Tennessee Beats

This past weekend I spent some time with friends in Nashville, TN. I'm always up for any excuse to get out of town with friends and go exploring. If you follow my instagram you might have seen a recent post about creativity. Personally, I've been struggling the past few months with this idea of creativity and what exactly that means. I decided this next year I would relentlessly pursue this idea and make it personal to me. In this post I want you to meet some of my friends. Yes, I'm going to unashamedly brag on them because they are incredible. These guys help me push my own creative limits, and I hope their stories inspire you as well.


Harrison Kindy is not only a close friend, but probably one of the most creative people I know. He's a music producer from Arkansas, but now lives in Nashville. This dude is working with some of the top names in the game while he consistently pushes boundaries of music. He moved to Nashville a few months ago and invited me and some friends to join him for a weekend.

On the heels of my thirst for creativity I invited Zak Heald, Michael Kelley, and Douglas Spicer to join me.


Zak is the owner of Intercut Productions. Let me just start by saying he's 20. His company has worked with some of the biggest names in Arkansas and throughout the country. I'm inspired every time I get around him because he's constantly reminding me of why I love what I do. Creating things, and telling stories.


Michael is the better half of Zak, at least in the business sense. Michael is an incredibly talented editor and creative. He makes something out of nothing and I deeply admire that. Not everyone can take someone's vision and turn it into a thing of substance, but Michael can.


Douglas has been a friend of mine for a while, in fact, my best friend. He won't ever let you hear it, at least not yet, but he can sing. Keep an eye on this one, big things to come from him.


Lastly I got to meet Dustin this week. He's a friend of Harrison's and this dude can kill on some drums. I'm looking forward to the next time I can hang with him.

Now on to the good stuff! Seeing how everything right now is centering around creativity, I've come up with a few points that might give you something to think about.

1. Creativity doesn't need to make sense

Just like in music, sometimes in the very beginning you start with a few chords, a beat, or some verbiage. You might not have any idea what to make of it. As time passes and you add more pieces, it begins to make sense. That is all part of the creative process. Sometimes I'll sit down and begin to work on a project and what I'm doing makes no sense to anyone around me. I think we all face this. Keep pushing and pursuing that idea until it begins to make sense. Your creative vision was given to you, not someone else to execute.

2. Creativity isn't a respecter of demographic

You've seen the conflict of nature vs. nurture and read statements like you are a product of your environment but the encouraging thing is that creativity isn't a respecter of where you come from. If anything, your background feeds into the type of creative you become. For me, I was fortunate enough as a kid to travel and experience the world through a unique light. To this day those experiences play into how I create.

3. Creativity thrives on inspiration

This is probably my favorite observation I've made recently. Have you ever felt so dumb for not knowing something? This is how I feel about point #3. Sometimes I get stuck – I mean, really stuck. Maybe it's on a project, writing, or something personal. Often times I look up and realize I'm sitting in a room with no windows and fluorescent lighting. This isn't the most inspiring of places. When I decide to get up, go outside, flip through a magazine, or just get some vitamin D, inspiration suddenly hits. It's different for everyone and not every creative process is the same. Analyze what inspires you and try to participate in that daily.

Here's our weekend in images through the eyes of Michael and Zak. They documented the weekend and all images you've seen in this post have been shot by them.













So in case you didn't know - I joined a boy band. I think we named ourselves Slightly innocent, or something like that. And if you're wondering, we're a Christian rock band... 😜


Morning Us...


Thanks for reading, more to come...


