Here are a few of the hundreds of current and former students I have worked with over the years. This page will be continuously updated as new pictures and videos become available. If you would like to be included here, contact Rob.
Sit in on a real lesson with one of my 12-year-old hotshot pickers, Jake McCarter from Cookeville, Tennessee. Listen to Jake do some bluegrass flatpicking, and some electric tunes by Hendrix, R.E.M., Stevie Ray, and Guns and Roses.
Tom Douglas is one of Nashville's most respected #1 songwriters, with big hits by Tim McGraw (My Little Girl, Grown Men Don't Cry, Southern Voice), Martina McBride (Love's The Only House), Lady Antebellum (I Run To You), Collin Raye (The Gift), Miranda Lambert (The House That Built Me), and many others to his credit.
Tom has worked hard for many years establishing himself as a top Nashville writer, although piano is his primary instrument. He started working with me in 2008 and has since penned several major hits on guitar.
In August 2010, Tom Douglas was featured in an article about songwriters in The Wall Street Journal. The cool thing about this online article is that it features audio clips of "The House That Built Me", a huge #1 hit for Miranda, including a clip of Tom's original demo track with him singing and playing piano, a sadly beautiful version that I think is stronger in many ways than the hit version.
In November 2010, Tom Douglas and his co-writer Allen Shamblin received the CMA award for Song Of The Year, "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert. This song was also produced by one of my former students, Frank Liddell. Congratulations, Tom!!!
Early 2011, Tom and co-writer Allen Shamblin were nominated for Grammy Song Of The Year and Country Song Of The Year.
UPDATE-December 2014: Tom has been nominated along with his two co-writers for a Grammy Award for Best Country Song, "Meanwhile Back At Mama's" (Tim McGraw and Faith Hill).
Here is Tom performing the original version of the "The House That Built Me" at the Key West Songwriters Festival in April 2010. Tom has a beautiful piano style, as you can hear. This is what a hit song sounds like in its purest form performed by a great songwriter.......
Here is a video of Miranda Lambert at the 2010 ACM Awards performing the Tom Douglas/ Allen Shamblin classic "The House That Built Me"........
Caroline Kole came to me in 2011, referred by Sony/ATV Publishing. She is already a seasoned singer/songwriter/ performer, having been doing concerts and various gigs around her home state of Florida for several years already. She has recently moved to Nashville to pursue this career full force, and she is already signed to the biggest publisher in the Nashville music industry (Sony) and is represented by Starstruck Entertainment, one of the top-flight management companies in the biz.
Normally I am pretty skeptical of young starlets approaching me about guitar lessons, because often singers, and specifically, girl singers, DO NOT LIKE TO PRACTICE !! (I speak the truth--sue me !!) When Caroline came to her first consultation, I asked her to play and sing something for me, just to see "where she was at". She pretty much floored me with a cool, big voice, a cool original song, and a strong rhythm guitar style that pretty much made me think John Lennon or Tom Petty was standing in my studio rockin'. Caroline is without a doubt a big natural talent, and she has the work ethic to go along with it. I can barely stay ahead of her at her lessons, she melts my face week after week !!!
I am very honored to be working with a young person of such obvious, true talent, and with a great personality to go along with it. I have met very few people "in the industry" who have it together like she does. Caroline Kole is the real deal. In the past year she has opened many shows for Reba, and has also done shows with Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Kellie Pickler, and many others.
Her website is: www.carolinekole.com
Here is Caroline's latest video release which is currently playing on CMT. Check it out !!
Brandy started lessons with me when she was a freshman in the Belmont University songwriting program back in the 2000’s. She took lessons off and on during college and after she started writing songs as a professional staff writer with some of the song publishers in Nashville. She is now considered to be one of the most important writers in Nashville, as her songs are true to the gritty realities of life, moreso than most of the songs that are being released by the new breed of “country artists”. She also has an excellent, strong voice. She has been interviewed for National Public Radio, and has also received critical attention from Rolling Stone. At the 2014 CMA awards, she received an award as co-writer of SONG OF THE YEAR, “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves. She was also nominated for New Artist of the Year at the CMAs. It’s impossible to keep up with an artist who is so rapidly hitting her stride, so here’s a link to her website.
Also, here is a rave review from Rolling Stone regarding Brandy’s recent (Oct. 10,2014) opening set in front of the legendary Loretta Lynn at the Ryman Auditorium. This was Loretta Lynn’s first- ever headlining appearance at the old Ryman since she first played there in 1960, and she chose Brandy to open for her. Thats about as high up the food chain as you can go in American Music!
Check out her January 2015 duet with Dwight Yoakum at the Grammy Awards, where she was nominated for both New Artist of the Year as well as Country Album of the Year.
Boy Named Banjo is a really cool acoustic band of three friends who grew up in Nashville, Barton Davies, William Reames, and Willard Logan. William and Willard started working with me around the 6th grade, or so (Willard started, initially, with my assistant, WIlliam Dyer). Both of these guys were off the charts with smokin' chops by their junior year in high school, and they started jamming and writing songs with their schoolmate, Barton, who is from a long line of banjo pickers. I worked with Barton a little on his Scruggs-style picking, but he was already playing pretty well when he came to me. These guys have written some great original songs and are developing an excellent vocal blend. In December 2013, they performed during the break at a Nashville Predators NHL hockey game for 15,000 people.
Check out their new album on iTunes.
