Groovers & Shakers

Kristyn and Jared Corder may actually own this town before they’re done

  • Kristyn and Jared Corder are busy people. Best known within certain circles as the brainchildren behind the successful East Nashville Underground music festivals, they also have a surf-rock power trio of their own called *repeat repeat. If that wasn’t enough, the pair also individually mines other musical seams within our multilayered city. They have a knack for getting things done, and it all comes from the heart.

    “Everything we do is really kind of shaped from love,” Kristyn says. “As crazy as that sounds, it’s a love for the bands, whether they are friends, neighbors, peers, or clients. There’s a love there and providing a platform for those bands to have a really feel-good audience and a great weekend experience is a big thing for us.”
    It’s clearly working. Jared started East Nashville Underground, now looking at its 10th season, in 2010. He had moved to town from Arizona and his band at the time, Oh No No, needed money to make a record. So he did what any recent college graduate would do: He threw a house party. “It started in my basement, in my old house on 12th Street,” Jared says. He got a couple of kegs, asked his friends in other bands to play, tended bar when he wasn’t emceeing or playing himself, and there you have it — East Nashville Underground was born. “We had 90 people in my basement; we charged five bucks and gave everybody free beer and after that we did it a couple more times and it just got bigger and bigger. And then we decided to make it a festival.”
    At times, the Corders seem wistful when they describe how the festival has outgrown two homes now — the basement where it began and, more recently, The East Room on Gallatin. “It was perfect in the beginning.
    Minimal work, just a couple weeks every season and it was easy to get the bands ’cause we were all friends, and you didn’t have to think about politics. The last season in the basement, we had 250 people down there, and it was just insane.”
    I moved here to be a musician. Kristyn moved here to do publicity and branding for companies and for bands. So … we never thought of moving out of the basement. We never set out to be a huge thing.” Nevertheless, the Corders were onto something, and one learns quickly they don’t quit on an idea or a passion unless they stop enjoying it. So now East Nashville Underground has a beer sponsor, Lightning 100 has come on board and you see people around 5 Points sporting Underground T-shirts. They have to hire security, get liability insurance and tend to all the exhaustive details involved in throwing a party for a couple thousand of their closest friends. 
    Plus, it’s not just six bands any more — it’s well over 20.
    The next Underground is set for August 16 and 17; the new location, which has, as Jared puts it, a much more “underground vibe,” will be revealed on July 12 during ENU’s line-up announcement party at The Stone Fox. The goal is not to pack it out and make a fortune, though. They’ve found a place with breathing room, which will allow attendees to enjoy the music without standing shoulder to shoulder.
    “It’s a fulltime job to keep it organic and keep it true to what it was — a basement festival,” Kristyn says. “For us to try and become this big sparkly thing would just feel weird — not only to us, but to everyone. And I think that because we’ve been so committed to keeping it neighborly, and keeping it gritty and as a true alternative to a venue, that’s been a really integral part of what’s created and maintained the core people that come.”
    So who are the core people? Jared says, “It used to be just our friends, and they still come.
    It used to be a little bit cheaper when we had less to offer, but it was just our friends. Now it’s changed so much.” Genres have broadened to include hip-hop, country, singer-songwriters and more. “The day show has changed a lot. 
    It’s become more eclectic. We have people that come every season that are my parents’ age. So it’s really dynamic now.”
    “And now,” says Jared, “I get emails from booking agents, and Sonicbids, and (electronic press kits), and things like that. And bands wanna pay me to play the festival, so the vibe has shifted ’cause it’s just grown into something much bigger.” 20 or 30 bands contact Jared every week trying to get onto the bill. “He listens to every one of them, too, because that’s just Jared,” Kristyn laughs. “That’s how he is. But also when you take into consideration that people know who we are because we’ve always tried to maintain that humanistic quality — we’re your neighbors, this is your festival — we have to listen to every one because we could run into them at the grocery store, ya know?”
    The Corders, married in October 2012, still have that newlywed glow about them, and they finish each other’s sentences. They also have a band together called *repeat repeat. It’s a power trio with Jared on guitar, Andy Herrin on drums and Kristyn singing backup. Their first Nashville show was at the Mercy Lounge in April, opening for the surf music legend Dick Dale. Jared explains, “We didn’t get Dick Dale because of Underground. We got it because we released a single, something we worked really hard on with our producer, Gregory Lattimer.”
    The single, “12345678,” is available for free on the band’s Facebook page. The band’s drummer sent a copy of the single to Dick Dale’s booking people — “which turned out to be Dick Dale’s wife,” Jared says, laughing. Even so, she loved the song and sent back a long email full of praise and encouragement. The band forwarded that to the Mercy Lounge and ta-da — they were added to the bill. *repeat repeat is finding a warm reception. A review on the music blog Lockeland Springsteen states, “The confidence with which the band takes stage is well-founded; they succeed in demonstrating the inordinate amount of talent and potential necessary to pull this kind of gig off.” Jared describes the band’s sound as “surf rock, kind of a throwback to the Kinks, Mamas and the Papas and the B-52s, but definitely more rock and roll. It’s really poppy, really fun, all songs about love and sort of ‘60s sounding. The Scene called us ‘Dick Dale’s snot-nosed grandkids.’”
