Producer T Bone Burnett Has Scathing Words for Nashville

October 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  19 Comments

Big shot producer T Bone Burnett whose in charge of the music for the new ABC drama Nashville premiering tonight (10-10) had some pretty scathing words about the state of music in Music City when talking to The New Orleans Times-Picayune about the upcoming television series.

“These days, (country) radio is essentially a guy in his room with a computer,” T Bone told the paper. “Maybe he plays the guitar part and maybe he plays the bass part. The rest of it’s all computer.”

T Bone went on to share that the music they’re producing for the series will be “very, very commercial” when it pertains to the character Hayden Panettiere: the young, up-and-coming crossover star. But he told the Picayune everything else will work “around the edges” while calling mainstream Nashville music, “not that interesting.”

The most interesting things that happen in Nashville all happen around the edges. The things we all know about Nashville, we all know. And it’s not that interesting… Vince Gill doesn’t have a record deal, but he’s still every bit as genius an artist that he ever was. We’re going to work with all of those people to create an alternate universe of country music. It’s the universe that is the way it would sound if I was in charge.

T Bone Burnett also says there’s a glut of good material laying around Nashville because that’s not the type of material commercial country wants.

Because the bottleneck of commercial country radio is so profound, there’s a wealth of incredible material laying around town. This is a big surprise to me, how many extraordinary songs we’ve been able to find. An industrial amount of bad songs, to be sure, but a surprising amount of really good, handcrafted, personal songs that people are willing to share with us because there’s no longer a platform for them to share their music at all. I hope that we become the platform for the people who are writing from their whole hearts.

 Read Complete Times-Picayune Story on T-Bone

Read How ABC’s Nashville Could Have Big Impact



19 Comments to “Producer T Bone Burnett Has Scathing Words for Nashville”

  • I wonder how many underground artists will be featured on the show. This may just be the shot in the arm they need to hit it big and finally be able to make a full living off of their craft.

    “Safe and Sound”, which Burnett co-wrote, provides a good insight into his musical tastes, and therefore gives me real hope for the songs in this show.


    • The problem is T Bone’s definition of “underground” is much different from yours or mine. To him, The Civil Wars and Lucinda Williams are underground. To me, these people have reached the pinnacle of what most underground artists could ever fully realize.

      I’ve watched the first episode “Nashville” and have my review coming up. In it there’s a character that is portrayed as a “punk-country” guy, and he’s portrayed in a negative light. My guess is T Bone is going to use the show to assert his watered-down version of the Americana world of artists whose he’s friends or business associates with, or like he said above, “the way it (the universe) would sound if I was in charge” instead of trying to branch out and cover all aspects of the “edges.”

      And while I’m babbling, though I applaud T Bone for standing up and saying some important things, I don’t necessarily agree with it all. Saying that mainstream radio country is “just a guy with a computer” is a gross reduction. I know what he’s getting at, but that’s a pretty unfair portrayal. And that’s coming from someone who admittedly looks to cast mainstream music in a negative light whenever I can.


      • I absolutely agree that his “computer” comment is unfair. If anything, mainstream country music is probably the only entity in mainstream music today where actual instruments are used. Burnett’s comments are far more applicable to pop “music”, where true music has virtually disappeared and the production has become heavily based on computer beats.


  • Interesting comments considering Borchetta signed a deal with the show to have Big Machine songs/”artists” on the show.


    • From my understanding, Big Machine artists and/or songs will not necessarily be featured on the show (though they may be just like any others), but that Big Machine will be exclusively releasing the original music from the show. Though I’m sure this will eventually lead to more Big Machine material finding its way on to the series.

      It’s interesting that one of the things the series is highlighting is Nashville’s cronyism, when cronyism is all over this thing, especially in regards to the music. T Bone Burnett’s wife Callie Khouri is the executive producer of the show, and T Bone has already said he’s using stars he’s worked with before. For example in the first episode, it’s clearly a Civil Wars song that is highlighted. But I guess the cronyism is okay because it’s Americana and not mainstream country. ;)


      • Artists who like each other collaborating with each other is not cronyism.

        cronyism |ˈkrōnēˌizəm|
        noun derogatory
        the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.

        I know you are not saying the Civil Wars are not qualified to contribute to this show. I can tell you have some kind of knowledge about cronyism in Nashville, but this cannot be it.


  • If it turns out that some good artists get some pub off of this cool. May not be hellbound glory but if the civil wars or lucinda williams become “the gateway drug” for some to a wider range or artists thats a good thing. Had it not been for Steve Earles mainstream success back in the day I would have nver discovered REK etc etc etc. A Steve Earle could not happen today on mainstream radio but a show like this could expose folks to new artists.


  • Be nice if they get Hank 3 on the show. but I don’t see that happening. I’ll probably record the show.to watch later I was hoping it would really show how Nashvile really works.


    • He has done some acting gigs and is pursuing that side of the biz however mildly.


      • Great to hear it would be great for him to be on the show. Since you’ve seen it does it really show how Nashvile really works? I hoping the show won’t give a sugar coated version.


        • It definitely shows the bad side, but it’s so dramatized I’m not sure it’s an accurate portrayal of how the music business in Nashville is. It’s a prime time soap opera, with love stories and the whole bit. I’ll be posting my review shortly.


          • Can’t wait to read it.


    • Shelton in a prime time TV drama? That would go over like a fart in church.


  • This doesn’t have anything really to do with this article but I thought I would share anyways. I signed up for this survey called CMT Soundboard which asks you to review music and videos and give your input. This last survey asked about 3 videos from Kacey Musgraves, Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers. I found it interesting that all of the surveys have been about not so well known artists or artists I consider underground. Not as underground as Hellbound or Jayke Orvis but a start towards root music.

    Seems to me CMT is trying to find out what interest is out there for these type of artists.



  • i wonder how much music they can actually afford to license for the show. i recall reading an article a couple of years ago about a small indie band that got a song onto greys anatomy and i think they were paid like 10k for it. thats not a ton of money but it can add up during a one hour show about music or maybe they will convince smaller bands that they should take a lot less in exchange for the exposure. maybe im wrong about the 10k but thats the number in my head.


    • Licensing is a huge deal, especially for songwriters. $10,000 is probably on the low end of what some songwriters get few certain songs, and Scott Borchetta is on the cutting edge right now of leveraging licensing of songs for revenue. My guess is this is one of the reasons he wanted to be involved. Borchetta involvement in “Nashville” could eventually be as big as his deal with Clear Channel.


    • One show that has featured plenty of real artists is Sons of Anarchy. Biram, Justin Townes Earle, Whitey Morgan. Seems to me pretty fitting that a show about trashville features less real music than one about a MC. Pretty accurate depiction if you ask me.


      • SONS has excellent music. Tons of originals and covers. Last week they had a female artist cover “Uncloudy Day”. I didn’t get a chance to look up who it was?

        Shooter’s “All of This Could Have Been Yours” closed out last seasons finale.


      • The brains of that show always had good taste in music going back to their days of “The Shield”… I miss that show.


Leave a comment

Del Maguey
Old Soul Radio Show
Modern Roots
Best Of Lists