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Nashville Moment: Holly Gleason

The music critic, author, and artist-development consultant's new book is a collection of personal stories written by women about the female country artists who changed their lives.

Written By:  Kate Parrish

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

Holly Gleason, Author

Who are you listening to right now? Whose music do you love, and why? These are the conversation starters music critic, author, and artist-development consultant Holly Gleason has been using for years—something to help loosen folks up and find common ground. From those conversations, the idea for Woman Walk the Line was born. Out September 20, Woman is a collection of personal stories written by women about the female country artists who changed their lives. (University of Texas Press)

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What this book isn’t: Gleason, who’s written for everyone from Rolling Stone and Spin to the New York Times and Playboy, had a vision early on for the essay collection. “I’d tell each contributor, ‘These are not profiles. They’re not bios. It’s you writing about that female artist who, in some way, shaped your life,’” she says. “‘It’s the artist or record you return to again and again.’”

The diverse collection, featuring 27 artists, spans everyone from Maybelle Carter, Lil Hardin, and Dolly Parton to The Judds, Shania Twain, and Kacey Musgraves. Gleason offers personal stories written by musical icons like Rosanne Cash and Taylor Swift, as well as powerhouse critics and authors like Alice Randall, Ronni Lundy, and Holly George-Warren.

The artist who changed her: Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Gleason almost couldn’t help but wind up in the music industry. It wasn’t, however, until she was greeted one Saturday morning at the mall by a sultry, life-size cardboard cutout of Tanya Tucker that everything changed.

“For a girl at an all-girls school wearing a green A-line skirt and knee socks, that was quite a revelation,” she says. In a chapter written by Gleason about Tucker, she writes, “…Tucker was sending out a Morse code of heartbeats, carnal thumps, and raw-throated vocals that cut through whatever crossed their path.” Tucker’s rough edges were like nothing Gleason had ever seen.

The next chapter: Whether it’s collaborating with some of the best female writers in the country or working with artists like Kenny Chesney, Brantley Gilbert, and the Lumineers, Gleason keeps her dance card full. Even with her own memoir in the works and an upcoming book project about Emmylou Harris, Gleason doesn’t hesitate to answer about the likelihood of another volume of Woman: “There are so many more artists I want to include. I could do book number two tomorrow.”

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