Noah Thomasson is a senior in high school (2015) up in Nortonsville, Kentucky. He comes down to Nashville a couple of times a month for guitar lessons. He is a great student and really applies himself and has developed a really cool country/ southern rock style on his custom-made Telecaster. A couple of months ago there was a big guitar show in Nashville and he came down to check it out and try out some guitars. He was playing some of his Telecaster-style steel guitar licks on a tele out at the guitar show through a good Fender tube amp , when he felt a pat on his shoulder and heard someone say “That sounds pretty good, buddy!”—-it was Vince Gill, one of the most talented guys in Nashville and a picker’s picker. Of course, Noah immediately requested a photo with Vince, which you can see.
On another trip to Nashville, Noah and his parents were stopped at a gas station somewhere along the road and Noah saw some guy in the rest room there that looked familiar, and he asked the guy if he was a musician. Turns out that it was Sturgill Simpson’s drummer, Miles Miller. Me and Noah and most of my students are all huge Sturgill fans, so I think this is a cool picture at a random gas station with Noah and Miles, who is now the “Ringo” of the Americana Music world!!
October 2014 - Caroline Watkins is a home grown Nashville girl, and even though she is still in high school, she has already "passed the audition" at the legendary Bluebird Cafe, having recently been invited to put together her own group of songwriters for a performance at the venue. This in itself is a major achievement in a major music industry town like Nashville. Caroline is already performing at several local music clubs regularly, and has also recently attracted the attention of some national TV bigwigs. I have rarely seen any individual move up the Nashville music "food chain" as quickly and easily as Caroline. She even won a beautiful Martin guitar last year during the CMA Fest at a Martin-sponsored contest. Caroline seems to be shooting straight to the top.
You can follow her at her website, CarolineWatkins.com.
Here is one of my cool new students, Bill Stebbins, hanging backstage recently with two of the giants of American Music—Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. The Tedeschi Trucks Band was recently at the Ryman auditorium in Nashville (spring 2015) and my man Bill offered to take me backstage to meet Susan and Derek, as he grew up in the same neighborhood as Susan and his big brother played in a band with her when they were young. So he had VIP backstage passes to this gig!! Unfortunately, I “chickened out” on his offer, as there are few people in the music world that I think are really important and worthy artists these days, and these two are in the Top Ten list!! It made me break out in a cold sweat just thinking about being that close to Susan Tedeschi and the Slide King himself, Derek Trucks, although I know for a fact they are super-sweet and friendly guys. Thanks for the opportunity, Bill, but don’t expect me to ease up on you at your guitar lessons, haha!!
Odie Blackmon is one of the best songwriters in Nashville. He's the real deal, and he drifts in and out of my studio from time to time, depending on what's going on in the crazy world of Nashville songwriting. He and I share a common love of great American funky backwoods roots music.
This video is an impressive collage of some of his songs.
Garrett Hedund is a successful young actor who was referred to me by a movie production company in November 2009 so that he could realistically play the part of a guitar-picking country songwriter in a Nashville-based moved called "Country Strong" (originally titled "Love Don't Let Me Down"),which was scheduled to start filming two months after his first lesson, in January 2010. He was a total beginner, but by the end of his first lesson, Garrett was strumming and singing a couple of Waylon Jennings songs, just like a real picker. Check out this great link to an interview Garrett did around the movie's premiere where he mentions the time he spent working with me (the mention is about half way down the page). He is a great guy and I bet he will have a long and illustrious acting career, because he is serious about his work.
UPDATE (May 2010): Garrett has just been chosen for the lead role in Jack Kerouac's modern classic, "On The Road". This is the definitive novel of the Beat Generation, which was the immediate predecessor of the 60's youth counter-culture. This could be an important movie, and a cool movie. Congratulations to Garrett.
William Tyler started guitar lessons with me when he was in the 7th grade. By the 10th grade, he had become a cool young rocker and he and one of my young bass students (Keith Lowen) started an original band named Lifeboy. A demo of Lifeboy's songs made it to the New York Office of the president of Sire Records, the label that put Madonna, The Ramones, and the Talking Heads on the map, among others. The president flew into Nashville and signed the 17-year-old members of Lifeboy to a recording contract in study hall at University School (as legend has it). Sire Records subsequently was taken over by another label, and the Lifeboy album was never released, but all 3 members of the band have since had busy careers as indie rockers.
William Tyler has toured with a number of respected indie bands, including a number of years with the critically-acclaimed band Lambchop, but his crowning achievement so far has been the release of two beautiful and visionary acoustic guitar albums. His first album from 2010, "Behold The Spirit", was featured very prominently by both NPR and the New York Times.
William's second release in early 2013, "The Impossible Truth", has once again garnered strong reviews from the acid-tongued critics of the indie world. Here is a very strong review from the online music site Pitchfork. William is also performing at Bonnaroo this year (2013), as well as many gigs all over the world.
The first video here was shot at Grimey's Record Shop in Nashville in early 2013. You can clearly see and hear what a serious heavyweight composer and guitarist can do with an acoustic guitar and a small amp.
This video is the official record label “trailer” for the release of the new album, it's pretty artsy, but very cool and spacey. It features William Tyler's music in the background.
BREAKING NEWS (June 2013): This just in... here's Willie T playing at the 2013 Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee.
Keep up with him on his website.
Court Clement is a great guitar player, lending guitar work to recordings by Marc Broussard, Mindy Smith and Griffin House. He started out with me in the 7th grade as a beginner. Check out this video of Court layin' it down with singer/songwriter Marc Broussard.
Cary Brothers is a successful indie recording artist, currently residing in Los Angeles. His song "Blue Eyes" was featured on the Grammy-award-winning soundtrack to the movie "Garden State". He has toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe, and has a growing fan base. Check out these links: