11 Questions to a Nashville Musician: Colleen Orender

Coleen Orender (Photo by Kirsten Balani)It’s way cool that 11 Questions gets to feature a potpourri of musical styles and the latest is the traditional jazz and blues of Colleen Orender. When not stationed at her regular home base at Downtown Nashville’s venerable supper club, The Standard, Colleen ventures out for gigs both around and out-of-own. Having built a reputation as a small-town favorite, during the current pandemic, the road misses her as much as she misses the road.     

Gearing up for an LP release to coincide when touring time resumes, Orender is treating us to a selection of savory singles. Watch the new video for her single “Love Me Harder” and catch a glimpse of what Downtown Nashville looks like during these COVID days. I’m in good company since both me and NPR dig this song!

Thanks, Colleen, for telling us your story and we wish you the best in seeing things get back to normal. Making her living through performing, current conditions have made it tough for Colleen and you can help her through a GoFundMe page she has set up to help promote the new single. She’s almost at her goal so let’s all help her nudge forward to the finish line.


Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?

I was born and raised in Tampa. I’m sixth generation from Tampa, so it’s always going to be home. I recorded my first demo in NYC when I was 19 at Deep Diner Studios with Allan Schwartzberg, and he said I should try to network in Nashville. Months later, a family friend, Gary Glover hooked me up with Tim Akers (Faith Hill, Amy Grant, TNN) at his studio in Nashville, and I recorded “That’s My Man” by Brett James. 

While I was there working, Tim said if I was serious about my career that I should move to Nashville and get into the scene. About nine months later I packed all my worldly possessions into my car, and I drove up. I didn’t know a soul, didn’t have an apartment, but a friend of mine knew the GM at Hard Rock Cafe and I landed a job as a waitress. I stayed in a run-down motel for about three weeks through the holidays until I found my first apartment on Music Row. That was when Nashville was the “Wild Wild West.” I have many stories.

What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?

My first record on vinyl I purchased by myself, was Mr. Mister’s Welcome to the Real World. “Broken Wings” is still one of my favorite all-time songs from my childhood.  I’m pretty sure I bought it at a Turtles in Tampa, which was kind of the big deal record shop back then. The last vinyl record I bought was Bessie Smith’s Nobody’s Blues but Mine at a record shop in Columbus, OH when I was singing and acting at a theatre there. I was really homesick because the weather was shit.  I saw “Florida Bound Blues” on the track list, and I thought it would cheer me up. It didn’t, but it’s a great record. 

First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?

My first concert was at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL. I grew up about 15 miles away from Plant City. Anyone in the country music business pretty much knows about the legendary Strawberry Festival, and I was really too young to remember who I saw first. I’m sure it was Mickey Gilley or another artist from Nashville. 

The LAST concert I attended was Phil Collins at Madison Square Garden with my best friend, “the other” Colleen, last fall. The nostalgia and energy in the room were incredible. Phil Collins is still one of the most moving songwriters and legendary artists of all time. It was a dream come true. 

Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?

I would say Linda Ronstadt should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame. She’s one of the greatest singers ever recorded, and her work with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris in Trio was perfection. Her version of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” from her solo career has always been one of my favorites. I still have it on 8-Track.

Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?

Coco’s Italian Market for pizza of course. Chuck Cinelli, the owner is a really good man and friend of mine. Oh dear, I would never go to a coffee shop, I prefer gin.  

What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?

This really isn’t a fair question. All the records I grew up listening to had Nashville on the sleeve. 

I’d say the Etta James’ Rocks the House is an insane record from start to finish. You get the full range of her vocal ability on that record. Her voice was like a saxophone, a trumpet, and a trombone all wrapped into one. I feel like I’m in the crowd when I listen to that record. She was one of my greatest influences, and I am glad I saw her perform here in Nashville in the mid-2000s. Any of the Elvis, Dolly Parton, or Patsy Cline records I grew up on are up for that as well. It’s too hard to pick. 

Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?

When I play The Standard every Thursday, (pre-COVID) I usually try to make it to M.L. Rose on Charlotte. There are so many new places I haven’t tried yet, it seems like every time I come home off the road, another ten places have opened!

The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.

Nikki Williams, Matt Lovell, and Kylie Rothfield although she left us for the west coast, she’d come back for us! Nikki is one of my best friends and is one of the best songwriters, and undoubtedly the greatest Pop singer in town. Matt Lovell just released a phenomenal record this summer. I wish him much success; his voice is smooth to death. Kylie Jean, what can I say? She is a superstar writer and vocalist, and she holds so much soul in every note.

What are your favorite music venues to play in town?

I’ve been playing off and on as the house entertainment for The Standard for about ten years when I’m off the road. It’s the oldest standing house in downtown Nashville (nearly 200 years old), and it’s a stunning place. It’s definitely my favorite because it feels like home to me, but I also love playing Rudy’s Jazz Room, Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge, Wildhorse Saloon, and 3rd and Lindsley too!

Name a musician who you’d like to see move here?

Susan Tedeschi, but she lives in Florida. We can’t compete with the beach.

Finally, what’s in your musical future?

I just released my single “Love Me Harder,” and I’ve filmed a video for it in downtown Nashville. I was fortunate to borrow Waylon Jennings’ old Cadillac limousine for the shoot, and it features some of my favorite female musicians and best friends. I’m doing a feature on the Fashion Channel with a friend of mine and designer Wendy Ohlendorf with my song “Run Right Back to You.” I’ll be finishing up some shoots on the beach in Florida for my single “Siren” that released in May this year. I’m looking forward to being back on the road and traveling with my band very soon. 



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