Larry Kloess, IV, 30, has brought live music to a much more intimate level in Music City with his organization, Cause A Scene.
Three and a half years ago, he started hosting artists and bands to play at his home in Brentwood. The idea grew from a hobby and a passion into a cultural experience for many.
From secret shows with big names to helping advocate and elevate the career of young musicians and artists around Nashville, Cause A Scene has revolutionized how people discover new music and hear it close and locally.
ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW
When Larry was younger he moved around a lot because of his father’s job in healthcare.
His dad was a hospital administrator and ran hospitals in Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and Texas throughout Larry’s childhood.
“That was just what we did as a family. We picked up and moved every two or three years until I went off to college,” he said. “I learned how to adapt to new situations and environments, and I’m very much attracted to the new: new friends, new opportunities, new challenges, new restaurants or whatever it is. I think part of that was because I was always the new kid.”
Graduating from Brentwood High School and then from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., Larry finished with a degree in Psychology in 2007.
After college, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do but tried his hand in a lot of different industries. He worked at a summer camp in California leading groups on high ropes courses and 100-mile bike trips then moved to Colorado, where he attended Focus Leadership Institute and interned at Compassion International.
“I TOOK RISKS, I LIVED BY FAITH. I TRIED TO DREAM REALLY BIG AND CHASE AFTER STUFF THAT MATTERED.”
In 2008, he returned to the South and his alma mater of Samford where he became an admission counselor and was tasked with the job of recruiting students in the greater Atlanta and Chicago areas, two cities he had never spent time in.
At 23, he said the job was all foreign territory to him, but he loved it.
“It was such a cool opportunity for me to get outside of my comfort zone, and learn how to tell my story, but also learn what I wanted my story to be about,” he said. “It kind of hit me then: ‘I’m not married and I don’t have kids yet, but thinking ahead I want to tell a story that my kids would be proud of one day.’”
Larry said he always knew he wanted to end up back in Nashville.
“When the flood happened, and I was hearing from friends and family about how people were rising to the challenge of extending a hand to their neighbors and rebuilding the city, piece by piece. I knew that level of community was what I was missing and what I needed in my life.”
COMING BACK HOME
Larry said his first year back home in Nashville was incredibly lonely. He moved to Brentwood where he didn’t really know anyone. Most of his friends from high school had gone their separate ways or moved to other cities.
At first, Larry tried his hand in the healthcare industry , following in the steps of his father.
“I never really felt like it was the right fit,” he said. “In July of 2011, I went to Ethiopia on a missions trip for 10 days, and coming back, I thought about all the opportunities in front of me and what I’ve been blessed with. I knew then that I needed to do something with that, but I didn’t know what it was.”
In Fall 2011, the spark Larry was looking for happened when he saw the band, Seryn play at The Basement. After the show he approached the band and thanked them for coming to Nashville.
“I talked to the guitarist, Nathan Allen, and he asked if I wanted to meet the rest of the band. During the course of that conversation, I asked him if they wanted to play a house show in my living room. I told them that I thought I could get a pretty good crowd out to see them.”
“Because you know all cool cultural things happen in Brentwood, right?” he joked. “To my surprise they said yes. It was like asking out the pretty girl you have a crush on and thinking, ‘Well, the worst that could happen is they say no.’ A month later they played in my living room for about 75 people.”
Larry said that night he felt more alive than he had in quite awhile and even his friends saw something different in him. He knew then it was the beginning of something potentially special.
Around the same time period as the show, he was studying for the GRE in order to pursue a Master’s degree at Vanderbilt University and was working with his mom’s business.
“I met with a friend that December who was a fraternity brother of mine at Samford and a friend who had known me for a long time and had seen my love of music firsthand. He told me I had to do something with my passion for music and live shows. He said he could host a website for free and that I should start a blog and write about music that I enjoyed. He asked me what I wanted to call it and the only thing I could think of was ‘Cause A Scene’.”
The name came from a song by The Format called “The First Single (You Know Me)”. He said even still now, every time he hears that song he is reminded of the joy of discovering new music as well as the joy of singing along to an upbeat song.
“It’s that joy that’s inherent in music that lead me to call it Cause A Scene. It’s active and there’s some life to that phrase,” he said.
The first real Cause A Scene show was on February 26, 2012, featuring Nashville-based bands Neulore and Dinner and a Suit. Once again, around 70 people showed up to see the artists perform in Larry’s living room.
The next month, Larry saw Mumford and Sons at the Ryman Auditorium three nights in a row in a string of performances that changed his life forever.
“I was about 10 feet away from the stage and throughout the course of the first show I realized I wholeheartedly wanted to pursue something in music,” he said. “I realized then that I wanted to work with bands and help develop them to a point where they were able to play on that stage and achieve a higher level of success.”
At the time, he thought Cause A Scene was a means to an end, a way to get himself noticed in order to get a position within the music industry to work with artists. When opportunities didn’t open the way he hoped, he decided to keep building Cause A Scene.
“I thought it was a hobby. I thought it was a way to get myself recognized in the industry. I thought it was a proving ground, and it has been, but it’s also taken on a life of it’s own,” he said.
Eventually, Larry was hired on at the talent agency Paradigm. He saw the job as an open door to being in the music industry and an opportunity to work with a well-respected agent and company to grow his skill set in the business.
“I was a part-time graduate student at Vanderbilt doing my masters, and a full-time employee at Paradigm all the while doing Cause A Scene. It was exhausting,” he said.
The next year he decided to take a leave of absence from Vanderbilt and resign from his job at Paradigm to pursue Cause A Scene full time.
