The legendary RCA Studio C was started by none other than Nashville pioneer Chet Atkins in 1970. 51 years later, the legacy is kept alive with a modern adaptation to support local acts, run by a pair of passionate experts.
Music industry pros Eddie Gore and Justyna Kelley have been a power duo for over seven years now as Eddie and Justy, and took over the historic site together in 2017. From landing network television sync deals, to recording and producing chart-topping albums, they are a part of exactly the kind of top-level creative output that Music Row is known for.
Their latest project, in addition to their year-round schedule of writing and recording, is a digital series called Song Catchers Live, highlighting one of Nashville’s richest resources: songwriters.
For their tenth episode on May 12th, Americana trio Wilkes and the Coles took the stage to perform an hour set filled with laughs, tears, and, most importantly, quality music. The band consists of married couple EB and Shane Cole and long-time friend Jason Wilkes, constituting two guitarists and three vocalists altogether. Shane said of their origins, “We like to describe ourselves as three songwriter, producer, former front people,” referring to the nearly two decades of individual experience they had garnered between them before they even came together.
Against a bright colorful backdrop with fairy lights strung across in some corner of Studio C, they settled onto their stools and jumped right in with “Sees Her 19” of their recent EP Hearts Over Charts – Vol. 1. Over the course of the livestream, they also played the other three tracks from that collection, including tear-jerking “All the Same” and upbeat “Praying Mama.”
The Atlanta, Georgia-based group radiate a cohesive chemistry, one that enriches their songs and enhances each emotion as its conveyed through their pair of acoustic guitars or layers of harmonies. “We have a lot of fun, if you can’t tell,” EB noted between songs. “There’s a lot of years of friendship up here. It’s just different making music with people you have history with.” Now they’re gearing up for their debut album as a band, sneak peeks of which they performed throughout the night.
We spoke with Eddie and Justyna to learn more about their professional history, the backstory of Song Catchers, and where they see the series heading in the future.
So I was hoping you might give us the highlights of your professional and musical careers, and how the both of you ended up at RCA Studio C.
Eddie: While studying orchestration and arranging at Belmont, I put together a cover band looking to play social events and private parties. I had decided to write charts for the rhythm section and horns so I wouldn’t have to rehearse. That turned out to not only be a smart business decision as I was able to assemble some of the best players in Nashville, but it led me directly into studio production. Everything I learned about writing, preparing live dates and operating “on the fly” translated directing into recording. Since then, I have been Steve Cropper’s right hand man and engineer, and he continues to work with me and Justyna as we grow our company and our stable of amazing artists.
Justyna: I was born and raised here in Nashville. My mom is a country artist and songwriter, so I grew up immersed in the music industry and started singing and writing songs at a very young age. In 2010, I recorded my first full-length album and toured all over the US and Europe. Then in 2013, I moved to Paris, France, to sign with XIII Bis Records (Warner France) and Universal Music (France). My UPPM album “Nashville TN” (co-produced with Eddie) was nominated for a Mark Award and I co-wrote the #1 song “Anything To Help You Say Goodbye” with Irene Kelley and Steve Cropper in 2019.
Together: We’ve developed many great songs and artists and composed and produced several projects for film and TV networks like MTV, CBS, NBC, and Universal, among others!
How did the two of you meet, and when did you first start working together?
We actually met at SIR rehearsal studios while preparing for a Jack Daniel’s Distillery event in October 2011. The rehearsals were pretty chill with a lot of down time, so the two of us got a chance to hang out and become good friends. A couple years later, we came together to work on a project for the CBS show NCIS: New Orleans. Our very first musical collaboration aired on a major network, and a successful producer/writer team was born! We worked so well together and shared such similar musical visions, that after several more successful projects under our belt, we decided to officially combine forces and launch our company, Eddie and Justy Productions, in 2017.
When was the idea for Song Catchers Live hatched? What were your goals with the series?
Before the pandemic, we had started developing a docuseries about songwriters called “Song Catchers.” When Covid hit, we realized that the film industry would be on hold for a while, but that live streaming was a viable new outlet for artists and songwriters, so we came up with the spin-off idea for “Song Catchers Live”! We thought we could set up a cool stage here in our studio and invite some of our talented friends to come perform. In our minds, it was a way to keep momentum going at the studio, give artists a platform, and continue the audition process for the docuseries.
How do you go about finding and picking artists to be featured on the show?
At first, we were just asking our friends to play as a way to keep their chops up and make some extra money, but then we had the idea to orchestrate a casting call on social media that attracted some really great artists submitting for the series. During that whole process, we kept meeting super talented young artists/writers and building more relationships with a new Nashville music community, which has been an added plus!
Because of the experience we’ve had working and performing in the entertainment industry, our choices now come by a certain feel or emotion that we get from the artist – it’s not necessarily so scientific. At the end of the day, we are just fans of music, and what resonates with us usually resonates with our audience too.
What was your favorite part about Wilkes and The Coles’ performance?
They are such great performers with distinct individual strengths, and we loved witnessing their group chemistry and amazing stage presence in a studio environment. Also, Justyna has known EB Cole since they were both very young when she was working with Justyna’s mom, Irene Kelley. It was great seeing EB all grown up and killing it with her husband and awesome band! Justyna especially loved the song that made us all cry, “All The Same,” though they were all great songs. Their performance seemed to encompass all the elements that make a band so special: smart and meaningful lyrics, beautiful melodies, and killer harmonies.
Do any special memories stand out from putting on these shows over the last year or so?
Mostly reconnecting with some of our artist friends and past clients and also having the help of our awesome interns who offer so much support and insight (shout out to Jenna, Luke, Amy, and Andrew!). We’ve had a few artists that have fans blowing up our socials and becoming new fans of Song Catchers Live, too —a big win-win and the result of great teamwork.
One of Eddie’s favorite parts of the show always seems to happen right when the camera goes live and the band opens up for the first time! That is the special moment when we hear what we’ve never heard before and see how the artist starts performing and presenting their unique “voice”!
Now being 10 episodes in, has your vision for the series changed at all? Do you see it expanding?
Good question…Yes! We have made several changes and improvements along the way, and we continue to learn! Eddie has done such an amazing job of engineering the sound and figuring out how to run the audio through Pro Tools to get great EQ and reverbs so that our artists sound fantastic. We’ve also experimented with different angles, camera positions, and some of the new OBS softwares, and we are always trying to get better and better video quality. With this last episode, we even switched from our previous portrait view to the wider landscape view, and we would like to keep growing and improving.
As the COVID restrictions begin to lighten up and people get vaccinated, would you want to host any in-person audiences or otherwise adjust to the reopening world?
Yes, we would love to host a live studio audience, that is a great idea! We have invited certain family and friends to enjoy shows before, and it has always gone over well. The real applause and interaction from viewers is a nice touch.
What other projects going on at RCA do you think our readers might be interested in?
Well, we have another great Song Catchers Live episode coming up on Wednesday, June 2nd featuring great pop country artist, Jesslee! 7PM CST. We are proud to have collaborated on Steve Cropper’s new album, Fire It Up, which debuted at #1 on The Billboard charts this month! We’ve also been invited to perform live with Cropper at Paste Magazine Studios in June, and we are developing some really great new artists at the moment, including Emily McGill, Chandler Brown, Freddi Shehadi, and more—keep your eyes and ears peeled for new content from EJP coming soon!