Dreaming of Nashville

Tragedy delays singing dream, but Farris stays sharp at Autumn Care

Teresa Farris has never given up on her dream of being a country music singer.

The Autumn Care assisted living activities director spent 20 years in Nashville, and nearly landed a record deal, but tragedy struck and she returned home to Knoxville in 2010 to care for her ailing grandfather.

The move put her on the care-giving path that led to Autumn Care eight years ago.

“I could be bitter about not being a big star now, but I’m not,” said the petite song bird, who continues to write and record her own music. “The Lord had other plans, and I have tried to follow the path He has put in front of me.

“My priorities got rearranged.”

In fact, Farris loves her job, where she engages with more than 40 residents of the Campbell Station Road assisted living facility.

“I have the most fun job here,” Farris said. “My background in entertainment and working as an activities director just all meshes together, and both are very important to me.”

Music, naturally, is one of the biggest draws, and Farris makes sure to provide a variety of live music performers weekly during Friday afternoon “Flamingo Friday Happy Hour.”

“Teresa works very hard here at Autumn Care,” resident Juanita Letterman said. “She brings us together. ... We love to hear her jump in and sing with our live music every Friday.”

Music and performing has been part of Farris’ life since childhood. She grew up in the Halls community, and her singing became so well-known regionally she was opening for Grand Ole Opry stars by the time she was 13 years old.

“I had a big voice for a little girl,” she said. “I played the piano and drums, too, and was part of many traveling shows, working with some big names including Farron Young, Billy Walker, Ernest Tubb and Stonewall Jackson.”

Farris moved to Nashville in the late 1980s, chasing her dreams. During her years in Nashville, she was able to meet and befriend one of her idols, Tammy Wynette.

Through Wynette she even met the late Burt Reynolds, who had dated the country star at one time. She also worked with Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood and Alabama — and even toured in Poland and France in the late 1990s.

“I’ve had an interesting life,” she said. “Like everybody’s, it has had its ups and downs.”

Farris even wrote a book with her former husband titled “Music Row or Death Row: My Time in Music City.” She noted Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have helped keep her music and message alive.

She has again been making a name for herself locally, playing area venues while traveling back and forth to Nashville to record newly written songs — and having her music played on Internet radio stations over the past year.

That exposure led Internet DJs to nominate her for two Josie Awards, which recognizes the work and talent of independent/up and coming music artists in all genres, according to the Award’s website.

She has the support of her mother, Martha Farris, who volunteers daily at Autumn Care, along with the love of her boyfriend, Troy Barnes, who helps drive Autumn Care residents to appointments and other trips.

“Life is a process,” Farris said. “There have been lessons in all of it all along. and this,” motioned around Autumn Care, “is what life is all about — not being a star. And maybe I might be able to help somebody else along the way.”