2017 East Nashvillians of the Year

The start of 2018 can only mean one thing:
     The announcement of the 2017 winners for East Nashvillians of the Year!
Awarded by the Historic East Nashville Merchants Association (HENMA) from nominations submitted by the general public and selected by HENMA members in a secret ballot, these awards recognize contributions to the local community that stand out — individuals that “pay it forward” and exemplify the values we share in our humble neighborhood.
     The awards are presented in two categories: Business and Citizen.
     The recipients in this year’s Business category — Travis Collinsworth and Todd Sherwood, proprietors of The 5 Spot — have steadfastly guided the local music venue for over a decade, providing a welcoming spot for hometown musicians.
     This year’s Citizen recipient — photographer and videographer Stacie Huckeba — is a passionate and outspoken activist, fundraiser, and booster for the East Side’s creative community, as well as the less fortunate and sometimes forgotten inhabitants of the “It City.”
     We’d like to offer our congratulations to the winners and wish them all the best in the coming year.
The 5 Spot
Travis Collinsworth & Todd Sherwood
By Randy Fox
Photograph by Travis Commeau
“Some venues are rock & roll bars, and that’s all they are,” Travis Collinsworth, co-owner of The 5 Spot says. “We’ve never seen it that way. From day one, our goal has been to be as inclusive as possible. As long as you have good people and good music, we love to have you.”
     It’s 11 a.m. on a Thursday morning at the club. Collinsworth and fellow co-owner Todd Sherwood are preparing for another night at East Nashville’s steadfast watering hole and friendly neighborhood music venue.
     “That cross-pollination of people and musical styles is where cool things happen,” Collinsworth continues. “Why pigeonhole yourself? That philosophy is reflective even in our seating. We can move tables around, move seats out to the patio, clear up floor space — we can accommodate different parties, different shows, all that was very much by design.”
     That design began with The 5 Spot’s founder Diane Carrier and continues under Collinsworth and Sherwood’s stewardship. Carrier was an East Side music venue pioneer when she opened Backwoods Studios to live shows in the early months of 2000. Although Carrier initially planned a recording studio for the cement block storefront at 1006 Forrest Ave., the response to the freewheeling and diverse shows convinced her and her husband, William “Bones” Verhiede, to renovate the space into a more formalized music venue.
     At the time, trying to tempt music lovers to cross the river was not an easy task, despite the buzz surrounding other pioneering East Side venues like Radio Cafe and Slow Bar. But East Nashville was becoming a neighborhood of musicians who desperately needed a neighborhood hangout.
     In 2002, with Carrier and Verhiede working to transform the building into a full-fledged music venue, Miami-native and Nashville musician Collinsworth joined the business. “I came on board right when they were trying to get all the permits lined up to get The 5 Spot open,” Collinsworth says. “It took us about a year to get everything through codes.”
     Officially opening in 2003 as a beer-only bar, The 5 Spot quickly became known for its welcoming atmosphere and community-focused booking. Although touring acts were occasionally on the bill, The 5 Spot focused on extended artist residencies, impromptu jam sessions, oddball side project bands, and absolute beginners. The music ranged from old timey string bands, green-as-goose-shit punk bands, ad hoc jazz combos, and rockin’ soul revues. In short order, The 5 Spot and another newbie at the time, The Family Wash, became twin landmarks for one of the hottest, up-and-coming music neighborhoods in the world.
     Maryland native and musician Todd Sherwood joined the staff in 2006 to run sound for shows, but soon was learning the music venue business from top to bottom when Carrier and Verhiede’s house was destroyed in the April 2006 tornado that struck Gallatin, Tenn.
     “Travis and I were left to take care of everything,” Sherwood says. “For two years, it was basically just us bartending, running sound, booking acts, and making sandwiches. They made us partners, and we ran the business, but we were still learning. When we got our liquor license in 2007, we really had no idea what we were doing. Someone would order something fancy, and we’d say, ‘How about a Jack and Coke?’ ”
     Around the same time, Carrier’s health problems resulted in her and Verhiede stepping away from the business completely, eventually transferring full ownership to Collinsworth and Sherwood. Carrier passed away from cancer in January 2017.
