NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the Grammy-winning string band Old Crow Medicine Show put down their fiddles and banjos and picked up chainsaws last week after deadly tornadoes hit middle Tennessee.
“When I am doing this relief work in north Nashville and east Nashville and Donelson, the guys in Old Crow got their chainsaws out,” said lead singer Ketch Secor on Monday night, nearly a week after the severe storms. “We love our concerts and our audience, but when this happens in our town, we’re out there leading the charge.”
Nashville musicians banded together both in their community, but also on stage during a benefit concert Monday night called “To Nashville, With Love” featuring a dozen artists playing to raise money for relief efforts. Some of the musicians who performed don’t live in Tennessee full-time, but record there and have close connections.
British singer-songwriter Yola got to work immediately, helping organize the concert in less than a week. Performers included Old Crow Medicine Show, Sheryl Crow, Dan Auerbach, Jason Isbell, Soccer Mommy, Brothers Osborne and Ashley McBryde. The proceeds from Monday’s concert were going to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. At least six tornadoes hit the state and killed 24 people.
“That tornado whipped out a lot of precious things, a lot of mementos, a lot of things that signify a family life or a loved one,” said Yola backstage. “You need to put that love back in.”
Many in the town’s musical community were impacted. Country star Dierks Bentley and his crew showed up in gloves and boots to help his drummer, Steve Misamore, whose home was severely damaged. Dualtone Records’ Nashville office was directly hit, as well as a popular club called The Basement East.
Mike Grimes and Dave Brown, co-owners of The Basement East, said staff members were finishing their shifts early Tuesday morning after a Bernie Sanders fundraising concert when one person stepped outside and saw a funnel cloud approaching. The staff grabbed three pedestrians off the street and huddled in the basement as the tornado tore down the venue’s cinderblock walls and ripped off the roof. No one was hurt at The Basement East, but two people were killed as they were leaving a neighboring bar.
But left standing among the rubble was one piece of wall that featured a mural that declared “I Believe in Nashville.” It was a slogan that became popular in Nashville after the devastating 2010 flooding that hit the city. Even amidst the debris, people have still been walking past roadblocks to take a picture of the mural that survived the winds.
“It’s an amazing thing that it is still standing and very symbolic of the town’s resolve and resiliency,” said Brown.
Just as the town’s artists donated their time and money to help others after the flood in 2010, already many donations are pouring in. Taylor Swift announced a $1 million donation for tornado relief efforts and country duo Dan + Shay donated $100,000.
Grammy-winning singer Brandi Carlile lives in Washington state, but has been spending a lot of time in Nashville in recent years because of her work with the country supergroup The Highwomen as well as producing Tanya Tucker’s latest Grammy-winning album. Carlile said backstage at the concert that the volunteer response in Tennessee has been overwhelming.
“I’ve got friends that are going into people’s houses that are just completely destroyed without a roof and putting a tarp over people’s clothes and folding their things so that when they come home, some of their memories are intact,” said Carlile.