Cotton Mill Live bills itself as "a one of a kind space that showcases the best of what makes Nashville 'Music City.'"
Think of it as a super-sized house concert. Performers set up shop in an actual cotton mill-turned-residential home, and ply their trade in front of a small, appreciative audience.
Each show is filmed and later broadcast on Zuus TV. Artists like Keb Mo, Andrew Ripp, Elenowen and Mockingbird Sun have all stopped by.
Enter Alyssa Bonagura, a local songstress whose passionate fanbase includes the Bee Gees' Robin Gibb and Songwriters Hall of Famer Jeffrey Steele. The Nashville native has been performing live since the age of 3, and hit the road with Marty Stuart when she was just 13.
In this exclusive premiere, Bonagura performs the unreleased song "Gold."
Here's an interview with Cotton Mill co-founder Gavin O'Neill about life at the Mill, discovering fresh talent, his fashion tips for musicians and more.
What is Cotton Mill Live?
Jeremy [Ryan, co-founder] and I live in one of Nashville's old cotton factories along the Cumberland river. It was built at the end of the 19th century and has kept many of it's original charms. Just east of downtown, our loft has become a multimedia creative space for ourselves and our community. On any given day we can be hosting a photo shoot, video shoot, concert, event, you name it.
We came up with the name Cotton Mill Live because our loft features many of the aspects of the old factory it used to be. With original hardwood floors and exposed beams, it sets the tone and gives a nostalgic feel to the space. When we were creating our brand we wanted it to feel as authentic as the space, so we decided to stay true to the buildings roots, Cotton Mill, Live.
Where do you film?
We film in our living room. It's hard to believe but very true. With 25 shows under our belt, we've got the set up down to a science. The large open space allows us to seat around 70 people although we've been known to pack the house with over 100 guests at a time.
How do you chose the artists who end up performing there?
Our roster is something we're very proud of. We take all decisions to heart and want to provide a stellar experience for both the audience and the artist. Originally, we booked shows with our friends, people we not only loved, but admired for their incredible talent. I think anyone living in Nashville can relate to that. We now take submissions at our website but always remain on the hunt for artists that draw us in and stir our souls.
Tell us a bit about the video you've given us.
The video clip we're sharing with you is a preview of our first episode featuring Alyssa Bonagura. She's one of those Nashville artists you can tell grew up on stage -- she's an absolute pro. The new season airs Tuesday, March 3rd at 7pm CST on Zuus (Comcast Channel 228). It will air 5 times that week, so make sure you catch one!
What do you like about the indie music scene in Nashville?
We've had the opportunity of having a lot of wonderful and positive experiences in the music scene here in Nashville. The humility that is shown is something that stays with us. So many artists live in a space of gratitude that it just becomes infectious during the day they are on set. They get to share their work, tell their story, communicate in a way that represents them fully, and we are so thankful to have a space to provide for that to happen. We encourage everyone who can to experience hosting a house show, even if it's just once and you'll instantly relate to what I'm saying.
Do you have any favorite memories from Musicians Corner?
Yes. One of my first live music experiences in Nashville was Musicians Corner in the summer of 2010. It was my first summer in Nashville and I wasn't in "the know" when it came to anything. I found Musicians Corner and I came back for almost every single show after because its a space where artists get to have fun, you can see it in the way they perform. Getting the chance to see Matt and Kim or Melinda Doolittle on a sunny afternoon in the park, it's a concept that sounds too good to be true.
Gavin, you run the Hello Boys clothing store in East Nashville. Any fashion advice or do's and dont's for musicians?
One of my favorite tips to give artists is to pick pieces that have great texture to them. It gives points of interest for people to look at but never distracts them from looking right at you. When you're on stage you want as much undivided attention as you can get and sometimes tons of sparkles, bells, and whistles cause distraction instead of focus. Texture is that great lace dress in the fun color (like Alyssa wore beautifully in her episode), or that awesome tweed coat with your worn in leather boots or shoes.