Under Collinsworth and Sherwood’s ownership, The 5 Spot continued its eclectic and locally focused booking. East Nashville-based musicians became weekly fixtures — Two Dollar Tuesdays with Derek Hoke, Tim Carroll’s Friday night Rock & Roll Happy Hour, and Jason Eskridge’s Sunday Night Soul. These weekly events, along with a series of month-long residencies by some of Nashville’s finest musicians and DJ dance parties catering to different segments of music fans, became cornerstones of The 5 Spot’s programming.
     Despite the lack of major names, The 5 Spot’s reputation as a fun and freewheeling music venue welcoming to all led to national fame. In 2012, it was chosen by the producers of the Nashville TV series as one of the real-life venues featured on the show.
     “Two times on the show a character was playing at 5 o’clock at The 5 Spot,” Sherwood says. “We still have tourists show up at 5 p.m. and wonder why there’s not music going on. I’ve enjoyed that we’ve become a tourist stop. You meet people and find out where they’re from, but sometimes they’d get a surprise when a group comes by expecting to see country music and the Queer Dance Party was that night.”
     The 5 Spot gained more fame in October 2016 when it was chosen as the venue to kick off Lady Gaga’s “Dive Bar Tour.” Despite the international attention, the changing nature of East Side neighborhoods presents special challenges. As rents go up and older homes are replaced by multiple six-figure tall and skinnies, both the pool of local talent and potential patrons has changed.
     “It used to be if someone canceled, I could call someone else that lived down the street,” Sherwood says. “We could have a great night of music from just a few phone calls. Many of the new people that have moved into the neighborhood don’t play music or go out to hear live music. I’m always trying to reach out to new people in the neighborhood and get them to realize what made this neighborhood great. I always encourage them to come on by and point out we have great early shows. We’re still doing it, but it is more of a challenge.”
     Despite that challenge, Collinsworth and Sherwood remain committed to The 5 Spot’s original business model — a local community venue for one of the greatest music communities in the world. It’s a vision that continues producing special moments.
     “The first couple of times Derek Hoke played here, I thought he was great,” Sherwood says. “But one night some band cancelled, and he just got up on stage and started playing. He was a little shy at first, but we all started calling out songs, and he would play them. That’s when I realized he could do something more. Over the years, he’s gained this stage presence from playing every Tuesday night, talking to crowds, and introducing bands — just being a host. I’ve seen other bands play here on a regular basis and get better each time. Margo Price played here a lot, met other musicians, and got to know everyone, and she’s still a regular. We’re not trying to bring in headlining acts. We provide a venue for musicians who live down the street — a place they can refine their skills so when they play elsewhere they will amaze people.”
Stacie Huckeba
By Randy Fox
Photograph by Chuck Allen
“Last year I took my friend Doug Williams on a couple of runs to deliver supplies to homeless camps,” Stacie Huckeba says. “He was really down because of the election, and I thought showing him how he could make a difference locally would cheer him up. At the end of the day he said, ‘It’s amazing. Going in today I was just thinking we’d help homeless people, but now I’m thinking about getting a sleeping bag for Jerry, and hoping that we can get enough propane to Happy. They’re not just homeless people now, they’re people that I know. How can you just walk away?’ ”
     Just walking away has seldom been the choice for Huckeba. As a first-rate photographer and videographer, a tireless supporter of Nashville’s music community, and an advocate for the homeless, women’s issues, and her neighborhood, she’s become an ubiquitous presence in East Nashville’s arts and music scene. She’s acquired friends and courted controversy with her outspokenness, but for Huckeba, it has never been a matter of seeking attention — it’s a matter of having a story or cause too exciting not to share.
     A native of Odessa, Texas, Huckeba can’t remember when she wasn’t capturing moments in time through a camera lens. “I had a Kodak Instamatic or a Polaroid from the time I was tiny,” she says. “I had a photography business by the time I was 15 — taking senior portraits for the kids in my school and shooting weddings. While I was in college I was working in a bar and started shooting bands. I got my degree in commercial photography, and I pictured myself shooting Giorgio Armani ads, but I got a job with 7-Eleven, stuck in a basement shooting pictures of hot dogs and ice cream cones. It didn’t take long to realize that being on tour with Pearl Jam would be way more fun.”
