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HillbilliesVille
From left, Paula Jo Taylor, Amanda Taylor and Dale Dodson perform as part of the HillbilliesVille General Store Session.

Duo graces outside of chili can

Vietti Foods Co.
For now, Vietti chili is available only in the South.

Being a country singer in Nashville is a little like being an assertive penguin in Antarctica.

It can be hard to find ways to stand out.

Fort Wayne natives Paula Jo Taylor and her daughter Amanda Taylor perform as a duo in Nashville when they’re not making ends meet there as a session musician and a bartender, respectively.

Every so often in Music City, someone walks through the front door of a club who is in a position to do more for the performers onstage then merely slur requests for “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Philip Connelly is just such a someone in the careers of the Taylors.

Connelly is the president of Vietti Foods Co., and he took such a shine to the duo’s music that he decided to put their picture on cans of the company’s chili.

Folks who live north of Louisville could be excused for wondering whether – where displays of affection are concerned – this can-labeling deal is, at best, a non sequitur.

But among country musicians in the South, getting one’s photo on a can of Vietti chili is equivalent to an athlete getting his or her photo on a box of Wheaties.

For a year, Vietti Foods has a run a campaign called Vietti Vinyl, which seeks to help unsigned country acts by giving them free publicity via can and website.

“We are very proud of it and very excited about it,” Paula Jo Taylor says. “I think it’s a real honor. He’s a really nice man. They have a reputable company.”

“And the chili’s good,” she says.

“It’s a major honor to be a part of it,” Amanda Taylor says. “Some of the past artists – Chris Young, Ghost Riders in the Sky – are people I respect and really look up to.”

Paula Jo Taylor says there should be a Vietti Vinyl launch party in Fort Wayne in the near future, not to mention other Vietti-related performances in other locales.

“You know how it is,” she says. “We don’t want be too pushy or seem too excited about it. We want to be professional about it.

“It’s like everything in Nashville,” she says. “Hurry up and wait.”

The cans are not yet ready, Paula Jo Taylor says, but the duo and two of its songs are featured on the website www.viettivinyl.com.

Vietti Chili is currently available only in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. But Paula Jo Taylor says there is a request form on the site that people can print out and place into the hands of their local supermarket manager (no doubt undermining the chili-stocking abilities of which he has always been quite proud in the process).

In other Taylor family news, Amanda says some amateur filmmaking friends of hers are helping shoot a video for the duo’s song, “Drink It Over.”

Paula Jo Taylor says she and Amanda may soon be hosting a show and other events on HillbilliesVille, a website that founder Kevin Kiepe describes as aspiring to be “the world’s No. 1 virtual and physical destination for country music fans and artists.”

And Amanda Taylor says she and her mom hope to soon launch a jingle-writing service called Jingle-Berry.

“Just like everybody else in Nashville, we want to get a record deal,” she says. “But we’d be happy if we could just make a living making music.”

Taylor says she was 19 when she moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University.

She turned 26 last week and the rose-colored glasses through which she once viewed Nashville don’t blush as much as they used to.

“I moved here right out of high school,” she says. “I used to come here all time before that, ever since I was 13 years old. Anytime I came here, it always seemed like the Promised Land to me; the emerald city.”

“Now there is more of a reality to me,” Taylor says. “There’s a love/hate relationship. I hate the realities of the businesses. It’s a hard town. But I also love it in the end.”

It was a little over a year ago that Taylor’s grandfather, Red Birds’ frontman Joe Taylor, passed away. She says he was her “biggest influence on me wanting to do this.”

Shortly after his death, Taylor says she got a little tattoo of a red bird on her foot to remember him by.

“One of his biggest messages was to stay true to myself,” she says. “Not to sell myself short or sell out for people who shouldn’t be trusted. Whenever he knew I was going back to Nashville, he’d say, ‘Be careful.’ ”

Taylor says she is currently trying to put her feelings about her grandfather in a song.

“I don’t know if anybody will want to cut it,” she says. “It’s very personal to me.”

Steve Penhollow is an arts and entertainment writer for The Journal Gazette. His column appears Sundays. He appears Fridays on WPTA-TV, Channel 21, WISE-TV, Channel 33, and WBYR, 98.9 FM to talk about area happenings. Email him at spen@jg.net. A Facebook page for “Rants & Raves” can be accessed at www.facebook.com/pages.

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