The Problem of Nashville

Nashville is great. I’m one of the few that grew up here. I was actually born in this city. My dad grew up here, mom grew up within a few miles of here, as did 3 of my 4 grandparents. We’ve been here a while, and I’m very proud of that.

Nashville has been an “it” city for several years now. I could have told you that before the craze started. People have been moving here for decades to pursue music after they became the big fish in a little pond wherever they were raised.

I never had that big-fish-in-a-little-pond experience. This Nashville pond is more like a Great Lake. What I have discovered is that Nashville locals don’t attend music shows like in other areas. Music is too common. Why go out tonight when I can go out any night? That usually turns into rarely going out to hear live music at all. I know because I’ve been there.

My wife and I have decided to change our habits of never going out for several reasons. One, for me, is “do unto others as you would have them do for you.” I love it when people come out to our shows. The people who come often say things like, “I love seeing y’all play! It’s so great! I didn’t realize how much fun this is!” I know it’s hard to get butts in seats. It hurts to see empty rooms. It feels awkward always telling friends about shows only to hear three words in return: “Sorry, I can’t.”

My wife says I’m loyal, sometimes to a fault. I try to keep up with other musicians, buy their records, go to their shows, and show up for anything possible. I don’t really care whether I like the music (although I have very talented friends); it’s about supporting a person, a friend. I do it because I know what it feels like if no one shows up.

Music City, U.S.A. is a hard place to grow up in music. Why go hear someone you know but don’t know their music when you could go elsewhere and hear someone sing their 15 top-10 hits at a writer’s night next door? Sometimes we talk about moving anywhere else because we want to be big fish. Little fish get thrown back in the water.

If I didn’t believe so much in the music we make, I wouldn’t take it so personally. I know the music we create and the experience we provide is better than most of this town. I just wish others would take the little time and effort it takes to see this too.

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