Belles and Gals

There’s so many ways to discover artists and music these days, largely due to the growth of social media, and I have to thank a random comment on an Ashley McBryde fan page for coming across Ohio born Cheley Tackett. The pair are friends and frequent collaborators, so of course I had to give Cheley’s music a listen ( incredible!) and check out her tour dates ( even more incredible as she was set to play a house concert a few miles from me that week!) . It would have been rude not to make that 20 minute drive and seeing her in such an intimate setting was something very special. Playing songs from her recent release “ Buckeye “ and back catalogue she told us some of the stories behind her writing ( often hilarious, sometimes poignant, always interesting) and her rich, powerful and emotional vocals were even better than on her recordings.

Cheley has one more UK gig before returning home to Nashville, tonight ( Oct 18th) she plays Ealing, West London. For further information, links to her socials and details of where to stream/download her music go to

We had a long chat after her set, and of course that included me asking if she’d answer some questions for this site …….hope you enjoy her interesting answers!

1. LH Hello Cheley, I gather you’re still in the UK as you’re answering these questions but exactly where are you right now?
CT In Brighton right now. Then have a few days off to explore London & am playing final gig on this run at Westfield House in South Ealing Thursday night.

2. LH Sorry but I’ve only recently come across your music, not sure why especially as you seem to visit us pretty regularly! What is it you like about playing to a UK audience?
CT UK audiences seem more attentive than US audiences & I think lyrics seem to matter more here which may lend to the attentiveness as you have to pay attention to catch the words.

3. LH Taking things back to your Ohio days, how did you get your musical education and which artists were you listening to there that you and made you want to write/perform? I’m picking up quite a variety of influences in your music…
CT My dad bought my mom a guitar but it sat in the closet & didn’t see much daylight. They said around five years old I started dragging it out and trying to use the couch to leverage & hold it and then sang every song I’d ever heard to an open strum. When I finally got old enough to actually hold it, around age 10, they put me into guitar lessons. As far as influences go, they’re varied but Jerry Reed was my first concert. I grew up watching & listening to HeeHaw & Pop Goes the Country. I remember a good bit of Kenny Rogers & Barbara Mandrell as well as the outlaws & Johnny Cash being played but Mom also had lots of the Beatles music & some Pop Top 40. As I got a little older, I gravitated to the country female altos like Kathy Mattea, Wynonna, & Mary Chapin Carpenter (aside from the lack of women in country music, where the hell have all the altos gone?). I listened to a good bit of rock too, U2, Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc. I’ve joked that if Tom Petty & Mary Chapin Carpenter had a baby, it might sound like my latest album Buckeye.

4.LH When did you decide to relocate to Nashville……did you know anyone there and how welcoming did you find the songwriting community initially?
CT I think I always knew I was going to land in Nashville. I’m pretty sure my parents weren’t surprised much that I moved there eventually but we had an agreement that I would finish college & get my degree before I moved there, and so I did. I found the songwriting community to be extremely welcoming & the best way to network the music industry itself. They were much more accessible, even the hit writers, than other facets of the industry.

5. LH Co-writing is a huge part of the Nashville music scene isn’t it, do you feel pressure going into a writing session to achieve something every time or do you just relax and have fun, with a song at the end of the day being a bonus?
CT When I was new I felt pressure, and there is certainly some pressure on paid staff writers as they contractually have an annual quota, but I’ve learned that you have to stay true to the song and some songs need more time to breathe. The other thing I’ve learned though is that co-writing tends to jumpstart me some as a solo writer as well. So, if I’m in a rut trying to write on my own, I book more co-writes to get my writing brain working better.

6. LH Are there any particular co-writers you generally always tend to click with ….and anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?

CT There are a few repeat names on my latest album as well as on albums I’ve put out before. Nicole Witt (from Farewell Angelina) & I met very shortly after we both moved to Nashville. We’ve just always really clicked. She’s also a hell of a singer & musician and has been on every single album I’ve put out in some capacity. Lisa Carver and I are old friends & write well together but interestingly enough have always written better with a third person in the room. Same holds true for my buddy Ashley McBryde. Rob Wolf, Randall Clay, Mark Stephen Jones, Blue Foley, all great co-writers that helped bring out the best in me. As far as who I’d like to get in a room with? I’m itchin’ to get in a room with Travis Meadows. We’ve been friends for awhile now but haven’t seemed to manage to get a date nailed down when we’re both in town. Lori McKenna, Erin Enderlin, & Brandy Clark are some gals I haven’t written with yet that I’d like to.

