Mountains

“There are times in life you gotta crawl, lose your grip, trip and fall.  When you can’t lean on no one else, that’s when you find yourself.  I’ve been around and I’ve noticed that walking’s easy when the road is flat.  Them danged ol’ hills will get you every time.  Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains so we could learn how to climb.”  (Mountains – Lonestar)

 

A lot has happened in these past two weeks.  Some really cool things… and some less than stellar things as well.

 

Last Wednesday was one of the best days of my entire life.  So Tuesday night we get this e-mail from our Business instructor saying she got a call asking for extras for a music video shoot.  So she got the artist and business tracks and we canceled our classes that day and spent all day filming this music video.  We left at 7 in the morning and didn’t get back until about 7 at night.  It was a really long day, but I had so much fun.  It was a music video for Britt Nicole, for her song Gold, so be watching for that video, because you might just see me in it.  The day consisted of a lot of sitting around doing nothing, eating snacks, waiting to be called upon.  And when someone came out and said they needed us, they grabbed the people they wanted and we had to be ready to go do whatever they wanted right then.  It was like a big party really.  We were at this big mansion (where there are an abundance of around here) and we were running through hedges, having dance parties in the stairwells, and a big party in a room filled with balloons.  I loved it.  A lot of the people were not thrilled about being there for so long and doing so little, and would probably prefer not to do that type of thing again, but I seriously thought it was so much fun.  On top of that we got to hang around Britt Nicole a little bit and we got paid.  So that was all pretty darn sweet.

Then the day gets even better!  That night was an event in Nashville called Capitol Street Party, which turns out to be this free concert event in downtown Nashville.  They close all of lower Broadway and have three acts performing on this giant stage in the middle of the street.  And the headliner was Luke Bryan!  If you weren’t sure, I love Luke Bryan.  And it was a FREE concert.  In Nashville!  Seriously.  Awesome.  The whole event started at 7, but we were just getting back from the video shoot and had to shower and then get there so I didn’t get there until close to eight, and it was packed.  We missed the first act, and we were there for the second act, but I wasn’t really able to listen to it because the three of us that went spent that time trying to squeeze between billions of people to get closer to the front.  Let me tell you, that was crazy.  There were literally times when I couldn’t move a muscle in my body because there were so many people all trying to squish forward.  I thought I might suffocate, I have never been in a situation that was so jam packed with people.  No sense of modesty or whatever, because every part of you was touching every part of everyone around you.  It was cray cray.  But we got settled right about as Luke was coming on and got to enjoy his show, which was awesome.  Oh yeah, the other awesome thing about going to concerts in Nashville?  Everyone lives in Nashville, so when you go to a concert, they often just bring out their friends.  My friend went to the Carrie Underwood concert and said Brad Paisley just showed up and sang Remind Me with her.  At the Luke Bryan concert, Dierks Bentley just comes out on stage and sings with him.  No big deal.  I freaking love this place.

So, Wednesday was awesome.  Thursday, not so much.  It was show day and my week off, so it was pretty chill all day.  After the show we were just playing games and stuff when I got the message that said my grandma had passed away.  This was real difficult.  Not being there has been the hardest thing.  It didn’t, and honestly still doesn’t feel real.  I think a lot of that is because I’m not there.  I don’t see anyone from home, so it’s no surprise that I am not seeing her, but I won’t see her when I get back, and that is really difficult.  With the help of some amazingly talented and kind-hearted people here, I was able to quickly lay down a recording of “Long Black Train” to play at her service since I was not able to be there.  And I was able to Skype into her service so I could watch and hear the nice things people said about this wonderful woman.  It’s still difficult for me to think about, but I know her earthly sufferings are now over and she is at peace with the Lord.

