No one can predict the impact of COVID-19 on live performance in the days to come. Nashville has seen a resurgence in attendance at live music shows, but there’s no way to guess what will happen with the spread of the virus, mask mandates, and the abilities of businesses to continue to attract crowds. For now, though, artists like singer-songwriter Judy Paster are singing to sold-out audiences.
Paster is a Pennsylvania native who originally gained notice in Billboard with her rootsy debut EP, and moved to Nashville a few years later because, as she said, “I knew it was where I’m supposed to be.” It wasn’t long before she began to place songs with other artists, including the 2015 Covenant-award winning (the Canadian equivalent of America’s Dove) “Awaken My Love” for Canadian musician Sean Spicer, co-written with Spicer and Bill DiLuigi. But she found herself getting airplay in Nashville for her own recordings as well. “I started getting played on the radio, getting played on WMOT and Lightning 100,” she said. “I’m passionate about songwriting, but I do believe I’m meant to sing the songs that I write, to record them, to connect with the audience and do what an artist does. So I’m trying to stay true to that and have just been going for it.”
While she sings for the love of it in the open mics of Nashville and beyond, Paster also performs frequently at venues like the Listening Room and the Sutler, where some of the performers actually get paid. “I recently sold out a Listening Room show with Bill DiLuigi, Shawn Byrne and Brian White, who wrote Jason Aldean’s new number one [‘Blame It On You’],” she said. “In Nashville, it seems like every show has been selling out. I think people are so encouraged and so excited to get back out, they’re getting out there and buying tickets. But I do a lot of advertising, I send my poster and show information to the hotels, and I think that helps. I do whatever I can on my end [to promote myself].”
“But I still do it for the love of it,” she said. “There’s usually no money in playing rounds, though occasionally I’ll sell some CDs – it’s nice if you manage to capture the audience and they want to take you home. New singer-songwriters in town will reach out to me [for guidance], and I tell them about the Commodore and a couple others, places where they can get their feet wet. I think most singer-songwriters who move here still have the same dream, but to go out and do what you want to do, you’re usually not gonna get paid enough. So you really have to love it.”
Paster’s digital single releases this year include “Dreams Are Made to Believe,” written with Moe Loughran of Nashville Creative House and legendary keyboardist-songwriter Bill Cuomo (Stevie Nicks, Whitesnake), and “True Love Has a Cost” with DiLuigi, who she started writing with years ago in Philly. She said her next single, “The Ride” (written with Kelli Johnson), will drop soon, and will be part of a full EP to possibly be released later this year.