More than 150 people converged on downtown Crossville Feb. 8 for the Tennessee Songwriters qualifying round hosted at Grinder House Coffee on Main St.
Local musicians Earl Patton and James Crowley were tapped to move forward in the competition, next to Puckett’s in Franklin, TN, and possibly on to Nashville and the famed Bluebird Café.
Now, thanks to the efforts of local donors and a donation from the city of Crossville, the evening will become a four-part television special on Upper Cumberland Public Broadcasting Station WCTE.
“It continues to heighten the cultural aspects Crossville has to offer,” Asa Reese, owner of Grinder House Coffee, told the council during its Feb. 4 work session.
Grinder House is one of three locations in Cumberland County on Tennessee’s Music Pathways, along with the Palace Theatre and Cumberland County Playhouse.
Reese reached out to WCTE President and CEO Becky Magura who proposed a four-episode series called “In the House,” similar to other music-based programming the station produces with the annual Fiddlers Jamboree in Smithville, Bluegrass Underground, the Sutton General Store in Granville and Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s.
Reese said, “I’ve been calling it a pilot.”
Magura explained several of the station’s programs attract a national audience, like Bluegrass Underground. Other titles get picked up statewide.
The station also served as the presenting station for “Bright Lights, Little City,” a documentary about the Cumberland County Playhouse that continues to air on PBS stations across the country.
“This could be a new opportunity for us and for you,” Magura said. “We’ve talked about doing more things were we can get a live experience with streaming.”
She said the Tennessee Songwriter event would be streamed live on Facebook and could then be turned into four 30-minute episodes.
Reese said Grinder House has hosted 135 live shows each Friday night as part of the In the House singer-songwriter series. It is also broadcast.
“It is growing,” Reese said. “We have a huge expansion of talent that’s coming, and the caliber is also growing. We have some really great artists that are showing up and they’re coming to little ol’ Crossville to play on the radio.
“This is the kind of high-quality production that would be a feather in our cap.”
Magura said the cost for producing the four-episode series would be $10,000. Half of that had been raised through private donations and efforts.
“There’s never a guarantee that it will go national, but you can get started,” Magura said. “We’ll offer it to the whole state and take it from there.”
Reese presented the request to the council during its Feb. 11 meeting.
“There’s a huge pool of resources related to Cumberland County and the talent here, culturally and historically,” Reese said. “However, that does cost money to produce.”
Reese hopes the Palace will host a screening for the community when the shows are ready to air.
Councilman JH Graham III moved to approve the $5,000 request, with funding coming from proceeds of the city’s hotel/motel tax, supported by Councilman Rob Harrison.
Councilman Art Gernt said, “I really like this idea. I like the idea of bringing a spotlight to Crossville.”
Gernt said Crossville’s music scene — from the Palace and the Playhouse to Thursdays at the Amp, Grinder House’s In the House, Social Brew and other venues — continues to draw people from near and far.
“It’s a big deal for us. And it gives our local songwriters some attention. And you never know where that will go,” Gernt said.
Graham pointed to the impact of tourism on Crossville and Cumberland County’s economy. In 2018, Cumberland County recorded $127.8 million in tourism spending, supporting more than 1,000 local jobs. The county collected $5.29 million in local taxes due to tourist spending and across the state, each household paid $712 less in state and local taxes thanks to tourism spending.
“I think tourism is a wonderful thing, and I cannot tell you how much we appreciate the Grinder House and all the work you have done,” Graham said.
The motion was unanimously approved.
In other action, the council approved the following items:
•$250 donation to the Cumberland County High School cheer team to support their trip to a national competition
•loan agreement with the U.S. Air Force for Miss Nettie, an Air Force jet on display at CCHS football field
•solicitation permit for the Fairfield Glade Lions Club for the annual White Cane Days April 24-25 to raise funds for their programs serving the blind and deaf and children