Music » Music Issue

Why do you make music in Atlanta?

30 local acts weigh in on creating in the city they call home


Adron (left) and Black Linen - TIM REDMAN | JONAH SWILLEY
  • Tim Redman | Jonah Swilley
  • Adron (left) and Black Linen

"I suspect there are many, many cities in the world where I would have an easier time of making a living as a musician and building a following. But I stay here in Atlanta and do what I do because I love it here, it's beautiful and fun, and I've found friends and musicians in this city that make me wonder how I ever got so lucky to know them."


"I moved from Baltimore to Atlanta 10 months ago just to make music here. I struggled as a musician everywhere else I lived. Atlanta seems to be the only place I've been where people give a crap about musicians on stage with instruments. If you are good at what you do, I believe you can be somebody here."

Pietro DiGennaro, Black Linen

"When I was 20 I moved to New York to form a band to play my songs. I knew some folks there and I thought it would be easier to meet creative people and get noticed than in Atlanta. I never got a band together because NYC kids are either too busy working to pay New York rent or else live in a rich-kid parallel dimension and never cross paths with me. After a year I got fired, went broke, and had to move home. I had a band formed in Atlanta in two weeks."

Chandler Kelly, Hotels, Shampoo

"It's funny how rarely I ask myself that question. This city is my home; it's where all my favorite people live; I was born here. In some ways it can be challenging to work here and in other ways it's amazingly easy. This city is so fucking weird and fucked up and so are all the people here; I love it, I can't get enough. The rough edges are what reflects so strongly in the art that comes out of here."

George Pettis, 100 Watt Horse

"I make music in Atlanta because someone has to show George Pettis how it's done."

Britt Teusink, deadCAT

"For one thing, our family has been here since the city was named Terminus, so asking why we make music here is like asking why I smoke weed in my car. Hell, I'm not gonna break into YOUR car to get high. This one's mine. That said, the reason I'm proud to make music here is the eclectic mix of influences that get fused together in Atlanta. You can't avoid being affected by all the diverse cultures represented in this city. We are the melting pot of the South."

JT Wheeler, the Wheeler Boys

"This is where I was raised. I had a supportive family, though small. I was able to get into the music industry as an early teen, promoting vinyl singles to DJs who spun everywhere from dance to strip clubs, while I got into DJing and emceeing. At places like Kaya and Dancers Elite, I was underage but able to get through the door on the strength of my job and familiarity with people. People always trip now like, 'Damn, I thought you were at least 21 back then!'"

Yamin Semali

"I make music in Atlanta because I believe in the city. I feel that the city has some amazing musical accomplishments and legendary artists, but I believe we can take it even further. We can have even more cultural influence worldwide if we reveal the true diversity of our music scene. I'm doing what I can to encourage and be a part of that."

Jack Preston, the Dojo

Baby Baby (left) and Lily and the Tigers - TERENCE RUSHIN | PETER WEBB
  • Terence Rushin | Peter Webb
  • Baby Baby (left) and Lily and the Tigers

"I make music in Atlanta because I've been to New York, I've been to L.A., I've been to Chicago, and honestly we dress better in the A. Our women are thicker and once those cities become inflated with tourists and people who assume they are artists based off their location and not their talent, Atlanta will rule the world. FILA."

Fontez Brooks, Baby Baby

"The people ... From my first step into the Atlanta music scene I knew there was something different about this place. A world unfolded full of almost mythical characters that were both inspired and inspiring. Atlanta, though she is a big city, is really just a big family. The musicians here, whom I have come to know and love, are so supportive of one another. Everyone is constantly collaborating and challenging each other. We are building this momentous creative energy that is so unique and so powerful, it might just explode."

Casey Hood, Lily and the Tigers

"I make music in Atlanta because it's such an exciting city, teeming with inspiration. The energy here is unlike any other city I've visited. Every once in a while I think about leaving but then I am confronted with the question: Where am I going to find a city with such amazing people and culture? Nowhere. ATL has got it goin' on."

Aireon Grimes, Ployd, Giant Skelly

"I haven't really thought about it, but embarrassingly enough, I think it's for social interaction. I love my bandmates and I really don't think I would get a chance to see them as often as I do otherwise. Secondly, I'd say it's to feed my artistic drive. I draw and animate all day, but that stuff is an inward experience for me. It's not cathartic. It's very tedious and time consuming. Playing music on the other hand is a very 'outward' experience, if that makes sense. It's a totally different feeling."

Sam Leyja| Tiger! Tiger!

"Atlanta is the new mecca of hip-hop — its music scene is thriving and diverse, and Atlanta residents get behind movements that they believe in. It's really all love if you're working hard and striving for your dreams. I've been in other cities and the way artists come together in Atlanta to bring something creative to not only the music scene but the city is something that is amazing in itself."

— Goldyard

"I would have to say because I don't have a choice. I have been playing in the Atlanta music scene for a while now, and there are several good bands to listen to (like Big Jesus and Lazer/Wulf). There are several terrible bands as well that get too much credit, but it's like that anywhere you go. Nobody really plays the exact music that I want to listen to or see live so I make it myself. It would be silly to say I don't care about what people think of my music, but I am going to make it anyway. I love playing in Atlanta because the people here are great and can respect a different idea from a musical perspective. I feel like in today's world with all the DJs and hip-hop music coming out people have become too reliant on computers to move their feet (not that that's a bad thing), but there is magic in live drums, bass, and guitar. It is up to musicians like myself to remind people that there is beauty in the basics. It's more real to me that way."

Patrick Stone, the Dirty Magazines

  • Jessica Camerata | Philippe Lafaye
  • Zoners (left) and Hawks

"As far as Atlanta goes, I've met so many amazing and fun people throughout the years from playing music in this city. Let's talk about the awesome bands in Atlanta ... Seeing my friends grow into amazing musicians. Still to this day I see friends perform and I think, 'Holy shit! This is really fucking good and no one else besides this little rad scene will see this band,' and that's unfortunate and all, but at least it was there at one point in time and inspired those around us."

Chad LeBlanc, Zoners

"I've been involved in the Atlanta music scene since the early '90s, and over the years I've watched it evolve and devolve many times over. I feel like the history of the underground here in Atlanta is woven into my blood at this point, as it is with anyone whose still making music in town that's been around long enough to remember 'back in the day.' It has defined me and made me who I am today — for better, or for worse. I play music to keep the demons at bay and I do it in Atlanta because it's my home."

Mike Keenan, HAWKS

"My immediate family all lives in Atlanta and the sense of community between musicians has become my extended family. It makes the creative process easy."

Curtis Harding

"I play music in Atlanta because it's a big city that feels more like a small town. We don't look or sound like Brooklyn, L.A., Chicago, or any other major town in America and that's a good thing. We're a tight-knit music community that maintains this pleasantly weird identity and fiercely independent spirit. On a personal level, I play music because it gives me a voice. Without judgment, Atlanta does the same for any musician willing to give our little big town a chance. For that reason — and so many more — Atlanta is the best music community in the world."

Sean Zearfoss, Small Reactions

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