There’s so many ways to discover artists and music these days, largely due to the growth of social media, and I have to thank a random comment on an Ashley McBryde fan page for coming across Ohio born Cheley Tackett. The pair are friends and frequent collaborators, so of course I had to give Cheley’s music a listen ( incredible!) and check out her tour dates ( even more incredible as she was set to play a house concert a few miles from me that week!) . It would have been rude not to make that 20 minute drive and seeing her in such an intimate setting was something very special. Playing songs from her recent release “ Buckeye “ and back catalogue she told us some of the stories behind her writing ( often hilarious, sometimes poignant, always interesting) and her rich, powerful and emotional vocals were even better than on her recordings.
Cheley has one more UK gig before returning home to Nashville, tonight ( Oct 18th) she plays Ealing, West London. For further information, links to her socials and details of where to stream/download her music go to cheleytackett.com
We had a long chat after her set, and of course that included me asking if she’d answer some questions for this site …….hope you enjoy her interesting answers!
1. LH Hello Cheley, I gather you’re still in the UK as you’re answering these questions but exactly where are you right now?
CT In Brighton right now. Then have a few days off to explore London & am playing final gig on this run at Westfield House in South Ealing Thursday night.
2. LH Sorry but I’ve only recently come across your music, not sure why especially as you seem to visit us pretty regularly! What is it you like about playing to a UK audience?
CT UK audiences seem more attentive than US audiences & I think lyrics seem to matter more here which may lend to the attentiveness as you have to pay attention to catch the words.
3. LH Taking things back to your Ohio days, how did you get your musical education and which artists were you listening to there that you and made you want to write/perform? I’m picking up quite a variety of influences in your music…
CT My dad bought my mom a guitar but it sat in the closet & didn’t see much daylight. They said around five years old I started dragging it out and trying to use the couch to leverage & hold it and then sang every song I’d ever heard to an open strum. When I finally got old enough to actually hold it, around age 10, they put me into guitar lessons. As far as influences go, they’re varied but Jerry Reed was my first concert. I grew up watching & listening to HeeHaw & Pop Goes the Country. I remember a good bit of Kenny Rogers & Barbara Mandrell as well as the outlaws & Johnny Cash being played but Mom also had lots of the Beatles music & some Pop Top 40. As I got a little older, I gravitated to the country female altos like Kathy Mattea, Wynonna, & Mary Chapin Carpenter (aside from the lack of women in country music, where the hell have all the altos gone?). I listened to a good bit of rock too, U2, Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc. I’ve joked that if Tom Petty & Mary Chapin Carpenter had a baby, it might sound like my latest album Buckeye.
4.LH When did you decide to relocate to Nashville……did you know anyone there and how welcoming did you find the songwriting community initially?
CT I think I always knew I was going to land in Nashville. I’m pretty sure my parents weren’t surprised much that I moved there eventually but we had an agreement that I would finish college & get my degree before I moved there, and so I did. I found the songwriting community to be extremely welcoming & the best way to network the music industry itself. They were much more accessible, even the hit writers, than other facets of the industry.
5. LH Co-writing is a huge part of the Nashville music scene isn’t it, do you feel pressure going into a writing session to achieve something every time or do you just relax and have fun, with a song at the end of the day being a bonus?
CT When I was new I felt pressure, and there is certainly some pressure on paid staff writers as they contractually have an annual quota, but I’ve learned that you have to stay true to the song and some songs need more time to breathe. The other thing I’ve learned though is that co-writing tends to jumpstart me some as a solo writer as well. So, if I’m in a rut trying to write on my own, I book more co-writes to get my writing brain working better.
6. LH Are there any particular co-writers you generally always tend to click with ….and anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
CT There are a few repeat names on my latest album as well as on albums I’ve put out before. Nicole Witt (from Farewell Angelina) & I met very shortly after we both moved to Nashville. We’ve just always really clicked. She’s also a hell of a singer & musician and has been on every single album I’ve put out in some capacity. Lisa Carver and I are old friends & write well together but interestingly enough have always written better with a third person in the room. Same holds true for my buddy Ashley McBryde. Rob Wolf, Randall Clay, Mark Stephen Jones, Blue Foley, all great co-writers that helped bring out the best in me. As far as who I’d like to get in a room with? I’m itchin’ to get in a room with Travis Meadows. We’ve been friends for awhile now but haven’t seemed to manage to get a date nailed down when we’re both in town. Lori McKenna, Erin Enderlin, & Brandy Clark are some gals I haven’t written with yet that I’d like to.
7. LH Yet one of my favourite songs of yours, “ Good For Me” was a solo write that took just 30 minutes I gather! I guess some very personal experiences can result in outpourings like this?
CT The speed I wrote that one in surprised me. I never even edited it. I perform it exactly as it showed up in the world. You just never know. “Jerusalem Ridge,” which is another solo write, took me almost a year. I had the first two verses written for months w/o knowing what the hook was or the melody for the chorus. Like I said, some songs need more time to breathe.
8 LH. Can I ask you about your most recent release, “ Buckeye” . Were all the songs written especially for this album, or were any of them from a while back, just waiting for the right place to land?
CT No, none of them were written specifically for this album. I had a collection of songs that I felt sat with each other and realized as I was looking towards recording that they all had threads of Ohio running through them that tied them together. Some more subtle than others but even $2 Bill which I’ve had for some time now but just didn’t make sense for other projects, seemed a natural fit for this record.
9. LH Do you have a favourite from it to perform live ( with or without a band!) and is there maybe one that’s getting particularly good feedback ( I’m especially fond of the dark “ My Best Dress” and the uplifting closing track “ Magic Still Happens”! )
CT I love rocking out on All She Knows is Rain but I’m getting the best response on $2 Bill, The Healer, My Best Dress, Used to Feel Good, & Magic Still Happens.
10 .LH When we met we talked about the uphill struggle facing female country artists these days to get radio play ( you looked back at some stats over the past few decades didn’t you?) and headline slots at festivals. It really is tough out there now isn’t it? How disheartening and frustrating is it for you and your contemporaries ? And can you see a way out of this any time soon?
CT It’s incredibly frustrating especially when I know some of the best music is being made by women but country radio’s not playing them so nobody’s hearing them. Also, we’ve been seeing less & less females on the charts & in the festivals for years now. It’s been a steady decline for decades. Somethings got to give. I’m not sure what exactly that is but I think it’s going to require more women in positions of power in radio, A&R, publishing, promotion, management, and in executive positions at the labels. The whole industry has disproportionate representation. I think women should start buying radio stations. I also think an all women festival or touring festival (think a country version of Lilith Fair) might be a good idea too to prove that female artists have a draw & can sell tickets.
11 LH What does the remainder of 2018 and early 2019 hold in store for you?
CT The remainder of 2018 has me writing more and touring in the US. March 2019 finds me back in the UK with dates in Liverpool, Bewdley, Colchester, Brighton, and more still to be added.
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)