7. LH Yet one of my favourite songs of yours, “ Good For Me” was a solo write that took just 30 minutes I gather! I guess some very personal experiences can result in outpourings like this?
CT The speed I wrote that one in surprised me. I never even edited it. I perform it exactly as it showed up in the world. You just never know. “Jerusalem Ridge,” which is another solo write, took me almost a year. I had the first two verses written for months w/o knowing what the hook was or the melody for the chorus. Like I said, some songs need more time to breathe.

8 LH. Can I ask you about your most recent release, “ Buckeye” . Were all the songs written especially for this album, or were any of them from a while back, just waiting for the right place to land?

CT No, none of them were written specifically for this album. I had a collection of songs that I felt sat with each other and realized as I was looking towards recording that they all had threads of Ohio running through them that tied them together. Some more subtle than others but even $2 Bill which I’ve had for some time now but just didn’t make sense for other projects, seemed a natural fit for this record.

9. LH Do you have a favourite from it to perform live ( with or without a band!) and is there maybe one that’s getting particularly good feedback ( I’m especially fond of the dark “ My Best Dress” and the uplifting closing track “ Magic Still Happens”! )
CT I love rocking out on All She Knows is Rain but I’m getting the best response on $2 Bill, The Healer, My Best Dress, Used to Feel Good, & Magic Still Happens.

10 .LH When we met we talked about the uphill struggle facing female country artists these days to get radio play ( you looked back at some stats over the past few decades didn’t you?) and headline slots at festivals. It really is tough out there now isn’t it? How disheartening and frustrating is it for you and your contemporaries ? And can you see a way out of this any time soon?

CT It’s incredibly frustrating especially when I know some of the best music is being made by women but country radio’s not playing them so nobody’s hearing them. Also, we’ve been seeing less & less females on the charts & in the festivals for years now. It’s been a steady decline for decades. Somethings got to give. I’m not sure what exactly that is but I think it’s going to require more women in positions of power in radio, A&R, publishing, promotion, management, and in executive positions at the labels. The whole industry has disproportionate representation. I think women should start buying radio stations. I also think an all women festival or touring festival (think a country version of Lilith Fair) might be a good idea too to prove that female artists have a draw & can sell tickets.

11. LH What does the remainder of 2018 and early 2019 hold in store for you?
CT The remainder of 2018 has me writing more and touring in the US. March 2019 finds me back in the UK with dates in Liverpool, Bewdley, Colchester, Brighton, and more still to be added.

Country Music People

Think Country

The world is weird.  Sometimes things come to you in the strangest ways. “Buckeye” by Cheley Tackett landed in my mailbox via one of life’s crazy twists.  If I don’t take the time to tell the tale, it would be like ripping out a few pages of a novel.  Something would be missing and it would forever drive me to drink, so you’re getting it all, from the beginning.

Back in February, Annette Gibbons and I interviewed Ashley McBryde at CRS 2018.  During the interview, I mentioned to Ashley that we had a mutual friend in singer/songwriter Travis Meadows.  That led to Ashley telling me that someone named Cheley Tackett was the one who introduced her to the music of Travis Meadows.  When I went to write up the Ashley McBryde interview, I looked online to find Cheley Tackett to be sure I was spelling her name correctly. Of course, I started with “Shelley”, “Shelly” and every variation I could beginning with “Sh”.  I just wasn’t finding it.  I knew she had to be there somewhere.  I had to get creative.  Maybe it was a “Ch”.  There it was! It was “CHeley Tackett!” 

When the interview was published and I tweeted it out, I got a tweet back from Cheley Tackett saying she was impressed that I spelled her name right.  I laughed and tweeted back that I do my homework.  You never want to spell a name wrong if you can help it.  She then messaged me asking if I wouldn’t mind if she sent me a copy of her CD.  Of course, I accepted that offer and here we are.  I was pretty backed up with other things, so it took a few weeks before I actually got to play it, but from the very first few notes I heard I knew I was all about this music. 

I think the idea is, I had this crazy good album and I was supposed to review it, send it to, get it published and have the world read about it, but I couldn’t wait that long.  I listened to the entire CD twice, then I downloaded it so I could share it online and share it with anyone I encountered in person.  I wanted to scream about it to the world immediately, and I DID. It’s rare that I get so excited about something that I jump the gun like that, but I wanted people to hear it and I wanted their reactions.  You’ll read some of those reactions at the end of this piece. 