CAUSE A SCENE and the SECRET SHOWS
In 2013, the first year of doing Cause A Scene solely, Larry organized and put on 66 shows in 10 months across living rooms, backyards and venues all over the city. During this time, Larry wanted to transition toward doing secret shows to make the experience more intimate, fun and unique.
Larry said as the popularity of Cause A Scene grew so did the attendance at the shows.
“It quickly became a necessity to not announce the location of shows except to people who had purchased tickets. With bigger artists like The Lone Bellow and Noah Gundersen, who had been packing out clubs around Nashville, I knew if had announced the locations we would have had so many people show up that it could have created some issues with space.”
The Lone Bellow show in April 2014 was one of Cause A Scene’s largest shows up to that point with 250 people attending the show that night in an office space in Marathon Village.
With shows that week featuring The Lone Bellow, Noah Gundersen, Judah & The Lion, Katie Herzig, Cereus Bright, Joshua James and more things took and Larry recognized that Cause A Scene was growing in a new direction.
“As we pivoted on how we produced shows, the awareness of and the buzz around the brand continued to grow.”
Between doing secret shows, club shows and curating the monthly Communion residencies, Larry began to get bigger artist like Shakey Graves, Johnnyswim, David Ramirez, The Weeks, and Sturgill Simpson. In 2014, Cause A Scene hosted 44 shows.
Despite that, he continued to face the challenge of seeing Cause A Scene as a means to a bigger end rather than the end itself.
“Every time I tried to do something outside of Cause A Scene I quickly realized that it was not something I was as passionate about,” he said. “I kept being pulled more into growing Cause A Scene.”
Larry said when he starting getting calls from executives at record labels and management companies in Nashville and across the country he knew really had something.
“I’m just a guy who did house shows,” he said. Larry said by treating people well, paying it forward, being an advocate for artists, believing in people, and a strong work ethic Cause A Scene evolved into what it’s become today.
“House shows were not a new or complex idea, but doing it the way we have done it is different,” he said. “The music industry is in a state of flux largely because of shifts brought on by changing technology, so when a new idea comes along that’s fresh and interesting, people get really excited about it. I think that’s what happened with us.”
FUTURE, COMMUNITY and CONCERNS
Larry said moving forward he wants to take Cause A Scene out of Nashville and expand to more than music.
“For me, whether it’s music or art or film, it’s all about finding these unique ways to build community and help create culture, and as Cause A Scene grows, it’s a matter of finding the nuances between Nashville, Birmingham, San Diego, San Antonio and everywhere in between to figure out what’s going on in those cities and what’s important to people. Is music driving the culture in those cities? Does it need to be more art focused? And how can we get people together around a shared experience?”
Larry said it’s about telling stories on a deeper living and diving deep into the culture of the cities to build relationships and connect people to new things.
He said it’s possible that Cause A Scene could move toward a membership model with exclusive deals and with curated content for those who sign up. He said a smartphone app might also be in the works to help people connect with others and artists at shows.
“A community is a group of people who have a shared set of values,” he said.
“Nashville has all these amazing dreamers, doers, entrepreneurs and thinkers, and people who are chasing their passions. With all of us putting our hearts out there on the line, we are not meant to live on our own. When we’re in it together that’s when we’re able to thrive.”
Larry said community doesn’t always have to take on a collaborative role, but a part of it is carrying people’s burdens, celebrating each other’s wins, and people investing in each other’s lives.
He said community is about being a part of something bigger than yourself.
“I’M A LITTLE LESS WORRIED THAN A LOT OF PEOPLE ABOUT THIS THING GETTING DESTROYED OR THINGS GETTING TORN DOWN. YEAH, THAT’S A BUMMER, BUT WE WERE NEVER PROMISED THAT THINGS WOULD STAY THE SAME. CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT, AND THAT’S OKAY.”
Larry said if Nashville can grow sustainably it is a beautiful thing and the changes the city is ushering in can be a good if there’s a focus on building communities responsibly and not pushing people out of their homes and businesses through gentrification.
“I am excited about Nashville, but I am cautious because the people who I love the most and the people who I advocate for are the ones who’ve turned this city around – being the creatives, the artists, the people who have started breweries and restaurants, the risk takers, then all of sudden they can’t afford to be here any more.”
He said affordable housing is a big thing right now and government subsidized housing for artists and lower income individuals and families. Larry said he’d like to see a Nashville based initiative that elevates the discussion of the value of art.
“Eventually the bubble will burst and Nashville won’t be the ‘it’ city anymore, and that’s just the nature of economics. Not everything that is launching during this economic boom will be here for the long haul.”
Personally, Larry said his faith, family, friends and his dogs matter most to him in his life. He said he’s evaluating his priorities and learning how to better place people before profit.
“I’m getting to a place where I’m craving more margins and peace,” he said. “Cause A Scene has come out of a place of pain by not having a long-lasting community growing up. Now that I have it, I want to hold on to it, not give it up and invite other people into it.”
Larry said right now there aren’t as many shows because he’s focusing on fine-tuning some of the business aspects as well as building a system for expansion and long-term growth.
“It’s gotten to where it’s at because of a lot of dedicated volunteers and a lot of people believing in me,” he said. “Cause A Scene is where it’s at because of word of mouth. It’s more than just a show; it’s creating an environment and a culture that wherever you walk in whether it’s a an office space, living room, barbershop, backyard, you feel like you’re home and you’re a part of the narrative that you’re included and you matter.”
Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
It starts with community. It starts where you are.