Tennessean Article about Nashville Rising Star

This article was written by Angela Folds and published in The Tennesseean Newspaper March 28, 2017. Click Here to read the original article.

Nashville Rising Star part of thriving Franklin music scene

As a suburb of Music City USA, Williamson County has a rich musical heritage of resident musicians, singers, songwriters and music industry folks. It is also home to stellar live music venues like Puckett’s, Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor, Gray’s on Main, Cool Springs Brewery and others.

With the opening of Kings Bowl at Cool Springs Galleria, another great venue entered the live music landscape. The Whiskey Room Live is a 150-seat entertainment stage located inside the 25,000-square-feet Kings Bowl facility.

The venue’s central location and state-of-the-art audio and lighting caught the eye of Keith Mohr, facilitator of the Nashville Rising Star singer-songwriter open mic contest.

“It’s an amazing, intimate, beautifully designed venue with the branding and production we were looking for. We recently completed our first series to be held there, and everyone who participated, both songwriters and spectators, said they loved the venue,” Mohr said.

Each week of the competition, Nashville Rising Star (NRS) offers area songwriters an opportunity to showcase their original songs before a panel of judges and an audience of peers with the hopes of advancing to the final round, where the grand prize winner receives a $500 cash prize sponsored by Kings Bowl, career services and other prizes from the competition’s sponsors and partners.

Mohr founded the competition in 2008 as a way to provide a platform for non-published aspiring songwriters.

“I was working as a sound tech at a popular Franklin restaurant known for having hit songwriters in to share their songs and the idea came to me to start an open mic,” Mohr said. “I came up with a spin on the typical open mic — make it a contest, where the audience could vote for their favorite song, and bring in music industry professionals who’d also pick their favorite song. We started the event eight years ago and it was an instant success! We’ll begin our 29th series of the competition on March 29.”

Alumni of NRS include country star Kelsea Ballerini, “American Idol” finalist Colton Dixon, Grand Ole Opry regular Karla Davis, Norma Jean Martine and Dani Elliott, background vocalist for Miley Cyrus’s “Bangerz” world tour.

NRS exponentially increases the breadth of its audience by live streaming each session on www.nrslive.com and via Facebook Live. More than 12,000 individuals viewed the recent semi-final and final rounds of the competition on the social media platform.

“We received thousands of comments from viewers during the live broadcast, with fans rooting for their favorites,” Mohr said. “It’s quite amazing to me to see how the event has grown and how many are engaging it. I love to interact with our online audience during the events, and I’ll comment while the round is occurring, encouraging viewers to comment, share the live feed, and generally having way too much fun!”

NRS participant Geena Fontanella moved to Nashville 18 months ago amid a hectic touring schedule. NRS provided the independent singer/songwriter with a broad platform to connect with others in the music industry.

“When I first came to Nashville I didn’t know very many people, but because of Nashville Rising Star I am well connected and a part of the community. It’s the best open mic in town,” Fontanella said. (Catch the California native’s next local performance at 7 p.m. March 31 at SOUTH Bar, 1524 Demonbreun St. in Nashville.)

Hannah and Lauren Hobbs, The Hobbs Sisters, were the grand prize winners of the most recent NRS competition. The twin dynamos from Washington County, Penn., were the fan favorites throughout the competition.

“We have always had a passion for writing songs and it was an honor to get the chance to compete with so many other talented songwriters and to have one of our songs chosen as the winner for this series of Nashville Rising Star,” said Hannah Hobbs. “Since we are new to Nashville, NRS was a great way for us to get involved with the Nashville songwriting community and meet lots of other singer/songwriters in this area.”

The sisters encourage other singer/songwriters to take advantage of area opportunities to meet other songwriters and explore co-writing opportunities.

“As new writers in Nashville ourselves, one of our favorite parts of moving to town has been the countless opportunities to learn from other songwriters. We have had the chance to write with people of all different experience levels and styles, which has improved our own songwriting skills,” Lauren Hobbs said.

Mohr considers the networking opportunities for the songwriters to be the biggest draw of the NRS competition.

“Where else can a songwriter go where 50+ of their peers gather together and music industry pros come to listen and meet the participants? And for free,” Mohr said.

Nashville Rising Star is open to all songwriters of any genre or level of experience or talent. Judging is based solely on the merit of the song. There is no fee to participate or attend. For more information and to read the competition’s rules, visit www.nashvillerisingstar.com.

What: Nashville Rising Star Series 29 Competition
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays March 29-May 31
Where: The Whiskey Room Live at Kings Bowl, 1910 Galleria Blvd #120, Franklin
Info: 1-844-683-4500, www.whiskeyroomlive.com