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Touchdown & Tunes – Bryan Kent

Do you feel like a trip out of state SFL Music readers? Well, as music festivals start to open up across the country, Touchdown & Tunes in Paducah, KY is a definite for fans to attend. Specifically, country music and football fans! This three-day music festival starting September 3rd through September 5th at Carson Park is packed with live shows from several world-renown artists, activities for kids, televised college football games and a weekend for relaxing and rejuvenating.

Catching up with Chief Executive Officer Bryan Kent, he revealed some details about the festival, how and why he started the festival and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: This festival looks amazing. How did you get involved with this? What prompted you to go into this industry?
Bryan Kent: I grew up playing music myself and was an artist in Nashville for eight to ten years. So, just being around it as an artist on a different side of things. There’s a lot of things I love about the music industry when you look at it. It’s a real tough road sometimes as far as an artist is concerned, but even not being an artist, I still wanted to make sure that what I did for a living incorporated music, and so I worked events and have been doing that for the past eleven years. I just got to where the more I was around them, the more I was intrigued by how it all worked, and so spent some time doing a lot of research, market research. Going to just different festivals and events and just how its put together. What I liked. What I didn’t like. A buddy of mine a few years back, actually it was like 2014 I believe, made the comment he had to take his wife to a Broadway show and he was missing the Georgia football game, and you know, that’s nine times out of ten, that’s the case. The wife wants to go do something. The husband wants to watch the game and who wins out. Well, mostly the wife if the husbands smart. And so, it just kind of struck me. How do you combine the two? We watch the Superbowl every year and nine times out of ten, people I talk to, they couldn’t tell you who won, lost, who played, but they could tell you who played the half-time show. You know, music and sports just really does fit so well together and so Touchdowns & Tunes evolved and was born and that’s kind of how it all started. And it was one of those things that our first year in 2017, our first true year in 2017 you know, we weren’t really ready, but we just dove into it and we learned by doing and had some fires obviously, but we’re still alive and still here and growing pretty rapidly. So, it’s been good.

SFL Music: Why did you choose football? Did you play football or just a big football fan?
Kent: I played football in high school and then out of high school, I coached football for two or three years and it’s just out of the sports, between the three bigs is you know, baseball, basketball, football. Football is the one that seemed to tie in so well. Baseball games are popular. Basketball games are popular, but in the grand scheme, you know when Alabama plays on a Saturday, they packed a hundred thousand people into the stadium. Saturday after Saturday after Saturday. I’ve worked events and the bigger events always seemed to be centered around that sport, and so not only was it my favorite, but at the same time it seems to be America’s favorite, and it works. A lot of our efforts are centered around college football, but we’re growing and we’re making efforts to branch into maybe and possibly incorporating the NFL as well. So, it’s really neat and there’s just the opportunities of how to incorporate different aspects of football verses different aspects of music, really makes the options of what we can do with our brand pretty endless.

SFL Music: The other aspect that’s really unique, that I think is really great is the family aspect that you have things for kids to do. Face painting and stuff. That will continue in this one?
Kent: Oh yeah. So, kids ten and under are free in general admission. They receive free general admission. Obviously, VIP with this place being so limited, children still have to be ticketed there but, ten and under gets free general admission. Then we have what’s called our Pee Wee Zone. You know, everybody’s played Pee Wee football, right? At some point or another. We’ve got inflatables. We’ve got a big tent that we got like an airbrush painter coming. We’ve got a shaved ice truck is one of our food venders coming out. Kona Ice is who that is. So, I mean, we kind of just created it to be very family friendly because that’s a big major demographic that tends to be left out of a lot of festivals and events. It’s driven towards a different demographic, and we still want the college age kids who are not married and don’t have kids, and we want the mid-twenties or late twenties professionals who are married, but don’t have kids yet. I mean, we have stuff for them as well, but you know, making sure to being inclusive of as many demographics as possible was really important to us because at the end of the day, you know, a ten-year-old going to a football game. They’re still going to have to buy them a ticket, but the atmosphere of the tailgating and all that stuff. We’ve created an area that’s kind of a way to where parents can take their kids and we know there’s not going to be a bunch of people who’ve had too much to drink in that area. It’s kind of a safe zone. That was our effort, and I think we’ve done a great job, getting creative and finding ways to make sure that happens.

SFL Music: You mentioned limitations. Are there going to be any restrictions or how is that working?
Kent: Luckily, the great governor of Kentucky has lifted all COVID restrictions effective June 11th. So, as of now, no ma’am. We are wide open. Pedal down, and I think that’s what people want. Obviously, we’re going to approach with caution from an operational stand point. We’ll have our preparedness down to a tee with our security and with our policies and procedures in regards to admission, but for the most part you know, we’ve got a eighteen thousand person capacity and our goal is to have every single person in there and having a great time while they’re doing it. So, that’s our plan moving forward.

