For Tom Randles, the music came before the news.
From a young age, the WSMV-Channel 4 anchor and accomplished jazz musician says he remembers listening to his father, a gospel singer, practicing with his quartet in the basement. He learned guitar and, in high school, traveled around the Midwest, playing with a band in clubs he was too young to patronize. But broadcasting wasn't far behind. As a high school sophomore, Randles got his first (non-paying) gig, working at an educational radio station in his hometown of South Bend, Ind.
The two have co-existed ever since. Randles arrived in Nashville in 2006, after broadcasting stops in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Miami and Virginia. In San Francisco and Pittsburgh, he says, he would often bring his guitar with him to the station and hit the clubs and open mics after newscasts.
"There's nothing like playing music that you might be kind of familiar with, but you've actually never played," Randles says. "Someone says, 'Hey, come up, I want you to play on this with me.' No charts, no music, just your ear's gotta be good, and you just get out there and do it. It's invigorating."
Not surprisingly, Randles says his dual life works particularly well in Nashville. (In 2010, for instance, Randles took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry alongside Holly Williams.)
He just finished his fourth album, Destination Music City, which is completely original with the exception of one cover — "People Make the World Go 'Round" — on which Randles, calling on his broadcaster self, has interspersed man-on-the-street interviews to fit the song's themes. On his first three records, Randles provided all the instrumentation, including guitars, percussion and horns. But on his latest, he's tapped into his surroundings, enlisting Nashville musicians to join him — among them, saxophonist Kenny Anderson and trumpeter Jim Williamson.
Still, Randles is a man without a band, and his chances to play live depend on those beloved unplanned moments. So he's putting the word out to the locals: If you're onstage and you see an anchorman, he's good for a song or two.
The People:The Legend: Little Jimmy Dickens
The Community Builder: Dan Heller
The Power Couple: Peter Depp and Kristin Vasquez
The Barber: Mark Walker
The Internet Star: Jessica Frech
The Teacher: Gatluak Ter Thach
The Chef: Laura Wilson
The Artist: Vesna Pavlovic
The Councilman: Fabian Bedne
The Saxman: Bobby Keys
The Coach: Ed Temple
The Networker: Liza Massey
The Designers: Jamie and the Jones
The Enforcer: Brian McGrattan
The Bird Brains: Birdcloud
The Poet: Sebastian Jones
The Geeks: Janet and Mike Lee