I have not blogged yet about Nashville. It’s getting to the point that it’s uncomfortable to even go out into public because I’m asked about it so frequently… at the grocery store, at a block party last night, at church, getting coffee, the public library, when I got my car serviced yesterday…. That does two things: wash me anew with awe and wonder that we had so many people who knew about the contest to send a local Tallahassee band to the Americana Music Festival and Conference and even more so that we had so many people who were so invested and voted for us every day, and then embarrass me that I have yet to report back to everyone who is penning all of their hopes on us to make our city proud.
Here are the reasons that I have been so hesitant to write about our trip to Nashville.
I’m still sort of reeling from it and I have yet to wrap my head around everything. Even this afternoon, I spent a good forty five minutes going through all of the notes that I took in conference sessions, the reminders that I jotted down for later, “Check this person out online and see what their story is,” and the notes that I wrote to help process through what I was experiencing, and I still don’t quite have a grasp on my head and my heart in regards to it all.
The conference was above all, a juggernaut of information. I felt almost assaulted by what I suddenly became aware of NOT knowing. However, I’m an eager learner, so I put on my Sarah Palin (not a political endorsement, but rather a visual frame of reference) glasses, pulled out my fancy purple pens with flowy ink (that’s the key for me… I’m really particular about my pens… not so much the color, but the degree to which the ink flows and Claire was so sweet to indulge my peculiarity and buy special pens specifically for me to use at this conference) and took forty pages of notes.
I enjoyed college… well, not so much the first time that I went because I was depressed and in a really bad place. But when I went back for graduate school, I loved it. The process of learning, synthesizing and then producing is my area of expertise. I thrive there. I excel far above all of the others in that arena. Because this conference was a bit overwhelming, I had to attack it the only way that I thought I might a chance—academically.
Maybe it was a good awakening for me. I’m so far removed from the business of music. In spite of my ability to think things through logically, breaking them down into manageable pieces that will ultimately bring me one step closer to accomplishing the objective, I’m much more comfortable in the touchy-feely side of things. I like to hang out with people and hear their stories. I like to shake their hands and look them in the eyes. I like to write songs that hit people in the heart. I leave all of the hard stuff Charlie and Claire. Perhaps, it order for us to all be more equally yoked, it was necessary to introduce me to the burden of the business, too.
So, I came away from our Nashville trip humbled, with the beginnings of a new strategic plan that can only be expressed in the language of spreadsheets and analyses. I’ll spare you that stuff, since it’s boring and hard, and believe me, you only want to deal with it if you are contractually obliged or pinky sworn to do so. Instead, I’ll give you the parts that are less “Hermoine,” the overachieving graduate student in the Sarah Palin glasses with a purple, flowy ink pen and more Sarah Mac the free-spirited, living grateful, introspective writer who consistently laughs at herself and finds joy in the small things.
Charlie incessantly quotes Seinfeld in the car. It’s kind of funny. It’s kind of annoying. But then he’s from the generation that actually considered Seinfeld funny, so we just know that it goes with the territory. And for every three crappy Seinfeld play-by-plays that we have to endure, we get a really funny story, like maybe a high school or college escapade, or a Richard Prior joke that he tries to pass off as his own…
Like a good conference attendee, Charlie brought a bag to carry all of his materials…. iPad, packed lunch, Moleskin notebook, pen with flowy ink, etc. As he tossed it over his shoulder in the parking lot, Claire said, “Hey dude, why you taking a purse with you?”
Of course, in typical Charlie fashion, he had to say, “It’s not a purse, it’s a carryall. It’s European.”
At the end of that episode though, Jerry has to admit that it is most definitely a purse…
(A pickpocket runs by, taking Jerry’s carryall, while everyone yells in surprise)
Jerry: Hey! Officer! Someone took my European carryall!
Cop: Your what?
Jerry: The…black, leather…thing with a strap.
Cop: You mean a purse?
Jerry: Yes, a purse. I carry a purse!
From the Seinfeld episode, “The Reverse Peephole,” originally aired 01/15/98
As evidenced by the fact that she’s hanging tight with Sara Watkins… or at least got to take a photo with her after her set.
We found a wonderful place to eat in Nashville. Of course, we expected that because it’s a big city and most big cities have at least one vegan restaurant. If you’re an avid reader of our Band Goes Green blog, you know though that we often have problems finding places to eat, even in big cities.
On a recommendation from a vegan friend, we went to the Wild Cow… twice. We have magnificent food, good fellowship, and I as I was contemplating breaking vegan fast and having some really fancy black cherry and goat cheese ice cream, Vegan Jesus reminded me of my solemn vows and delivered me from temptation by having me puked on (not kidding). You can read about it here…
Part of our conference fee went towards a ticket to attend the Americana Music Association’s Americana Music Awards show. It’s not as big time as the Grammy’s, but it’s way more big time than the Chaires Elementary School Fall Festival. We were excited, because:
1) It took place in the Ryman Auditorium
2) They had like twelve bars in the place and let you drink inside the auditorium
3) We saw lots of our musical heroes all in one place
There were performances by the Punch Brothers, the Alabama Shakes, Sara Jarosz, Bonnie Raitt, Booker T. Jones, Richard Thompson, Buddy Miller (I love him like I love Ed Harris) and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Then at the end of the night, there was an all-star jam, where one of my all-time favorites that ever walked the face of the earth (and also Claire’s, as she named one of her cats after her), Emmylou Harris walked out, resplendent in a purple poncho, to sing a tribute to Levon Helm.
