published Friday, February 25th, 2011

Doffing my cap to local artist's global success

In Tune

While surrounded by people dressed as life-size Pokemon or in glowing fashion inspired by "Tron" at Con Nooga last weekend, the local music scene was pretty low on my list of subjects of conversation.

Nevertheless, this year's fan convention featured more bands -- both local and out-of-town -- since starting four years ago, so maybe it was bound to come up.

Originally I only intended to waylay Husky Burnette and Burma Shave after their set Friday night to discuss their thoughts on playing for such a diversely attired audience.

Instead, we ended up wrapped up in the same discussion I've had time and again about the disappointing lack of support for local musicians.

Based on the frequency with which I've had this conversation (if perhaps with fewer wizards present in the past), I gather that few Chattanoogans would go out of their way to hear Burnette (or any local artist) if the show isn't A) free or B) part of a larger event's schedule.

There seems to be a widely held view that quality is inversely proportionate to how close a band lives to the listener. I know that's not true, but short of forcing people into venues at gunpoint, it's a hard perception to change.

Well, if my opinion doesn't carry enough weight, perhaps that of an international awards show will perk up some ears.

Local pop singer/songwriter Kyle Tallman recently beat out about 2,000 entrants to become a finalist in Britain's People's Music Awards ... for the second time.

Tallman first entered the global contest for indie musicians in 2008, when his song "Don't Think Twice" earned him the runner-up position as Best Male Solo Artist. He was flown to London to perform at the awards ceremony, but I can guarantee you, his music sounded just as good when he played live shows at Market Street Tavern or JJ's Bohemia.

For this year's awards, Tallman's song "Get Back" has landed him one of five finalist slots in the Male Solo Artist and Pop categories.

Public voting for this round will start Tuesday and will continue until April 5. The two finalists in each category will perform in London. Be sure to register to vote at

Besides forcing locals to pay attention to a local artist, Tallman said winning would benefit him on numerous levels.

"It would be huge, as far as [being] a good indicator that this is where I can feel confident in going with music," he said. "I've had a lot of opportunities, but it's never gone to the next level. A win there would set me up to do that."

As far as I'm concerned, Tallman doesn't need to make the finals to be worth paying attention to. He was good enough when he was just that local songwriter at one of the taverns.

So please, Chattanooga, get rid of this belief that local music is somehow less worthy than music from Nashville or Atlanta or New York. It simply isn't true, and it doesn't take a mad scientist (or a space marine or a wizard) to figure that out.

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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