The next week turned into a frenzy.  It was the final CMC Live before tour, so we were told to put our best stuff on the table, because they were going to finalize tour line up and song selection right after the show.  I definitely knew I wanted to do Work in Progress because that has been my cool thing of the semester, but I didn’t know what to do for my other song.  All week I tried to finish lyrics for this song I was writing with one of the guys here and finally “finished” them on Wednesday, but when we came together to make it work, it didn’t work.  So then I was screwed.  It was the day before the show, 15 minutes before my only rehearsal, and I didn’t have another song.  So the guy I was writing with suggested I do “My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean/Brantley Gilbert because my original kind of had the same big, country rock feel to it as those artists do.  I didn’t know all the words or some of the melodies, but we threw it together and did it anyway.  And it was alright.  Some people said that night was my best vocal performance of the semester thus far, but it wasn’t enough to help my case for the tour.

I had talked to Warren earlier on Thursday, just catching up about life and such and I asked him about tour.  He told me, like I had feared, not every artist would get to perform on tour.  And also like I had feared, I probably would not be one of them.  Nothing was set in stone yet, but that was what it was looking like.  So when tour announcement came, I was prepared and not surprised to find my name wasn’t on it.  It is still really disappointing and saddening, but I was at least expecting it.  There were only two artists not performing on the tour, and I am one of them.  So… that’s rough.

I will be given other jobs to do on the tour, and I’ll be plenty busy, but not performing. So at this point my focus for the rest of the semester is supposed to mainly be on songwriting and arranging.  I don’t know what the rest of my time here is really going to look like, but it will still be good.  Maybe I will get some good songs out of this.

I guess all I know is, there are certainly a lot of mountains I am facing right now.  But I just have to keep moving forward, one step at a time.  So that’s what I’ll do.

What if it all Goes Right?

“But what if it all goes right?  What if it all works out?  What if the stars line up and good luck rains down?  What if you chase your dream and it changes your whole life?  What if it all goes right?”  (What if it all Goes Right – Melissa Lawson)

If you asked me yesterday, my life was pretty terrible and this post would have a completely different feel.  But surprisingly today, I am feeling a bit better about things, and here’s why…

It’s been a while since my last post.  On my off weeks, when I’m not performing, I feel like nothing super post-worthy is happening, so it seems that they are coming every other week now.  Until our world is turned upside down in two weeks when we start tour prep.  But that’s another subject.

So my off week was good, except for the fact that I lack motivation, so while I should have been writing music for my next performance, I pretty much didn’t.  So when last weekend came and I needed to have things ready for Hammertime on Monday, I had to scramble.  What a surprise.  But I had been working on a song with my friend Shannon and so we were able to finish that one up and rehearse it, barely.  It was frustrating actually because schedules are getting crazy with rehearsals and studio times and everything, so getting in rehearsals can be tough.  So times didn’t work out, and as an entire band, we practiced the song for about 10 minutes.  It was crazy and I was stressed and felt sick about it and was quite frustrated.  Not to mention the fact that I didn’t even pick a second song.  Warren had mentioned that this week he wanted people to do some covers that stretched them outside their typical genre.  He said he might choose some for some people, but we never heard anything else from him.  So I didn’t even choose another song.  But some of my classmates were convinced that I needed to do “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry.  It’s kind of a joke because on the first Sunday we were here, during our “church” time, Warren played that song and video first thing and we like analyzed it for church.  And we have revisited it a time or two since then also.

So Hammertime was a complete disaster as I had imagined it would be.  We were not together at all and not comfortable with the music.  We basically played it (poorly) and Warren stopped us and asked why it wasn’t good and had a little discussion about how the fault falls back on me for not having it rehearsed, which I was prepared for, it was still just frustrating because it wasn’t really my fault, but it becomes my fault anyway.  And he didn’t even really work with the band because it was still just at a point where it was so band, he just said next.  And I didn’t have a second song, and he agreed that it would be interesting to see me do “Wide Awake”.  So that was that.

We rehearsed more.  I never felt comfortable with the songs, mostly with Wide Awake.  It just didn’t lock in this week like I feel like we did previously.  Come show time on Thursday, yep, freaking out.  From the moment I woke up on Thursday I felt sick.  Seriously, the instant my eyes opened I know it was show day and I felt sick to my stomach from that moment on.