     Huckeba’s pursuit of a music photography career led to her living in San Diego for more than a decade. In 2006, she moved to Nashville, thanks to the encouragement of singer-songwriter Todd Snider. “I worked for a small record label doing PR and marketing when I first moved to Nashville, but that job fell through,” Huckeba says. “Luckily, there were a lot of people who needed their picture taken, and Todd encouraged me to get into video. People kept giving me work. I’m humbled and grateful to be here and to work with the people I do.”
     Huckeba expresses a portion of her gratitude through fundraising and volunteer work for homeless assistance. “I don’t have much family, and they live really far from here,” she says. “I usually spend my holidays alone, so I wanted to give my holidays to someone else. Four years ago, I was planning to drive around and hand out shampoo or whatever at homeless camps, but Skip Anderson, who worked with The Contributor, connected me with Laurie Green at SAFPAW.” SAFPAW is the Southern Alliance for People and Animal Welfare, an organization founded by Green that addresses rural homelessness in Middle Tennessee by providing assistance and necessities to people who have little or no access to social support systems found in urban areas.
     “I started going with her on her supply runs, and it changed everything for me,” Huckeba continues. “I took my camera on the first several runs with the idea of shooting pictures, but once I met them, it felt exploitive, weird, and wrong at the time.”
     Now in her fourth year fundraising for SAFPAW and assisting with supply runs, Huckeba has developed friendships with homeless individuals and recently began posting a series of portraits and personal stories on Instagram (@eastsidestacie) titled The Face of Homelessness.
     “I take a white backdrop with me and photograph them head and shoulders against that backdrop,” Huckeba says. “People have to look at them as human beings rather than their surroundings. Then I ask them to tell me about the first night they remember being homeless. They’ve been really gracious in letting me tell their stories, and it seems to have made a difference. The donations have really increased this year.”
     Huckeba also combines her photography with other activist causes. Her April 2017 showing at Art and Invention Gallery in East Nashville, This Shoe Doesn’t Fit — Celebrating Culture and Diversity in a New Era, began with a pair of ridiculously ostentatious Ivanka Trump brand stilettos she received as a gift.
     “As I looked at the shoes with their rhinestones and gold, Ivanka’s name carved in the leather and the Made in China sticker on them, they seemed to sum up everything that is wrong with the Trump Administration — designed to only fit a very narrow margin of society,” she explains. “I wanted to do portraits of people wearing the shoes and have them tell me why this administration doesn’t fit them. I posted on social media that I was looking for people who felt like they were part of a marginalized group, and in eight days, I shot 50 portraits, all within 11 miles of my house. If that is the diversity that makes up Nashville, just imagine the diversity of the entire country. It was powerful, and the showing raised almost $3,000 for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.”
     Huckeba’s passion and outspokenness has sometimes led to controversy, especially in the opinion pieces about sexual harassment, fat shaming, and other political, social, and neighborhood issues she has penned for Huffington Post, The Guardian, and The East Nashvillian. “I’ve gotten in trouble for my mouth since I was a kid,” she says. “I always spoke my mind and had something different to say from the people around me since I was really young, but I think all of it stems from the fact that I really love people.”
     One of the most obvious examples of Huckeba’s love for people and her community are her frequent “deck hangs.” They’ve become a fixture of the East Side music and arts community. Open to friends old and new, she sees the impromptu gatherings as integral to creating a community where special moments in time are both created and shared.
     “I did not move to Nashville; I moved to East Nashville,” she says. “It was a specific choice to live in this community. In spite of all the changes, I still really love this neighborhood. There’s so much building in my neighborhood that I’m being completely swallowed by tall skinnies. I rent my house and there’s probably no way I’ll be there in another year, but I want people who are living in the tall skinnies around me to one day tell stories about a crazy lady who had a billion Christmas lights on the back of her house and had people sitting around a bonfire on her deck playing music. No matter how much East Nashville changes or when people move here, there will always be, ‘I remember when’ stories. The only way they’ll get me out of East Nashville is to run me out.”
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