Planting Roots & Sending Out a Global Sound
Meet Louis York, the musical creation of Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony -- Grammy Award nominated musicians, producers, and entrepreneurs who endeavor to make Franklin a Muscle Shoals of sorts via their Weirdo Workshop.
“We’ve been here in Franklin for a little over six years. We’ve bounced around Atlanta, New York, St. Louis, LA... different places. These places were hectic, expensive, political, and sometimes insensitive, and believe or not, not beneficial for a musician.
We moved here looking for a place to call home for our company and our music. And it's really been a pretty awesome experience. We've been welcomed in every way. We loved Franklin when we came to visit, and decided immediately we’re moving to Nashville, but kind of wanted Franklin, and got a real estate agent to a friend of ours who found both of our homes in Franklin within a month. And then within the next month, we needed to find a place for the workshop. And he found all of that in Franklin, basically where we wanted to live. So there was a lot of answered prayers. And since then, it's been the best decision ever for us as a business and creatively. I love Franklin. It allows us to be in the thick of Nashville, but I can come back home to some peace and quiet and experience the countryside of Tennessee.” -- Claude Kelly
ABOUT THE BAND
"Claude and I have been writing and producing together for years. And then around 2014 we were getting ready to quit the music business because we were getting burned out on the day to day, and not being challenged as artists and musicians. I was going to go to seminary and he was going to go study world religion. We then talked each other out of it by doing music together. That process spun conversations, spiritual growth and self-realization that we decided that we should partner in something and get our dreams out simultaneously. So we formed our band first, Lous York, because Claude is from New York, and I’m from St. Louis. And then we formed a company Weirdo Workshop to house the band.
The Weirdo name came from us feeling like we were so out there, but on our own. We were trying new things and going against the grain of what people expected of us. In the process of redefining yourself, and trying to grow, you lose a lot of friends, associates, business partners, and support. So we had to find a lot of comfort in embracing where we're going and who we were. So that's what we kept saying, we’re weirdos.
The Workshop became the launchpad for us finding a community of people that were going through the same things. And not just musicians, people that felt like they're kind of confused about where they are, don't feel like they fit in, are looking for a creative outlet, or need inspiration or recommendations for books or for music. All that stuff was kind of what we were looking for. We’re people who weren't just about the business of music, but we're about how music and art can bring us together.” -- Chuck Harmony
TINY BOOK CLUB
“We bonded on books and information from the very beginning. So we were getting down on ourselves that we hadn't been reading enough. We thought we should hold ourselves accountable, so we created Tiny Book Club. And because we know how busy we are, the books are always under 200 pages, or it’s a poem or an audio book... something easy to consume.
It started off pre-pandemic with just inviting people at first. We meet once a month. There was some wine and snacks. We opened up with music, and then we just talked about life. It was far less like a class like ‘what happened in chapter six’. So we'd talk about how these themes and ideas relate to life. And people would stand up and tell very funny stories, very personal stories, or how they were making new friends, or getting married. Through it, we've made some lifelong friends. But during the pandemic, it was on online and it just wasn’t the same. So we’re just now figuring out how to get it back.
Tiny Book Club was never just about making hit records. It's about the intellectual, spiritual side. And it was a very spiritual meeting place without offending, like some of the expectations of religion that turn people off. So you get to empathy and understanding through a common thing, like The Four Agreements, or Animal Farm or a poem we're reading and everyone starts to see where they were more of the same or different. So it's very rewarding. Though we led it, we just got so much from it. As humans, you learn a lot about the human condition, and then you apply that to your music, and it makes it more potent.” -- Claude Kelly
A FRANKLIN THEATRE TRADITION
“Williamson County has been great to us. Part of our business is doing concerts and getting the community out to events. And we've been doing The Franklin Theatre, book clubs, ballets, all kinds of stuff. And Williamson County always comes out, puts our flyers in their windows, so it really is community-based and we help each other out. Like we know owners at the juice bar…they come to our podcasts, we cross promote and there’s a lot of synergy with a lot of businesses around here. We support them. They support us.
Years ago when we moved to town, The Franklin Theatre took a chance on Louis York, when they didn’t have to. We have our band, and we have a girl band called The Shindellas, and we were able to break them by introducing them here first. One of their first big performances was at The Franklin Theatre. And it just so happened that this first show we did was in November. We have a Christmas song called “What Does Christmas Mean” that came out around that time as well. It’s a perfect song to sing at this show and we love Christmas music.
So that first show went off really well, it felt really good. The Theatre called back and said, ‘Hey, would you like to do it again,’ and now we're on the fourth year doing it, and it feels like it has become a tradition.
So to us, this show is a good way to end the year with a thank you to the community, and it's just a beautiful theater. Christmas time downtown Franklin is like a Hallmark movie.” -- Chuck Harmony
THE FUTURE OF LOUIS YORK
“We have an album coming out called “Songs With Friends.” After these crazy years, we felt like the right message was getting back together. We're uniting community. So we reached out to our friends – the majority of them came to Franklin and recorded their music here – some that have never been here or never knew what was going on here in Franklin. We have these incredible duets with Jimmy Allen, Jessie J, Chris Daughtry, Gramps Morgan, and Leila Hathaway – all these people that came here.
We also filmed the “It Is What It Is” video in downtown Nashville. The purpose of all of this is to show ‘Hey, there's a culture happening here in Franklin, in Tennessee in general – Davidson, but even more Williamson County – that the world should be paying attention to not just because of the tourism, because there truly is community here.
What’s next? We moved here to plant roots, so we definitely plan on staying. The 10 year plan is to expand what Weirdo Workshop is for the community, the state and globally. Much like Muscle Shoals was for Alabama, we feel like Franklin could be that for us in terms of sending out a sound of music globally and have that shine the light on such a beautiful community.” -- Chuck Harmony