Know Your Neighbor: Chuck Beard

  • East Side Storytellin’ follows the same template every time. A local author, or poet, does a 15-minute reading of original material, and then a local musician or band follows with a 30-minute show. Then I have about a 15-minute casual conversation onstage with the featured guests to talk about their creative process and their ties to Nashville. I find it’s a great way to digest the art, and since an author typically doesn’t have a rock star setting or big-performance audience, it’s great for them to get used to that, and it’s great for the musicians, too, because a lot of times around here it’s tough to get a truly listening audience. As far as the audience, the conversation at the end is a nice ice-breaker. The people feel like they can approach and tell the artists how they appreciate their music, or writing. And maybe they’ll buy something!” — Chuck Beard
         For five years, Chuck Beard has run East Side Story, a small but distinctive bookstore in The Idea Hatchery on Woodland Street. And he’s run East Side Storytellin’ since late 2012. The store’s inventory is only local talent. Beard calls it “Nashville’s stubbornly local-centric book nook.”
         The store has curated two special-edition books: The first was The Wolf’s Bane, a hand-bound historical tale of a Nashville werewolf written by author Betsy Phillips and illustrated by print makers Lesley Patterson-Marx, Carrie Cox, Megan Kelley, Bryce Coatney, and Jessica Crouch. The second self-published book in 2015 was an anthology titled Based On: Words, Notes, and Art from Nashville, a collection of short stories, songs, and visual art prints. A CD of music is included, and each song is inspired by a corresponding story, the illustrations likewise. Contributors include Tony Earley, JT Ellison, Victoria Schwab — and this writer, among others — providing the short stories, Griffin House, The Coal Men, David Mead, and others providing music on the CD, and visual prints (also each tied to its specific story) by Julie Sola, Ian White, Cory Basil, and others. All proceeds from the book benefit the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville.
         A native of Bowling Green, Ky., Beard, who is a 35-ish chap with facial hair to match his name, has been on the East Side since ’07 when he wound up in town after an era of happy wandering to California and other places. He came to Nashville to write for Nashville Arts magazine, and remains a freelance writer today. The grand opening of East Side Story took place during the Tomato Art Festival of 2012. Married with one child, he works another job in addition to running the store in order to pay the bills. But he’s still at the store most every day. “Most days, yeah,” he says, “I work part time over at Oasis Center in the morning, and I have odd hours here. But it works for me.”
         The 100th episode (for lack of a better word) of East Side Storytellin’ will happen at The Post on Fatherland on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Singer-songwriter Phil Madeira (author of God On the Rocks) will provide the music and writer John J. Thompson, author of Jesus, Bread and Chocolate, will be doing the reading. “I met Phil during the Based On project and thought this would be a good soulful match,” Beard says. “And it turns out they’re friends, so that’ll be nice, too; a cool communal thing.”
         Pairings of artists who plow similar furrows happen a lot at East Side Storytellin’, but they’re not necessarily planned. “There always seems to be some serendipitous theme where like they’re both from Ohio and I didn’t know this,” Beard says. “Or a couple of shows ago, it was very father-themed, with a nonfiction book about taking care of a father and the writer was a big cars man, and the musician had just done an album about his father who worked on cars. And that wasn’t planned. Something like that always tends to happen. It’s really neat for everybody involved.”
         East Side Storytellin’ is staged on the first and third Tuesday of each month and runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30-ish. Beard signed a new one-year lease on the store in August, and he looks forward to continue offering a venue for Nashville’s literati, as well as musicians and visual artists. “The show always ends up, at least for me, feeling like I needed to hear that artist’s message. It’s almost like going to creative church or something. Get inspired!”
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