Jonathan Susman is nothing if not a champion of Chattanooga's musicians. A real local Lancelot.
About a decade ago, he left the Scenic City to move to Nashville with his band mates in the Hopsing Project. During his seven years in the Music City, he also wrote for the Nashville Scene alt-weekly and toured briefly with Samantha Gibb, the daughter of Bee Gees member Maurice Gibb.
Flush with excitement over the prospects of the then-recently-announced music venue Track 29, however, he returned to Chattanooga in September 2010, joining the ranks of Chattanooga Presents, the organizers of such events as Nightfall and the 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival.
Since then, he's had his fingers in many, many musical pies. As Chattanooga Presents' media coordinator, he masterminded the Road to Nightfall. He also co-founded the Chattanooga Music Council, a brain trust that sought ways to help local artists and promote the city's music scene to the outside world.
As he kept those various plates spinning, however, he says he's found his attention increasingly focused over the last several months on advising local musicians, who frequently approach him seeking help with where to record or rehearse and how to expand their reach to regional cities.
"People come to me and ask me questions about what they can do as a band, just from my time of having booked them and built up a rapport with them," he says.
With that in mind, Susman says he's decided to leave Chattanooga Presents on July 31 to pursue a dream project.
He's still mum on the details, but the idea of taking a more active role in the music community has been percolating in his mind for three years. Originally, he was focused on creating rehearsal spaces for bands but ditched that after deciding he wanted to offer broader services, including connecting artists with professional development courses and "community animation" through events such a local busking program.
In essence, he wants to become more actively involved in helping bands get a leg up, "a community advocate for local musicians," he says.
"It's a combination of a leap of faith and me finding that I was spending more and more time on these other things as they became more important to me," he explains. "I needed space to be able to focus solely on this stuff."
As to how he'll earn a living? He says he'll be working on producing his own events and contracting his services out to other event organizers.
I wish him luck.
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.