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June 2019

Local Music Spotlight – The Keep

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Northeast Tennessee is well-known by tourists for its beautiful scenery, charming cities, rich history, and it’s flourishing live music scene. Local music in our region has made an impact in not only the smaller, local communities of the region, but also on a larger scale influencing and leading the way in worldwide music trends. Northeast Tennessee and Virginia are major staples in the development of modern country and bluegrass music; East Tennessee State University is the only 4-year university in the world to offer a comprehensive bluegrass music program. Northeast Tennessee is renowned for its undertaking and celebration of their local music scene with local festivals, concert series, and venues embracing and honoring local bands and artists. Each band has their own unique sound and personality 


Hailing from the Appalachian Mountains in East Tennessee, The Keep, is a dynamic-band with an indie, electric folk sound. Before The Keep, there was Daniel and Bets Couper a couple who met and fell in love while in chorale at East Tennessee State University. They’ve spent the past couple years traveling around the southern Appalachian region playing as a duo, in an acoustic quartet, or as a six-piece band. Their band has a unique collection of diverse musicians, each bringing their own tone and sound to the influential group. The six-piece band consists of Daniel Couper (vocals/guitar), Bets Couper (vocals), James West (guitar), Colin Jeffress (keyboard/cello), Jason Hardy (bass guitar), and Aaron Heschong (drums/percussion).

Where did your members go to high school/college?
“Well, for starters, two of us were homeschooled (five points if you guess which ones), one attended Providence Academy, two are Hilltoppers, and one went to some high school out in Middle Tennessee. For college, we’ve got several ETSU alumni, as well as degrees from Milligan, Belmont, App State, and UT.”

Where’s your favorite local place to perform?
“This is a really tough question, because all the places we’ve played locally have their different charms, but our favorite might just be this little spot out in Jonesborough called the Mockingbird Music Room and Gallery. With the shape and color of the space and the art hanging on the walls, the visual aesthetic complements the music perfectly, making for a really wonderful and intimate artistic experience.”

How would you describe our local music scene?
“The two words that come to mind are vibrant and supportive. Every musician and venue seem genuinely invested in each other’s success and the success of the community as a whole. It’s a great place to be making music.”

How have you seen our local music scene adapt and change over the years?
“We’re no veterans to the local scene by any means, but for the few years we’ve been around, the most prominent change seems to be a growing sense of community. Musicians and businesses and listeners all want what’s best for each other, because it’s what’s best for all of us.”

How would you describe your sound?
“We try not to describe it too often because we like to think that we defy description. Seriously, though, we like to dabble in lots of different genres, but everything we do starts with a pretty solid indie folk foundation. With emotive harmonies like those of the Civil Wars and the Swell Season, we craft tunes that are unflinchingly honest and dynamically hopeful.”

What makes your band unique?
“Well, honestly, we’re not all that interested in being unique. We probably are (in some way or other), but we’ve found that striving for uniqueness can be a distraction from being true to who we are and what we want to say through our tunes. If we keep writing honestly and playing from our hearts, maybe we’ll end up being unique on accident.”

What region/area are the members of your band from?
“We all call Johnson City home, though a few of us come from far-flung places like Canada and Germany and Franklin, Tennessee.”

What’s your favorite thing about living in this area?
“The mountains. Definitely the mountains. (No offense to all our family and friends.)”

What local bands have inspired or motivated you?
“Oh wow, too many to list here. There’s so much incredible talent in this area, and so many encouraging, friendly folks. Among their number, Zach Ross (A Great Disaster) and Beth Snapp have been especially indispensable to us, both musically and as friends. This Mountain and Annabelle’s Curse were early inspirations as we were getting started making music, and, of course, Amythyst Kiah is nearly divinity.”

Lastly, if you could spend a day doing anything in this area where would you go and what would you do?
“Fair warning: We’re definitely going to have to work more than one thing into our ideal day here. We’ll start with an early morning hike, maybe up to the Unicoi fire tower or down to Laurel Falls. Then we’ll hit up downtown for the afternoon: White Duck Taco for an appetizer, Holy Taco for the main course, Korean Taco for dessert. Perhaps we’ll spend the afternoon reading and chatting over a cup of Elder Fairy tea at The Willow Tree. A quick dinner at Main Street Pizza Co. before we load up a couple of canoes and put in at Boone Lake. Paddle hard against the current for an hour, then float gently back downstream for a couple hours as the sun sets. Revel, then take out and head home. Sleep in a hammock, if possible.”

Johnson City Development Authority Request for Statement of Qualifications

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The Johnson City Development Authority (JCDA) is soliciting proposals from qualified developers to provide services in connection with the potential transfer of the budget authority of a Project-based Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Contract for 63 residential efficiency units and 87 residential one-bedroom units from the John Sevier Center to an alternative housing development. All bids should be received by 5:00 pm Friday, July 12, 2019.

