Nothing is more enticing than the element of surprise – especially when it comes to music.
When you think of Cause A Scene, think musical scavenger hunt: creator Larry Kloess organizes the curated concert series in Nashville, Tennessee with shows taking place in primarily intimate, secret locations, in people’s homes and other awesome spaces. Over the past three years, Cause A Scene (CAS) has showcased over 700 well-known artists and burgeoning acts alike from around the country, including The Lone Bellow, Noah Gundersen, David Ramirez, Seryn, Judah & the Lion, and many others. More than the shows, however, CAS is a community of people who enjoy investing in each other’s lives and the thrill of discovering great new music. INVADE sat down with Kloess to talk about the Nashville music scene, a fateful Boyz II Men cassette, and the visceral appeal of music.
What led you to create Cause a Scene?
I think the fear of leading an insignificant life finally overtook the fear of failure, and I decided that I wanted to do something that mattered. When I moved back to Nashville, a city that has been home to me for much of my life, I saw that there were a lot of different social circles that seemed mostly isolated from one another. I wanted to blur the lines between those circles and help people find authentic community in a rapidly expanding city. I saw the amazing stories that were being lived out around me, and I wanted those people to know each other and have their stories informed by one another. I wanted to expose people to really great music, and then have them get excited about it the way I did.
When did you first know you had a particular love for music?
Probably in second grade when after a Secret Santa exchange in class, I traded whatever it was that I received for a girl’s Boyz II Men cassette tape of Cooleyhighharmony. As long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with music and the way it can move people emotionally and bring people together. I think I really leaned into my passion for music a lot more in high school when I was trading bootlegs (legally, I might add) of live shows from a lot of jam bands and having my taste in music rapidly expand. My college years were the match thrown on a woodpile doused in gasoline as I was constantly going to shows and becoming enamored with the live concert experience. Most weeks I was probably going to 3-4 shows. Now it’s almost a show (sometimes more) every night of the week.
You mention on your website that there is a joy inherent in music. Talk a little about that. What is it about music that brings you joy?
I think the joy in music is forever tied to one’s ability to be vulnerable and express emotion. Music has an incredibly unique way of speaking to the human condition in a way that listeners with completely different backgrounds can hear a song and have that “Whoa! You too?” experience. People have talked about music being a “universal language” for a long time, and I think it’s quite true. Look at Sigur Ros for instance. I literally have no idea what the words to their songs mean, but try to listen to their music and not be moved. Music is able to speak directly to the heart of people.
How would you describe the music scene in Nashville?
Thriving. When I first moved back to town five years ago, the scene felt kind of dead, or at least dormant on some level. I remember an article in a local paper that was published within weeks of me moving back that mentioned how a lot of bands skip Nashville on their tour or have never played here. That’s not the case anymore. Most publications throw out names like Taylor Swift, The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, and Paramore when they talk about music coming out of Nashville that isn’t country, but it’s names like COIN, Kopecky, Natalie Prass, Judah & the Lion, Seryn, Colony House, Wild Cub, Vinyl Thief, The Shadowboxers, Foreign Fields, and on and on that get me most excited about the music scene here. I think we will look back at this era of the Nashville music scene one day and compare it favorably to Seattle in the 1990s and Laurel Canyon in the 1970s and be astonished at the amount of talent that was all assembled in this city at one time.
How do you discover new artists?
I think more than anything I pay attention to individual tastemakers whom I really respect. Maz Tappuni of Communion Records is a great example of that. He has a very diverse palette for music that overlaps with mine to some degree, but I can always find great music through his recommendations. I’m constantly paying attention to which artists are touring with whom because there’s a good chance if I like the well-known headliner, I may very well enjoy the opening act just as much, if not more. At the end of the day, though, it’s really a matter of keeping your ear to the ground and paying attention to trends in music while remaining keenly aware of stuff that sounds so fresh that it’s bound to cause a ripple effect among other artists.
Favorite band or artist right now?
I’m pretty obsessed lately with the new Sufjan Stevens record and Tobias Jesso Jr.’s debut album. Those two and Courtney Barnett’s latest are probably my favorite records of 2015 so far. Artists that I can’t get enough of right now: Leon Bridges, LANY, Jake McMullen, Kevin Garrett, The Japanese House, EZA, Jack Garratt, Say Lou Lou, Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear, The Suffers, Years & Years, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Until The Ribbon Breaks, Zerbin, FMLYBND, VERITE, Johnny Stimson. I think 2015 is going to be a very big year for all of them. My favorite band of all-time though is Led Zeppelin, so there’s always a solid chance that I’m listening to their records.
If you could create your ideal house show lineup, openers and headliner, who would it be?
If I’m living in a complete fantasy land, I would have Paul Simon headline with Patty Griffin and Josh Ritter opening. After that show I think I would die peacefully knowing that I did everything I set out to do professionally [laughs]. Maybe more realistically, I would have an acoustic show with Needtobreathe, Sleeping At Last or Jon Foreman from Switchfoot. Each of them has yielded immeasurable impact on my life through their music. JOHNNYSWIM would open, as they put on one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen in the last year or so. If we weren’t constrained by a house, I would throw a secret show with Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Shad, and Propaganda. I’ve never done a hip-hop show through CAS unfortunately, but the genre was one of the first I fell in love with as a middle schooler, and that would be the most fun lineup I can imagine.
What are some challenges you’ve faced over the years?
When I was younger I think a big challenge was feeling like I never really fit in very well. I think I was too much of a people pleaser and put value on immature things that don’t really last like popularity and then getting bent out of shape when I didn’t achieve it. Honestly, the biggest challenge has simply been getting over the ever-present fear that people, particularly “creatives,” face: perfectionism or the question of “Am I doing the right thing?” or “Does what I do really matter?” I think there is this constant fear and resistance that we are up against when we’re pursuing things that matter. Those have been challenges, and I’m sure will continue to be as they are just part of the human condition. Another challenge has been letting my identity become wrapped up in what I do. It’s a slippery slope when we place too much value on our job, title, or professional achievements.
Do you see what you’re doing with Cause a Scene being something you’d eventually like to bring to other cities as well? If so what does that process of expanding look like for you?
Yes, absolutely. 100%. The idea of expanding CAS into other markets and communities is on my mind every day. I love the idea of a network of cities all over the country that we can send artists through, and I equally love the idea of hopping on the road for a bit and going from city to city and sharing our story and hopefully inspiring people along the way to “cause a scene” in their own way, be it in music or something else entirely. Growing CAS in other cities used to feel like an “if” but now it’s really a matter of “when” and “how.” 2015 will be a year where I take a much deeper dive into what that looks like and work to put the systems in place for that to be a reality. The biggest piece of the puzzle I think is identifying the people who are cultivating community in their cities already and who share our vision—people who can become the faces of Cause A Scene in their own cities.