I just got back from a week and a day in Music City, USA — Nashville, Tennessee! Every time I go there, I’m able to (ever so briefly) tap into the energy of that town. Everyone who’s anyone has recorded and played in Nashville, and Bob Dylan even named his country-influenced 1969 album Nashville Skyline. Nashville’s lifeblood truly is music, and its energy is palpable everywhere you go.
The last time I was in Nashville was five years ago, and it’s jaw-droppingly amazing to see how much that town has grown. My first visit there was in 1983, and I got back in 1996. Both of those times, I was impressed that Nashville felt like a small town even though it was substantially larger. In 2016, Nashville had grown. A lot. There was new building going on all throughout town, and downtown was booming. (Hattie B’s hot chicken was downright tasty as well!)
This year … well, let’s just say that the growth has increased exponentially. Downtown has expanded westward, and Broadway and West End are now home to many new steel and glass high-rises. A friend of mine who lives there told me that 60% of the tall construction cranes in the United States are currently in Nashville because of all the building that’s happening. Whatever the actual statistic is, Music City is quickly becoming Music Metropolis. Bob Dylan would not recognize that skyline anymore.
What took me to Nashville this year was a songwriters’ conference spearheaded by legendary singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell. Rodney has worked with the best, written songs that have been hits for both himself and others, and is a card-carrying member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Rodney put together a team of instructors and presenters that included other A-list talent in the music business. Among these were Peter Asher, half of the Peter & Gordon duo from the 1960s. Peter was a Beatles contemporary and a good friend of Paul McCartney’s, discovered James Taylor and became his manager and producer, and did the same for Linda Ronstadt.
Beth Nielsen Chapman co-wrote the monster Faith Hill song “This Kiss,” among many other songs recorded by legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, Crystal Gayle, Alabama, and so many more. She has had success recording her songs for several of her own albums as well, and her song “Sand and Water” was sung by Elton John on one of his American tours.
Mike Reid, who had a Pro Bowl career in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals, returned to music and wrote many hits for a variety of artists including Ronnie Milsap, Alabama and Tanya Tucker. His biggest hit was likely his co-write of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” He has written several musicals as well, and is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Allison Moorer has had her songs recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert and Steve Earle. She is a successful recording artist as well, with 10 albums in her discography and an extensive live performance and collaborative career.
John Jorgensen is a legendary guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who has played with some of music’s elite. He has been part of The Desert Rose Band and the Hellecasters, and has played with a who’s who list of musicians including Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Barbra Streisand, Luciano Pavarotti, Roy Orbison, Peter Frampton and Bonnie Raitt.
J.D. Souther wrote (and co-wrote) some of the Eagles’ big hits like “Best of My Love,” “Heartache Tonight” and “New Kid in Town.” He had a hit with “You’re Only Lonely” and co-wrote and sang with James Taylor on “Her Town Too.” He co-wrote (with Don Henley and Mike Campbell) one of my favorites of all time, “Heart of the Matter.”
These were the people I got to hang out with all last week in Nashville. The conference was a very immersive experience, with some great classes and performance opportunities. I really appreciate everyone who was there, both instructors and attendees, and am grateful for the opportunity and some personal career advice I got from Rodney Crowell.
I can’t wait for my next trip to Nashville…
John’s new CD, After The Storm, is available at John’s shows and wherever you get your streaming or downloads. www.facebook.com/john.bartus