This weekend, my friends with Wise Old River invited me to perform with them Sunday night at the inaugural Johnson City Folk Music Festival at the former Spring Street Music Hall.

There wasn’t a large crowd as we closed down the festival, but the souls in attendance made the night memorable. Why? – they listened.

As a performing musician, it’s safe to say the metaphor that drives the dream is like joining the Air Force to be a fighter pilot. Not everyone gets to make it to the top. Most of the time, musicians practice their craft as a human jukebox.

However, the Folk Life Festival attracted an intimate audience that seemed more interested in listening to the native music from our mountain culture and the organizers are to be applauded for culturing a experience that continues to build momentum next year.

Unfortunately, the people who put this event together almost didn’t pull this off. Two days before the first show, the City of Johnson City pulled the plug on their original location saying the building they had planned on as the primary stage wouldn’t pass the fire code.

Nevertheless, David Pennington and others orchestrated a last-minute coup and moved to a more suitable location. Beginning Friday, they hosted over 50 bands and kudos to everyone who came together to support the cause.

As an original musician, writing songs and expressing yourself is a deeply personal and satisfying accomplishment. Some performers enjoy playing other people’s music and there’s nothing wrong with that, but for me personally – the creative act is the motivation for my time, expenses and sacrifice.

Even though the seats weren’t full and the room wasn’t electric with bouncing heads and waving appendages, it’s rewarding to enter the psyche of an audience who takes the time to relax and listen. As an artist, this type of performance rewards the musician with meaning – there’s something highly personal when you get to perform in a “listening room.”

Most venues in the Tri-Cities culture music to push sales and in some respect, the allure may be drawing the masses. However, places like the Down Home and other listening rooms across America curate the Art of music.

Of course, that’s a two way street too. The artist is forced to recognize that if the music is good, the listeners will attend and to that end, I’m convinced Jamen Denton is writing music that is personal to our Southern culture. It’s simply a matter of the heart.

My hope and commitment is to help in any way I can to help this artist gain the recognition he deserves and special thanks to the Johnson City Folk Festival for a wonderful stage to bring this native expression into the winds of our region.