Kirt Webster Tell-All Excerpt Calls ‘Bulls–t’ on Nashville’s Culture of ‘Politics and Pride’
The man who accused former Nashville power player Kirt Webster of sexual assault is writing a tell-all book about the time he says he spent under the control of the powerful publicist, and he's sharing an excerpt of the work in progress with Taste of Country readers.
Austin C. Rick's stage name is Austin Cody, and he was an aspiring artist in Nashville a decade ago, when he was Webster's client from 2008-2009. In explosive allegations that rocked Nashville's country music community in October of 2017, Rick accused Webster of a systematic pattern of sexual harassment, sexual assault and intimidation. He said it culminated in an incident in which Webster drugged him and assaulted him during a party at the publicist's home, where he woke up in Webster's bed with the publicist kissing him. Rick left Nashville soon after.
The onetime aspiring star announced in June that he was writing a book about his experiences in Nashville's country music scene, which he says have left with him with PTSD and a number of other emotional side effects. Rick is titling his book Surviving Possession: Inside Kirt Webster's Twisted Toy Chest, but it's not just about Webster. His book alleges a built-in power structure in Nashville that protects key power players no matter what their wrongdoing, and also encourages the silence of those who know the truth about further instances of sexual harassment, assault or exploitation through intimidation.
Rick wants his book to take a broader view of those issues, and though the following excerpt uses no names on the advice of his counsel, he tells Taste of Country he will not shrink from naming people in the book, some of whom he has teased on his Facebook page. Rick says the following excerpt is 'intended to show that the book is more than just a beat down of Kirt Webster, but it’s about wider issues, as well' ... including a legal team who he came to feel were out to exploit him after his allegations became public:
"Take, for example, my former legal team with the music industry stuff. They couldn’t trash Webster enough. As soon as we’d begin talking it was usually something awful about Kirt, or name callings and foul language. I didn’t understand why each individual person hated him so viscerally. Lawyers, high-profile managers and assistants spoke with me for thirty minutes at a time about how much they wanted to see him destroyed. I’ve still got all the text messages. I knew why I hated him, but why did they? Eventually I fired them. Now, I can’t get so much as a critical question answered via phone or internet. It’s just crickets.
"That’s fine, being that I ended our working relationships, but it causes me to wonder. Was my original team sincerely interested in exposing Webster’s evil exploits because they were evil, as they made themselves out to be, or were they merely hoping to gain some higher notoriety once I brought Kirt down? Is it all political underneath the sheen, after all? Do even those you trust share ulterior motives? If that’s true, then what does it say about the many others on Music Row? These are some of the most high-powered people in the industry, and I have the answer for you now: it’s all politics and pride. Politics and the pursuit of personal gain are at the epicenter of it all. I’m finally calling bullsh-t. Let’s talk about it at length..."
Rick also tells Taste of Country that he has enlisted sociologist Dr. Shane Elliot, a former instructor of his at UNC Chapel Hill and "one of my greatest mentors," to write the foreword for his book, and he's now represented by Nashville attorney Alex Little, who is best known for representing Kesha in her lawsuit against Dr. Luke.
Though he's been disappointed in Nashville's response to his allegations about Webster, Rick isn't entirely a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. After his charges became public, a number of other former Webster employees and associates came forward to share what they said was an open secret in Nashville about the publicist's longstanding penchant for predatory behavior, mostly targeted at young people who had just come to town and held no economic or social power. Some former employees even alleged that it would happen in front of certain clients, who ignored it. Those stories forced Webster to step down, but instead of forcing a wider conversation about sexual harassment and assault in Nashville, the story faded rapidly.
Stella Parton has been one of the very few artists in Nashville to consistently decry what she calls Nashville's silence on the issue. She pointed to the 2017 CMA Awards, which took place the week after Webster quit. No one spoke publicly that night about issues around sexual harassment and assault, which she called "disgusting."
"I have been victimized myself," she states, adding, "To let these predatory monsters run loose up and down our streets on Music Row? I am sorry, that is unacceptable."
"It's a good ol' boys town and it's always been a good ol' boys town," the singer — whose older sister is Dolly Parton — tells Fox News. "They hide behind their religion, all of them, a bunch of Southern Baptist hypocrites."
Dolly Parton was of the biggest-name clients who left Webster after his former employees came forward. Webster's other clients included Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams, Jr., Tanya Tucker, the Oak Ridge Boys and Bill Anderson, among many others.
Rick has not yet announced a publication date for his book.
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