Briston Maroney press photo 2022

Just a few years after moving to Nashville from East Tennessee, Briston Maroney has helped define a new generation of local music. Amid skyrocketing living costs and the increasing commercialization of nearly every aspect of the music business, Maroney’s rapid rise shows that, in some cases, the city can still be hospitable to young artists. On Nov. 3 and 4, Brooklyn Bowl will host Paradise, a two-day festival the young artist convened and will headline both nights of, meant to give back to a community that’s given a lot to him. Sunflower Bean, The Greeting Committee and Annie DiRusso will join in on Thursday’s show, which is all-ages, and Indigo De Souza, Michelle and Cece Coakley will support on Friday, which is for ages 18 and up.

“I feel like I've had the best case scenario experience in this city,” Maroney tells the Scene, in a conversation that touches on independent venues and dropping out of Lipscomb University. “I’ve gotten to see — as an outsider who's traveled a lot and come back — how pure of a place this is. Leaving and coming back a lot, it’s easy to remember how special this place is. I want that to be a part of the whole Paradise vibe.”

I know you grew up in Knoxville. When did you come to Middle Tennessee?

I moved officially in 2016 to go to Lipscomb. I was there for like a year-and-a-half. I had my finals week coming up before Christmas and I realized I had booked some recording time, like, the exact days of my finals week, unintentionally. I was forced with a choice that unfortunately I knew I had to make. I skipped finals and had to drop out, because I failed everything. I've just been living here and getting by ever since.

Maybe some unconscious decision-making going on there.

Yeah, very thankful for that.

What are some moments from 2016 till now — milestones or places or times you think about — looking back on six years in Nashville?

it's such a movie. The different venues, the house shows, the places that play a part in anybody's journey of being in Nashville. I remember going to The End and dreaming of playing at The End. Then playing at The End for 11 people and being like: I fucking did it. I'm done.

Then, playing The East Room, then Exit/In. Meeting so many special bands and special people and realizing how awesome of a community our scene has. Not to keep reeling it back to Paradise, but this place and this community has just been like so fucking nice to me and grown this stuff very organically. I know I'll see some people that were at those shows at The End or at some of those house shows, you know, when I first moved to town. There are lots of really kind people who want to see you do well.

What’s the point of organizing Paradise as a festival rather than just headlining two shows?

I'd have a guilty conscience, just a little bit. I just know that none of this would've happened without the support of other bands and the support of so many awesome creative people here. It would feel weird to do something at this scale at a venue this size without also making it something about the community, you know what I mean? I wanted to invite bands whose music I loved and who I feel like have the same attitude. 

Also, selfishly, it's so much less pressure when something is about community. I just don't love the feeling of two headline nights where you have to be the center of attention. This is just a party where all of these bands are gonna come, hang out and play.

How do you characterize or describe Nashville to other people, specifically as a place to make or play music?

It varies day to day, but the overarching thing is that, you can be whatever you want to be here. There are options to be social, to be in the music community or any creative community as much as you want. But it’s also Tennessee. You can drive half an hour and be in the woods and spend time alone, affordably. It’s an awesome place to come to figure out who you are as opposed to being in a big city. It’s a playground.

Nashville is a landing place too. It’s the perfect place for someone who does travel, especially travel playing music. I love that I can come home from tour and reflect, just sit in this awesome house in East and make breakfast and sit with my dog or my girlfriend or my studio and I don’t feel pressure to do anything.

As someone who’s been here for a while and developed relationships with venues — on stage and in the audience — what’s it like seeing some of Nashville’s independent music venues closing or in jeopardy of closing? Or new ones like Brooklyn Bowl opening?

It’s such an overly emotional, inexplicable thing. I’m going to laugh at myself for talking this way, but it's the closest thing to childhood nostalgia that I really have now. It’s like a dad going to like a high school football game. It’s a type of emotion that doesn't have words. It’s this really sacred thing. It's magic. And when you see a venue’s closing, it feels like you're losing touch with something that didn't need to be explained.

All of that being said, a place like Brooklyn Bowl pops up and restores that magic. It's a venue that's not made for people to make money off of bands. If making money also happens to work out, that's great. At first — when I heard it was bowling alley — my first reaction was like, “Oh fuck, we’re done for.” But I was there a few weeks ago and saw Faye Webster and Maya Hawke and as soon as I walked in, I was like: “Holy shit. I'm excited to be here because I don't feel like I'm being sold anything.” That was the big draw. And that's that cool thing about places like The End, East Room and Exit/In. 

Have you played The Blue Room or the Ryman?

We have not played the Ryman. I've been to so many shows there. We got to do this crazy cool thing where we filmed a whole live album at Third Man, which was very fever-dreamy.

Every time I see a show at the Ryman, there’s a spiel by the artist about how special it is and how much of an honor it is. How real is that mystique?

That's super funny that you say that. I've always been curious of that too. I love that place and it seems really special and beautiful, but I'm curious if there's a little bit of — “mob mentality” is the wrong word — but where this thing happens where everyone hears everyone else do that. Or maybe everyone finds their own reason why it's amazing, which maybe is the beauty of it. Everyone is looking for this beauty, then they're finding it. I've never seen a show there where somebody didn’t say, “We're honored to be here.” 

Anything left to say going into this week? 

My guess is, I will know after the first night if this is something that we can plan on doing again. I don't wanna say “yes” yet. I could go up there and it could go great, but be way too terrifying, or be way too much going on. We'll see.

The idea of doing something for the community every year is cool. Even if it's not my name on the thing, I would love to be a part of something that was bringing bands to Nashville. Primarily this is just supposed to be two nights of fun in celebration and honor of this awesome year that we've gotten to have so far and for this city that has been really, really kind to me. I'm hoping that there's just an air of comfort. Because we all are so very human and scared of everything, I just want this to be really laid-back.

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