Lightning 100’s eighth annual Music City Mayhem Competition is happening now! We’ve narrowed it down to 32 finalists—not an easy task with over 300 submissions of incredible local music.
Get to know the finalists (in no particular order) below, and remember to vote for your favorite!
The winning band will get a coveted slot at Live On The Green Music Festival as well as on-air time on Lightning 100, branded t-shirts and posters courtesy of Project 615, studio time with an engineer from Forty-One Fifteen and a photo/video EPK prize package from Ford Photographs!
NDUKA’s music a beautiful tapestry of rock, blues, and soul. Originally hailing from Memphis, singer/songwriter NDUKA relocated to Nashville to chase his passion. He recently released his debut EP, titled Never Been Scared. His sound could be compared to the likes of Gary Clark, Jr. and Sam Cooke. Check out his song, “Never Been Scared”, below
Watch NDUKA play live at SIR here!
- The Gills
The Gills, originally from Pensacola, Florida, have settled in Nashville after years of touring. Frontman Jesse Wheeler started writing songs as a teenageer, looking for an outlet from his childhood battle with Leukemia. Their alternative rock sound has grown to find middle ground between college radio and Top 40. The band co-produced their self-titled LP, which combines gritty rock and pop sensibilities, and includes “Gimme Gimme”. Listen here
Watch The Gills live at Mercy Lounge!
- Birds in the Airport
Birds in the Airport is an orchestral indie rock project founded and fronted by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Tom Breyfogle (of Relient K). The project began as an outlet for Tom while he spent many months on the road touring. He started writing and recording songs alone in various hotel rooms, dressing rooms, vans, and apartments around the world. Birds in the Airport has a whimsical sound combining cinematic atmospheres and quirky pop songs. “Dozing Off” is the opening track of newly released EP, Domesticated Drowsiness.
Check out some visual art created by Nashville artists and inspired by Domesticated Drowsiness!
- Andrew Leahey & the Homestead
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead make music that nods to the past while still pushing forward–finding new life in a sound that’s been blasting out of car stereos ever since the invention of FM radio.The heartland American rock band was founded by Leahey in 2011. Their soon to be released album, Skyline in Central Time, was co-produced by Ken Coomer of Wilco, and was largely written in the aftermath of an emergency brain surgery Leahey had to undergo. Leahey’s sound has been compared to that Tom Petty and Steve Earle. Check out “Little in Love” below
Watch Andrew perform “Little in Love” live here!
Stagolee started as a blues duo out of Starkville, Mississippi, and has evolved into a five-piece indie band that calls Nashville home. The band spends most of their time touring the east side of the states, and playing regional festivals and clubs. Their aggressive yet heartfelt blues/rock sound could be likened to The Pixies and Arcade Fire. Their latest record, Love is Criminal, is now available. Check out their song “Go” below
Watch Stagolee live at East Side Hootenanny here!
- Mountains Like Wax
Mountains Like Wax is the ethereal, southern post-rock project of Mitchell Taylor and Samuel Katz, based out of Murfreesboro, TN. The concept of Mountains Like Wax was kindled by Taylor’s roots in the tranquil landscape of the Smoky Mountains, a favorite Psalm, and his fierce desire to write honest music about growing up in a modern world. The band’s influences include Mansions, Kings of Leon, and Local Natives. Last November, Mountains like Wax released their debut EP, Tetralogy, produced by Quinn Erwin and John Potts of Afterlife Parade. Check out their song, “Control” below
Watch Mountains Like Wax live at Mad Donnas here!
- The Daybreaks
The Daybreaks began when songwriters Caleb Jones and Heather Bond started collaborating with the intention of writing for TV and film in 2015. When fellow music industry veteran Bobby Holland heard their early demos and offered to produce a record for them, the cinematic pop band was born. The band’s sound is haunting, but never melodramatic and could be compared to Belle and Sebastian or Beach House. Hear their debut single, “The Machine” below
Watch them perform their song “Cruel Summer” live at Pentavarit here!
