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Cheley Tackett has earned more than a few accolades that mark her as a stand-out, emerging artist. A reviewer for *American Country Magazine wrote that her song, "Play the One I Like," just "might be the best song that I've heard this year so far." Maverick went so far as to call Tackett, "One of the most powerful, soulful singers in the business, she writes with the deep confidence and total abandon that only a true artist is capable of.”

Like many of Nashville’s most underappreciated musicians, Tackett is also part of the LGBT community. “I moved to Nashville almost 18 years ago from a small town in central Ohio called Springfield,” Tackett said. “My first year here was also the year I came out. It was a year for discovery in every facet of my life, personally and professionally. I have been an open and out singer-songwriter in Music City ever since.”

Her experiences along the way inspired her recently releases single, “Right Side of History,” which originated with a challenge: “A few years ago, I was invited to participate in a program called YouthSpeaks Nashville, I believe it is now called SouthernWord, sponsored by Metro Council for the Arts. As performers, we were asked to create and present a piece that embodied our vision for the future of Nashville, be it for tomorrow or 10,000 years from now.”

Tackett and her wife Tera just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. The pair was married in New York because, in 2013, same sex marriage wasn’t legal in Tennessee or Tackett’s home state of Ohio. Feelings of frustration over the battle for equality were part of the songs inspiration, but Tackett added, “it also developed from the heartbreak of constant media reports of suicides of kids that were getting bullied either for being gay or for being perceived gay.  The ‘It Gets Better Project’ had videos all over the place, and while I respect what they are trying to accomplish, I just kept thinking, ‘We're telling these kids it gets better down the line, but it needs to get better now.  They need to know it's ok to be who you are and to love who you love.’”

“This all weighed heavy on my mind at that time,” Tackett said, “and the song I wrote and presented [at YouthSpeaks] became my answer for what I wanted, not only for the future of Nashville, but for all of humanity. That song is ‘Right Side of History,’ which Answers.com has described as a ‘call to arms for all to join the fight for gay rights.’”

In the years since writing the song, Tackett has performed it live at various fundraisers and at Nashville Pride. But why release the song now as a single? “Since the SCOTUS decision, I've also had a number of people ask to use the song for their weddings. The trouble was, I only had a bare bones guitar/vocal recording. So, I crowdfunded the recording. Ordinarily, I don't rely on crowdfunding but this song felt personal for so many people and also had a very communal feel for me as an artist.”

Fans of the song were ready to get behind the project. “The recording,” Tackett said, “was paid for in 48 hours, and we raised double the goal. The extra raised is being put toward the song's video.”

The success of her fundraising is yet one more confirmation of what Tackett has long understood. “I played for years as part of a show called ‘Girls With Guitars,’ an all-female group of singer-songwriters presenting live, original music…. We found that the LGBT community had become a large part of our fan base. Playing in that show helped build a loyal base for my music over the years, and I have found there is no more loyal following than the LGBT community.”

Tackett believes that the times are changing in the world of country music, even in Nashville, and that labels would move more quickly if they understood the LGBT fan base. “The record labels pay attention to the bottom line, period,” Tackett said. “When some senior executive at one of the major labels realizes what I've learned, that the LGBT community is the most loyal fan base and will absolutely support an openly LGBT artist, then we'll see it happen.”

She doesn’t think it will be easy, but she does see it coming. “Historically, the labels are cautious and don't spoil for fights. It would likely be big news and controversial since country music is so tied to the Bible Belt and more conservative than the other genres. But, when it clicks with someone that an openly gay artist will bring in the dollars, then, we'll see a breakthrough.”

The biggest resistance, she believes, will come from country music radio. Within country, she said, “While there are allies that are charting, there are no openly gay artists. Brandy Clark is probably the most visible openly gay artist and while she's getting plenty of recognition, as well as a Grammy nomination, she's not getting much mainstream airplay as an artist….” When a label does finally launch an openly gay, mainstream artist, she added, “I think it will be a fight with country radio but it's a fight that needs to happen.”

Eventually, she says labels and audiences will also learn that LGBT musicians don’t produce “gay music.” Tackett’s own music is mainstream, for the most part, and she wouldn’t even classify “Right Side of History” as a “gay” because it speaks to a universal human experience, even if it is from an LGBT context.