The first song, the original I co-wrote with Shannon was called “Eyes to See” and it went alright.  I knew the song really well, and certainly could’ve sung it better, but it was okay.  Wide Awake had the potential to be really cool.  One of my friends and members of my band, Nathan, is really good with MIDI sequencing, and he made this sick sequence for it and was playing Synth and Moog bass and it was really sweet.  And the lights they had programmed were awesome.  Only thing that wasn’t awesome: me.  I had to start before the music, and so I was freaking out about that.  I “got my note” from the Synth between songs, but it didn’t stick, and I missed it.  And once I’m off, I pretty much stay off.  It is real hard for me to recover.  Especially in front of a crowd of people that I don’t know, but I know they are all musicians and in the music industry.  Which is certainly not comfortable.  So I was off probably 3/4 of the song.  Not until the second chorus did I finally get back on, and even then it was shaky.  It was absolutely just as terrible as it could have been.  It really just makes me feel like crap because I am in this community of incredibly talented musicians, and I just feel like I am so far below their level, it is very frustrating to me.

But then at Game Tape earlier today, I was ready for the worst.  I was just sure I was going to get torn apart, because I totally deserved it.  I just prayed he wouldn’t play the second song, since we all knew it was a train wreck.  Surprisingly, he was in a rather good mood and Game Tape was not painful at all.  He didn’t play either of my songs at all, because he said we didn’t need to listen to them again (which obviously means they sucked, but I was fine with it because it meant we didn’t have to listen to them), but the other part of what he said to me was the part that turned my week around.

The night before at the show, Warren came up to me right after my set.  I was worried, but he said “I think I figured out what your talent is.”  I had no idea what he was getting at, but he said that the original song was “pretty decent”.  Which is a pretty good compliment from him.  But he said he never wanted to hear me sing Katy Perry again, which I was totally good with, because I never wanted to go through that again.  So at Game Tape he revisited the subject in front of the group.  He said that I was 2 for 2 right now.  Both the songs I had written worked really well in my style of music and had good form and were good songs.  He said there have been other good songs this semester, but it was rare for both of a persons original songs so far to be good.  He suggested that from this point I write a song a week until the end of the semester.  If they keep being good, he said he would need to talk to me before the semester is out.  That was probably the coolest thing I have ever heard, because it sounded so promising.  Of course, now the pressure is super on and I will probably be pickier and more nervous with writing.  I just hope this streak continues.  Of course I have received a lot of help with my songs from those that I co-wrote with.  It was just a really cool thing to hear, because he legitimately sounded like this is not necessarily out of the realm of possibilities if I keep writing good songs.

I have always wanted to be a singer.  And I was extremely afraid when coming to this program that something would happen that would take me away from being a performer.  Whether it was being told I wasn’t good enough, or being told I might could make it at something else.  And I always thought I would really be opposed to that, because singing was what I was meant to do.  And now that is actually what is happening.  I am being pulled towards songwriting, which was never something I imagined could happen.  I am really curious/nervous to see what the rest of this semester brings and where I am led.

So what if it all goes right?  But right isn’t where you thought it would be?  The line in this song that says “what if you chase your dream and it changes your whole life?” kind of has a new meaning now.  I am chasing my dream.  It is changing my life.  But definitely not in the way I thought it would.

Start a Band

“Just get you a guitar and learn how to play.  Cut up some jeans, come up with a name.  When you’re living in a world that you don’t understand, find a few good buddies, start a band.”  (Start a Band – Brad Paisley)

 

The people here are so musically talented and awesome.  I feel so privileged and humbled to be part of this incredible group of musicians.

Since I was not performing at CMC Live last week, it was a pretty chill week for me.  There are 12 of us in the artist track, and only six perform each week, so we all go every other week.  So I didn’t have anything to stress about, except that I needed songs ready for this week.  And we were about to start recording in the studio.

All last week our regular classes turned into a week-long studio session with this guy named David Schober.  He is a really top-notch engineer in Nashville, and has been around for a long time.  It was cool seeing him work on the recording process from start to finish, including every step from setting up mics for the singer and instruments, to tracking, overdubs, mixing, mastering, the works.  A lot of it went over my head because I know relatively nothing about the technical side of music and how to use all those giant, crazy expensive boards and all that jazz.  But I still learned stuff!  So that was good.