“Buckeye” is a great album because the liner notes contain enough information to do a comprehensive review, which I truly appreciate.  Sometimes you receive a CD from an artist and you get a CD and a sleeve and that’s it. This was the real deal.  Album art, songwriter, musician, producer and photographer information, it’s all there.  Even as a little girl, I was a liner note geek.  I read every last word.  Never did I dream that habit would lead to what I do now, but I thank any artist that chooses to include all of these details.  It’s not only interesting, it’s highly useful.  These liner notes even lead you to Tackett’s website for lyrics. Perfect.  You see how good this album is?  I’ve spent all this time talking about how I came to “meet” this album and the liner notes and I haven’t even talked about the songs yet?!  Just wait.

“Bitter Girl” (Cheley Tackett, Robert K. Wolf) is the first track.  Sounds like a downer, right?  Good thing I didn’t look at the titles before playing the record, because I would have thought, “Oh wow, should I be drinking while I listen to this?”  This is one of those songs that plays tricks on you.  A song about a girl that’s really kind of had it with life being, well, life, yet don’t go pouring that whiskey and crying in the corner before you listen.  If you’re going to fill a glass, raise it up!  This girl may be a little hardened, but she’s dealing.  She’s learning to love and forgive and she’s moving on with the help of an amazing group of background vocalists who cheer her on at the end of the song.

I love the next track because it’s pure country music storytelling.  “All She Knows Is Rain” (Lisa Carver, Cheley Tackett, Robert K. Wolf) A little girl growing up in a trailer with garbage for parents and life just gets worse.  Keeping a good outlook in a world that never seems to cut her a break is hard.  The chorus says it all:

“When all you’ve ever known /Is broken glass & dust/You learn to say hello/But goodbye’s all you trustHow’s she s’posed to know not to run awayWhen all she knows is rain”

Does it ever get better for this girl?  It seems we’ll never know, but she keeps pushing through, at least as far as this song goes, but that damned rain…

From pure country storytelling to pure country sound, “$2 Bill” (Mark Stephen Jones, Cheley Tackett) has that slow, sweet acoustic guitar and fiddle.  If that wasn’t enough to draw you in, this is the first time where you really hear Tackett’s voice at its finest.  It’s stunning.  I’ve been sitting here trying to think of another singer to compare her voice to, and I’ve been coming up short.  Then it hit me.  Tackett sounds, to me, kind of like a mix between Ashley McBryde and Mary Chapin Carpenter, with 70% of that mix going toward the McBryde side.  Isn’t that weird?  That they would be friends and they have such similar voices?  At least in my humble opinion.  Not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, yet I’m not saying they sound exactly the same, Tackett definitely has her own sound, it’s just people always ask, “Who does she sound like?”  Well, that’s the best I can come up with, and in this song, that’s what I hear.

The song itself, at first, reminded me of the Dierks Bentley song, “I Hold On” (Brett James, Dierks Bentley) which talks about Bentley’s tendency to keep things as long as possible due to sentimental value.  The very first verse of “$2 Bill” put my mind on that path right away:

“I’ve got a two dollar bill in my drawer/Granddad gave it to me the day I turned four/So long as it’s there, I’ll never be poor/So I’ve got a two dollar bill in my drawer”

There are other parts of the song that would make you believe this is a woman who can’t let go of her past, whether it’s material possessions or stored memories, but the lyrics have you wondering if she isn’t fighting with herself about that.  You’ll have to listen and see for yourself.  I went back and forth and thought about it for a while. I find it a fascinating song because I see myself in these lyrics.  The music is soft and very, very country.

“The Healer” (Randall Clay, Cheley Tackett) showcases some really cool harmonies with Tackett’s background vocalists and it also makes me add another amazing singer/songwriter to the list of people to compare her voice to.  Here, I detected a bit of Melissa Etheridge in her vocals.  A little of that soft edge that Etheridge has that I have always been a fan of. 

This song isn’t difficult to understand.  It’s a straight up comparison tune.  We all have choices.  We can be hurtful or we can be helpful.  We can be aggressors or we can back off.  In simple terms, we can be mean or we can be nice, and even if we have an off day, and we’re a jerk, it doesn’t define who we are.  We can apologize for losing our minds and go back to being the decent human being we really should be.  That’s what I got out of it, and I truly adore it.  I think this song should be required listening in schools.  Not that every kid will get the message, but if even a few teachers take the time to dissect the lyrics and even a handful of kids remember them and learn to live by them, maybe that handful will grow up to be good and decent adults.

