Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nashville!! Just as I suspected

I got into Nashville about 8AM on Friday, Feb 1st. I drove down to Music Row and walked around for a little while. There were record producers next door to copyright attorneys next door to talent agents…on and on, with the BMI building looming over all.

Broadway was even better. There are several “honky tonks” side by side in about a two-block area. My friend Jason Deshaw has been a regular at Tootsies, arguably the most famous of the Nashville Honky-tonks. He got this opportunity because someone with an “in” saw Jason at a show in Montana. Jason doesn’t know and neither do I, how to normally get a slot in any of these places but I would assume you hand out brochures, Demo CDs and so on.

Anyway, the description of one place is pretty much the description of them all. They are about 30’ wide and 70-100’ long. Long and narrow, with very little room for the audience. In the evening, when they are busy, there is standing room only and it’s tough to move around through the room through the crowd. A couple were a little wider but not much.

The stage is in the front, by the door. Tootsies stage is so small that two performers have a hard time standing side by side. Drummer to the rear! The whole place seemed worn and rough. I actually haven’t played in a dive like that in a long time.

The bands start around 10AM. The ones playing in the morning, understandably, are not playing for much of a crowd. Since they are all playing for tips and CD sales, this is a bad thing. It looked to me like they changed bands about every hour or two. Jason and I went out Friday night and checked out bands at three different places, in addition to the bands I had seen during the day.

So, the effort to “make it” in Nashville is just what I have always heard. Play for tips in the local honky-tonks, hoping to make enough of an impression on the honky-tonk management to be moved into regular gigs with posters on the windows, maybe even mention on their website. Even then, no pay to play. Just tips and CD sales. Maybe you are so remarkable that someone from a talent agency or something drops in to see you.
There also were street musicians, just standing on the sidewalk, playing and singing to all those who were just walking by. Good luck, guys.

Don’t get me wrong. John Westbrook and I have made a pretty good summer living in Virginia City, playing for tips and CD sales. But, frankly, I think our chance of having the “right person” hear us in Virginia City is better than at one of these Nashville pits.
I don’t believe I would go to Nashville to try and “make it” in music unless I had something set up before I went, like Jason did. They'd better take a good look at Jason. He's head and shoulders above anyone I saw there as a singer, he does his originals as well as covers and even after seeing other bands working Nashville, I'm still impressed with Jason Deshaw.
I think he has a good chance to be noticed down there and I’m rooting for him.

As to the quality of performances, I was not impressed. Almost all of them are doing cover tunes…no originals. They are all playing basically the same stuff as the band next door and the same stuff as you hear on top country radio. I saw one band, at Roberts Western Way, that was very good. The guitar player would make Westbrook or Rose work to keep up and the whole band presentation was high energy and fun. Still, they were playing covers but the lead guitar player and the stand-up bass player were so good that they made up for it.

Nashville is missing out on real musicians and songwriters by not actively searching for the people I am privileged to perform with. If the Nashville “right people” would care to come to Lewiston, Idaho; St. Anthony, Idaho or Townsend, Montana this year they will see and hear much better musicians, singers and songwriters than anyone I saw in Nashville or anyone I see or hear on the radio. Not just my opinion. Fact.

The REAL adventure in Nashville is trying to find someplace to park! If you are overtime in one of the expensive public parking lots, I think they blow up your car or something.

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