“Like most singer-songwriters,” she said, “I draw on all of my experiences as well as the experiences of those around me.  I am so many things and being gay is just one of the parts of who I am.  Mostly, I just want my music to move people no matter who they are.  I think my songs are ones that everyone can relate to.”


Music News Nashville

Cheley Tackett and Steff Mahan at Eddie’s Attic in Atlanta, GA

I photograph concerts.  Big names, national touring acts.  I live a blessed life having had the opportunity to meet some of my favorite bands, take their photos, hear their music.  And yet, it’s when I get to take in a night of music from singer/songwriter friends like Cheley Tackett and Steff Mahan that I realize being blessed comes in all aspects of the music world.

Cheley and Steff aren’t the biggest hit writers out there.  They’re not “gene pool” clones that the major labels these days pump out in assembly line fashion.  And, they’re definitely not “mainstream,” whatever that term really means. But, along with being my friends, they are exceptional live performers, outstanding lyricists and melody writers, and phenomenal singers with strong, vibrant voices.

Taking the stage at Atlanta’s premiere songwriter venue, Eddie’s Attic, Cheley and Steff performed their unique and well-crafted songs for a room full of local fans who came out to hear the duo.  Tackett started the evening off with an upbeat song, belting out the lyrics in a powerful voice redolent with shades of Wynonna Judd.  Mahan’s voice could be called a mix of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick at times, and yet transitions to a Sarah McLachlan tone when singing soft ballads.

Together, these two women could give alternative duos like Indigo Girls a run for their money on the national touring stage IF ONLY…  I say “if only” because the one thing lacking in their performance is the two of them singing as a duo rather than two individual singer/songwriters on stage.  If they took that next step and included a backup band to support them, Steff and Cheley would find themselves in an entirely new stratosphere of live performances because their voices work well together and compliment each other.

Writing from the heart, both performers draw on their personal experiences with relationships, family and the social environment to write songs that have messages which resonate with the audience.  From breakups to bullying, the two talk about things that have affected them and which affect us all, making it easy to connect and relate to their music.


Cheley Tackett WHISPER ME SLOW Adroit 206 (4 stars) is a five-track EP
that not only showcases this lady’s superb songwriting talent, but also her vastly
under-appreciated vocals. Originally from Ohio, Cheley is now a fixture on Music
Row, where she writes with many of Nashville’s most notable songwriters. One
of the most powerful, soulful singers in the business, she writes with the deep
confidence and total abandon that only a true artist is capable of. She draws her
listeners in with comfortable ease and offers each and every one an original and
deep personal experience. Train Wreck is a deeply moving song about a woman
down on her luck, that even booze, anti-depressants or friends can’t help her get
back on track. Good For Me is another slow soulful ballad with lyrics and a vocal
straight out of a sawdust floor barroom. With such players as Pat Buchanan, Harry
Stinson, Mike Daly, Jen Gunderson and Steve Bailey all lending support this is top quality stuff from a singer and
songwriter who should be a whole lot better known and appreciated.

American Country Magazine

American Country April 2009 ALBUM: Words & Music Nashville Written by Ken Churilla If you’ve ever wondered what the saying ‘a diamond in the rough’ is, then welcome to Words & Music Nashville. The music that you hear on this album is just that and nearly identical to what you might hear if you stumbled into the Bluebird Café, Douglas Corner, or any of the other songwriter infested bars in Nashville. It’s not a new concept, an album of songs performed by little known songwriters instead of superstar artists, but Words & Music Nashville is very much a breath of fresh air. The songs themselves are bare bones recordings’ often featuring nothing more than the singer and an acoustic guitar but their sheer power is enough to feel like you’ve been punched directly in the gut. Most are not well known hit songs, but they are written and performed by songwriters who have written some of country music’s biggest hits such as Lisa Carver who cowrote Sugarland’s “County Line” and “Everyday America” and “These Are The Days” and Craig Monday who helped pen songs like Kenny Chesney’s “Got A Little Crazy.” “Walk Away Joe” is the exception as nearly everyone will recall the Trisha Yearwood classic written and performed here by Vince Melamed (who co-wrote the songs with Greg Barnhill). “Play The One I Like” by remarkable songwriter Cheley Tackett is hands down the most chilling moment on this album. Truth be told, it might be the best song that I’ve heard this year so far. Other songs to seek out include “I’m Not Ready” is one that would take over any writers night in Nashville and Joshua Rush’s “I Found Myself Dancing” is a hit waiting to happen. Words & Music Nashville gives the listener a chance to hear songs in their infancy the same way your favorite artists hear them when they are deciding on what songs to record for their next record. Don’t be surprised one day when you hear a new song on the radio by some huge artist and start singing along wondering “…where do I know this song from?”


