to draw again. After a couple of months, my sight came back. I got a full ride to a D1 school but the time off made me susceptible to injury and I was 20-21 and just couldn’t process what had just happened. I took a redshirt and transferred to be close to the music and back to the city where my life changed forever. Read more>>

Amanda Drake

In 2013, my husband and I received twin 2-year-olds into our home. We were not current foster parents, so we quickly began the training and classes necessary. Because we knew the family of the children, we were able to go through the process very quickly. However, the situation presented itself so quickly that we were not exactly prepared. Within about three days, we had to come up with beds, dressers, clothes, and many other things. We were able to do this thanks to many of our friends and family. I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support. I now realize that not everyone has the same support. Read more>>

Jenny Luckett

January Moon began in 2015 during my very earliest days of motherhood. I had a demanding baby, a demanding career in the workshop of an acclaimed jewelry designer and as I struggled to keep up, my accessories did too. My son, Shepard was teething, pulling all of my favorite necklaces apart and perilously, putting everything and anything in his mouth. I saw a void in the market for baby-safe jewelry that offered parents the level of style they desired. So, combining my background as an artist, with my knowledge as a mom, I decided I was up for the challenge. I sourced high-quality materials and I prioritized the integrity of the design along with the safety. Read more>>

Kevin Keith

My parents (in their beautifully infinite wisdom) began me on piano lessons at age 4 – I still use tools from these lessons to this day. I continued piano lessons through high school while adding drum lessons at age 10. While I had some interest in becoming a meteorologist or an automobile designer, music always seemed to take the lead in my mind. I went to college for music in Michigan, and after my Master’s program, I moved to Denver, where I spent 5 years gigging, taking lessons from local professionals, and learning what I wanted out of my career. As the world reopened, and thanks to the guidance of the best caring friends and family a man could ask for, I took the leap to Nashville and could not be happier with the decision. Read more>>

Kate Blocher

Colts Chocolates was born into existence by former HeeHaw performer Mackenzie Colt. In 1984, after leaving the performance industry, Mackenzie drew on her interests in the confectionary world and convinced The Honey Baked Ham Company to include her Salted Caramel Gooey Butter Bars into their dessert lineup. The rest is history as Mackenzie was then able to create an entire line of desserts and chocolates. Colts Chocolates is Nashville’s oldest SPECIALTY chocolate shop. Read more>>

Suspended Gravity

Suspended Gravity Circus was founded in 2015 by our director Erika Golden with the goal of creating a Nashville-based circus arts collective where members could explore the art in their own ways, collaborate and support each other, and share their creativity with their community. Since then, we’ve performed in street festivals, appeared in music videos, danced alongside live bands, designed art installations for businesses and museums, created films, and produced several large-scale original productions. It’s been a dream! Read more>>

Evan Jenkins

I started listening to Ray Charles and the Beatles through my father’s record collection at a young age. I took interest in piano and through my musical grandfather’s push to practice, I learned the blues and pop songs I grew up with. I received further training from advanced choir programs and learned that this was not just a hobby. I truly cared about this more than most things going on in my life (haha). I honed in my skills and got an incredibly unique experience attending college at the Berklee College of Music. Getting a degree in songwriting and performance, I graduated and moved to Nashville with a project I had put together. After some years of devoting myself to that project, I chose to start working on my own music and get back to my roots, which is always the most undeniable. Read more>>

Ryan McKelligon

To call music a passion of mine, would be an understatement. It has been a hobby, a love, an outlet. Since I can remember, singing has been a part of my life. Performing for the first time at my third grade talent show, I fell in love with the idea of being on stage and I let myself imagine a life where passion met reality. Growing up in my Portland, Oregon home, music was always playing and it became a space of comfort and warmth. I received a guitar for Christmas in 2013 and taught myself how to play by watching YouTube tutorials. Read more>>

