Every other week, Kelleigh Bannen will provide behind-the-scenes analysis, stories and insight into Music City’s No. 1 export, with help from some of Nashville’s top songwriters, artists, executives and producers. Taste of Country will debut each new episode of her This Nashville Life podcast, and Bannen herself will introduce it as a guest writer. Thoughts and opinions expressed by Bannen are hers alone and do not reflect the opinions of Taste of Country, unless she’s talking about #TomatoGate, in which case, yeah … she’s spot on.

Last week, I was at my first official SXSW in Austin, Texas, and not only did I have a couple shows, we had the opportunity to record our first live episode of This Nashville Life on TuneIn’s podcast stage. Our guest was Meryl Johnson, Director of Digital Strategy for the CMA. What is the CMA (Country Music Association) and what does it do? Well, Meryl answers that very question for us. She also talks about the awards show, bringing together 50 + artists for the purpose of “Forever Country,” and the difference between a Snapchat filter and a Snapchat lens. (Sheesh!)

We also talk about her love of music festivals. “I think they’re probably the best thing that can happen to music, and connecting fans to music,” Johnson says. And in particular her passion for CMA Fest where over 600 artists perform over four days in downtown Nashville. And we get to hear about some of the new stages they have planned for this year.

Since she’s a digital expert, we get her perspective on some of the emerging digital elements that the CMA is starting to work with from 360 to VR (virtual reality,) and she explains some ways that VR could play out in the future as country artists learn to use these tools to create new, exciting digital experiences for fans. It’s technical but super interesting.

One of the last subjects we touch on is the unique perspective that Meryl brings to her work as a black woman in country music. She’s a Nashville native, so she knows the city and its relationship to race and music in a very intimate way. Also, I think you’ll love what she has to say about country music as a genre: "Music shouldn’t fit in a box.”

Come with us as we try to figure out what it means to live this Nashville life.

Listen to This Nashville Life Season 2, Ep. 4

About Kelleigh Bannen: Kelleigh Bannen’s This Nashville Life Podcast offers an authentic, vibrant look at the journey of someone trying to “make it” in country music. Bannen is admittedly still learning what that means. After a short career as an independent artist, the “Famous” singer signed a major label record deal and recorded two-and-a-half albums that were never released. She’s honest, but not bitter about the obstacles female artists face in country music, but her blog and podcast go much deeper.

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