SFL Music: You have something called ‘In The Round’ which features a few individual songwriters that their music was recorded by somebody else. Are you still having that?
Kent: So, this year we don’t have the writers as of now. What we did was we kind of changed up our scheduling. Some feedback we got from 2019 was they got there, you know people that would show up at twelve or one. They enjoyed the songwriter aspect of it, but at the same time there was a pretty good lull around that two to three range and we didn’t start the main stage until 4:30 pm in 2019. So, this year what we did is we actually backed our main stage up, so our first act on Saturday is Eric Paslay. He plays at 2:00 and then on Sunday our first act who plays at 2:00 pm on the main stage and that’s Kameron Marlowe. So, what we did instead of the songwriters is, we’ve booked more regional acts. I mean, they’re singers/songwriters. They have their own band. They play original music. It’s not covers, but we’ve made it more full band to kind of make sure that the excitement level stays high. It stays up-tempo. Everybody’s having a good time and we’ll see how this goes. I mean, I definitely want to make efforts to bring the In The Round back at some point as we continue to grow and as our footprint of our grounds grows and we have more space. You know, that In The Round with songwriters, being a guy who lived in Nashville for ten years and went to as many In The Rounds as I possibly could. That’s such an intimate moment to hear these songwriters talk about their life experiences and how they wrote the song, and stories behind the song is the best part. So much of that you know, I mean at a festival, it just got overlooked and I think that’s the coolest part. So, what we’re going to try to do is have an area like I said, maybe in 2022 or even after that to where it’s more quiet. It’ll be like a VIP only entrance to hear these songwriters, but it creates that setting for that to be a really cool deliverable down the line. So, that’s what we’re planning on doing.

SFL Music: What is your goal with this year’s festival?
Kent: Like I said, our capacity is eighteen thousand a day and our line up definitely has the ability to do that, but truth be told, we’re taking an unconventional approach and we haven’t set a goal. Our goal is to come back off of the disaster year that was 2020 and just facilitate and execute a fun event for anyone that shows up because the main thing is getting people comfortable with being back on the horse and getting back in the game for live events regardless of where it is. Whether it’s a sporting event. Whether its music. Whatever the case may be, there’s still a lot of people that are apprehensive. There’s a lot of people that are biting at the bit ready to get out. Don’t get me wrong and I’m one of em. You know, but our goal this year is just let’s entertain and let’s put on the best event we can for as many people that show up. Whether it’s ten thousand. Whether it’s thirty thousand. Whatever the case may be. When you come to Touchdowns & Tunes our number one priority and its, I won’t say guarantee it because the only thing guaranteed in life is death and taxes, but our goal and our efforts, and I can guarantee that our efforts will be in making sure that everyone has a fantastic experience.

SFL Music: Well, I’m sure with this lineup and the activities, they definitely would. How did the selection of musicians (Ashley McBryde, Lauren Alaina, Michael Ray to name a few) come about?
Kent: This year was really complicated for booking specifically because you had so many shows from 2020 that had to be rescheduled. I mean, we went through probably sixty artists if not more than that to land with the ones we have. In the Brantley Gilberts and the Lynyrd Skynyrds. We’ve partnered with HB Concerts. That’s our production company. They also do our talent acquisition. They’re a fantastic company to work with and they helped us a lot navigate through most of that simply because it’s too much of an undertaking for us. So, it came down to who draws in our market. Who are some acts that are really gonna resonate with our fan base? And we got Lynyrd Skynyrd on Friday night, and then you got Brantley Gilbert headlining on Saturday night. Brantley’s kind of that crossover artist, right? Like he’s grungy. He’s rough. You know, he plays a heck of a show, but it’s kind of segueing from the southern rock we have on Friday night into like rock and country, and then close out with Chris Young on Sunday night, and that was really important to me. How we put the lineup together making sure that the sound of each individual artist does not become redundant. It’s not just all guys singing you know, current contemporary, country or pop-country or whatever you want to call it, all night long. We made efforts to be like ok, well, we’ve got an alternative sounding guy, and then we’ll go into a rockin’ female and then we’ll go into a group. So, a lot of time and effort goes into making sure that our lineup is well rounded, and thanks to our team here and our production team and our talent acquisition team, we did a really good job of that. I think.

SFL Music: I think so too. Did you come from a country music background? Is that the type of music that you wrote?
Kent: Yes. Yeah, I’m grounded in country. Raised on Randy Travis and Conway Twitty and some of those guys. My grandfather got me started in that as a young kid and as I continued to grow, my dad listens to Alabama, Restless Heart, Brooks & Dunn and then obviously, the next generation behind them was the Garth Brooks’ and the Kenny Chesney’s. The Travis Tritts. So, it’s just been something that I surrounded myself with. I mean, I’m from Kentucky. Born and raised. Lived in Nashville. I’ve lived all over, but at the end of the day what my heart kept coming back to and what really resonated with me was country music. So, it was a pretty easy decision just because it came so naturally that that was going to be the direction that we needed to take the brand.