Derek Chirico

I was born and raised in Cranston, Rhode Island. I grew up surrounded by a tight-knit Italian family that enjoyed weekly Sunday pasta dinners together. In a city full of American Italians, where high-quality Italian restaurants and bakeries are around every corner, food became an ingrained element in my life. At the age of 21, I got the chance to go on my first trip to Italy. This trip ignited a passion for the Italian way of life. A couple of years later, me and my wife, Laura, moved to Franklin, Tennessee together. I noticed that although there were a couple of decent pizza places and restaurants around, I couldn’t find the high-quality Italian food I grew to love. Read more>>

Justin Payne

I started out as a classically trained violinist and composer, went through bouts of massive debt and homelessness, mental illness, drug, and alcohol abuse, and a few visits back to college. Worked in a great diner in Ohio until it burned down, trying to barely pay to survive and dig out of my circumstances. This is when I started writing my own tunes. Started out as a country-folk cat in the ubiquitous hat/beard combo, ended up as an indie alternative genre-defying freak. I have taught philosophy, history, guitar, and violin, over the years, and it all eventually added up to me being who I am today. I met a few bands that dug the sound, met a booking agent, and ended up doing numerous national and regional routes touring the US, on the power of my own tunes, for like 8 years. Read more>>

Josh Kranich

I’m a director/photographer that is based in Nashville, Tennessee. My career started in Michigan, where I grew up. I cut my teeth by going to film school to learn more about cinematography. Shortly after that, I worked on a couple of feature films as a camera assistant as well as doing random videography jobs. I moved to Nashville in 2016 to pursue directing music videos. I started taking portraits of friends around 2017 as a hobby to keep myself busy between music video projects and it took off as a viable career path. My workload is currently split 50/50 between photo and video work. Read more>>

Vinnie Longhi

Vinnie Longhi is the frontman for the Nashville-based band the Semi-Supervillains. Taking cues from classic rock’s finest, Longhi writes with an electrified pop rock’n’roll attitude. Often described as “your older brother’s cool rock and roll band,” Vinnie & the Semi Supervillains deliver their own brand of guitar-driven rock with over 3 albums of original music currently available. Early on in his career, Vinnie had the privilege of working with legendary producer/guitarist Rick Witkowski (Crack the Sky, BE Taylor Group). Longhi quickly developed the “song-centric” skill set he required to succeed as an original rock group while working closely with Witkowski. Read more>>

Annie Sparrow

I began painting and drawing before I even learned how to talk. At age 2 or 3, I was drawing realistic portraits; I never drew stick people. I’ve always loved drawing people; I was obsessed with portraits. My mom enrolled me in private art lessons growing up, which I despised, yet I was able to learn different mediums and techniques in these classes. The most useful thing I ever learned in these classes was from a teacher who wouldn’t let me use pre-made paint. I could only use primary colors to create colors. As frustrating as this was, it taught me to execute my visions and color schemes. In high school, I picked up AP art and got back into art. In my sophomore year of college, I got to redecorate my bedroom and I was in search of a painting that matched the interior design of my room. Read more>>

Adara Kay

I was born and raised in southern Oklahoma on Merle Haggard, Journey, and everything in between. I performed made-up songs for family gatherings at the age of 3 which lead me to pick up on writing from then on. I would continuously write in my free time at school and eventually picked up on the guitar in 5th grade. At 17, I flew out to Nashville for a songwriting camp, where I wrote my first single, “Chevy (Get Outta Dodge).” I told my parents that I wanted to be famous and live in Nashville, but had to promise to do my first two years of college close to home, so I enrolled at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma. I met my band there and we performed our first bar gig at Grady’s 66 Pub in Yukon, OK in 2019. Read more>>

Keon Mckinney

I moved to Nashville in May of 2019. I came here in search of job opportunities while my fiancée decided to finish her college education here. While here we learned how other (regular) people were just creating their own businesses and continuously growing. So it gave me the motivation to feel like I can do the same, by creating a business that I have passion for and doing something that would impact people. You know how you feel we you just went shopping and bought some new clothes and it puts you in a state of peace in your mind. That’s where I came up with a name to symbolize what my brand is here for, “Amani” which means peace in the African Swahili language. The brand has just been growing with not only customers/supporters, but even with our quality and details. To give our customers the best feeling and look possible. Read more>>

