Thursday, October 25, 2018

A ~Chance~ Encounter

Shane McAnally just told me that he read my blog, and that he thinks it's great. UNREAL. Will I wake up tomorrow and discover that this was all a dream? - pulled from an entry in my journal on April 19, 2017. 

Update: I woke up on April 20th and discovered that it wasn't a dream, and that those words did, in fact, come out of his mouth. Here's why this is significant.

At the time, I had been considering moving to Nashville but had a ginormous fear that I'd be a little fish in a big pond. Yes, New York City is huge, but I was one of few who wrote about country music there let alone even enjoyed it (relatively speaking). Nashville would be a completely different story. I'd also reached a frustrating point with my blog, and I thought no one was reading it. And, if no one was reading it, why was I spending so much time writing it? What exactly was I hoping to accomplish anyway?

You could say that I was a bit discouraged.

And then, after a songwriter's round on a cold April evening in New York, things started to look up.

That was the night I found out that not only were people reading my blog, but Shane McAnally was reading my blog (or had at least read it once). He even paid me a compliment, saying something like "You really know what you're talking about!" I told him of my dream to move to Nashville, and he encouraged me to pursue it. He believed in me.

Picturing myself walking away from that brief, yet extremely significant encounter still feels as clear as day. I hugged my most favorite songwriter in the world goodbye, and headed for the exit thinking to myself, "What in the world just happened back there?!" I, of course, waited until I was a safe distance from the building and called my best friend to gush like a teenage girl about what had just happened. I simply could not believe it. 

To this day, two things from that night still stick out to me:

One: Moments like this are not coincidences; they happen for a reason. When I reflect on all of the things that had to "fall into place" in order for that day to play out the way it did, I'm confident there's something larger at work here. 

Two: Hearing "you can do it" from someone you deeply admire is sometimes all it takes to keep you pushing forward. Lady Gaga puts it perfectly, "There can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don't believe in you, but all it takes is one. And it just changes your whole life." 

Let go of your umbrella
Darlin' I'm just tryin' to tell ya
That there's always been a rainbow
Hangin' over your head


Monday, October 22, 2018

A Six-Month Gut Check

It's been six months since I made my big jump to Nashville, and I feel compelled to share a truth.

Let's get this out of the way, I love Nashville. From my cozy little apartment, to the people I encounter on a daily basis, everything about the lifestyle here makes me happy. But I've been in a bit of lull. And I admit that openly here in the hopes that you can relate, or help, or share your experiences. Being vulnerable is the new strong! It's also quite therapeutic to write about the things that plague your mind. 

So here's how this lull can be best described: Driving down the road, I approach a crossroads that presents me with a choice between two directions. If I go left, I'm told that I will be on the safe, comfortable, and familiar route. "This way!" the signs read. "You already know the way, the road is steady, and you won't have to encounter anything new or unexpected." The other direction is a road with limited visibility, and there are all kinds of warning signs that read, "At your own risk!" "This path is unfamiliar, and the outcome is unknown!"

Every time I get to this crossroads, I stop for a little while longer. Something about going right makes me curious. It represents desires, dreams and ambitions; it represents possibility and opportunity, and a little bit of danger (in a good way). But still, at every crossroads, I go left.

You don't really have to ask me why, do you? The safe route is just easier. After all, what if I go right and something bad happens? 

When I interpret that description, it's very clear that the signs represent messages from my fear. They are fear's way of telling me that the dream in my heart is too big, too scary, and might yield rejection.

I can't be all that angry; it's fear's job to protect me from dangerous, life-threatening situations. But rejection, while extremely unsettling, is not the end of the world, and sometimes even your fear needs a strong shot of honesty.

Better buckle up. It's time to point the wheels in a new direction.

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin' might mean takin' chances
But they're worth takin'


Monday, June 4, 2018

Here's Why.

"How did you do it?!"

That's the first question I'm asked when I tell people I packed up my belongings, left the familiar, and established residence in a completely new city. Oh yeah, and with no job, no friends and no "real" reason other than that I've "just always wanted to live in Nashville." They look at me like I'm crazy. Maybe I am.

The truth is that I'm not really sure how I did it. Perhaps that part has been blurred by the many sleepless nights, and bouts of tears. But you see, how I did it isn't the interesting part, it's why.  

Let's rewind to a less-than-glamorous time in my life, shall we?

New York, 2017: Rolling in and out of turnstiles; enduring unpredictable commutes full of smells and frustration; fighting my way through crowded everythings, never quite sure why. Claustrophobic, uninspired, and probably a little angry, too.

I'd always been curious about Nashville, and in the latter part of my New York chapter, would go through periods where I'd tell my friends (and even some strangers) that I was moving there. They'd be excited for me, and would often say how Nashville seemed like my perfect fit. But not even a week or two later, I'd explain that the new project I got at work was worth sticking around for, that I'd move after it was over.