My main goal for the last week and a half was to finish an original song.  I did not want to be the only person here doing covers every week, it was slightly embarrassing.  So I definitely pushed it right up to the wire, but I am performing an original song this week!  I am actually really excited about it.  I wrote the lyrics and some of the melody, and then got help from my roommate Josh and apartment-mate David with writing the music and fleshing it out for a full band.

Let me tell you how awesome it is.  And how not me it is.  I would say it is a more hardcore country song, like Brantley Gilbert or Jason Aldean style.  It also says a few things in it I probably would not be comfortable saying in church or on stage at school.  But it rocks.  And I kind of love it.  And I think I sound better on it than I have on covers I have performed.  I guess just because I wrote it and so it’s in a good range for me or something.  I really don’t know why, but it works.  Maybe my professors will tear it up.  I expect them to, it’s the first song I have ever written.  But my bandmates think it’s cool, so I’m stoked.

And have I mentioned how incredibly awesome my band is?  Because they freaking are.  Seriously they are one of the tightest bands here.  Most of them don’t listen to country music at all, but everyone is so talented and willing to learn and adapt that it works so well.  And they are so great.  This week at Hammertime my band was the only one that Warren didn’t change the way they were playing stuff.  Of course he had a lot to work with me on because I have a long ways to go still, but they are so good.  I am so blessed to be working with them and have them be willing to work with me and find time in all of our crazy intense schedules to rehearse and record.

And we are starting to track this week.  Our first master is due on October 15.  My band starts tracking tomorrow at midnight.  We have our first midnight to 3AM shift in the studio.  So that’ll be fun.  It’s better than the 3AM-6AM shifts though.  We are going to record my original and I’m real excited about it!

Even though I’m sure I will be nervous tomorrow come performance time, I am feeling pretty good this week, and it’s weird.  Two weeks ago for the first CMC Live I was freaking out.  But for some reason, I’m not right now.  Maybe I’m getting more comfortable with performing.  Maybe I’m just more comfortable because it’s my song.  I don’t know, but whatever the reason, I’ll take it.

Chuggin’ Along

“Some days you got it all together, you swear you have it figured out.  Other days you’re stumbling and a wondering what the hell it’s all about.  Life’s kinda funny like that, sometimes you’re the dog, sometimes you’re the cat.  All you can do is just keep going and thank God for what you have.

Keep chuggin’ along, keep singing your song.  Put that plow in the ground ’til the daylights gone.  When you look back over your shoulder at everything you’ve done, put the good times in your pocket, let the bad ones make you strong, and keep chuggin’ along.”  (Chuggin’ Along – Luke Bryan)

 

Two weeks down.  Twelve to go.

It’s not that I am counting down the days until I am done, this has just been a very stressful and disconcerting week.  It’s weird that I have been here for two weeks.  On one hand, it feels like I have been here for ages, but at the same time, it feels like I just got here.

 

The reason this week has been so stressful for me is because it was the first week of CMC Live (our live show we do every week) and I was up this week.  The group is split in half, so six of us go each week, and of course I was in the first group.  So we found out probably on Thursday or Friday which group we were in, and had to be prepared to perform for “Hammer Time” by Monday.  Hammer Time is the time on Monday the staff has set aside for each artist performing that week to get up on stage with their full band and show the songs they are doing that week.  It seemed like I had to throw it all together last minute and scramble and get a band together and choose two songs to perform and fit in one rehearsal time at like 11:30 PM the night before Hammer Time.  It was rather stressful.  I chose to do “Long Black Train” by Josh Turner and “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” by Justin Moore.  Both songs I have performed previously at least once (if not a million times).