Abby Whisenant

There’s a photo of me in my hometown newspaper taken when I was in elementary school. I had all my markers standing upright lining the edges of my school desk, and I appear to be contemplating my next color choice. Fast forward a few decades, and I’m still in love with color, organizing, and creativity. I had the unique opportunity to be both a student and a teacher at Watkins College of Art. I studied conceptual and documentary photography and taught photography classes for teens and adults in the community education program. While I was at Watkins, I joined friends and fellow independent artists in several self-organized art exhibitions, and these experiences taught me a great deal about curating and organizing artwork in spaces. I loved the challenge of installing artwork in unique spaces and getting things level was my version of AMSR back then. Read more>>

Samantha Costigan

I’ve been a musician for as long as I can remember. My mom was always singing and both of my parents are major music lovers so I feel like I was surrounded by great taste from an early age. I was in choir, put on home concerts complete with choreography, and was writing by 12 or 13 (i have the butterfly song journal to prove it.) I played in my hometown Dallas, TX starting in high school in a duo called, Fiveweeks. That’s when I really started to write and play my original songs out for other people. Read more>>

Jason Buchanan

It’s a rather long story. Growing up, I was a good kid, but mischievous and I always loved to tell jokes. I still to this day remember the joke I used to tell the lunch ladies at school. Coincidentally, we had a jukebox in the cafeteria, and I always loved music. My mother also owned a video store, so I think my natural sense of humor, combined with my discovery of rock and roll music, in addition to seeing a lot of movies… well, I always, deep down, wanted to be an actor, and if I could accomplish that, I specifically wanted to be a comedian. To a degree, I feel I have accomplished that, for better or worse. Read more>>


I was born on February 15th, 1997 in Nashville, Tennessee. I grew up in East Nashville, inside of a Christian home heavily involved in ministry and nonprofit organizations. I enjoyed playing competitive sports such as soccer and basketball. In my free time, I played the guitar, drums, and piano. I’ve always had a desire to change the world for the better. I want to encourage people to pursue their dreams by turning them into goals. Growing up, my family wasn’t wealthy but my parents did everything they could to help me chase my dreams. I want to be able to support all of my loved ones one day. Read more>>

Niroop Prabhakar

615Chutney started off with two letters “TN” written on a notepad. Chutney means a dipping sauce and it is the only word in the Indian Food Vocabulary that has “TN” in it. TN stands for Tennessee (like we all know) and is a very simple secret that all South Asian Indians know. TN is also the abbreviation for Tamil Nadu – A Southern State in India that is proud of its heritage, culture, language, and most of all, its Cuisine. 615Chutney started off as the only Indian Food Truck serving Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-Free South Indian food. The four very basic ways of south Indian cooking are Frying, Steaming, Grilling (on a Griddle), and Boiling. Hence the very basic items were offered on the food truck. Idli s(Steamed Rice Cakes), Dosa (Grilled Crepes made with rice and lentil batter), Poori/Samosa (Fried), and Pongal (Boiled rice with lentils and spices) were the staples. Read more>>

Ashley & Melissa McDonough

We’ve always had a knack for DIY and for throwing parties or get-togethers. Any time we could host an event we knew we’d be doing the decorating and set up. Always choose a theme or find the perfect look for whatever we were celebrating. Our first big project was Melissa’s wedding. We continued to do small decorations for family party’s, birthdays, girls’ nights, holidays. You name it, we were right there volunteering to do it!! We then learned that we both had a love for styling events but balloon garlands specifically, were our major starting point. Read more>>

Katie Ruvane

I found my love for music really young, and I’m grateful for that. My family is full of singers and piano players, the kind of folks who sing “Happy Birthday” in four-part harmony. My dad gave me a guitar for Christmas when I was 14, and it kicked open this obsession with taking songs I loved and figuring out how *I* would play them. For me, writing wasn’t so much a hobby as it was a symptom of my personality. When you overthink everything, all those words have to go somewhere. Read more>>

Autumn Newberry

I began Autumn Doll Cosmetics in December of 2019 at the age of 17. I started my business to empower women. The inspiration behind Autumn Doll happened when my parents went through a separation. I’ll never forget the day, I saw my mother cry and question her worth or if my father was still attracted to her. I’ve always had a love for makeup but this situation pushed me to pursue my passion. It is important for women to feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin. No woman should ever have to question their value. Read more>>

