With Broadway gigs on hold, Nashville musicians connect with fans virtually

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Broadway on the Brink

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It’s an iconic experience that attracts millions of visitors to Nashville. Live music emanates from honky tonks on Broadway day and night.

If you frequent Broadway, there’s a good chance you have seen Carl Wockner perform his unique style of acoustic organic pop. But that all abruptly changed March 16 when bars were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would be playing every single day, sometimes a couple times a day, so for every month that goes by, I lose about 30 shows and 100 percent of our income goes along with it,” Wockner said.

Wockner is in American on a visa from Australia, which means his wife can’t work and they have two kids to support.

“Single-income family, relying on shows that don’t exist right now,” Wockner said. “We have a mortgage, a couple of cars and overhead like everyone else.”

The Wockners were able to pause their mortgage payments and cut out all unnecessary expenses. He’s been doing live concerts on his Facebook and Instagram pages and said fans have been graciously sending virtual tips.

“We’ve been able to make just enough to cover our groceries, our utilities, our phone bills and insurance,” Wockner said. “In a very positive light, I’ve been able to make some lifelong fans and friends out of this. People have been so generous throwing us $100 out of nowhere. It brings you to tears almost.”

Nashville musician Justin Johnson has also been playing shows online.

“Most of us just wanna play, so we’re like, ‘alright get it, we’re geared up, we got the guitar, we got our instruments, hit the button, let’s do this,” Johnson said.

Johnson would normally be playing up to three gigs, 12 hours a day. He said most bars pay a base salary, plus musicians rack up tips. Streaming shows aren’t nearly as lucrative, but Johnson sees a positive.

“I believe this will sort of help people if they were kind of stuck in a Broadway rut where they were only playing covers and they wanted to have some sort of original material, and they wanted to get out there with it,” Johnson said. “You’ve got a captive audience, you can broadcast, you can do whatever you want to and you can interact with the people in a different way.”

Johnson and Wockner agree it might be a slow start, but Broadway will bounce back. 

“I’m sure people are thinking after this quarantine, I’m going to Nashville, I’m gonna stay for a week, I’m gonna go to every bar and I’m gonna drink all the beer,” Johnson said. 

“Nashville being Nashville, I have like every faith in the world,” Wockner said. “It’s gonna feel like it’s going to get into first, and second gear, then out of nowhere it’s just going to cram into third and be pedal to the metal!” 

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