Intercut Productions

Harrison - InstagramTwitter
Zak - InstagramTwitter
Michael - InstagramTwitter
Douglas - InstagramTwitter
Dustin - Instagram


The Spark

This past weekend (July 31 - August 2) Fort Smith, AR hosted the inaugural Peacemaker Music & Arts Fest. Fort Smith has had several different music festivals in its time but this one was different.  No, it wasn't filled with mainstream headliners or record setting crowds but it was put together for a purpose. This was one of those "you needed to be there" type of things. The energy, the atmosphere, the feeling – it was completely different than anything we've had in Fort Smith. It was fresh, and it was forward. I'm paralleling this with the movement with within our community right now. It seems like everywhere I look there is development. To my readers who aren't from Fort Smith, I'm sorry – bare with me for a second. I've recently been reading Bill Backer's book The Care and Feeding of Ideas. Bill was the creative director for the famous 1971 'Hilltop' Ad. He mentions something very unique in the opening of his book about ideas:

“There are millions of people who try each day to keep things moving in a positive direction. That means they have to harness the power of ideas. These people need simple, workday, easy-to-use definitions. In modern parlance, you might say they need to have “basic idea” and “executional idea,” or “substance” and “style,” made use-friendly.
So I respectfully submit the following pair of definitions:
- A basic idea is an abstract answer to a perceived desire or need.
- An executional idea is a rendering in words, symbols, sounds, color, shapes, forms, or any combination thereof, of an abstract answer to a perceived desire or need. ”

In my opinion, Peacemaker was an executional idea that a group of talented people came together to produce and execute. It was an incredible experience and I cannot wait until next year.

With all that said, Fort Smith is formulating so many amazing executional idea – we need more people to start executing them.

Now that's out of the way, how about some recap photos?

Jason Isbell headlined on Friday night and KILLED the stage. It was amazing!

Saturday evening started off with these guys, Red Wanting Blue. It was a great performance and I've been listening to their album since I saw them on stage. They are my new favorite.

Corey Smith band took the stage that evening, I'm really not a country guy, but he was fun to see.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood headlined on Saturday night, let me tell ya, I've never heard of these guys before and I couldn't stop dancing. Excuse my terminology but groovy is the appropriate word.

All images Copyright Shane Gray Photography, Shot for Mason Kesner Blog

We Survived Wakarusa 2015

Well we made it. It's never been so hard to wake up on a Monday morning. The team and I had a great experience this weekend at Wakarusa. If this is your first time reading this, checkout the Friday Highlights and what it felt like for the first time entering Wakarusa. By the second day we had our schedule down and our game plan together. Before I go any further I'd like to again thank the amazing team that put this together, Leigh McGruder, Tyler Mazaheri, and Shane Gray – you guys are my heroes. Incredible Job! Also, Huge thanks to Bridget Hargrave of Planet Sun Tanning Salon for making this all possible! Here are some highlights from Saturday at Wakarusa.


o basically my life was made after seeing Young The Giant. I love these guys. I've followed them since the beginning and seeing them live for the first time was such a nostalgic experience.

Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog


Yes. The Roots. Need I say more? Classic and Iconic these guys rocked the stage. What I would do to be able to play like Questlove.

Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog


So funny story, Ben Harper was one of the only performers to get an encore that I know about.

Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog


Ok, I'm going to admit – By the time MAJOR LAZER came on all I wanted to do was dance. And I did. I have witnesses and I'm sure they were embarrassed to be standing next to me.

Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog Photo by © Shane Gray for Mason Kesner Blog

The Real Wakarusa - Friday Highlights

Let me just be honest for a second, going into this I had no clue what to expect. This is my first Waka and honestly, I was nervous. Festivals carry so many stigmas whether that is Bonnaroo, Coachella, whatever festival - they all have a similar stigma. The festival scene really isn't my world. I love the music but 4 days with no shower and camping in all that heat – I'm secretly a 500lb man on the inside – I need my AC. So pulling up, I had no idea what to expect.

I'm here to put the questions to rest (with photo proof). No, it's not a land full of crazies that will scare your children. Easily said, everyone was nice and friendly. The staff and volunteer teams were very helpful. We had stopped and talked to several people about camera gear – because we're nerds, and much to my surprise everyone we met was so enjoyable to be around. No, it's not a land full of people doing drugs and other unspeakable things. This cracks me up. Everyone always told me that Waka is nothing but druggies and people The Duggars would shame on national television. To the parents who were reluctant to let their kids go – just like anything in life, If they seek it, they will find it. Ok is that real enough?!?

