Carl Pemberton is an active member of the local music scene who got his start early on as a professional pianist at 12 years old. He initially performed in various churches in his hometown of Cleveland, TN, and also participated in several of Lee University’s jazz and children’s choir programs. He has since lived in Nashville, where he went to school to study music business and has since moved back to start his own event planning company, Moon Gate Entertainment. He has also helped Stone Cup increase customer traffic by implementing regular singer/songwriter nights and more events to give local musicians a safe, creative space to share their projects.
Who are your musical influences, and what inspired you to work in the music industry?
Carl: I haven’t performed on piano in a while, but I do have four solo records out. I played a lot of solo stuff in the past, so if I wanted to go out and perform all I would have to do is hire the band to back me up. I was part of a touring gospel choir that had an element of soul in the music, so I’m familiar with that type of music. I felt like that was my calling. I toured around for a couple of years with that choir before I joined the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Florida, where I met a ton of influential bands and artists like Earth, Wind, and Fire, George Clinton, Phish, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.
How did you get involved with Stone Cup’s music booking?
Carl: I was going through a rough time recently and I basically hated my life. I quit everything that was holding me back and started searching for a place to throw events, because that’s what made me happy. One day, I walked into Stone Cup and talked to the manager. We started talking about what I wanted to do and what he wanted for Stone Cup, which was to build up its presence in the community, so we began to work together in January 2017 to do just that. I think he’s done a great job since he took on the new managerial role. I told him I wanted to host some open mic nights, so we started doing them on Thursday night every week.
After time we phased out our open mic nights and began to do Songwriter nights instead. That’s where I’ve come to meet and fall in love with the work from people like Courtney Holder, Heather Leigh Holt, Derick Anderson, Webb Barringer, and Danimal. We’ve had a lot of major songwriters play, and there’s always a packed house; about 60 people. We’ve developed a quiet atmosphere for songwriters to perform, which is radically different from popular open mic nights like the one Tremont Tavern hosts. People are more attuned to listen because of the atmosphere we built. While that’s been the majority of what we’ve hosted at Stone Cup, we’ve also hosted other dance parties and events. We recently put on a full-on rave event and brought down three acts from Nashville including Warlokk and Jonny Grande. We turned off all of the lights, set up a dance floor with fun lighting and enjoyed one of most popular events we’ve ever put on. We’ll definitely be doing more of those in the near future.
If someone was interested in working with you and Stone Cup, how do they get in touch with you?
Carl: There are three ways. We just designated someone to take care of all of the inquiries because Alec Starling and I became overwhelmed with the amount of work that we do between our different jobs. I am a good person to contact; my number is 423.715.7399 and I’ll probably answer the phone as Moon Gate Event Planning, which is my company. We provide the sound and promotion for every event at Stone Cup. You can also contact someone via the Stone Cup Facebook page.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue music professionally?
Carl: Have reasonable expectations. Don’t take offense when people critique you, even though it’s easy to take criticism personally. Many people have a difficult time sharing criticism in a constructive way, so as you build your career, know that people often mean well when critiquing your work. A lot of people want to see this city’s music scene grow, so when people give their advice take it with a grain of salt and learn how to improve. What value do you have as a songwriter in Chattanooga? You are an important part of Chattanooga’s growth, but you have to be in it for the long haul.
A story from Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” comes to mind. Carnegie asked a successful magician what made him different from other magicians, and he said, “I’m not better than any other magician you encounter. Everyone knows how to do this stuff.” And I think that’s also true about songwriting. We all know how to play songs and do covers and write songs, but what separates successful songwriters from the rest? Well, the magician said, “I’m going to give them the best show I’ve ever put on.” In that way, he’s thanking his fans for coming to support him. It’s important to give back to the people who want to see you succeed.