So I go to Hammer Time, and my band suggested we do “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” because they thought that song was more prepared and sounded better.  So I agreed and we went out and I sang like maybe the first verse and part of the chorus before Warren (the CMC director) stopped me and told me I was trying to sing way too low (which is not something I often hear in my life).  He wanted me to try and sing the song an entire octave higher, which was not really possible for me to do pleasantly or comfortably.  He told me I needed to raise the key though, and he worked a little bit and decided that it should be in G, which is a sixth higher than I was doing it before.  In my opinion that was craziness, but I had to listen to him, so I did it.

Also going on during this week were our first real Track classes, where us artists met with our instructor Rick Elias.  He asked us to send him recordings of us.  He wanted an original song, but luckily he cut some slack for those of us who had never written a song before (which was only two of us =/) and he said we could send him covers.  So I recorded “Long Black Train” and sent it to him.  When we got to my turn in class, I was nervous of course for everyone to be listening to this recording, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience, as I had expected.  Rick basically said I needed more training.  If I was serious about being in the music industry, I needed to start taking voice lessons and taking them seriously, because I needed to get better.  So that was disheartening because he hadn’t said anything like that to anyone else in the class.  But he also said I chose a good song for my voice with “Long Black Train” and mentioned nothing about it being too low.  But he said I really needed to work on bringing my voice out.  He said it was almost as if there was something keeping it in and muffling it, so I just really needed to work on that and take lessons.  So that was great to hear in front of 11 others students right there.

I had to just keep practicing because I had to perform Thursday night.  Now with songs that were too low and a voice that wasn’t good enough.  Which unfortunately is kind of the attitude I now had about this whole thing.  But rehearsals went well, the guys playing for me were awesome and super nice and talented and great.  And they were all very encouraging about the whole thing.  My main problem now was that singing “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” in this new key was difficult for me.  Once I got into it, I was alright, but I struggled a lot to find the notes at the beginning because I was so used to singing it a sixth lower.  So that was hard, and I was really worried.  At sound check thursday it proved to be real, since I ended up not really singing the entire first verse of the song because I couldn’t find the key, and finally got into it like the line before the chorus.  And I had never performed with so much noise all around me, making it so incredibly difficult to hear myself.  In the rehearsal studio, we use headphones to hear ourselves, which is weird not being able to hear my voice as it comes out, but only through the headphones.  And it was the same on the stage using monitors.  I have never really experienced literally not being able to hear my voice as it comes out of my mouth before, but that was definitely the case here.  I could only hear what I was getting through the monitor, and that proved difficult for me to sing accurately.

I was very discouraged and Thursday night performance time I was still freaking out about not being able to get the pitch for the song.  It wasn’t even as if I could get it before going on stage, because it was the second song, so I had to do “Long Black Train” first.  So I did the best I could.  I did “Long Black Train” without any terrible messups, although it was pitchy.  And then “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” started, and like I had feared, I didn’t find the pitch.  I found it much faster this time and was on track by the time I got to the second line, but it was still just a terribly embarrassing moment for me half-singing into the microphone because I know I am not singing the right notes.  But I survived it and we went to the Waffle House after the show.  First time I have been a Waffle House that I can remember.  It was fun.  They have some pretty cheap food there.  Except that sales tax in Tennessee is really high.  Just made my sausage biscuit $1.09 instead of $1.00.  Oh well.  It’s all about the experience.

Me up on stage during the first CMC Live concert.

Friday was probably the most discouraging part of the whole week.  We do what is called Game Tape, where we all gather and watch a recording of the performances and critique them.  Alright sounds exciting right?  Especially when you know you didn’t do well.  Yeah, so that was awesome.  Basically we watched mine, and Warren said he didn’t really know what to do, he would have to figure something out.  He thinks I still try and sing “like 3 octaves too low” and my pitch isn’t awesome sometimes.  So that made me feel really good about myself.  After that we had community lunch, which was nice so I didn’t have to cook for myself after being told I suck.  So I was just kind of mopey that week.  But especially on Friday.

UNTIL Friday night, because John, our Res. Life Director had a fun event planned for us.  It is called Nerd Skate.  We all dressed up as nerds and went to the local skating rink.  Which surprisingly was super packed.  I am not used to skating rinks being popular, but it was seriously packed.  FILLED with middle school kids.  It was funny just watching them stare at this group of 20 some college students coming into the skating rink with our pants hiked up, suspenders on, taped glasses, the works.  So that was pretty fun, and then we went to Sonic afterwards and the manager gave us all free drink coupons because of our outfits.  So the rough week ended on a positive note.

