PRESSMEN’S HOME — Two Nashville musicians, Pete McKeown and Andrea Davidson, are breathing new life into what was once a dairy barn on the historic Pressmen’s Home property near Rogersville. After cleaning it up a bit, the duo has turned the former working barn into a music venue they hope can be enjoyed by everyone in the community.
They are calling the venue The Castle Barn because, as McKeown said, “we just decided to call it what it looked like.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Saturday, Sept. 7, to commemorate the official opening of the venue.
The nearly day-long event included a non-ticketed “hangout” starting at 4 p.m. on the property, which is located at 908 Pressmen’s Home Road.
The ribbon cutting, conducted by the Rogersville/Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce, was held and a ticketed concert began at 7 p.m.
The Castle Barn officially joined the Chamber about six weeks ago.
“We’re excited to be a part of the Chamber because there are so many people in Rogersville right now who are wanting to breathe life into the community and to the town,” Davidson said.
Local singer/songwriter Traci Cochran opened at Saturday’s concert with her signature Americana, country and blues style.
The Nashville band The Young Fables was the show’s main headliner.
“They most recently were on USA network on a show called Real Country and did very well there,” McKeown said. “It was cool because we had them booked for a while before all that happened.”
Getting startedSaturday’s event was actually not the first one held at The Castle Barn, as they held an open mic event in September of last year to gauge public interest in a music venue.
“We didn’t want to move here and assume anything about the community, what they wanted, or what would be beneficial,” McKeown said. “We knew that Pressmen’s Home was a beautiful, historic space, and it seemed like it lent itself really well to having music events.”
Davidson explained that, at last year’s event, they offered a questionnaire to visitors to find out what they wanted to see in the area.
“We had a box where people could answer a question that said, ‘if you could see Pressmen’s Home turn into anything, what would you want it to look like,’” she said. “The overwhelming response was that people wanted music out there.”
Then first official concert took place in June of this year, marking the beginning of the “First Saturdays Concert Series.”
“We’ve been doing these once-a-month shows, and they’re always the same,” McKeown said. “We open up the grounds of the golf course for people to bring a picnic or yard games. It’s a beautiful space to hang out at.”
Supporting artists and uplifting the communityMusic has heavily influenced the careers of both McKeown and Davidson. It was their love of music and its power to bring people together that led them to Pressmen’s Home dairy barn.
“I actually ran a concert organization in Nashville called Sofar Sounds, and we would put on shows in places that normally didn’t have music,” McKeown said. “I was always overwhelmed at the ability for surprising music acts to bring people together to not only enjoy being in the moment with great music but to spark connections in the community that would go off and have their own positive effects. They always say ‘be the change you want to see in the world,’ and one of the things that we saw a lot was how musicians make the majority of their living now off of playing shows. A lot of venues started to take a piece of that pie. They would take portions of the merchandise that they would sell or things like that.”
Though McKeown admitted that he and Davidson are still figuring out the business aspect, they knew from the beginning that they wanted to create a venue that was supportive of the artists who visited.
“Our original idea and the way that it works right now is to partner with businesses in the community who are willing to sponsor the vision of bringing top talented acts to Rogersville,” McKeown said.
So far, sponsorships have been able to pay for the musicians who have played at The Castle Barn.
Saturday’s show was sponsored by East Tennessee Iron and Metal, First Community Bank and Blue Ridge Package.
Giving new life to a piece of historyDavidson actually is close friends with the owner of the portion of Pressmen’s Home property which includes the dairy barn. He mentioned the area to her as a potential venue.
“We threw out the idea for an artist retreat space and came out to see if it would be possible,” McKeown said. “Once we saw it, we immediately saw the uniqueness of it and the beauty of the area and the people here. It hasn’t been an easy thing to do, but it was an easy decision to give it a go.”
Luckily, the barn was still in usable condition when they began the project. They had to do a few renovations to make sure the barn was able to hold guests, but is still in need of some more.
“It still needs a lot of work and a lot of love,” Davidson said.
McKeown also noted that the barn, which was built in the 1940s, contains the oldest self-supporting roof in Tennessee.
They hope that by hosting concerts and making the community aware of the project, they will be stepping in the direction of further preserving the barn.
“Right now, it makes such a huge difference for people to just come be a part of it and to bring their families,” Davidson said. “We just want it to be a place where community can be built and people can enjoy the land and art. People don’t realize what a big deal it is for them to come out to these shows, but if they don’t come out, we can’t keep doing it.”
“We just saw a way to provide a beautiful space out here,” McKeown added. “With the legacy of Pressmen’s Home and everything that has to offer, it just seemed like a really natural fit to create a venue that took care of the artists first and foremost and to provide a space in the community to bring people together to just enjoy life for a little bit.”