New Oral History Project Spotlights Roles of Nashville’s Women MusiciansBreaking News
tags: oral history, music, Nashville, womens history
It’s no secret that the backbone of the Nashville music industry is its murderers’ row of session musicians. Often called “sidemen,” some of these players and vocalists are as well-known as the artists they support. The famed Nashville Cats, heard on recordings by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash among many, many others, were at the center of the massive Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum from 2015 to 2017.
The biggest and most reverent celebrations of country musicians tend to focus on white men, and the same applies to session players. This should come as no surprise — the term “sideman” in itself is a gendered one, and debates about gender and racial diversity in country music have reached a fever pitch in recent years.
Local musician and historian Tiffany Minton is working to change the narrative of session musicians in Nashville. Minton is pursuing a graduate degree at Middle Tennessee State University, and through the school’s Center for Popular Music, she has spearheaded The Women Musicians in Nashville Oral History Project. The archival endeavor seeks to discover, preserve and advance the stories of women session players and vocalists in Music City.
“I was thinking about the side player and thinking about the fact that that story is generally and popularly known through people like the Nashville Cats or the A Team, when it comes to Nashville,” Minton tells the Scene. “And that most of the people who are being discussed are all white men. But there were other people doing it, and there still are.”
The project currently consists of two-hour interviews with 15 Nashville women who are musicians, with more to come. There are instrumentalists like drummer Megan Coleman, bassist Ryan Madora and guitarist Ellen Angelico, as well as songwriters like Angela Kaset. There are also folks who’ve worn a dazzling array of hats, like Judy Rodman, a singer, songwriter, vocal coach and producer, among many other things.