As I was listening to the album I was doing some other things, but Track 5 put me at a dead stop.  From the very first note, I had to SIT DOWN.  “My Best Dress” (Randall Clay, Ashley McBryde, Cheley Tackett) begins with an acoustic guitar that is so precise and so pretty, I felt like I was sitting at a songwriter round.  For someone that can never get enough of songs that tell stories based on history, this wins every prize imaginable because it’s a story set during the Civil War.  It’s told from the viewpoint of a woman, and every lyric, every note, is down and dirty and you really feel like you are there, circa 1862, after the Battle of Shiloh, suffering with her.

“Whiskey & Wickedness/He cursed the Bible and my Sunday bestI mourned a child that I never met/And he got blood on my best dress”

It was hard to pick a favorite on this record, but I think this one hit so many targets for me. Instrumentation, vocals, lyrics, the production is amazing, bonus points for pulling a historical period in on the content, what else can I say?  It’s an everything song.  I’m telling everyone about it, but was it my favorite? Maybe.

If you’ve never been in a “Never Could Leave” relationship, you either haven’t lived song enough, or love’s been very easy on you.  Track number 6, as you may have already guessed, is called “Never Could Leave” (Lisa Carver, Ashley McBryde, Cheley Tackett) and it’s what I take as a “I’m throwing my hands up and admitting I’m hooked” song.  No matter what they do to you, you keep coming back.  They tell you goodbye for the night and somehow, you find excuses to hang around a little longer, and the next thing you know, it’s morning, and you have nobody to blame but yourself.  These people have a superpower.  They can make seemingly intelligent people that know better in any other situation lose their grip.  The singer in this song is the one constantly battling the person wearing the cape that has all the allure.  It’s a common theme in the world of love and relationships, the question is why?  The sad truth is, there will likely never be a good answer.

In case you have any of that whiskey lying around from our Track 1 celebration, you might want to pour some now, but we’re going to be crying in it this time.  One of the saddest songs I’ve heard in a long time is “Heavy Heart” (Cheley Tackett).  I can only speculate what may have inspired this, but it had to have been something deeply personal.  The lyrics are an almost picturesque look into someone’s breaking heart. 

“Had one second of sunshine that second split apart

In the tangle of time I lost who you are

The weight of the world plus a 20 ton ache

How laden does a heart get ‘fore she goes on and breaks”

If it can be beautiful to listen to someone fall apart, this is what it sounds like.

I always enjoy a good cover song on an album, and anyone that knows me well knows I’m a really big Neil Young fan. It was a great surprise to see that Cheley Tackett chose to cover “Ohio” (Neil Young) on “Buckeye”.  Sometimes, however, as we all know, cover versions can be disappointing, not so with this one.  It packs a punch.  Nothing was spared to make sure justice was done.  I would say listen to it and decide for yourself.  Opinions on covers are always so personal, but as for me, I think this one is a winner, and I think Neil Young would approve.

By the time you reach Track 9, “Crucible Steel” (Ashley McBryde, Cheley Tackett), you’re pretty well-schooled as to why this album is called “Buckeye”.  Ohio is called “The Buckeye State”, and along with some direct references to Ohio and some extra reading between the lines, you know this album pays homage to that state.  Ohio, along with so many states in the Midwest and Northeast, continue to suffer economically thanks to the loss of industry.  One of those industries that went away and hit those regions hardest was big steel.  Ironically, the people that live in those areas are known as the hardest workers, yet they’re left swallowing their pride and asking for help from the government just to survive, something they would never do if only their jobs hadn’t disappeared. Much of this song walks in the shoes of these people.  Once again, true stories and country gold that sadly, I think too many will relate to. It’s a great piece of music, it’s just unfortunate that it’s got all that reality attached to it.

Every once in a blue moon, a song comes along that’s different.  I mean, all songs are DIFFERENT, but an idea that may have been done before, but not that I’ve personally heard.  When I listened to “Used to Feel Good” (Cheley Tackett, Robert K. Wolf) while reading the lyrics, I was brought to tears.  Not making this up.  Tears rolling down my face.  This is the song that defines my marriage, at least right now. 

I’ve not ever heard a song that takes me back to when we were young and we were great and everything felt good because it was new and fun.  That time traveled with me through a rough spot where we were lost and weren’t sure what we were going to do with our lives, then gently placed me in another time and place that’s so different, yet even better than it ever was before. Somehow, the writers of this song did that.  Cheley Tackett performed that song to perfection and moved me to tears and it was so cleansing for my soul.  I might need to frame these lyrics.  What looks like a depressing song isn’t at all.  It’s a song about the real world and how it changes, and it can get way better later on, but you have to hang on for dear life sometimes.