SFL Music: What inspired you when you wrote your music?
Kent: Oh man. Sometimes inspiration came from other people’s experiences. You know, hearing other people talk about what they had gone through or that it’s something they wanted to celebrate. Something they’re happy about. And sometimes its stuff I lived through. Songwriting is such a phenomenon in and of itself and there’s so many great songwriters out there. When I made an album, I didn’t write all of the songs that I recorded. The majority I did because to me it was more about the best song wins out. Like, regardless if I had a hand in it or not. What makes a great record to me is having the best songs that fit that project, and so I can’t sit here and take credit for that because some of those works are not mine, but having the privilege to take those works and give it life and give it legs, is an honor. You got acts and artists out there. Rascal Flatts has given Neil Thrasher, which is a big-time writer for them you know, back in their hay day. I mean, his career exists because of acts like Jason Aldean and Rascal Flatts who he can put pen to paper and create emotion, and then they bring it to life. It’s so cool to watch and experience, and that’s why I’m really glad you asked about the In The Round because that was my favorite part and its one of those things that it was a very bitter sweet decision, and I did not come to that lightly. I didn’t come to it myself. Our team sat down and we internally discussed like what makes the best experience, and for this year it was one of those decisions that we were like ok, we’re going to back off of the songwriters In The Round and see what happens. See how it’s received. Did it resonate with people and we just don’t know it and they want it back, and we can fix that moving forward, but man it’s a great experience. In my mind you know, it’s my way of being like hey, you guys that don’t ever get to Nashville, let us bring a little bit of Nashville to you and not from an artist standpoint, but from a songwriter’s standpoint.

SFL Music: It sounds like you should be in there.
Kent: I get to play every now and again. You know, I played the festival the first couple years. Sitting out this year and hopefully can get back in the mix, but having gone from our 2019 line up was Chase Rice, Runaway June, Mitchell Tenpenny, Dillon Carmichael. We had some great names and it was a phenomenal show, but you can’t argue going from Chase Rice and Runaway June to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brantley Gilbert and Chris Young. The caliber of talent is just in another level, and so this year I was like ok, I’m going to have to put my promoter hat on and keep it on and really stay boots on the ground to make sure that this event gets facilitated properly. And we have a great team, and so you know, we work day in and day out. Twelve hours a day from here until September the 7th making sure that all the execution points are done with flare and with precision and that’s how we like to work.

SFL Music: Paducah to you is like the perfect location to draw from Nashville, the whole area?
Kent: Oh man. I mean, you know Paducah, my home town is Mayfield KY. So, about thirty miles south of Paducah and it’s such an underrated market. It’s such an underrated town. We still have a very quaint downtown area. We’ve got parks. We’ve got hotels. We have all this stuff and not only that, but we sit right on I-24. So, while we’re one hundred and forty-three miles from Nashville, we’re one hundred and seventy-six from St Louis. We’re one hundred and ninety-two from Memphis. We set in such a good location. It’s an advantage to artists because we’re only two hours outside of Nashville. So, most of our artists don’t even stay overnight. And that was kind of something that I took into consideration when putting this together before we even started was you know, when I would play shows and travel, what I wanted more than anything next to playing music. I wanted to sleep in my own bed. So, being right here so close to where ninety-five percent of them call home. They’ll play their show. They’ll load up their gear and then they’re busing back to Nashville to sleep in their own bed. That’s huge. I mean, in my mind, I think that’s really great that we can be a market so close that still delivers a great show and then you know, with unfortunately CMA Fest canceling this year. Not having a 2021. Nashville market has been pretty major for us because a lot of people flee to Nashville. Even people in Nashville. That’s a great week for them that they unfortunately didn’t get. So, hopefully this year we’ll be able to still deliver a small portion. I mean, there’s no way to compete with CMA Fest. I think we all know that, but instead of sitting at home or trying to find something to do you know, we’re still going to give you a little bit of that taste of festivals coming back, and then everybody will be ready for 2022.

SFL Music: That’s great! Is there anything else you wanted to add for readers to know?
Kent: Camping. It’s our first year for camping and we have camping on the grounds. What that means is, like you can be in your RV camping spot and you’ll be able to see the main stage. We’re one of about five festivals out of America that I know of; I’m going to disclaimer that one, that you have the ability to camp and from your camp sight, you can see the main stage. Even from tent camping. Some of those spots will have the ability to see the stage and be in their camp site. That’s huge. I think that that’s such a great experience to be able to relax around your stuff whether it’s an RV. Whether it’s a tent. Whatever the case may be, you don’t miss a beat, right? No matter where you’re at on our grounds, you’re gonna hear music and I love that. So that’s one thing. This is our first year to do camping and it’s going over very well. I think if people, especially festival goers are looking for a festival to come to and camp for a great experience, we’re in that conversation. And rightfully so. That’s the other little piece that we want to make sure people know about. People are aware of. They know we’re here, and then they know what we have to offer. Everybody just get ready (he chuckled). Put your party pants on for September 3rd, 4th and 5th. That’s about all we got.

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