- Charlie Abbott
Charlie Abbott is an East Nashville based singer/songwriter with a garage pop sound, comparable to The Strokes or Mac Demarco. Abbott has shared the stage with notable acts including Matt Kearney, Houndmouth, and Phosphorescent, and has worked in the studio with Vance Powell (The White Stripes, Dead Weather) and Chris Grainger (Wilco, Switchfoot). Abbott’s 2015 EP, Watch Me Explode, includes the track “Sunday”, below
Watch Charlie’s latest video on Facebook here:
- Kid Freud
Vanderbilt based, garage pop band Kid Freud consists of drummer Daniel Closser, bassist Jacob Moore and frontman Alex Tomkins. The band has a catchy pop/rock sound, comparable to the likes of Vampire Weekend and the Strokes. They’re also known for their charismatic performances, led by Tomkins’ stage dominating presence. Their song “The End” is the title track of their 2015 EP.
Watch them live here!
- Brave Town
Belmont based band Brave Town was born in 2013 when frontman Jay Ragsdale and lead guitarist Michael Kelley began writing together. With influences like The Killers, Jack White and Coldplay, the band found a unique sound that combines ambient post-rock with energetic vocals. Brave Town has shared the stage with notable acts including Smallpools and Twenty One Pilots. Their recent EP was produced by Chad Howat of Paper Route, and includes their song below, “Denim”
Watch Brave Town performing a mashup of Coldplay’s “Adventure of a Lifetime” with “Magic”
- Kiernan McMullan
Kiernan McMullan is an Irish-Australian singer-songwriter who now resides in Nashville. McMullan’s music ranges widely from acoustic, jazz, rock, hip hop and funk. McMullan has toured extensively, including playing shows throughout Ireland and living on the road from 2009-2011. He has shared the stage with artists such as Sheryl Crow, Ed Sheeran, Sublime and The Proclaimers. His most recent single “I Stayed the Same” was released in April 2016 and his full length album is expected to come out later this year. Listen to “I Stayed the Same” here
Watch Kiernan McMullan featuring Allie Bradley performing “I Stayed the Same”
- Arrow Kids
Arrow Kids make music about being alive. The indie rock band is the current project of songwriter/producer Kenny Fleetwood, former frontman of the band Farewell Fighters. Fleetwood formed Arrow Kids with friends as a way to express himself through his music in a way he never has before. Their lead single “Young Forever (Wild Ones)” has already gained them attention right here in Nashville. Listen to their current single, “Beautiful Life”, below
Nashville-based band Carey consists of singer/guitarist Bryan Davidson, bassist Daniel Green and drummer Casey Benefield. The not psych rock trio met while attending Belmont University here in Nashville. Carey’s music uses fuzzy guitar riffs to create a 90’s indie rock sound. Carey has a sound likened to Weezer and Pavement, and has been compared to other Nashville bands Diarrhea Planet and Bully. The band’s debut EP Carey was released in March of 2016 and features current single “You Were Right”. Listen here
Watch Carey’s official video for “You Were Right”
- B R U N S
BRUNS is the new band of Tim Bruns, the former vocalist of Denver-based band Churchill. Bruns moved to Nashville during a soul searching hiatus from music and met songwriter-guitarist Ryan Harris Brown. Drummer Tom Whall joined the two and BRUNS was created. The group has a classic American rock sound infused with soulful lyrics, with influences like Tom Petty and The Shins. BRUNS’ self-titled EP dropped in October of last year. Their single “Buzzards” is the third song on their EP. Listen below
Watch BRUNS performing for “Buzzards” live here
- Lasso Spells
Lasso Spells is fronted by Brett Ashes and Danielle Shoda. The new psychedelic garage rock band has a groove-laden, smooth vibe, complete with retro organ tones, thick harmonies and fuzzy guitars. Their electrifying sound could be likened to Brian Jonestown Massacre or Black Angels.Their new EP, Stuck in a Shape, is soon to be released. Check out the music video for their new track, “NU” here
- Oliver Ocean
Oliver Ocean is “indie rock for souls lost at sea”. They combine folky harmonies with jazz infused sounds and cosmic string textures. The Nashville based group started jamming together in 2014, and soon began moulding their creations into tangible songs. The group consists of vocalist Derek Yarbrough, guitarist Marcus Fakler, bassist Paul Cabrera and drummer Caleb Bennett. The band could be likened to Local Natives or My Morning Jacket. Oliver Ocean’s single “Shallows” was released June 2015, listen below
Watch Oliver Ocean performing their submission of single “Shallows” for an NPR contest:
