Like the railroads that inspired its name, the South Rail Music Blog (thesouthrail.com) is connecting Chattanooga with the rest of the nation. Since debuting in 2009 to boost the local music scene with an online presence, the blog has evolved with the addition of a concert series and record label.
“Music is our passion, and the focus of the blog is to share the music we discover,” explains Rich, who started the site with wife Erika, who don’t use their last name to keep the focus on the music. To help share that music, they recently launched The South Rail Presents concert series featuring up-and-coming, must-see bands that have received the blog’s stamp of approval. The successful first installment was held on July 27 at Track 29, and a second event is in the works.
Additionally, South Rail Records is plotting a debut release for later this year. The imprint’s first project will be from Rich’s band, Eight Knives.
“The label is that third step of tying in The South Rail initiatives and getting the Chattanooga name out there a little more,” Rich says.
Promoting the local scene is top priority for The South Rail—but that said, the blog isn’t Chattanooga exclusive.
“The South Rail is a music filter, not a total reflection of everything music or everything Chattanooga,” Rich says. “It’s a blog that’s in Chattanooga, and a majority of our content is southern-based bands, but we also talk about our favorite bands from other parts of the country.”
The tracks of The South Rail are paved with positivity.
“We never mention anything negative, instead it’s always about what we’re digging,” he says. “It’s kind of an anonymous blog. We’re modest about it even though there are a ton of people that know we do this. I always want the focus to be on The South Rail, not us.”
After job changes brought The South Rail’s founders to Chattanooga in 2007, they missed the thriving music culture in their former hometown of Atlanta.
“We fell in love with Chattanooga and just wanted a music scene,” Rich recalls. “So many tours would pass by, and there wasn’t much online presence. We wanted to help it gain recognition as a music town and create visibility nationwide.”
In recent years Chattanooga’s scene has gained traction and momentum. Rich says the city now attracts more touring artists, and those concerts, in turn, inspire local musicians to hone their craft. Local shows also draw fans from bigger cities who prefer Chattanooga’s smaller venues so they can get up-close with the bands. For the artists passing through, the scene’s growing reputation lets them know to expect a quality opening act and solid fan turnout.
According to The South Rail, a convergence of factors are drawing attention to Chattanooga’s musical landscape. Local bands who have received national attention online and on the road in recent months include the Bohannons, Machines Are People Too and Strung Like A Horse.
Track 29 has also contributed mightily to the scene because according to Rich, “It gives bands the opportunity to grow with the city.”
Artists can start at smaller venues such as JJ’s Bohemia and then graduate to Track 29 after they develop a local fanbase.
“There is lots of love and man hours that go into everything we’re doing,” Rich says. “From The South Rail to simply going to weeknight shows to support the bands coming through and local acts that are getting to open for them, just knowing that we are putting hours and hours of our free time into making sure that cool things happen in Chattanooga.”