Since that's out of the way and hopefully I've put your mind to rest, on to the fun stuff! We legitimatly had a lot of fun. There was lots to do, food to eat, and people to meet. They had some really cool installations ranging from graffiti art, aerial silks, free drawing and painting. There was even the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the festival, I think we will try and do that today. The food options were very surprising. I wasn't sure what to think initially, but walking in we saw tons of organic options and fresh fruits with everything being made to order. The grounds themselves were not actually muddy. We've had a ton of rain here in Arkansas and I was expecting the entire grounds to be nasty and muddy. Some parts were still muddy, but overall it had all dried up.

Before we get to the music, here are some shots from our perspective of Walking into Wakarusa for the first time...

Photo by © Shane Gray Photo by © Shane Gray Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Mason Kesner Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Leigh Photography Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri Photo by © Tyler Mazaheri

We were a bit strategic when choosing what bands to cover. Most of us had some priorities, but for the most part we picked our favorites and went! Our three for last night were Chance the Rapper, HONEYHONEY, and STS9.

CHANCE THE RAPPER was up first on MainStage. He was the opening act for the evening. Chance Bennet is a 22 year old American Hip Hop Artist. His new album Surf is now available for download on iTunes.

Once Chance was wrapping up we headed over to the Revival Tent to see HONEYHONEY.

HONEYHONEY is an American Folk band from LA. I usually don't care for folk music, but when we saw they were playing we decided to check them out. I couldn't stop listening. There is a pop thread within their music. I didn't know I could like Folk as much as I did coming from them.

Photo by © Shane Gray Photo by © Shane Gray

After HONEYHONEY we headed back to the mainstage for one of my favorite live bands - STS9.

SOUND TRIBE SECTOR 9 or STS9 is an instrumental band that blends rock and electronic to produce some killer tones. It's one of those bands that their tracks don't do them justice. You have to see them live.

We decided to end the night early so we have plenty of energy for Saturday. If there is something you'd like to see, snap me or tweet me and we'll be sure to get a shot of it! SNAPCHAT, masonkesner.

Headed To The Mountain

We are headed to the Mountain! It's time for Wakarusa and we can't wait to take you with us! Before we head out I want you to meet the team who is going to be covering the festival this weekend with me. Be sure and follow them to see things from their perspective! It's going to be a crazy weekend! We'll be snaping/tweeting/instagraming live interviews with bands like The Roots, Young The Giant, Chance the Rapper, STS9, and more.

This is the first WAKA experience for all of us. We've heard good, bad, and everything in between. So here we go! Tweet us tips if you have any suggestions!


Meet Leigh McGruder she is nineteen years old and is going to college at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She is studying journalism with a focus in advertisement/public relations. Leigh has been photographing for four years now and runs her own business in Northwest Arkansas. She enjoys portrait and freelance photography. Leigh loves to travel and will go back to Africa for the third time this summer. She enjoys sushi, free people clothing, and jamming to music in the car with her friends.
Follow Leigh:
INSTAGRAM - instagram.com/leighmcgru
TWITTER - twitter.com/leighmc13
BLOG - whimsandlightleaks.com 


Tyler is a sixteen year old photographer based in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He is currently attending Southside High School as an incoming junior. He hopes to move to California following his high school career to pursue a career in fashion and editorial, being the division of photography he enjoys most. Tyler has experimented with photography for 3 years now after producing graphic art for another 2 years prior. He loves spending hours finding new music, developing his tumblr, and long drives with his closest friends with the windows down.
Follow Tyler:
INSTAGRAM - instagram.com/tylermazaheri
TWITTER - twitter.com/tylermazaheri


Shane is a photographer/graphic designer from Fort Smith, AR. He is finishing up his degree at Arkansas Tech, and will graduate in May of 2016. He loves vinyl, movies, and making music with friends. He's also one of my best friends!
Follow Shane:
INSTAGRAM - instagram.com/shanegrayyy
TWITTER - twitter.com/shanegrayyy
SNAPCHAT - shanegrayyy

Oh Hey – It's me :)

I'll be posting everything via my SNAPCHAT you can follow it at masonkesner.

Also follow the Times Record on their networks for coverage of the festival.

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