I first learned about 10 Out of Tenn seven years ago while researching for an interview with Matthew Perryman Jones, a Nashville-based singer-songwriter. Part of a collective of songwriters based in Tennessee, he told me of his decision to move from Atlanta to Nashville and how close-knit the songwriting community was in Nashville. I’d come to realize that years later after countless trips to Music City for work and fun, convincing myself more and more each time that it’s a city I need to live in.
During my recent trip there for Country Radio Seminar, I spent some time with singer-songwriter-producer Trent Dabbs, the founder of the 10 Out of Tenn tour concept and compilation albums and Amy Stroup, also a songwriter and one-half of the duo with Dabbs, Sugar & the Hi-Lows. They told me all about how 10 Out of Tenn formed and this Friday, April 24 the songwriter’s collective celebrates 10 years together with a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. You can purchase tickets here.
“It came about really when my wife and I were driving back from a road trip in Jackson, Mississippi and I was listening to all these different local albums and realized that all these people were so good and some of my favorites,” Trent explains. “They were all local so it morphed into the idea, ‘What if we put them all on a compilation and let everyone know that it’s not just gospel and country music here?’ I like to rate things out of 10 so I came up with the quirky name.”
He explains that during the first tour the idea of having everyone play on each other’s songs wasn’t completely dialed in and the tour included two bands and four solo artists. The next tour consisted of more solo artists and everyone played on one another’s songs. Trent admits that he didn’t have high expectations the first year and never imagined that 10 years later they’d be celebrating such a big milestone.
“I think what made the beauty of the whole concept work was not having high expectations,” he says with a laugh. “We were just excited to tour with people that we love. The camaraderie of those people in the community that was present the whole tour just made it that much more special.”
Amy Stroup is the newest member of the collective and recalls first seeing a Ten Out of Tenn show while she was in college.
“I remember seeing it and thinking, ‘Oh, wow there’s a different possibility in Nashville of how you can do music. It’s not just country or gospel. There’s a really unique independent movement,'” she recalls. “I was 100% inspired by it. Trent and I were co-writing, we started co-writing a couple years before I was a part of 10 out of Tenn so I was very familiar with Trent and Kristen and the work that they were doing for artists and trying to create a different genre for Nashville to be known for, a collective idea.”
Amy says Ten Out of Tenn gave many musicians, including herself, the ability to stay in Nashville and make music as well as collaborate and work on each other’s records.
“We were lucky that it was all natural relationships. I don’t think if you just cherry picked a bunch of artists that it would work, if at all,” Trent adds. “I think the sincerity of it made it what it was.”
Amy explains that there isn’t a Ten Out of Tenn tryout, and instead the artists collaborate rather organically, many having written together in the past or sang on each other’s records. “We’re already working with these people, we already love them. Why don’t we tour together? There’s enough of us already naturally working together and cheering each other on,” she says.
Matthew Perryman Jones shared the same beliefs seven years ago when I asked him how the Nashville music scene stands out from the rest of the country.
“You think of Nashville and you think of Music City. Most people just think of country music. When I first moved here, there was this really cool, underground group of artists and songwriters that were amazing and inspiring. This town, even in the last three years, has just beefed up its artist roster.
“People are moving here from other cities, even from New York and L.A. because the music scene definitely has more of a communal sense to it, people really support each other. In a way, I guess it’s different from other cities in that there’s definitely more of a concentration of artists here and the community is definitely really big and supportive. Not to say it doesn’t exist in other cities, I’m sure it does, but I think it’s a little more prevalent here. I think it’s helped me too, in a sense, because it’s a really inspiring city to live in.”
The Ten Out of Tenn show on April 24 will feature music from Andrew Belle, Butterfly Boucher, Trent Dabbs, Andy Davis, Katie Herzig, Tyler James, Matthew Perryman Jones, Jeremy Lister, Erin McCarley, K.S. Rhoads and Amy Stroup.