Cover image: Jackie Venson performing at 431 South Main for Folk All Y’all.
Boasting a seemingly never-ending list of venues, Memphis stands proudly on the map as one of America’s music towns. Your favorite band may not always stop by on their tour, but there is always music to be heard somewhere in some unique space. A backyard, for instance. Andria K. Brown, full-time advertising professional, freelance journalist, and founder of Memphis’ own public listening room, Folk All Y’all, firmly believes in the notion that every artist deserves to be heard, and takes it upon herself to ensure that they are.
Brown entered the Memphis music scene roughly twenty years ago upon her arrival to the city. Her involvement mainly consisted of helping artists get the word out about shows, especially singer/songwriters.
“I had a friend coming in who I’d known since high school, and I put on a show in my backyard and that was really the first one that I did,” Brown said. “About six months after that, I was trying to get tickets for a show and I couldn’t. So I reached out through the artists’ website and asked what was going on. The manager responded to me and said they canceled because it wasn’t coming together. I asked if they would consider coming anyway and doing a house show. And that was the first real show I did with an artist I didn’t know personally. It was really addictive after that, experiencing an artist that close up in that type of intimate setting.”
For three years, Brown solely did shows at her own home and friends’ homes. However, in October 2017, Brown elevated her model into the public listening room, Folk All Y’all, but was careful to maintain the same philosophy with which she’d begun. “I still wanted to hold on to the house show mentality of artists getting every cent of the door, which isn’t a very profitable venue, but I didn’t want to run a venue. I just wanted to provide the space,” said Brown. The purpose of Folk All Y’all is to support artists with a creative voice and story, who are deserving of being heard. The concerts are volunteer-run and subscriber-supported to ensure all profits go to the artists performing.
Even with the growing success of Folk All Y’all, Brown still strives to maintain the idea of voice and storytelling through her desired genre. “Everything is under the umbrella of Americana, but that is a big umbrella. Bigger than what people expect when the first thing that comes to mind when they hear Americana,” Brown described. “When you think about all the different kinds of music that have come from the American experience, it’s much broader than people might imagine. We want a gender-balanced lineup, a lineup that is inclusive and representative of Memphis audiences. It’s hopeful music because it’s for everybody. It’s for the people.”
Through her concert experiences, Brown hopes to educate outside artists on the Memphis experience as well as providing a cultural lesson to her Memphis audiences. Folk All Y’all has hosted a wide variety of performers ranging from Memphians to Canadians to Australians. “We’ve made a lot of advocates,” said Brown.
“Almost 80% of our performers are making their Memphis debuts because they just haven’t found a place to click in. It is a tough market to break into for people from other places so it’s great that we can provide an attentive and receptive space. I love it when artists have time to spend in the city and see what the city is. I think we are providing artists with a broader cultural perspective by bringing them in and letting them know what Memphis is like and sending them back out with Memphis in their heart.”
Folk All Y’all recently made the exciting announcement that they have committed to relocating to Crosstown Arts. This move is huge for the organization as it gives them a more visible platform as well as a stronger opportunity to contribute to the art community of Memphis. For Brown, it means the opportunity to take a step back and see her work flourish. “From a personal perspective, it is fantastic,” said Brown enthusiastically. “I have gone from literally setting up my own lights and sound rigs and catering and bringing in the buckets of drinks and ice. I call it my mobile venue. I load up my car with everything from speakers to Tiny Bomb. Crosstown has everything I need in one spot. It is almost dizzying to think of walking in and having almost everything I need where I need it.”
With concerts still happening regularly at Studio688, Folk All Y’all shows belong on your summer to-do list. They host a show every month, and they’ll celebrate their 50th concert on June 28 with John Fullbright. Folk All Y’all opens their new space at Crosstown Arts with David Wilcox this October. Keep up with Folk All Y’all’s events by following their Facebook page.