Ajanae Mcfarland

When I initially started Elemental Productz in June 2019, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, I just knew I had a vision of starting my own business. I started making things like hair butter and jewelry for myself, so I figured I’d make a profit off of it. My brain was scattered with ideas of what to create and how to create it. From my first pop-up shop in November 2019 to vending at a festival earlier this year, I’ve progressed and ventured more into the business world and learned so much essential information. In April 2021, I had a vision of selling crocheted clothing. I did not want this to be an attachment to my first business, so I made it its own entity and named it Crochet By Nae. I knew handling two very demanding businesses, being a full-time U.S. Army soldier, and being a single mother was going to be challenging, but that didn’t matter to me. Read more>>

April Hamilton

I began my real estate career 7 years ago, after working for over 10 years in various customer service positions and then moving to Human Resources roles. I was prompted to begin my entrepreneurial journey at that time due to being a working mother, and finding out that school schedules and work schedules were very conflicting. My son entered Pre-K and I was working full time, I was so excited for him to be going to school until I found out they dismiss at 2 pm daily, and at the Pre-K grade level there was no option of aftercare, so I’d have to pick him up daily. Read more>>

Kristen Castilon

My admiration for art has always been in my life since I can remember. I grew up with a huge creative family that always could make something from nothing, which meant traditions were rain or shine like crafty Christmas every year. However, I didn’t touch my hand to a camera until I was fourteen and it wasn’t even mine haha. Yet, I remember wishing I could take photographs of moments with my eyes, much easier than any ole device would. Anywhere I would go, moments would slap me straight across my face! It always found me, grabbing my attention and pulling me towards it. Those moments were the only thing to take me away from thoughts, a pause from reality and from life. Read more>>

Alex Mars

I have been working with media since my first job, not all of my jobs have been with media, but my life has always circled back to media creation. I only started taking it seriously once I was in college and received some compliments from peers. After that, I was wondering what I could do to either make or save money with a camera, and that’s how I got into concert photography. I reached out to everyone I could think of to exchange content for access to shows, and eventually ended up being contacted by several publications via social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. I was spending all of my money at the time on concerts and this seemed like a great way to get “in the door” and save some money. These opportunities provided me with so much experience in the industry, from covering events like Bonnaroo, Hangout, Imagine, Roskilde, and more – I was creating content in the USA and internationally, which was a dream come true. Read more>>

Sunny Dad

My name is Sunny Ebenezer Dada, born in Lagos, Nigeria on the 16th of April 1976, I was born into music and a Christian family, my father who was a Pastor in the church he founded; was my inspiration and my mentor in music, I started playing music from my mother’s womb, (so my mom said), but started playing professionally at the age of 4 years old. My life shattered in 1993 when my father went to be with the Lord, I left Nigeria that same year to go on a journey to Europe by road, but I faced so many difficulties on the way to the desert where many people lost their lives, because of that I couldn’t continue on my journey, so I went back home to Nigeria. Read more>>

Christopher Hodges

After multiple events, I began to build a platform for artists thru showcases, radio shows, podcast interviews, and nonprofit organizations. Owner and Founder of Fly Dreams Media Group. A media company dedicated to elevating the dreams of all creatives. Read more>>

Christie Perez

I currently reside in Louisville Kentucky, but travel extensively all over the United States, including quite frequently to Nashville. I am half Korean and half Mexican. An interesting fact about myself is that though I come from both of these backgrounds and most people from those areas are short, I am 5’ 11”. I was born in San Jose California and soon after went to Seoul Korea to live with my grandparents until I was five. Then I came back to the states and traveled to many different places, part due to my stepfather being in the military. I have two younger sisters, one of which now has three children of her own. My mother and both sisters now live in North Carolina. I never knew as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up so after high school, I joined the Army. I didn’t stay long because I was injured. After that, I went to college for a while still trying to find my purpose in life…I ended up getting married by twenty-five and having a child. After 11 years of marriage, fourteen years with my spouse, we divorced. Read more>>

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