Photos by Melanie Schmidt
Landing in Nashville on Wednesday, September 21st, as part of a two-person media team, I was honored to accompany the Oklahoma Film +Music Office in highlighting Oklahoma artists and partners at the annual AmericanaFest. My sister, Melanie Schmidt, agreed to join as my Cellar Door photographer. Together, we were looking forward to gaining interview content and photos for the OF+MO along with our Cellar Door Music blog and Grounded Sounds podcast. We welcomed the opportunity to work in conjunction with “Studio Oklahoma,” a promotional and networking platform formed this year by the OF+MO to host and highlight our state’s music artists and facilitators. Studio Oklahoma hosted a booth at the AmericanaFest conference portion alongside local sponsors and representatives, showcasing the different opportunities our state provides for music and film. Conference panels, an artist showcase, and an Oklahoma party were also facilitated by Studio Oklahoma.
Before the conference kicked off, I had a chance to visit with OF+MO Director, Tava Maloy Sofsky, inside the walls of RCA Victor Studio B, where some of our most legendary talent [Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton] recorded several hits, and I was inspired to hear first-hand how Oklahoma’s music scene is expanding today. Sofsky said, “We are experience exponential growth with such amazing talent rising up out of Oklahoma in the same breath of new music venues and recording studios popping up around the state. So, it is quite fitting and humbling to be standing in one of the very first recording studios (which was sketched on a napkin by RCA’s chief engineer and recording manager, according to Chet Atkins) on Music Row in Nashville with you [Cellar Door Music] and so many of our partners who are also working towards promoting and building our music industry infrastructure in Oklahoma!"
He has written Oklahoma Music Guide II, along with articles and essays. He also works in radio (1600 KUSH-AM, Cushing, OK) and has released award winning documentaries on American Indian life, music and more. “Music is a part of our shared humanity,” Foley commented. When asked to address some of our state’s challenges with music he said, “We have some songwriters who are saying things, but not everyone wants to hear it.”
Jeff Moore spoke on how he essentially is a documentarian and curator of stories and music, and he believes artists expression is important: “There’s nothing that hasn’t been stated that Will Rogers didn’t say or Woody Guthrie didn’t say, even Bob Wills. If you look at the reason, in my opinion, why Bob Wills was so culturally significant, it was because he was the voice of hope every day at noon during the depression. During the darkest days in this country, you had hope on the radio…across the entire southwest, from Oklahoma all the way to California. So these artists that are expressing themselves…it’s important. It’s important for us to acknowledge that, preserve it, and share that with the next generation.”
Sampson optimistically stated, “Oklahoma is finally getting some attention for the art and music that is coming out of it.”
The panel solidified that Oklahoma is gaining recognition as a place of significant music history and songwriting. It has launched so many influential artists, and surrounding states and countries are validating our songwriters and musicians.
“I think an artist by definition is a malcontent, and so the idea that we’re ever satisfied with anything is a farce. If you ask me...’are you satisfied with your album?’ I would tell you I love my record. Do I hear it and think of things that I will do better next time? Absolutely. I don’t have regrets per se; I don’t work with regrets, but I’m always trying to find the next step for me.”
In addition to visiting with Jared, I was able to sit down with Dunlap Codding's Doug Sorocco, who spoke on the legal aspects of music and entertainment at the CLE Panel. We discussed his work with music artists and the guidance and resources lawyers are able to offer to new and experienced musicians. His interview will also be available on Grounded Sounds as a bonus episode.
Mel and I had full access to the green room, where we were able to grab photos and interviews with all of the performing artists between their sets. Blue Door owner Greg Johnson also provided a heartwarming and colorful interview with Susan Herndon and their mutual songwriter friend John Hadley joining in the conversation.
Full audio interviews will be available through Grounded Sounds.
So I humbly ask our local readers and podcast listeners to attend shows, buy artist merchandise, check out our music museums, get involved with local venues, and most of all—listen to Oklahoma music. The depth and versatility of our songwriters’ work inevitably documents who we are as Oklahomans and where we are within a period of time. Artists are sharing our stories, they represent our people, and it’s time the general public opens their ears to hear the multitude of diverse voices rising from our home state.