"One of the most remarkable vocalists on this first "Words & Music Nashville" project is Cheley Tackett. Imagine All ison Moorer's blissfully soulful voice and you've got yourself a good comparison for Cheley. Written with Nicole Witt and Rick Tiger, "Play The Song I Like" is a truly wonderful track that showcases Tackett’s great songwriting as well."

Springfield News Sun

Tackett finds home on new Nashville label By Andrew McGinn Staff Writer Friday, March 06, 2009 SPRINGFIELD — Cheley Tackett's big break was at hand — Lee Ann Womack had placed one of her songs on hold. "It just means they're considering it," Tackett explained. "But in their heads, it means it shouldn't be pitched to other artists." It was one of the few love songs Tackett had written since arriving in Nashville a decade ago, and Womack would've been a good fit for it. Or so she thought. Womack ended up releasing an entire album of heartbreak songs. "Go figure," Tackett said. "It's all timing." The singer-songwriter — a 1990 Northeastern High alum and the daughter of Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett — has had similar close calls with Montgomery Gentry, Martina McBride, Jo Dee Messina, Billy Currington and Diamond Rio. She's gotten close. Just not close enough. "I was definitely naive when I got here, fresh from college and ready to take on the world," Tackett said. "I knew it'd be hard. I didn't know how hard it would be." Life for Tackett — and a few other Music City songwriters — might be getting a little easier thanks to a new startup label, Adroit Records. The label, started by L.A. transplant Jim Tract, was created to give a select group of Nashville songwriters some visibility. Tackett was picked to be on the label's first release, the compilation "Words & Music Nashville." On the new comp, 10 Nashville songwriters give voice to their own songs. "He's trying to get us exposure we don't usually get," Tackett said. But not all of them are struggling. Vince Melamed can be heard performing his song "Walkaway Joe" — a No. 2 hit for Trisha Yearwood in 1992. Tract spotted Tackett by accident performing at Nashville's legendary Bluebird Cafe. "It was astonishing," he said. "There are very few people that can quiet a room. Cheley's one of those people, where glasses come down and heads turn." For Tract, Adroit Records is something of a dream come true. He remixed the hit version of the Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" back in 1984, but eventually got pigeonholed, he complained. "What I really wanted to do was organic, true music," he said. Same goes for Tackett. She left Ohio for Nashville with hopes of being a singer-songwriter, and she's had promising breaks. In 2002, she followed in the footsteps of Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett by winning the New Folk award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. She still writes for herself — she runs a cleaning service by day — but she also tries to write commercially for mainstream country artists. "One of my worst fears is that I'll write some dumb song," she said, "and that'll be my biggest hit."

Springfield News Sun

Fair enternment to have local flavor By Andrew McGinn Staff Writer Up until this year, the Clark County Fair had been the place to see country stars before they became stars. Garth and Reba were there. So were Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts. But even though the fair has opted for local country talent over a national country act this year because of money worries, nothing’s really changed. The two homegrown singers you’ll see in action under the Big Tent still have their sights set on that Nashville skyline. And, yeah, when the 2006 fair opens on Friday, all music will retreat back to its old home in the Big Tent after a stint inside the Champions Center. Singer-songwriter Cheley Tackett, who plays the fair at 8 p.m. Saturday, actually has been kicking around Music City for a while now. The daughter of Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett, Cheley Tackett already has a few things to brag about. She won the 2002 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in North Carolina for her song “Penny Wishes.” She also had been named a new folk winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. Previous new folk winners include Lucinda Williams and Lyle Lovett. Closing the fair at 8 p.m. July 28 is a guy who really doesn’t need much of an introduction anymore — Gene Bowshier. The king of the region’s country scene, Bowshier has been working to finish a new album in Nashville. He also opened for Billy Currington recently in Blue Ash, Ohio. Admission to both concerts is free with the fair’s $5 gate admission (plus $2 for parking).

