Sunday – Day #5:
A little hungover this morning but only slightly. It was as good an excuse to load up on eggs, sausage, bacon, toast and lots of coffee as any. I’ll regret that feast later, and here I was just getting used to starting the day with fruit. I done a little writing in the hotel lobby and went back to the room to get my notes together for our show later at The Basement. We drove to The Country Music Hall Of Fame for a tour of Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats by Pete Finney (Our Pedal Steel band mate), who not only wrote the book about it but put the whole exhibit together. It was incredible, the detail and care that went into it was very much on display. I was also intimidated by how little I really knew about country music. Except for Johnny Cash and a handful of others, a lot of what I heard growing up was very commercial and somewhat unrelatable (at least for me). Although I found a growing appreciation for it in the last couple of years, mostly through the alt-country folk from Neko Case to Wilco/Uncle Tupelo it was a huge learning experience.
Afterwards we drove to The Basement incorporating a quick browse at a local vintage guitar store along the way and set up for the show. The Basement is the type of venue I love to play in New York. Gritty, charming, steeped in musical history and intimate. We were joined by our good friend Cliff from The Needmore Brothers on backing vocals and the show was a lot of fun. I played a Supersmall tune, “Goodbye Old Friend” which at a push is the nearest one I have that even comes close to a country song. Afterwards the band and some of the audience that came to see us retired the night over dinner. It was a perfect end to our time in Nashville.
One interesting thing that was mentioned by Jed, (once the VP of Sony Marketing) whom I sat beside at dinner was that a musician or artist must define their own version of success and then aim towards that. Each person’s is different. An interesting thought in the current musical environment that me and many other independent artists work within. How do you define success? I’ve witnessed many friends turn themselves inside out over this question, from poets to actors, not just musicians. It’s not something I’ve really focused on to be honest. The traditional definition such as fame terrifies me. It used to simply be having some kind of recognition by a music label or to sell a piece of music. I found that when I stopped worrying about playing to empty rooms I had achieved a level of success. When people consistently came to see my band or just me, that was good enough. I’ve never dwelled on anything other than writing better songs and being able to present them as honestly as I can on stage. Sounds like a strange thing to say, to “present them honestly” but due to anxiety both on and off stage I often find myself pretending to being me or a version close to, instead of just being me. The irony of sometimes playing with a scientist who studies anxiety is not lost on me. Reading books on Elliott Smith and Nick Drake who also dealt with these issues helps. Maybe it’s just maintaining a love for creativity and the adventures it brings me on. As I inch my way forward I’ve managed to maintain my sanity and self-worth, maybe that is success.
Anyway, it was another full day of music in Nashville and tomorrow I begin my road trip back to New York. I wish I could have stayed a little longer. Unlike when I arrived, I’ll be blasting country music when I leave tomorrow morning, that I am sure of.