Next week is studio recording week, so who knows what that will bring.

The Time of my Life

“I’ve been waiting for my dreams to turn into something I could believe in…  And I’ll taste every moment and live it out loud, I know this is the time, this is the time to be more than a name or a face in the crowd.  I know this is the time, this is the time of my life.”  (The Time of my Life – David Cook)

 

I have survived an entire week without having a heart attack or anything, though there were a couple times in there I was unsure if I was going to make it.

Most all of that anxiety centered around showcases Monday.  Since I have never written anything before, and don’t play any instruments well enough to accompany myself, I felt at a disadvantage.  It’s nobodies fault but my own, because I just need to learn to play the guitar and piano.  I mean really, if I want to be a musician, I just need to do it.  But for now, I can’t.  It wasn’t hard finding someone to play for me since everyone can play the guitar (except me).  I decided to perform “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band and “Why Don’t We Just Dance” by Josh Turner.  They were easy enough for a guitar player seeing them for the first time and I had sung them both before.  So I practiced a lot.  And then practiced more.  And then was still freaking out for the showcase.  And surprisingly, the one that sucked more of the two was the Josh Turner, which I have sung a million times and am typically better at, but that was not the case on Monday.  Whatever.  Pretty much everyone else was performing original songs also, so there is just another step back for me.  But I am not the only one who hasn’t written original stuff.

Before the performance (well, a day or two before actually), the director of the CMC tried giving a pep talk by telling us it wasn’t a big deal because in reality, every single one of us sucked.  We are at this school to get better, so we all suck right now.  He said it was supposed to make us feel better.  I can’t really say it did, though.

 

After my showcase, the rest of the week was looking pretty darn good.  I had that stress lifted and could enjoy everything that was going on.  Instead of starting “normal” classes like I thought we would be, this week was about going around and visiting different people and studios in Nashville to hear what this business is all about.  We met a lot of cool and interesting people that have done some amazing things with their careers.

On Monday we visited Vance Powell.  Vance works/owns Sputnik Sound.  It is a smaller home-type studio in an area of town that is filled with studios.  Vance is an interesting guy.  I guess you could say he is kind of old-fashioned.  He likes to keep and use old equipment and is anti big, over the top studios.  The main person he works with is Jack White.  Vance records and mixes and masters all of Jack’s work. He worked at Blackbird Studios for 10 years (which is the giant studio owned by John McBride, husband of Martina McBride).  Vance thinks big studios are on their way out, because they aren’t efficient and aren’t necessary anymore.  Vance has won three grammy’s for his work, but he says they aren’t important, because they are not what bring him business.  Good, quality work brings him business.

After that we went and visited musician Nathan Lee at his “house” which was also like a little venue filled with couches, crazy paintings and furniture, and reeking of incense.  Nathan tried his hand at the commercial industry, as most do, and found it wasn’t for him.  He had a record deal at one point and everything.  But one thing I’ve learned over this week, is that getting a record deal is far from making it.  What Nathan does now is run a non-profit business that brings music to prisons.  But he is the only musician that participates in his business, and he does not get any money for it.  He puts on little shows now and then, but relies mainly on donations to live.  What he is doing is a really important thing, I think.  He said it is really tough, and often unrewarding.  The people he sings for are murderers, rapists, and other criminals.  It is not often he touches someone with his music and his message, but those occasions when he does touch someone, that makes all the unsafe feelings and constant heckling worth it.  He would eventually like to get other artists on board as well.  If you ever felt inclined to help with this cause, you can donate here.