Americana Tonight! Monthly Nov/Dec 2005

In 2001, Cheley released her debut CD "When We Knew It All." The track "Penny Wishes" earned the Just Plain Folks Award for Country Song of the Year in 2001, while also topping the country category of the 2002 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. One month later, Cheley's songs "When We Knew It All" and "Feelin' A Little Lonely" helped her become a New Folk Winner at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, TX. Tackett hosts a hugely popular writers' night in Nashville and can often be found as an integral part of the monthly Girls With Guitars series. Her current release, "Here," is an absolute gem, showing equal parts sensitive and swampy, and cementing the idea that Cheley is the real deal.

Church Street Freedom Press Nov. 24, 2005 p. 16

The thing that carries the new release from Ohio native Cheley Tackett is the same thing that has helped her develop and maintain such a loyal following for her live performances: she’s a damned fine songwriter. On her new CD release “Here,”Tackett’s fans get a sampling of the kind of writing that puts her in that rare echelon of artists who cut to the heart of the matter in ways which speak the language of the listener while creating poetry. The trick to any art form is to make it so accessible that anyone believes he or she could create it themselves. It’s only in the trying that one sees just how much work and talent go into saying those "simple" words in conversational ways, keeping a flowing storyline, and matching it to just the right melody to create that seminal three and a half minutes of musical cohesion. Tackett’s musical style sits on the point of the Americana landscape where country, gospel, southern male rock and singer/songwriter traditions collide. In the opening number “Homegrown.” a musical tribute to her father, she let’s her flag of patriotism fly as high and proudly as any Toby Keith or Molly Hatchett number could do. Family tradition and history are recurring themes, whether in the more nostalgic numbers such as “Jerusalem Ridge” or in the playful strut of “Fried Chicken.” The latter puts a distinctively female spin on the age-old southern culture balance of sin and salvation, in this case trolling for a little excitement while wearing the puppy-dog grin that guarantees Sunday’s forgiveness for Saturday night’s misadventures. The wistful ballad “Good for Me” finds all the weariness and resignation of a lifetime of self-defeating behaviors sung with the knowingness of a self-professed alcoholic ordering a double. In a slight departure of style if not totally of theme,“Up Here” (co-written with Lisa Christian) is a wonder, somehow combining the seemingly dichotomous themes of loss, comfort, connection, detachment, reaching out and letting go.Many of Tackett’s songs are meditations on love, loss and longing and her vocal quality only adds to the mood, providing the ambient melancholic ache of a distant midnight train whistle. As an independent effort, “Here” is one more reminder of the level of talent that exists just under the radar of the major labels in today’s music market. Here’s hoping that this talented writer gets the industry attention she so deserves. For more information on Cheley Tackett, check out her website at www.cheleytackett.com.

