podcast network Volume up and graphic novel publisher and seller Z2 are partnering to produce the fictional “Neon Empire.” “The story, described as part ‘8 Mile’ and a little bit ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’ is a dark compendium of Nashville’s music business, featuring original soundtracks from top country artists.
Based on the main character Kountry Boi, the “hick-hop” star goes from rags to rap riches as she comes to terms with her own troubled past. The idea was developed by the founder of Audio Up. Jared Gutstadtplaying an early instrumental role in the development of the real-life genre-hopper Jelly Roll.
“Country music is changing, and new outlaws are defining this town,” said Gutstadt, who is in the process of building a Nashville outpost for his company. “Until now, unheard of country shows with tattoos on their faces refusing to abide by Music Row’s strict guidelines and cookie-cutter approach. This new world has yet to be explored in fiction, and Neon Empire is an exposition of this imaginative, hyperkinetic, and often violent world. It’s fiction based on a reality I’ve thrown in. The Z2 is the perfect channel and partner to bring that to life.”
Neon Empire marks the launch of a broader partnership between Z2 and Audio Up that will turn original stories into signature podcasts and soundtracks, paving the way for more IP initiatives in television and film, sales and licensing. The Neon Empire podcast is scheduled to have eight episodes across all platforms.
Gutstadt, who has worked with names such as Lil Wayne, Bob Dylan, Machine Gun Kelly, Timbaland and Nicky Jam, will compose the music for the series. “We will create the complete mixtape of this genre with a dizzying array of artists,” he says. “This is the return of country outlaw music and the moment I could see it clear as day from the moment I stepped foot in Nashville.”
“With Neon Empire, Jared Gutstadt and the Audio Up team have built a reckless narrative based on the current emergence of hip hop music in the nation’s traditional capital, Nashville, Tennessee,” says Z2 president Josh Bernstein.
Watch the “Neon Empire” trailer below: