So you want to move to Nashville? - The modern musicians guide.
I can't tell you how many articles, blogs, and posts I read for years prior to making the move to Nashville. Even before my wife and I "officially" made the decision to pack it all up and relocate to Music City, I would spend hours researching every bit of information I could find to calm the voices in my head. I wanted to figure out the secret formula to what made someone a successful Singer-Songwriter, Artist, or Musician in this glorified city of dreams. After living here for close to two years now and finally settling in, I've come to the conclusion that there is no secret formula. Surprise! Shocking, I know. What I have discovered, are a handful of understandings that have bettered me, not only as a dreamer here in this town, but as a person altogether.
1) First and foremost, Nashville does not make you successful, YOU make yourself successful. If you play music in your current hometown and move to Nashville to do the same exact thing, not much is going to change. Want to know why? Because every waitress, bartender, Uber driver, and valet worker here is trying to accomplish the same goal as you. And guess what else? 95% of them are really, really freaking good! Like freakishly good! But you can't let that discourage you. One common factor among those chasing this dream, is the lack of work ethic on the business side of things. Some have it, and some don't. Sorry y'all, but it's the truth. There is absolutely no excuse for you to not be able to create your own website, book your own gigs, and market your music in 2018. Period. Quit making excuses, quit going to bed at 10 o'clock because you're tired, quit saying I could never be that good! Wake up and bust your ass! YOU make your OWN success.
2) As I mentioned, just about every creator in this town is amazing. Lots of talented people here, working day jobs, going to the grocery store, eating at the same restaurants as you. That brings me to my next point. Be nice to everyone. I'll use a personal example for this. I got asked to play an animal rescue charity fundraiser event out near our home in Bellevue a few weekends back. It was a small event, maybe 20 to 30 people there at one time. As I played my set, I noticed my wife speaking with another woman at the table. I wrapped up my set and as her and her husband made their way to the stage, we spoke briefly. She complemented my song about Texas, stating she's from there. I took a seat next to my wife, and the couple began playing their first song. That song ended and they pondered at each other for what song to play next. She softly asks him, "Wanna play "Kiss Me"?" He mumbles "sure." The melody was familiar, even coming from just a single classical acoustic guitar. Her voice eases in to the first verse. My wife and I look at each other as it dawned on us. It was Leigh Nash from the Grammy nominated band, Sixpence None the Richer. They were the nicest of people, even after our beloved dog Baloo decided to snarl at their dog. We laughed it off, had conversation, and they humbly played an amazing set! Stay humble yourself; you never know who you're speaking with.
3) One thing is for sure right now in Nashville. The population is growing like crazy! Housing prices are going up, traffic continues to get worse, and every brunch place is full on the weekends. When we moved here, it was stated that 80 people a day were relocating to Nashville. I'm not kidding you. In the midst of that, you will more than likely run in to more non-locals than locals. If you're planning to move here, take time to become a local. What I mean by that is, settle in, respect the community that was here before you, support others, and give back when you can. I see so many newcomers that are so stuck on only getting what they want out of Nashville, that they forget to appreciate the true surroundings. Locals will see past this, trust me. Nobody wants to help someone, who only wants to help themselves.
4) When I first got in to town, I was wanting to play anywhere I could, and as much as possible. Truth be told, I had the wrong mindset. I didn't have an end goal and I didn't truly know what I was wanting to accomplish. In Nashville, if you can't draw a crowd, most venues charge you to play. Yes, I said that correctly. Some venues will charge you up to $100/hr to play. Therefore, I would play what they call "Writers Rounds." These are free shows where you have one songwriter who "hosts" the round, and they invite a few other songwriters on stage to join them. Although I do believe you should never turn down an opportunity to play for people, I didn't feel that these were helping my overall goal. You don't get paid and 9 times out of 10, you're just the background noise to those who are eating or drinking at the venue. If you're solely wanting to be a staff writer on a pub deal, this is great! If you're wanting to build your own following as an artist, maybe not so much. Figure out early on what you want to achieve, what you need to do to help get you there, and focus on that.
5) This last one goes without saying, and can come off cliche', but be original. This town, country music, the hipster movement. It's all mainstream material right now. Which is great! It's a happening place to be. But don't feel like you have to be someone else you're not. I do believe in the "fake it 'til you make it" way of work, but that doesn't apply to my day to day interactions with humans. If you want to wear flip-flops, wear flip-flops, if you want to wear boots, wear boots, if you want to get your nose pierced, go do it! But own that shit! Don't do it because you're wanting to fit in or stand out to others. That's what high school was for. At the end of the day this is a career we're talking about. A job. Yes, a job! If you're music is good, and I mean really good, then what you look like will not matter. I promise you! I don't care what ANYONE says. It will not matter.
As I sit writing this, I definitely think I could have stretched this to multiple posts. Maybe I'll do another one in a year or two. I'm sure things will continue to change around here. I hope these help any of you out there that long for questioning like I did before we moved here. Once I was able to better understand these simple ways, I found a sense of peace and reassurance with my journey here in Nash. I'm not here to become rich and famous. I'm here to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share common interests. Not to mention, Amanda and I have fallen in love with what Tennessee has to offer. We've adopted a locally rescued pup, we've been a part of fundraisers, the music industry, helping other artists, the list goes on. This is home now for us, and you should look at it more like that, than a place people go to "Make It."
Are you considering moving to Nashville to pursue music? I'd love to hear from you!