“So much has changed/Faster than imagination dreams it up/Look what time and circumstance have done to us…and our love/Ain’t it strange so much has changed”

It’s a simple ballad.  I don’t know what else to say about it.  It hit me on a personal level, almost as if I had written it myself.  I can reveal to you that it is my favorite song on the album, simply because it got inside my life.  Our life.

“Magic Still Happens” (Lisa Carver, Stef Mahan, Cheley Tackett) might be the final track on the record, but don’t consider it buried down there.  The “magic” is nothing more than kindness and consideration.  We all possess the power to be kind and considerate to other people. It isn’t difficult, it doesn’t even have to cost money most of the time.  Be the magician.  Do something nice for somebody.  Hope someone else sees it happen and maybe they’ll get the idea and do the same. We’re all in this together, make a little magic. 


Country Music People

(4 out of 5 stars)

Recently when I was researching a feature for CMP, I noticed that k.d. lang had only had two minor successes on the US country chart, and yet so many of her records were obviously good and obviously country. The reason
I suspect is that the average listener to country radio stations in the 1980s didn’t want to hear an openly gay artist. How attitudes have changed as in 2015, Cheley Tackett was voted Nashville’s favourite LGBT artist. However, that can only be the favourite of those who have chosen to come out, so there’s still a way to go. Her best- known song 
Right Side Of History is about the struggle:“Love ain’t proud, love don’t hate, Love loves truth and truth can’t wait”.

This is Cheley Tackett’s third album and most of the songs relate to growing up in Ohio, which is sometimes called the Buckeye State. She wrote or co-wrote them all with the exception of an intense version of Neil Young’s Ohio, which he wrote about the Kent State Massacre of 1970. The arrangement of the opening song, Bitter Girl, echo that Neil Young song.

There are some excellent songs here: a dramatic Civil War story, My Best Dress; the feelings of being raised in the industrial city of Portsmouth, Ohio, Crucible Steel; and receiving her grandparents’ regular Christmas gift, $2 Bill.

The most poignant song is The Healer which was written after a massacre at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. It separates the public into breakers or healers, and the song reminded me of Jackson Browne at his best. I could see this becoming an anthem, although it would have been more effective to advocate the obvious solution (at least from a British perspective): gun control. Maybe we will be able to see the reaction for ourselves as Cheley is planning to tour the UK and Ireland later in the year.

Spencer Leigh


Springfield News Sun

Focus Mid Tenn

Out & About

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 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

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:

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 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)


'Out of the blue' I received a CD from Annie Mosher last year. That turned out to be a direct hit. Annie then put me on the track of a Nashville girl collective called Girls with Guitars, currently has 12 female songwriters who can all get along with a guitar, and recently released a first CD. Check In addition to Annie Mosher, among others, Cheley Tackett is one of these Girls with Guitars. Yes, even this Cheley Tackett can really charm me. Just like Annie Mosher, she has little to do with the mainstream Nashville country. On the contrary, on this second CD of her - in 2001, When We Knew It All - we heard mainly heavy Southern country rock, r & b, roots rock and songwriter references to Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle. Pure country is hard to find here. Her two main strengths are her voice, which is excellent for the sturdier work, and her songs. She writes all her songs herself or goes in search of a like-minded soul to compose songs with. On this cd they are Lisa Christian and Nicolle Witt respectively. It amazes me that she has, among other things, the Kerville Folk Festival contest and the Merlefest Songwriting Contest. The track Penny Wishes from her first CD gave her the Just Plain Folk Award for country song of the year in 2001. Just to say that this lady shakes handsome songs from her sleeve. It is mainly the mix of all kinds of Americana styles that do it: country, Southern roots rock, r & b, gospel, songwriting ... In opener Homegrown it is immediately striking: a good dose of Southern country rock with the necessary R & B impact. Play The One I Like is a beautiful piano ballad. Sky Is Falling is again the roots rock tour. In the melancholy ballad Good For Me, she talks about all kinds of temptations of life, among which drink and the urge can not resist. Absolute highlights are Jerusalem Ridge and Where Is There, both blessed with a high Lucinda Williams / Steve Earle content, and Fried Chicken, Southern rock of the purest water. This lady is not a kitten to handle without gloves. 'One of the best kept secrets in Nashville' can be read somewhere on her website. I fully agree with that. (BV)