Local Music Spotlight – 49 Winchester

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Northeast Tennessee is well-known by tourists for its beautiful scenery, charming cities, rich history, and its flourishing live music scene. Local music in our region has made an impact in not only the smaller, local communities of the region, but also on a larger scale influencing and leading the way in worldwide music trends. Northeast Tennessee and Virginia are major staples in the development of modern country and bluegrass music; East Tennessee State University is the only 4-year university in the world to offer a comprehensive bluegrass music program. Northeast Tennessee is renowned for its undertaking and celebration of their local music scene with local festivals, concert series, and venues embracing and honoring local bands and artists. Each band has their own unique sound and personality


Originating from Russel County Virginia, 49 Winchester embodies the heart of Appalachian Soul music through their bluesy, southern rock tone and soulful sound. 49 Winchester first got their start as an acoustic folk trio in 2013; however, childhood friends, Isaac Gibson and Chase Chafin, began making music together way before that on the banks of the Clinch River and the steps of abandoned buildings in “Old Castlewood” Virginia. The now 6-piece band has gained a strong following from across the region for their unique, electric sound and powerful stage presence. The band is comprised of Isaac Gibson (vocals/guitar), Chase Chafin (bass), Bus Shelton (guitar), Dillon Cridlin (drums), Jake Quillin (vocal/guitar), and Noah Patrick (steel guitar).

Where did your members go to high school/college?

“Our original 4-man lineup were all Southwest Virginia kids. Chase, Bus and I went to Castlewood High and Dillon went to school across the river in St. Paul. Noah, our steel player, joined us less than a year ago, & he was a Castlewood kid as well. Actually, pretty quickly after graduating from Castlewood in 2014, we started playing our first shows.” – Chase

Where’s your favorite local place to perform?

“As much as we love so many different venues in the region, The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in Johnson City is like a second home to us. It was one of the first out of town shows we ever played in our very early stages of being a band, and it’s the place that shows our progression best, show by show. We have played there with a handful of original songs and 4-piece band years ago, and now we’ve played there as a 7-piece rock and roll show. Teri, the owner of The Willow Tree, has had our back and saw potential in what we were doing from day one.” – Isaac

Can you describe our local music scene?

“It’s really cool to see so many genres represented in our area. Definitely really diverse and full of talent. There is local music to see every day/night of the week somewhere in Southwest Virginia or East Tennessee and from bluegrass to punk to hip-hop there is definitely something for everyone. There is also a ton of mutual respect and support among players in the region and we’re glad to be a part of that.” – Chase

How have you seen our local music scene adapt and change over the years?

“I think live music in our area as a whole has gotten a lot more popular since we began. We definitely have seen some rising stars from Appalachia and a lot of new acts and even venues popping up all over the place. It seems like every small city has an outdoor music series/festival or brewery that showcases local music, and that’s really awesome.” – Chase

“The biggest change for us is the role that we’ve played in this music scene. We started as 4 kids that had never been in a band before, but knew we wanted to do it. 5 years later we have two full length albums and a third one on the way very soon, and there are new, young musicians that meet us after shows and tell us the same things we were telling the old guard that was there 5 years ago. So, we are blessed to have stuck around long enough to see those changes take place because it’s an honor when a kid digs what you do and listens to your music at home.” – Isaac

Can you describe your sound?

“We have been trying to describe our sound for the better part of 5 years now. It’s hard to put a finger on it. We come from vastly different musical backgrounds so it’s a melting pot. It’s not just country music, it’s not just rock and roll, it’s too high strung to be Americana. It’s somewhere in the middle. I think in a lot of ways were just neo-southern rockers with a whole lotta twang. But there’s indie and punk influences in there as well as a ton of blues and soul. We try not to label it as anything, so come catch a show and you can take your pick. Whatever you call it is fine by us.” – Isaac

What makes your band unique?

“I think just the comradery. We have been friends for years and years, longer than we’ve been in a band. I’ve known Chase since we were babies and grew up 50 yards away from him. We are a tight knit group of guys who genuinely love each other and don’t bring any ego or individual agenda into the mix. We all know our role and we all play to it well.” – Isaac

What region/area is the members of your band from?

“I do live in Johnson City now, but we definitely call Castlewood our home base, Russell County Virginia. Castlewood is a small mountain town of about 2000 people, in the heart of Southwest Virginia. So, I think that’s another thing that makes our sound unique, just coming from Appalachia and that upbringing really comes out through the songs and the whole grassroots nature of the band.” – Chase

What’s your favorite part about living in this area?

“For me it’s everything. I love touring and seeing places I’ve never seen, but I always look forward to being back home. I love the people and their demeanor, and I love the natural beauty of this place. It’s unrivaled. I grew up hunting and fishing and playing music in these mountains and I’ll spend my whole life here when I’m not on the road playing songs.” – Isaac

What local bands have inspired or motivated you?

