WSMV’s “Today in Nashville” is a Nashville-centric daily lifestyle and entertainment show — an insider’s look at our beloved local scene, from food and music to the people who give our fair city its essence and flavor. The show simply wouldn’t be the same without its dynamic hosting duo, two women who make us laugh, learn about, and love our town even more. Please welcome our newest FACES of Nashville, Kelly Sutton and Carole Sullivan!
What were you doing before “Today in Nashville”?
Carole: Directly before the show, I was home with the kids, but my background has always been TV news. I was a broadcaster, reporter and anchor for close to 20 years. My career was primarily at the NBC station in Cleveland. That’s where I spent most of my time, and then I met my husband, and we started moving. I was at ABC in San Diego — I did the morning news there. Then I came here, and the day my youngest son went to kindergarten was my first day here on “Today in Nashville.” It was meant to be. Now, we are 3-and-a-half years in.
Kelly: I moved to Nashville in 2001 and worked for another morning show for 12 years on a network that shall not be named. I became completely ingrained in the country music scene, from No. 1 parties to record release parties. I was the first interview for a lot of country acts that were new at the time like Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift. New and upcoming artists would come to our show and play, which made me fall in love with covering the country music scene. I guess that was my niche, and that’s what I stuck with for a long time. That show changed and became all news, and we parted ways, and then I started my own video production company. After that, I started doing country radio. That was going pretty strong when a friend of mine at Channel 4 reached out and said, “Hey, we’d love for you to fill in on a show called ‘More at Midday.'” I did that a couple of times, and the general manager came to me and said, “We’re doing this new show, and I think it would be a great fit. Are you interested?” It has been the most fun job I’ve ever had; I love what we do every day.
Tell us about meeting each other for the first time.
Carole: We were brought together for this. In fact, this show kind of caught me off guard. When I was thinking about getting back into it, I was like, “Well, what’s going to be available?” [The position] said TV host, which is weird for a news station. They don’t usually refer to it that way. I started working the phones, old-school-style, and sent in clips of what I’ve done. They brought me in for test screenings, and it just worked. I fit that piece of the puzzle.
Kelly: We were in the storyboarding phase of the show, and I don’t remember how someone got Carole’s information, but they knew she was in town and that she’d done TV for years, so they brought her in. They wanted to see how we interacted with each other, and they literally introduced us and threw us in a room together. Within three minutes, we were like, “Well, we’re going to be friends forever.” It was one of those things that as soon as you meet somebody, you’re like, “You’re my person. I get you.” We did this great little test on camera with each other, and then we continued to talk when we walked out of the room. Then, we continued to talk into the parking lot, and we exchanged numbers. We were talking hours after the interview thing happened. We knew if it didn’t work out — even if we didn’t work together — we were still going to be friends. It just totally clicked.
What are your strengths in terms of segments?
Carole: It’s no secret that my passion tends to be food, and her passion is music, so I tend to take a deeper dive into our culinary segments. Any time we have a chef, I’m there. I get so pumped because we have these masterful chefs from Nashville. That’s a treat for me! But we do the segments together.
Kelly: I love music. I told someone the other day, “I’m a frustrated non-musician who has a really big microphone.” I don’t feel complete unless I’m around music, whether it’s the people who are making it or I’m listening to it. It’s always on — I’m always trying to find something new or wonderful or different. When I moved here, and I fell into the songwriting community, I found out that this is where it all starts. It starts with the songwriters. It starts with a song. I see how that touches so many different people on so many different levels.
How have you had to pivot to accommodate for COVID-19?
Carole: Like everybody, we had to make a pretty quick and drastic change. One minute we were in the building, and the next day we were all home and everything was shut down. Fortunately, with Zoom technology, it has been great! We’ve been able to get a hold of guests who sometimes couldn’t travel to us. So, in some ways, it has worked out nicely. Some guests are difficult to book because it takes time to come into the studio, do a preshow, and then do the taping.
Kelly: Like a lot of other people, we went on spring break. We have hiatus weeks that are built into our schedule. So we were all like, “We’ll see you guys after spring break,” and we haven’t been back since. We ran some repeat episodes — things we already had in the can, and pretty quickly, we realized that we probably weren’t going to go back into the studio. Even if we did, it wouldn’t look the same. So, my husband built a studio for me in my basement. It’s amazing! I was very lucky. I’ve owned my production company since about 2004, so I have cameras and lights and microphones. I called and said, “Hey, I’ve got a camera and lights. I’m trying to figure out a way to do this.” Carole was like, “Let’s do it!” So, even on spring break, we were testing how we could make it work through the power of Zoom. I wish I would’ve put stock in Zoom! The way it works is she’s recording on her end, and I’m recording on mine. Then, we edit and marry everything together. That’s the technical aspect of it.
How have you been managing cooking and music segments?
Carole: I can only speak to the cooking segments, but I just go straight into my kitchen! Truly, people see every corner of my house. I’m in my living room and dining room. Sometimes you see a kid wandering through the background. Attempting to do a Zoom cooking segment in your own kitchen makes it hard to get the right angle — I’m squatting down, hopefully not showing cleavage — but it ends up being fun. I feel like the audience knows everybody is doing the best they can.
Kelly: We’ve started doing Zoom interviews with people we would normally have in the studio. We’ve had tons of musicians, which we’re so thankful for, that say, “Hey, I’m going to record the song in my living room.” Then they send us the recording. When you look at the flow of the show before COVID and what it is now, the segments are very similar. It’s kind of crazy that we can keep that same format with great food, authors, live music, and fun things that are happening. We can keep that same format but do it virtually. We’ve been very lucky that this worked out the way it has.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Carole: This doesn’t apply anymore, but when I was young, it was, “Don’t get a boyfriend; just focus on your job.” That was told to me by a CNBC anchor in New York City, and honestly, that was great advice in my 20s. In this business, there’s no substitute for putting in the work.
Kelly: I don’t remember who said it to me, but I’ve repeated it so many times that now it’s kind of my mantra. “If you want to be in the game, you’ve got to be on the field.” That has been a big piece of advice I’ve given to a lot of songwriters who don’t live here. They’re like, “Do I really need to move to Nashville if I want to make it in the music industry?” And I’m like, “Yeah. If you want to be in the game, you’ve got to be on the field.” If you’re not willing to come to Nashville and move here to chase your dreams, then it’s probably not going to happen for you.
Outside of faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Carole: Coffee, my cat and cocktails
Kelly: This is going to sound so shallow, but coffee, fake lashes, and red wine. You can take away almost everything, but I’m going to find some way to have fake lashes, whether it’s the kind I buy at Walgreens and glue on or extensions. It changes my whole face. Oh. No, I’ve got to take one of those out, because country music has to be in there somewhere. I guess I could live without my fake lashes as long as I had country music. So, coffee, wine, and country music.
Thank you for the interview, Carole and Kelly, and thank you to Leila Grossman for the photos, which were taken on the “Today in Nashville” set before the studio closed due to COVID-19.
Meet more amazing local FACES in our archives. Click HERE and prepare to be inspired!