The show was televised, so Mama Bear and Mister Elwood watched it on television, in hopes of seeing our faces in crowd shots. Now that Mama Bear is an avid text messager, we compared notes via cellular telephone. She was giving me the play by play from the television as I gave her the real time play by play from Nashville. This was our conversation following the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ performance of their twangy single “Country Girl” from the new album, Leaving Eden.
Funny… autocorrect doesn’t like the word, “pone.”
noun plural \ə-ˌmer-ə-ˈkä-nə, -ˌmər-, -ˌme-rə-, -ˈka-nə\
1 : materials concerning or characteristic of America, its civilization, or its culture; broadly : things typical of America
2 : American culture
3 : a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music
From the Merriam-Webster Free Online Dictionary
What counts as Americana? I think that you could probably make a case for everything. I learned in academia that anything is possible. If you spin it right in your proposal, you can get a grant from the Underwater Basket Weaving Society of Greater Tuscaloosa for research into the body painting practices of indigenous Australasia and Oceana inhabitants. I kind of feel like the same is true for Americana. Jazz, Blues, old Country, new Country, Bluegrass, Corn Porn, and until I saw Wanda Jackson live in person, I forgot about Rockabilly.
Even at 74, the Queen of Rockabilly can still melt your face off.
Excerpt from my journal, Thursday, September 13, 2012:
It’s funny how people tend to glamorize working in music. Even Baby Bear said before I left the other night, “Come home famous!!” Although it’s glamorous in some sense, for example, getting to go to the Americana Music Awards, to which I was miserably underdressed and embarrassed about (think, jeans, t-shirt and flip-flops—Thank God M & D were watching the telecast to report that the shabby looking Sarah Mac Band did not make any type of televised crowd shots!!), it’s more work than not. Of course, it we were Lady Gaga or Beyonce, we might have a more glamorous experience doing this. That would, however, require that I get my eyebrows done more often and get a little better at walking in heels.
So far from this conference, I’ve been much more inundated with the less glamorous, “hard work” part of trying to make it as an independent artist. More of the hustle like M.I.A, get very little sleep, make a lot happen on a small budget, learn to ask for help, keep good records, gamble on spending money that you don’t have in hopes of making money, drive a lot, camp a lot, smell bad a lot, appreciate the kindness of strangers part… Work, work, work.
I keep thinking about the tortoise and the hare. Since we’ve been doing this now for ten years almost, we’re obviously not the hare. At least, not in the temporal view. I guess if you measure in the grand macrocosmic scheme, since the beginning of time, we could be the hare. Perspective, perspective, perspective.
The tortoise seems exhausting. He never really got to stop and take a breath. He just had to plug on, plug, plug on. Kind of like when I ran my first 5K and although I wanted to die, Heidi would not let me stop, “Keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’re allowed to walk, but don’t stop. Keep moving. If you stop moving, I’ll punch you.” More scared of punching than puking and looking ugly to all of the attractive runner men flying by me at the hare’s pace, I didn’t stop…
Heidi’s too busy at home with two babies to punch me. So, I’m just hustling through all of these sessions trying to meet as many people and I can and learn everything that I can and make the most out of this opportunity– intrensic motivation, because I want this so much that sometimes it hurts me.With all of these informational sessions, we’ve had to stop to get food to refuel though… partially because I’m a bit hypoglycemic and I pass out when I’ve been fasting. And part, I think because our brains got scrambled. We walked around a few blocks from our hotel and saw the honkey tonks and Gruen Guitars, even though Daddy is going to be irritated that I went to Nashville for a second time in six months and didn’t go inside his special shop again…
Hello, Nashville. There is a huge guitar pick on the side of a building somewhere near Broadway. A kitschy, Grandma’s on a Grand Ole Opry old people’s bus tour, photo op for the tourists before they put their shell back on and returned to the rat race… or fabled T & H race, as it were.
I can’t thank you guys enough for giving us the opportunity to take this trip. COCA, Music Lessons Express, Grant Peeples, the AMA, Extended Stay Hotels, Tallahassee, and all of our fans, you guys did a really spectacular thing and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Although I still haven’t wrapped my head around it and won’t have anything to tell you other thank “thank you so much” when you stop me at the coffee shop to congratulate me, I thought that this might give you a little bit of an idea of what came out of your consistent, steady support. Thank you so much for voting for us and spreading the word.
We met a ton of wonderful people, we found a ton of resources created specifically to help independent artists make a career out of music. Heck, one of those resources got us on radio stations all over the world– Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Australasia and Oceana (see how I tied all of that back together, there? I learned how to do that in grad school… Oh, I did it again!!).
But even if none of this pans out. Even if the world ends tomorrow, we had fun and we laughed and we dreamed big dreams, and we proudly waved the Tallahassee banner everywhere we went (Charlie had it pinned to his European carry-all).