LIMA — From photographers to songwriters and singers, Nashville, Tennessee, is growing into Shangri-La for people with big dreams from Lima and the surrounding area
A significant number of local artists and performers have made their way to Music City in the past few years to see what their ceiling in the music industry might be, and it does not seem to be stopping anytime soon.
“My friends from Alabama, Georgia and Florida all are shocked at how people from Ohio love country music,” said songwriter Liam Stolly, who has been working in Nashville since 2020. “I think recently, it may have something to do with how the arts community is coming together more to push the live music scene. There are a lot of people behind the scenes showing people that you can write music and you might not be on the stage singing it, but you can create and there is no right or wrong way to do it.”
It’s an opportunity to perform for Derek Pignataro, who goes by the name Derek Alan on stage.
“In Lima, you can’t go out and perform on a Tuesday night,” Pignataro said. “There’s more work in Nashville in that sense. I’m not talking badly about Lima because there is plenty of work available there. But there are just a lot more people that work in the industry down here.”
According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, the music industry accounts for $15.6 billion within the Nashville metropolitan area.
There are 43,000 jobs in the music industry in the area and 3,000 working musicians.
For people who have never been to Nashville, anything from eating at a place where Johnny Cash might have once sat to experiencing the lights of Broadway and roaming the various venues of Music Row at all hours of the night can be enough to overwhelm.
But for artists like Stolly, Pignataro and St. Marys country rapper Brandon Mullins, who goes by the stage name 6 B.Low, performing in the Lima area prepared them well for it.
“It’s so cool to be a small part of the whole music community out there right on Music Row,” said Stolly, who has performed at several venues around town. “Some days, you might be hearing an artist that you’re listening to in the room right next to you singing and writing. But I have friends who dread going home, and I look forward to that all the time whether I’m playing or not.”
Pignataro said he appreciated the support from the Lima area.
“Honestly, playing back home in the surrounding areas and Lima and seeing all the support that I have back there from people who would come to my shows and had nice things to say gave me confidence and continues to give me confidence,” Pignataro said. “Everyone back home, everyone that is important to me, told me I could do it if I wanted to.”
The push to Nashville felt like destiny for Mullins.
“I had a dream about performing my new song ‘Losin my Mind’ in front of thousands of people and they were loving it, so I don’t know if that was God’s way of telling me to go to Nashville and record it, but a combination of having people that I trust to know what they’re talking about and the man upstairs is what helped me to overcome the doubts that I had before heading there,” Mullins said.
Reaching their goals
While it might not be a coincidence that a lot of the young artists from the greater Lima area know that Nashville is the place to go to chase their dreams in the music industry, it also might not be a coincidence that so many of them believe they can reach their goals in the first place.
“Some great advice I was given by a professional writer back when I first moved here was that you never see a professional surfer who lives in Oklahoma,” Stolly said. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to put yourself in a position for success.”
Mullins said that he never thought he would be able to make music in Nashville when he first started recording two years ago.
“I would have told you maybe five or 10 years from now,” he said. “But I’m actually already scheduled to be going back down there to work with another producer. I never would have thought I would be where I am now. I’m very blessed and grateful.”
A cutthroat business
But like all show business, the music industry can be cutthroat if you are trying to get into it. And it is no different in Nashville.
“You are going to have people turn you down sometimes,” Pignataro said. “And you’re going to hear things you don’t want to hear and people might say something negative, but you have to have that confidence in yourself to look past some of that too and know that you’re good enough to have work and know that the right person could find you and that it can all pan out. It just might not happen instantly.”
For photographer Brian Williams, knowing that there was already work available to him and that he could keep his job as a marketer in Lima made it that much easier to make the leap.
“There are highs and lows of trying to find work,” he said. “Luckily I was able to get work that helped offset my downtime and made sure I had money coming in. I know people go there and have nothing or they’re trying to freelance downtown, and it’s really about grinding it out and letting people know that you’re there.”
For Stolly, Williams and Pignataro, who all graduated from Lima Central Catholic, knowing each other and collaborating at times is itself a connection.
“Even though it’s a big city, a lot of people say it has a small-town feel,” Pignataro said. “I’m used to Lima, Delphos and Bowling Green, but being able to run into people from your hometown and meeting people in the bars I play in who are from Ohio is really cool to see. I’ve definitely made more connections to back home down here than I thought I would.”
Even for the band that just wants to experience the city for a few shows like St. Mary’s band 40 Acre, it is worth the travel and sacrifice.
“It was a lot more work than we anticipated,” frontman Josh Barnes said about the weekend the band played at such places as Tootsie’s. “The logistics of getting to and from the gigs and setting up the stage and tearing things down was a lot of work. But it was a lot more fun than we thought it would be.”
So what does it take to make it in Music City if you are from this area, aside from performing shifts that could stretch deep into the early morning hours?
“A big challenge for me is being away from home and everyone I’m close with,” Pignataro said. “There are definitely a lot of nice people and everyone’s kind and willing to help you, but it’s an aggressive industry in terms of trying to get your foot in the door.”
It can be different, although no less challenging for writers like Stolly.
“It’s a business and that can be scary, but it can be encouraging,” he said. “A lot of people go down there and hear about people that sign bad record deals and bad publishing deals they think they’re getting a chunk of change, and then they don’t own anything they write for the next 10 years. You’ve really got to read all of the fine print every time.”
The same is true for Williams and those on the marketing side of the industry. Williams’ work can be seen in the pages of major magazines like People and on his website, meetbrianwilliams.com, and social media.
But each of these artists has one thing in common: they took their chance.
Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.