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As part of The What Podcast (thewhatpodcast.com) that I co-host, we've had the opportunity to interview several artists over the last year, and a common theme emerged. Though it was not overtly intentional, we tended to gravitate toward artists who were honest in their music and who weren't afraid to showcase their vulnerability in their songwriting.

Looking back at this year's Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival and the shows that resonated with me, that was also definitely true. Anyone who saw the War & Treaty show at Riverbend this year also saw what I'm talking about. It's just an anecdotal observation, of course, but it gives me hope for the future of music.

I'd much rather listen to someone who is speaking from the heart and personal experience than someone who is pretending to be a gun-toting hardened criminal or a 10-gallon-hat-wearing cowboy. What's also interesting is that EDM has become such a big part of the Bonnaroo lineup with two stages dedicated to the mostly computer-generated pulsing beats, which is pretty much the opposite of what I'm talking about. I like EDM OK for about 15 minutes, but others like it a lot, so that's fine by me.

The three acts that stood out for me, and many others, especially this year at Bonnaroo, were Childish Gambino, Brandi Carlile and John Prine. They were contrasts in styles. Gambino because of his spellbinding ability to hold the audience's attention with his words and stage presence. His show was one for the ages.

Prine and Carlile were also terrific, but they did so with their words. Prine is a remarkable storyteller and wordsmith, of course, and Carlile, who made special note of it being Father's Day, was mesmerizing with her stories and songs about her wife and two daughters.

All three were about as honest as it gets, and that is what shone through. Prine's show was also aided by the fact that Carlile joined him for a song.

But on our podcast we also did on-site interviews with Bishop Briggs and Quinn XCII, two up-and-coming artists, and previously talked with Deva Mahal, Delacey, Patrick Droney and Adam Met from AJR. All said that the key to their budding successes was when they decided to write music that meant something to them without regard to whether others might like it, or even hear it.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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