Tuesday morning we had the opportunity to talk with two CMC alumni who are making a career out of music.  There names are Jill and Kate, and they are a female duo together by the name JillandKate.  They don’t do their own stuff too often though, because what really sets them apart is that they are both backup singers for Kelly Clarkson.  So they have been going on tour with her for multiple years now, singing with her.  It was really cool to hear from them and just learn how to proceed after CMC, and that there is hope for us after this program.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the house of songwriter Regie Hamm.  This was probably my favorite experience of the entire week.  Like most people in the music industry, Regie has had a very up and down life.  Started out wanting to be a performer, like everyone does.  Then eventually he settled into a groove of songwriting, which he is really good at.  He had publishing deals, and was just doing awesome.  At this time he had a recording contract and had released a single that was climbing the charts.  That all changed when he went to China with his wife to adopt their daughter and found out she was very ill.  There were many complications and it took longer than expected.  When he returned, his song had fallen on the charts, his tour was canceled, and he was dropped from his recording contract.  He had a rough patch in there with no diagnosis for his ill daughter, and no job.  After five years of nothing good, his wife convinced him to enter the American Idol songwriting competition, and he won.  He wrote “The Time of my Life,” David Cook’s chart-topping song.  This really got them back on their feet and he has been writing songs again since then.  And his daughter finally got a diagnosis, and has Angelman Syndrome, something that will never be fixed.  She will never be able to speak or live a normal life.  But at least they are now able to manage it a little better.  His story was just very inspirational to me, and to see all the success he has had even though a good portion of his life has been spent struggling.  Regie has written over 20 number one songs including the David Cook song and “How Do I Live” by LeAnn Rimes.

Wednesday morning we went to TobyMac Studios, which is obviously where TobyMac does all his recording, but many other artists record there too.  We met with Bryan Lenox, who is a world class music producer.  He just went over some of his process, and what his life is like.  He seemed like a really great guy, and has obviously done some amazing work in the music world.  Also working there is another alumni of the CMC that we got to talk with a little bit about how he got started there and lived out of his van for a while in the beginning.  Sounds very promising.

Wednesday afternoon we went to a place called SoundCheck.  It is a huge building that artists can rent out rooms in and set up and rehearse for their tours.  We talked with some of the audio people there and some management, and just looked around at the amazing space.  The rooms were huge and have full permanent trussing in some of them, so artists literally build the entire stage they have during their tour and rehearse it like it will be.  It seems like every artists use it, names mentioned while we were there was Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, and more.  And while we were there we got the opportunity to go into one of the rehearsals and listen.  It was Britt Nicole’s band rehearsing her tour set, unfortunately she was not there with them, but it was still really cool.

Thursday we visited Brentwood Baptist Church, also known as Fort God.  I know there are bigger churches, but I have never seen a church this big.  They said there was about 8,000 members and they have about 100 employees.  This is a church!  My church might have 100 members on a good Sunday.  This idea is just outrageous to me.  There are three different areas where worship is held, because they cannot all be in the same room.  And there are many different services throughout Sunday and the rest of the week.  There’s also a coffee shop, basketball court, and library there.  No big deal.  This place is just enormous.  It was a good thing we had a guy that worked there walking us around, because I literally would have gotten lost.  It was crazy.

 

We had our first track classes too.  So us artists met with our instructor, Rick Elias, who let me tell you, is quite a guy.  People outside the industry may not recognize the name, but those inside the industry will.  Apparently, everybody knows of him (that’s what we were told at least.  They said if you asked Rascal Flatts, all three of them would know who he was).  He is a crazy good songwriter and artist.  And he wrote the music for the movies That Thing You Do and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  He seemed pretty cool.  I am excited to learn from him this semester, and hopefully take away some songwriting skills.  I wouldn’t mind writing and getting paid for it.  He used the example that he has spent 20 minutes writing a song, and has gotten paid $60,000 for that song.  That’s how good he is.  I wouldn’t mind doing that at all.  But first, learning to write songs…. haha.

 

This weekend we are going back to SoundCheck in groups because we are working the Load In and Load Out for the Kutless and Tenth Avenue North tours.  That’s pretty legit, right?  I’m doing band load in on Sunday, so I will be bringing in the band’s equipment and setting it up and possibly hearing some of the stuff they are doing.  Sounds pretty sweet.