    Kristyn was never supposed to be in the band at all — or in music, for that matter. Her degree is in performing arts and she wanted to be a sitcom actress. But she started working for a PR firm and dropped acting entirely. She came to Nashville and worked for a while in medical PR and doing consulting, which leads us back to *repeat repeat, and that basement.
    Jared and Andy started working on songs at the 12th Avenue house, “so I was on the couch in the basement for every practice, just working away,” Kristyn says. The band always knew they wanted a female backup singer, and auditioned three. Two of them would have worked out, but couldn’t do it for various reasons. Meanwhile, a longstanding appointment with Producer Lattimer loomed. “I went with Jared,” Kristyn continues, “just from a business perspective.
    Next thing I know, I’m sitting in the office with them, and Jared goes, ‘Well, Kristyn knows all the parts, so she’ll just sing the girl parts.’ And I was like, ‘OOOO-kay.’ And so I did. And at the end of these three or four songs, Gregory says, ‘Well, you have your girl singer.’ And we were like, ‘Whaaaaat?’ It took me a while to come around to the idea.” But she did, and by the time this article hits the stands, *repeat repeat will have recorded their first full album.
    Originally from Texas, Kristyn was the lead vocalist at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. “I never set out to be a musician or singer,” she says. “I just got recruited and didn’t fight it. But it’s been great! At the end of the day, you just do what’s right for your family, and see what works. And we pulled it off.”
    That’s not all she’s pulled off lately. Three years ago, Kristyn had an idea for a resource for fans of live music. GiG Nashville, launching in August at Underground, will give all the details someone might want while trying to make plans on a given night. “I wanted to know when I first moved here, without going to pick up a copy of the Scene, what’s going on, what am I leaving the house for? Is there parking? Is there food? What does the band sound like? What’s the venue like? What’s the vibe? For me, it’s like, is this worth leaving? And I’m usually in five-inch heels and all dolled up—it’s the Texas girl in me. So I really want to know, do I have to walk five blocks in these crazy Guess stiletto heels to see a band that I have no idea what they’re gonna sound like?” Thus, GiG was born.
    Since that time, even while juggling her other pursuits, Kristyn has been pursuing her vision and building her team, including business development from Lightning 100. The concept, under the umbrella moniker Gig Your City, is well poised to expand outward to other cities as well.
    Kristyn’s other business, Apple Road, will be instrumental in getting the word out about GiG, just as it has done for *repeat repeat and Underground. Apple Road is a partnership between Kristyn and Haley Young. The publicity and creative media company now has two other employees. “It’s the love child of Abbey Road and Apple Records. What I do for Underground, I do for others. We basically help people increase their visibility.”
    Kristyn’s excited to report that Apple Road will be working with the Tomato Art Fest this year, doing publicity and the green room for the artists. “Tomato Fest is an institution in this neighborhood!”
    The Corders are all about helping people, because Jared knows firsthand about getting help from the wrong person. “I knew a guy that gave me all this advice about moving to Nashville that were all horrible ideas for me.
    ‘Go down to Broadway and try it out! Go to the Bluebird!’ Stuff like that. Not my field of music, and he knew that, but it’s what he had to give.” Taking his friend’s advice, Jared moved to Goodlettsville. “I didn’t know it was so far away!” He lasted a month and then moved again, to Nashville this time. He drove around looking for work, using a list from his increasingly unreliable pal. “Half the places he told me to go were closed by the time I moved here.” He stuck it out, got some session work, went out on the road with J.D. Shelburne on weekends and learned the ropes.
    Jared is philosophical about the journey. “There are obstacles and road bumps and things that really suck, and things get hard, and you get so frustrated, and it’s so much work and stress. But even at the hardest times, even with politics and logistics and legalities, we’ve always felt like our hearts are still into all of this.
    “When you work a corporate job, you know when it’s time to be done because you get laid off, or you get fired, or you quit because you got a better job. When you work for yourself … you have to know when it’s time to make a change or do something new.
    Jared says when he started Oh No No, he didn’t know a single person in the indie rock world here, so he decided to take any gig that was offered. The band would break out the Wizard of Oz costumes, hire a hair and makeup artist sometimes, and play their hearts out. “My god we played some shitty gigs. We got to know a lot of the other bands and all the venues, because we’d say yes to everything.
    We’d play at the drop of a hat, open for some horrible metal band, go first or last, whatever. So we started getting more and more gigs.”
    It’s not the best advice. Once you get somewhat established, it’s good to be more selective. But if you’ve just moved here and you don’t know anybody, go do it. That’s how I made a lot of my friends.”
    The Underground Facebook page has more good advice for getting into that particular lineup: Be part of the scene, show up, be interested.
    Part of the page reads, “If you spend some time checking out these best local bands and do some friendly socializing with fellow members of our music community, there’s a good chance you’ll be up on the stage in no time.”
    It’s a lot of labor to keep all these projects going, but as Kristyn said before, it’s definitely a labor of love. “Yeah, everything we do is stuff that we love. We are sooooo fortunate. I’m not going to say lucky because it’s not luck,” she says. It may not be luck on their end, but East Nashville is fortunate to have the Corders. “It’s been good and our hearts are still really into it,” Jared says. Yep, lucky us.