Project after project, excuse after excuse, month after month. A cycle that continued for nearly 3 years. 

Then something happened. 

It was a cold New York night, and I'd just wrapped a long day of work. Between the spreadsheets and presentation decks, I'd lost count of how many times I'd pushed the voice away that day. It wasn't the right time, or the right place to deal with it - and honestly, it never really was. But then work was over, and there was no more distraction. 

I must have gotten so tired of fighting, of being in denial, and of not listening. Because in that exact moment,  I opened my eyes, my ears, my heart. And I really listened.

"What are you doing?" it said. Though my legs kept constant, the little voice got louder. "What are you doing?" Until finally it was a big voice... "No really, WHAT are you DOING?" I nearly shouted back in response, "I don't know! What AM I doing?" And that was when I knew. I stopped dead in my tracks, and through some long overdue tears, called to tell my mom I was moving to Nashville.

I never looked back from then on, though I did often wonder if I was completely crazy (still do sometimes). And I felt like the boy who cried wolf trying to convince people that I actually was moving this time. But none of that mattered. I knew it was true. I also knew that I'd have to shake off many years of learned "norms" and conquer many more battles if I really wanted to live the life that I was meant to -- one more full; more me.

Fast forward six months...

Nashville, 2018: My life still isn't glamorous - and maybe never will be - but I'm exploring new places; making new friends; learning so much about the strong, brave woman that had the courage to try something new. Peaceful, refreshed and proud.

It’s hard as $#&! to leave a good thing behind. Trust me, I know. But it’s even harder to ignore what you hear calling you, no matter how faint. I'm one woman who chose to listen and to believe in herself. You can, too.

The stars ain't got nothing on you
Your heart burns much brighter than the moon
If you ever feel lost or broken inside
Just remember the way you heavenly shine
The stars ain't got nothing on you


Saturday, June 2, 2018

Onto Something Good

Your country music companion is now in Nashville!

(^ that's me with a loaded-down van on moving day)

After nearly six years in New York, I was ready for a change of scenery. So, I said 'goodbye' to the concrete jungle and followed my heart to Music City. Now I’m attempting to learn absolutely everything there is to know about songs and the people who write them, and enjoy the amazing southern hospitality (and food) this city has to offer. I will continue to share my experiences here, and hope that you'll accompany me on the journey!

But first, this:

In 2015, stemmed from love and curiosity (and honestly a little boredom), I created this blog to celebrate the country music scene in New York. I'd hoped NYCountrified would serve as a destination for all things country in and around the city, and wanted to make it easier for people like myself to find the shows and hangouts. 

What started with just a master calendar of events and a few show reviews, evolved into so much more. Through show recaps, album reviews, opinion, educational and inspirational lifestyle pieces, NYCountrified became a platform for positivity and excitement about the genre, where I spilled my heart out to you (and probably overshared) more times than was socially acceptable. I established unique relationships with industry professionals, artists and fans, and discovered my enormous love for songwriters. More than anything though, it gave my creativity the voice it deserved, and for that I'll be forever thankful. Thank you for allowing me to experiment. 

Cheers to new adventures!

It’s in the wind that’s blowing
It’s in the red wine
Life’s got it’s way of showing
When it’s the right time


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Musical Exploration: Tribute Bands

At one time or other, we have all wondered just what it would feel like to be a famous musician, touring around the world performing the music we love, with a crowd of people singing right there along with us. I personally, have put on a show or two for a huge crowd of fans (albeit, imaginary) in the comfort of my own living room, hairbrush in hand, and enough confidence to make you think I do it for a living.

However, though many of us dream about it, few ever actually get to experience that feeling. That is, unless you are a part of a tribute band.

I have to say, I was pretty unfamiliar with this world, but I've discovered that people love tribute bands

Some things you may be surprised to learn:
  • They aren't trying to deceive anyone. In fact, a majority do this as a side gig and are just having a lot of fun.
  • They have a huge prominence in markets like Seattle, Portland, and the scene in LA has actually been called oversaturated!
  • They have their own festivals such as Harefest, The Great Cover Up and The Big Fake Festival
  • Some of the real artists even end up performing at some time or other with their tribute bands. 
  • Many up-and-coming musicians start out in tribute bands before launching their careers. 
  • Replacements for the real band members have been found within tribute bands!

Some of the reasons why people start tribute bands in the first place:
  • Bring the music to places that don’t have a big music scene (which the crowd appreciates!)
  • Express a deep love for the music and/or pay homage to the bands they grew up listening to.
  • They were a real-life doppelgänger and thought "Hey, why not!"
  • Revive the culture, community and camaraderie that's felt at the real band's shows.
  • Art. Replicating a band or artist as well as they do is seriously astounding to me.
  • And, because well, nostalgia.