Aprendiz is an alternative Latin rock band that calls Nashville home. Members of the band include singer/guitarist Raul Oyarce (Chile), drummer Danny Soto (Puerto Rico), lead guitar Ricardo Sanchez (Mexico) and bass player Benny Rivera (Puerto Rico). Their heavy rock tone, paired with Latin rhythms and smooth melodies make them a stand out in the Nashville music scene with each of its members bringing something unique when it comes to creating music. From rock to folk, reggae, funk, worship and many other style, Aprendiz is always focused on improving and learning from all types of music and bringing a positive message to the people. The group worked with Michael Esser in producing the band’s latest and newly released single, “Cross the Line” and expect to release their new EP in July. Listen below
- Behold The Brave
Hailing from the mountains of Tennessee, Behold the Brave combines Southern rock and garage rock to create a sound reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band has a bluesy rock essence to their harmonies and guitar with “a dose of southeastern swamp”. The four piece, energetic and gritty rock group has found a home and a following here in the Nashville area. Listen to Behold the Brave’s latest single “Rocky Mountain Strawberry” here
Watch Behold the Brave perform “Rocky Mountain Strawberry” live on Audiotree here:
Indie Reggae rock band Floralorix is a local four piece that formed in 2014. Their music radiates a sense of positivity with calming reggae melodies. Bloombox, the debut album from Floralorix, was recently released in May this year and reached iTunes USA Reggae Top 100 in its first week. Floralorix has shared the stage with legendary reggae band The Wailers and headlined the Nashville concert series Phunky Reggae Party in 2015. The band aspires to bring people together through their uplifting, soothing melodies. Check out their stylistic reggae single “Am the One” from debut album Bloombox below
Here is Floralorix performing “Am the One” live:
- Cold Creeks
Mount Juliet band Cold Creeks consists of singer/guitarist Brandon Murphy, vocalist/cellist/bassist Caleb Jones and vocalist/pianist/drummer Pearl Stewart. The trio formed in 2014–but their cohesive, indie blues/rock vibe sounds like they’ve been around for years. The band’s influences include Modest Mouse, Manchester Orchestra and Alabama Shakes, which is evident in Cold Creeks’ signature riffs and smooth “liquid gold” vocals. They recently recorded a new EP set to release in August but until then, check out their single “Bluebirds” below
Watch Cold Creeks performing single “Gypsy Girl” presented by BalconyTV:
Kaptan is the shimmery indie pop project of singer/songwriter Andres Gaos. His conceptual, thoughtful and playfully-orchestrated pop sound could be compared to that of St. Lucia or Cardinox. Originally from Seattle, WA, the indie pop band now calls Nashville home. Kaptan released the single “Jump” in 2015 under South by Sea Music. Check out “Everything”, from his 2015 Sprinter EP below
Watch Kaptan perform “Dreamer” live with Motika here:
- Somebody’s Darling
Somebody’s Darling have all the elements you would expect from a Southern rock band: lead singer Amber Farris’ commanding vocals, dominant guitars, powerful drums, and lyrics that make you pay attention. As a female lead singer from Texas that gets a bit rowdy on stage, Farris has heard countless comparisons to Janis Joplin. She hopes that people are inspired, encouraged, and moved by the band’s live set. She adds, “We also like to drink with our fans.” Janis would be proud. Check out her song “Smoke Blows” below
Watch Somebody’s Darling perform songs from their album Adult Roommates here:
- Cody Huggins
As Southern Americana continues to grow, Cody Huggins is firing on all cylinders. Being both solid in the craft of songwriting and heavily talented in guitar work–he brings to mind the rock and roll sound of Neil Young–all of which are backed lyrically with the sorrowful longings that are found somewhere between Tom Petty and Ryan Adams. Coming from a family of musicians, Cody’s roots run deep. Listen to his song “See For Days” below
Check out Cody Huggins performing song “Toward the Coast” live here:
Chapels is a rock band based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Their impressive lyricism blends perfectly with their alternative rock style, combining elements of folk, pop, and rock styles that could be compared to Foals or Bad Suns. Tasteful synths and guitar swells compliment outstanding lead vocals and well placed harmonies. Whatever your preferred style of music is, you’re sure to find something you like from Chapels. Give their song “Loose Ends” a listen below
Check out this teaser for their new EP here:
- K Phillips