Church Street Freedom Press Nov. 3, 2005 p. 17

Ever since I first met Cheley Tackett I have been captivated by her warm spirit, heated intelligence and burning talent. It was several years ago that I first attended a Girls With Guitars show at Douglas Corner. She is a regular member of GwG. I was skeptical because I am not generally a country music fan.At first glance, in her black western shirt, denim jeans and cowboy boots, I definitely had her pegged as yet another Nashville Country-ite – not for me. I was wrong.Her voice powered through the room as a noisy, well on their way to drunk, crowd couldn’t help but quiet themselves. It didn’t take long to figure out that Tackett couldn’t be boxed in to any one genre, ranging from rock, folk,Americana and yes, Country.You would never guess that she is from South Vienna,Ohio as she sings songs that any self-respecting Southerner (or Southern transplants like myself ) can relate to on a very real and personal level. Apparently, those who know more about music than me agree since Tackett has won awards in virtually every musical category out there, including winning Merlefest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in the Country category (past winners have included Gillian Welch and Tift Merritt). Shortly thereafter, at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Tackett won as a New Folk Winner, following in the footsteps of Nancy Griffith, John Gorka and Lucinda Williams, to name a few. Just last year, she was a semifinalist in the Rock category of the International Songwriting Competition. Tackett can be found playing around town any given week on her own or with various combinations of a shady group of sultry musical vixens including Lisa Carver,Annie Mosher,Tammy Fowler and Cathey Stamps. Set to release November 12,Tackett’s latest CD, titled “Here,” is a beautiful follow-up to her first, leaving a lasting impression of seasoned songwriting and storytelling with a vocal talent that is so affecting and effusive, you’ll find yourself humming the tunes after a single listen.When she nails her introspective material as she does on “Play the One I Like” and “Where Is There,” she conjures up images of Johnny Cash and Mary Chapin-Carpenter with her deceptively simple but instantly engaging style of lyricism. Elsewhere, she tries her hand at tongue-andcheek “behind the music” writing with “Homegrown” and “Fried Chicken,” nicely kicking introspection in the ass with a heartfelt upbeat passion for her home and family that most songwriters fail at getting across without cheesing it up. It is a mark of artistic virtuosity and range when a singer-songwriter can make you dance in your car one minute and then have you purposely miss your exit, so you can compose yourself, after hearing one of her many deeply moving songs that touch on regret, loss or hopes and dreams. Cheley Tackett is a touchstone of authenticity in an imagedriven, media- defined musical world. She is a beautiful singer and songwriter, deeply refreshing. CD Release Party: November 12th, 9:00 PM at Douglas Corner, 2106, 8th Avenue South,Nashville.Tackett’s website: www.cheleytackett.com

Church Street Freedom Press

Belgium's MazzMusikaS Free-zine

‘Out of the blue’ mocht ik verleden jaar een cd ontvangen van Annie Mosher. Die bleek een voltreffer te zijn. Annie bracht me dan weer op het spoor van een Nashville meidencollectief dat Girls with Guitars heet, momenteel 12 vrouwelijke songwriters telt die allemaal met een gitaar overweg kunnen, en onlangs een eerste cd uitgebracht heeft. Check www.girlswithguitars.us. Benevens Annie Mosher is o.a. Cheley Tackett één van deze Girls with Guitars. Jawel, ook deze Cheley Tackett kan me uitermate bekoren. Net zoals Annie Mosher heeft ze weinig van doen met de mainstream Nashville country. Integendeel, op deze tweede cd van haar – in 2001 verscheen When We Knew It All – horen we vooral stevige Southern countryrock, r&b, rootsrock en songwriterreferenties naar Lucinda Williams en pakweg Steve Earle. Pure country is hier ver te zoeken. Haar twee belangrijkste troeven zijn haar stem, die uitstekend geschikt is voor het stevigere werk, en haar songs. Ze schrijft al haar songs zelf of gaat op zoek naar een gelijkgestemde ziel om songs mee te componeren. Op deze cd zijn dat respectievelijk Lisa Christian en Nicolle Witt. Het verbaast me niks dat ze o.a. de Kerville Folk Festival contest en de Merlefest Songwriting Contest op haar palmares heeft staan. De track Penny Wishes uit haar eerste cd leverde haar in 2001 de Just Plain Folks Award for country song of the year op. Om maar te zeggen dat deze dame knappe songs uit haar mouw schudt. Het is vooral de mix van allerlei Americana stijlen die het hem doen: country, Southern rootsrock, r&b, gospel, songwriting... In opener Homegrown is het meteen raak: een flinke dosis Southern countryrock met de nodige r&b inslag. Play The One I Like is dan weer een mooie piano ballad. Sky Is Falling gaat wederom de rootsrock toer op. In de weemoedige ballad Good For Me heeft ze het over allerlei verleidingen des levens waaronder drank en de drang daar niet aan kunnen te weerstaan. Absolute hoogtepunten zijn Jerusalem Ridge en Where Is There, beiden gezegend met een hoog Lucinda Williams/Steve Earle gehalte, en Fried Chicken, Southern rock van het zuiverste water. Deze dame is geen katje om zonder handschoenen aan te pakken. ‘One of the best kept secrets in Nashville’ staat er ergens op haar website te lezen. Daar ben ik het volledig mee eens. (BV)