I could continue sharing all that I've uncovered about tribute bands (which has been quite an interesting exploration), but instead, I'll introduce you to Greg West, the 'first Jason Aldean tribute artist in America.' Turns out, the Florida native dreamed of making music in Nashville, and when he finally made the move, he was often mistaken for Jason Aldean (seriously, it's remarkable how much he looks like him). Because West already loved Aldean's music so much, he thought he'd give the tribute act a whirl, and now tours nationally playing casinos, fairs, festivals and more on The Ultimate Aldean Tribute experience. It may never be you and me, but I suppose some do get just a little closer than the rest of us. 

When the lights come on and everybody's screamin'
Lighters in the sky yeah everybody's singin'
Every word to every song
To the girl they're takin' home tonight



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

You Don't Know What You Don't Know... But You Should Know

What do you get when you combine a music video director, a father of two, and an actor and underwear model? 

One of the hottest and most interesting trios in country music right now. 

I bet that's not what you expected, but yes, the band Midland is lighting up the country music landscape right now. Made up of Mark Wystrach (lead vocalist), Cameron Duddy (bass player) and Jess Carson (lead guitarist), the band just released it's debut album, On the Rocks (Big Machine), and it is fire. In fact, I loved it so much I sent a copy to my mom in Florida the day it was released, and have been listening to it on repeat ever since. 

Drawing inspiration from the likes of George Strait, Gary Stewart, Merle Haggard and even the Eagles, it's no surprise this album has a throwback sound that will keep you tappin' your toes every bit of the way through all thirteen tracks. The band is even wearing Nudie suits on the album cover; I mean come on. It's a fabulous mix of 70s country and 80s crossover, yet is somehow still so modern, and I'm sure that can be partially credited to the other contributors on this album -- Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Dann Huff. No matter what kind of country music, or music fan you consider yourself, you'd be lying if you said you didn't love this album (or at least like it just a little).

Of course there's Drinkin' Problem, but my other personal favorites from the album include: Out of Sight (mom loves this one, too) and Somewhere on the Wind. I'm also a huge fan of how they so cleverly play on words with every track, but most obviously with songs like Altitude Adjustment and At Least You Cried. Though to me seemingly indescribable, the band says this is "music made for wide-open skies, endless deserts and wondering where the road is going to take you next" and I could not agree more.

If you want even more Midland, you can listen to their Spotify Sessions, which is where I first fell in love with their music (and it's got me dying to see them live). Lucky for me and all my little country concert-goers out there, you can see Midland on The Breakers tour with Little Big Town and Kacey Musgraves, but you'll have to wait until 2018

Bye bye baby


P.S. Rolling Stone felt them coming, and also directed this article at me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Music That Speaks to Your Heart(beat)

Have you ever had one of those moments when you know you're in the right place? When you look around the room and think to yourself, "This is where I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. And this is how I'm supposed to feel." It feels good. It feels right. It's almost as if the Universe is saying to you, "PAY ATTENTION. THIS IS IMPORTANT." It feels like you're free. And for that moment, it's as if nothing else really matters. 

Rewind to a Thursday night at Gramercy Theatre back in March. Somewhere between the harmonica-blowin', the tambourine-shakin' and the boot-stompin', I had one of those moments, and I've come to this conclusion: A Drake White show is a celebration of living.

It's doing what feels right.
It's loving life.
It's all country, blues and funk at the same time.
It's feeling energized.
It's singing about all of the things that matter.
And it's good for your soul.

Aside from knowing I was exactly where I needed to be that night, I found myself wishing I was a member of the band, known as The Big Fire. For one, they're all so cool, like you just want to be a part of their club. But you can also tell that they are truly having fun, though I can't imagine who wouldn't enjoy playing feel-good music for a living. At one point during the show, Drake said, "Can you dance like this?" and for a solid two or three minutes, danced around the stage to whatever came to his body. Not choreographed. Not perfect. Just purely dancing how the music came to him. And somehow, he managed to even make that look cool.

If the fun, funk-soul vibes don't pull you in, then surely the voice will. Because that voice. It is literally chill-inducing, and paired with songs like Makin' Me Look Good Again, it will give you all sorts of feelings. That man was great with just an acoustic guitar (flashback: Housing Works Songwriter's Series) but add a band and a few amplifiers, and he falls into the category of best live performances I've ever seen.

Drake White and his music are all kinds of right. And in the craziness that is life, it has the power to pull me back to real, back to me. We spend so much time trying to figure out who we are and what we love, when the signs are usually right in front of us. Whether a Drake White show, or something else, do more of what feels good, and what feels right. You know what that is. And if you need any help trying to figure it out, I know just the guy.

Back to free
Like we used to be
Yes, you and me
Let's get back to free