K Phillips’ life could be a Country song. He looks like a young Hank Williams and was named after Kris Kristofferson. When K was 18 both his close friend and girlfriend died in separate drowning accidents. Reeling from these losses, he made the decision to pursue his own music. On his forth-coming sophomore LP Dirty Wonder, K has truly found his voice – a combination of Tom Waits’ lyrical wit and Keith Richards’ slinky country-rock hooks joined with K’s unique, compelling vocal delivery. Listen here
Watch the music video for “Lincoln City (Keep it Safe)”:
- Paul Phillips Band
Unfulfilled by the academic pursuit of piano which continued through college, Paul Phillips began playing guitar and writing songs, and soon set his mind on pursuing music in a big city. It was the flip of a coin that would serendipitously lead Paul to New York City where he immersed himself in the local music scene. Early reviews describe Paul’s “knack for memorable melodies and soulful, bluesy delivery” all on display in both his studio performances and his live shows. Additionally, Paul performs in an indie-folk duo with his wife Betsy called “Paul and Bets” and is developing an independent film which is intended to be accompanied by a live band. Paul J. Phillips currently resides in his new home in Nashville, TN.
Check out the “Time, Time” music video:
A force to be reckoned with, Renn hails from the North Carolina Coast. Having spent the past few years living and traveling across California and his current hometown of Nashville, TN, he has absorbed many stories and sounds that have propelled him as a masterful singer and storyteller. Heartache and a Song is Renn’s first album release, encapsulating his own tale of love and loss in ways that we all can relate.His new sound, drenched with folk undertones, bears his own unique soul and story. Check out their song “King of California” below
Watch their live acoustic version of “King of California” here:
- The Vegabonds
Indie rock band The Vegabonds toured the world for seven years, released a few original projects, and developed an unwavering devotion to their craft before completing their latest work, What We’re Made Of. The record, produced by Tom Tapley (Elton John, Bruce Springsteen), consists of hard-hitting lyrics that don’t hesitate to touch on real-life situations like growing up, moving on, heartbreak, loss and the struggles that accompany it all. The debut single, “Oh My Lord”, embodies the real-life inner battles of frontman Daniel Allen. Listen to it here
Check out the music video for “Oh My Lord” here:
FUENTE combines powerful pop melodies with melodically sophisticated vintage synth textures and hip-hop inspired beats. You may recall Brian Fuente from his time spent with Team Blake Shelton on Season 2 of The Voice back in 2012, but since his move to Nashville he has completely revamped his sound. Fuente’s first release, The Water, consists of two back-to-back EPs, featuring the title track a with visually enthralling music video. Check out his newest single “The Water” below
Watch the music video for “The Water”:
- Rock Eupora
Rock Eupora is the project of Mississippi native Clayton Waller. He operates in a true DIY fashion, playing every instrument on the albums that he writes and records himself. Waller, knowing he would soon make the leap to Nashville, wanted to take a piece of Mississippi with him. He recognized the importance of his surrounding influences and environment, and was ready to rock the boat and shake up the stereotypes associated with Southern music with a combination of gritty rock and shimmering pop influences. Check out their track “Love Won’t Last Forever” below
Watch their music video on Facebook for “I Wanna Be Alone”:
- The Middle Ground
Newly minted Nashville transplants, The Middle Ground, emerged on the Milwaukee music scene in 2013 as The Joe Neary Band and quickly found a niche with their alternative pop sound. Their varied influences of pop, blues, and alternative have likened them to Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, and Young the Giant. The Middle Ground is currently working on an upcoming full-length album for the summer of 2016. Give their song “Never Needed Me” a listen below
Watch The Middle Ground perform their cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” here:
- Jess Nolan
Jess Nolan, a 23 year old New Jersey native labeled as an old soul, has been compared to strong female songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Carole King. She has performed all over town at renowned venues like the Bluebird Cafe, 3rd and Lindsley and Exit/In. When she isn’t busy winning over fans with her infectious sound, maybe you can find her loving her job as lifeguard for the local YMCA. Check out her song “My Love” below
Hear Jess perform her original songs and talk about them in her TED Talk: