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Andrew Belle is one of the Nashville-based artists appearing in the latest incarnation of Ten Out of Tenn.
Andrew Belle is one of the Nashville-based artists appearing in the latest incarnation of Ten Out of Tenn. (Laura Dart)
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nashville is becoming one of the best emerging-artist scenes in the United States and not just for country music. Consider the community of singer-songwriters making "organic" (as they call it) pop music who go by the title Ten Out of Tenn.

The group, founded by Trent and Kristen Dabbs, has produced three compilation albums, a Christmas release, a series of tours, showcases at music festivals such as SXSW and a documentary film about its talented friends in the city. Its Web site is http://www.myspace.com/tenoutoftenn.

The roster of artists changes over time (the second CD included Katie Herzig, Andy Davis, Griffin House, Butterfly Boucher and Erin McCarley), but the concept remains the same: Bring together Nashville-based performers who record and release individual albums and do solo tours, and promote them together on a CD collection or a multi-act concert bill.

A new TOT compilation has just come out, and its merry band of players has hit the road for a three-week tour, which will arrive at Iota this weekend. This time, the group consists of Joy Williams, Trent Dabbs, Kyle Andrews, Ashley Monroe, Mikky Ekko, Sarah Siskind, K.S. Rhoads, Jedd Hughes, Madi Diaz and Andrew Belle. The latter gave Live! some background on the big adventure via phone from his adopted home of Nashville.

"We're all individual solo artists," Belle said. "There's not enough room on the bus for us all to bring our band members. Everybody kind of pitches in and plays various instruments to pull it all together."

Belle, for example, plays guitar and piano for some of the others, and one drummer sits in for the whole show. Rather than 10 short sets, the night is a constant flow of performers taking the stage, swapping vocals and playing on each other's songs.

An intense four-day rehearsal period, each meeting lasting eight to nine hours, allowed the performers to work out the musical choreography. "By the end of the four days," Belle said, "everyone was really excited 'cause it really came together."

Each performer gets to sing only a pair of his or her own tunes, but Belle said he doesn't mind the limit. "I only get to do my two songs, but I play on about 13 other ones. It's still a lot of fun to be up there playing with your friends."

For this excursion, Dabbs and Rhoads are the only acts with prior TOT experience, so they act as unofficial emcees, according to Belle. "They know how it goes, so they kind of guide the audience and the rest of us through the set. They're very outgoing and funny, good personalities, so they do a good job of it."

This tour is not the only way that Belle is promoting his engaging, melodic song craft. He's giving away his music. Visitors to a Belle-approved Web site, http://www.andrewbelle.bandcamp.com, who offer an e-mail address will receive a download of all five songs from last year's "All Those Pretty Lights" EP.

"I started selling it at first," Belle said, "and then I realized that whatever short-term monetary gain that I could possibly earn from trying to get $5 per CD was going to be nothing in comparison to what I could probably achieve long term by just giving the thing away.

"It was a hard pill to swallow at first because it took so much time and money and effort in making the thing, so to just give it away was hard. But once I started seeing the benefit that was coming from it, it was definitely worth it. I got so much traction from giving it away."


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