“When we started out I loved The Rickshaw Roadshow, This Mountain, Amythyst Kiah, The Comet Conductors, pretty much every act in the scene. The scene itself is what inspired me, not necessarily to model my sound after anyone but just to get out and start gigging, start making connections and building friendships and sharing ideas with other musicians in the area.” – Isaac

Lastly, if you could spend a day doing anything in this area where would you go and what would you do?

“I’d get out on Cherokee or Boone Lake and catch rockfish till my arms got sore. That’s a perfect day to me. Taking part in the natural resources we’ve got is the best way to experience the region in my opinion. Go hike, go hunt, go fish, go do something. Just get out into some fresh air. Oh, and go catch a show and grab a beer when the sun goes down.” – Isaac

Local Music Spotlight – Rhythm & The Roosevelts

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Northeast Tennessee is well-known by tourists for its beautiful scenery, charming cities, rich history, and it’s flourishing live music scene. Local music in our region has made an impact in not only the smaller, local communities of the region, but also on a larger scale influencing and leading the way in worldwide music trends. Northeast Tennessee and Virginia are major staples in the development of modern country and bluegrass music; East Tennessee State University is the only 4-year university in the world to offer a comprehensive bluegrass music program. Northeast Tennessee is renowned for its undertaking and celebration of their local music scene with local festivals, concert series, and venues embracing and honoring local bands and artists. Each band has their own unique sound and personality.


One of the region’s local bands is Rhythm and The Roosevelts, a bluesy, rock band from Johnson City, TN. Their band consists of Cory Howell (vocals and guitar), Ben McCurry (lead guitar and vocals), Eric Feltman (bass), and Jake Lyon (keys and vocals). They began making music together in the Fall of 2016 and made a name for themselves across the region by performing at local clubs, coffeehouses, and concert series in the area. We sat down with them to discuss their sound, the regions local music scene, and what differentiates the environment and community of local artists in our area from those outside of the region.

Where did your members go to high school/college?

“We actually all went to different high schools. Cory went to Unicoi, Jake to Science Hill, Ben was homeschooled, Benny went to Tennessee High, and Jason went to high school in Roanoke. Four of us went to ETSU, and one of the guys ended up working and pursuing his passions out of high school.”

Where’s your favorite local place to perform?

“We honestly do love getting to play at Founders After 5! Last year was a blast, and it was fun to share our music with a bunch of both new and familiar faces. Since Founders only comes around once a year, our favorite local venue to play at the rest of the year is Capone’s. The live sound there is top notch and the atmosphere helps to feed into our energy on stage.”

Can you describe our local music scene?

“The local scene has a very cohesive vibe. For the most part, everyone seems to get a long and be supportive of each other. We see members of other bands out at our shows, or out to see other local bands. They’re out at other shows because they are invested in local music, and not just the success of their own music, and that’s really cool.”

How have you seen our local music scene adapt and change over the years?

“It seems like the local scene is starting diversifying and branch off from what’s been considered the trend. There was a point when it seemed there were a lot of bands sticking to the genres that were popular at the time, but now we’re seeing a lot more people just making the kind of music that they love. It’s great that we live in a smaller city and we’re seeing local acts playing music from hip hop, to bluegrass, to indie rock.”

Can you describe your sound?

“So, we initially started out playing and writing music that had a combined vintage and modern soul sounds, but we’ve gradually moved away from that. Now our sound has more of a bluesy, roots rock feel. We still have some bits and pieces of soul and funk mixed into our music, but overall, we’ve found our own sound as we’ve written music over the years.”

What makes your band unique?

“We embrace our imperfections, have fun, and don’t take ourselves too seriously. We forget lyrics and play wrong notes, but we laugh it off and realize that we’re playing music because we love it and because it’s a way to have fun and for our audience to have fun.  Our philosophy is that people won’t remember how perfect or imperfect our show was, but they will remember whether or not we were having a good time, and if they were too.”

What region/area is the members of your band from?

“We’re all from East Tennessee (Bristol, Johnson City, Erwin), except for Jason, he’s from Roanoke.”

What’s your favorite part about living in this area?

“It’s growing and moving forward, but it’s still has a small-town feel. It’s great how downtown Johnson City is booming and getting all kinds of unique businesses and we have all these great festivals and events popping up, but we can still go almost anywhere and see a familiar face.”

What local bands have inspired or motivated you?

“A few of us grew up in the music scene downtown and have always felt a sort of connection to all kinds of local sounds. For me (Cory), I grew up attending hardcore shows down at the Hideaway in the mid-late 2000s. One local band that I always loved seeing was IROM. Their energy and passion were incredibly infectious, so seeing them live was always a blast. As of now, we love seeing Magus Vaughn play or The Kindest People. They have a ton of fun playing and it shows! Also, they are some of the nicest guys on the planet.”

Lastly, if you could spend a day doing anything in this area where would you go and what would you do?

” I (Cory) love being outdoors, hiking and camping, so I’d say being outside somehow. Walking the dog in Founders Park and then having a beer with friends at Yee-Haw or Atlantic Ale House.”