For many aspiring local artists, all roads lead six hours south to the Music City
The stylish, black-and-white music video starts rolling, and the camera pans across a spacious living room that’s been turned into a recording studio, showing a few candid moments. Tim Easton takes a drink of coffee. Aaron Lee Tasjan stands ready to get going. Megan Palmer has her violin and bow in hand.
It could be a scene in Central Ohio, given the familiarity of these faces. Instead, it’s set in Nashville, where the trio of musicians were covering Bob Dylan’s “Whatcha Gonna Do” for an annual video to raise awareness about homelessness in the Tennessee capital.
The collaboration illustrates the surprising number of musicians based in Nashville with strong Central Ohio ties, working to take their careers to another level. Tasjan grew up in New Albany and has been putting out wide-ranging Americana albums for more than 10 years, even though he’s only in his early 30s. Easton, who went to Ohio State, is a couple of decades ahead, with nearly a dozen singer-songwriter records to his credit. Palmer, well known in Columbus for her work with roots-rockers The Spikedrivers, mentions Talisha Holmes, Nicole Sherburne, PJ Schreiner, John Philip Allen and Delyn Christian among former Central Ohio performers who call the Music City home.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
“I think the people from Ohio are pretty proud” of that presence, says rock artist Erica Blinn, who relocated to Nashville several years ago. “It’s kind of cool to band together a little. We like to tell people how cool it is in Columbus.”
The list of expats also includes Matt Marinchick, a pop-country singer-songwriter who played basketball at Ohio State in the early 2000s. His Nashville friends include Jutt Huffman, a rock artist from Pataskala. “This is probably the only town,” Marinchick says, “where you can make playing gigs a full-time job and make a living.”
Nashville provides a lot of practical advantages for musical artists, Easton says. “It’s a great town for recording studios and studio gear, and the engineers and technicians who run, fix and maintain that gear,” he continues, also pointing out its benefits as a touring hub because there are so many gigs within a 10-hour drive.
The city accommodates musicians in ways you wouldn’t expect, says Palmer, who also works as a nurse at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “The great thing about Nashville is that [employers] are fine with the schedule I work,” she says. “I go on the road, and they don’t think that’s a strange thing.”
Central Ohio continues to exert a gravitational pull for many of those who have relocated, however, because of the large number of fans they left behind. That’s why appearances are common.
“Columbus is a strong location for me to return to as a working musician,” Easton says, complimenting venues like Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza for cultivating an audience for singer-songwriters. “It’s great to see old friends, and eventually I end up at Dick’s Den to hear some good local jazz.”
While Nashville is home to many recording industry stars, most musicians who relocate there are just trying to make a living, given the difficult road they’ve chosen. Palmer refers to her move as “spiritual” more than anything else. “You have to keep going with music once you get started,” she says. “You can’t stop, even if it means not paying your bills all of the time.”
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