Georgia-Country.com Artist of the Month

On a monthly basis, Georgia-Country.com spotlights a Georgia artist that we feel is furthering their career in country music. Below is our current artist of the month. We hope you enjoy reading their interview and getting to know this artist more. Be sure to check out their music, videos and schedule for the month. If you are a Georgia-based artist, 18 and over, and would like to be considered for Artist of the Month, please contact us with your name and a website to review.

Our Sept Artist of the Month is Shelia Quattlebaum and we're also profiling her new venue, East of Austin in Villa Rica. She was our Artist of the Month in March of 2012. GC revists Shelia and wanted to check out her new venue, East of Austin.

GC: Shelia, bring us up to speed of what you've been doing as an artist this past year.

SQ: Unfortunately, I haven't been doing a lot of performing or writing this year. Been extremely busy opening up a music venue, which opened the end of June. I just performed there for the first time on August 23rd. I put together a Linda Ronstadt Tribute Show and had some fantastic people onstage with me that night. It was a pleasure performing with Cindi Hall for the first time along with Gary McCoy and Gerald Craig, and bassist, Claudio Cordaro. I had played with Claudio before. We had a great show and our venue's first packed house since opening. My next show there will be the end of November, as I am putting together an all-female songwriters' show.

GC: You and your husband, Mike, recently opened East of Austin in Villa Rica. Can you tell us when you started thinking about a live music venue and how things came about?

SQ: Mike and I had been thinking about it and wanting to do something like this for many years. We finally just went for it, so to speak. Quite a few people have heard this story already, but back at the beginning of this year, we were in our living room moving furniture around trying to see how many people we could fit in there for a house concert. I had been contacted by some friends in Nashville that wanted to come down and do one at our home. So as we were moving this furniture around, Mike looks at me and says something like, "Why are we doing this? Why don't we just open up our own venue." And then he looked at me and firmly said, "It's now or never." So, 7 months later and a lot of hard work, here we are! As a performer, myself, I've seen through the years the opportunities to play to an attentive audience dwindle. The artist is in direct competition with too many things while onstage or sadly just used as background noise a lot of times. East of Austin has created the atmosphere for the artist to come in, step up on our stage, and play for an audience that came to hear them.

GC: Were there any other venues that inspired you and how or why?

SQ: Well, of course the Bluebird Café in Nashville and Eddie's Attic in Atlanta. The Bluebird for obvious reasons, and Eddie's Attic is well-respected. For the songwriter, the Bluebird is the ultimate. I have had the honor of playing there a couple of times and sharing the stage with some big-time hit writers, and oh, what a thrill. I am extremely happy to say that so far, East of Austin's audiences have been right up there with the Bluebird's. We had Nashville's own, Buddy Jewell and Eddie Heinzelman, come down on August 3rd, and I think they were very surprised at how quiet and respectful our audience was that night. They loved it and said they would love to come back. Mike and I just wanted a place where the music fan could go out and actually hear the songs without background noise or crowd chatter going on and without the music being too loud. Don't like to go out and see TVs hanging above or back of the stages. We wanted a place where the artists and the songs were the focus. I think we have that! We also want our place to have the feel of maybe being out in Austin or Memphis. When you walk in the room, you get it. You leave loving the show, the experience. At least we hope so!

GC:You've been a very active songwriter over the years. Why do you think it's important to have a place for artists to showcase original material?

SQ: Well, because otherwise, you're left singing the songs you've written to yourself, your mama, or your dog in the basement or bedroom. You might can occasionally "throw" one in on a regular gig, but odds are the crowd noise will be so loud they will never hear that it is one you've written, and they will leave never ever knowing you were singing your heart out up there onstage, particularly on that song because it actually means something to you. It's important because it will give you confidence to keep writing also. I know a lot of songwriters that say they will forever write and enjoy it even if no one ever hears any of their songs. I'm happy for those writers. I wish I was like that, but I'm not. The writing part, I get; I just have that need in me to perform and play for someone. Original material needs to be heard at specific types of venues also. There aren't many out there. I am proud to say that, although East of Austin does a variety of different types of shows with originals and covers, our venue is definitely a great one for the songwriter.

GC: Have you seen country songwriting change over the years? Not necessarily what is on top 40 radio, but has the "style" of writing changed and if so, how?

SQ: Definitely. There are a lot more words in the songs now. Take for example, Willie Nelson's, "Blue Eyes Crying InThe Rain" and compare that to one of today's top songs. Count the words. Talking about getting a face and tongue work-out after singing one of the songs on the radio these days! Ha!! Today's songs seem to be written mainly for a more age-specific group also, which I don't really agree with. Makes every song sound the same and with the same words in them. Musically, the style has tremendously changed.

GC: To anyone who has not been to East of Austin yet, what would a new attendee experience?

SQ: A very intimate experience. Up-close and personal. The stage and the performers are right there at you. The audience is quiet and taking in every single note sung or played. Like I already said, we want to create a unique atmosphere. I definitely know it is something different for our West Georgia area.

GC: Any big-name songwriters or artists planned for East of Austin in the coming weeks or months?

SQ: Yes. On October 25th we will have hit songwriters, Byron Hill and Wil Nance. Byron's had cuts by Clay Walker, Tracy Byrd, and Alabama, just to name a few, and Wil wrote "She's Everything" by Brad Paisley and many more. I am in the process of starting to book for 2015 right now, and I have a lot of names on the list I'd love to bring to our area! We can't, however, do it without the support from our communities and from the music communities.

GC: As a venue owner, what would you say are your biggest challenges?

SQ: I am the first to admit I am super-picky. I'm not looking for just a great singer or a great musician. I'm looking for the person who can entertain an audience also. Our audience is not smoking, drinking, (as we are an alcohol-free venue at this time) or dancing, so the performer has to keep their attention for at least 90 minutes if you are the headliner. We are a listening venue, but we are not a boring listening venue. We can also be defined as a performance venue. So, it's hard to find people who can do both. I was thinking one of our greatest challenges was going to be keeping the audience more on the quiet side, but so far they have been great! Right now we are only doing two shows a month, the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, so advertising and keeping the shows in people's minds is a big challenge. With football season here, that is direct competition. You have to hope that everyone out there is not a die-hard sports fan. (ha)

GC: What are your plans long-term for East of Austin?

SQ: There's so much talent in our area. There's no reason we can't become another Austin, Texas or Nashville. We would like to put East of Austin on the music map and be one of the most sought-after venues where artists want to play and people want to go. Eventually, we will be doing more than two shows a month. Right now we are focusing on spreading the word and building our audience. I want to see sell-outs for every single show we book! Please visit our website at: www.eastofaustinlive.com