 

So many things have happened in the past 6 days that I have been in Nashville, it is crazy to think it has only been a week.  I can tell this semester is going to be crazy intense, but rewarding at the same time.  This hasn’t felt like school yet.  This is doing what I love and want to do for the rest of my life.  I get to look at, write, and perform contemporary music of my own style and choosing every single week.  While that is certainly nerve-racking, it is so wonderful and helpful.  I am so excited to see what this semester holds and how I am changed through it.  I’m ready.

Storm Warning

“I’m gonna wish I had a storm warning, I’m gonna wish I had a sign.  I’m gonna wish I had a little heads up, little lee-way, little more time.  Some kind of radar system locked in on love.  I have a feeling by the time the night finds the morning, I’m gonna wish I had a storm warning.”  (Storm Warning – Hunter Hayes)

 

Right now, I am sitting on a couch in my apartment in Nashville (technically Brentwood), Tennessee.  Is this real life?

That is something I keep having to ask myself, and I know I’m not the only one here feeling this way right now.  It’s not even the kind of unreal where it’s unreal because you are on cloud 9 from excitement and all jazzed up.  It just actually does not feel real.  It doesn’t seem like I am working every day in a building with over a million dollars in musical equipment that I have 24 access to.  It doesn’t feel like I will be living for quite a while in this apartment with these guys I don’t even know.  It doesn’t feel like I have to face one of my biggest fears and get graded on writing songs every week, performing a live show every week, going on a tour.  I don’t know that I am quite ready to except being in a place where I am judged on my talent… and that’s about it.

 

The first day I was probably just in a daze most of the day.  I got no sleep the night before at all, since I had to leave for the airport at two in the morning.  I managed my way through the Denver airport to my connecting flight, which was delayed about 30 minutes.  I got to Nashville, my luggage did not.  So that was exciting.  I found the guy picking me up from the airport and made it safely to the CMC, where I got all checked in and everyone seemed real friendly.  I was the second to last one from my apartment to get here, so all the rooms had someone in them already.  But that was fine.  My roommate’s name is Josh.  He’s a cool guy.  It was a little weird because there was a couple hours before our first event, but I didn’t have anything to unpack because my luggage wasn’t here.  But it was cool because the guys got to talking a little, and we went around to other students rooms and met everyone, and it was good.

Things went well that night.  We got to see the Artist Track professor perform for us, and then an alum and his band also came and put on a show.  It was cool to see what we are working with, and watch a show in the venue that is in our building.

Sunday was just another day of orienting (if that is even a word).  Our director did church for us in the morning, and they provided all three meals for us (which was awesome).  It poured down rain maybe harder than I have ever seen, and there was some thunder, which was awesome.  I love thunderstorms.  We had a pool party anyway.  Luckily there was a break in the rain during our scheduled pool time, so we went for it.

 

At this point, reality is setting in (well, it’s been a stressor long before now, but now it’s intensified).  Things really start tomorrow.  Classes aren’t scheduled as they normally will be because we are going around to different studios and talking to different people around Nashville, but things are actually starting.  The way this semester is going to go is being hammered in by the fact that I have to perform tomorrow night.  Two songs.  The first night or school.  You could say I’m freaking out a bit.  Luckily, they are letting us do covers (which is fantastic, because I would have had to write two songs otherwise).  But it’s just crazy.  Not to mention, I may be the only person here who doesn’t play any other instrument, so I had to find someone else to play for me.

It seems like most of us here feel like we have no idea what is going to happen this semester.  There has been little to no information given to us about how things happen, so we are all just in the dark.  That’s where the inspiration for the song of this post came from.  I wish I would have had a warning, or sign, or an e-mail or something.  Just a heads up, you’ll be performing in front of all the students on your first day of the semester.  Sweet.

 

So that’s where I’m at, basically.  A very tired voice from practicing a lot today without warming up or having sung in a while, and freaking out because I have to perform in front of everyone tomorrow.

Also, even though it has been raining, it is hot.  It’s so muggy.  But I have survived, it is just startling when you see it’s raining, so I expect it to be cold when I walk out the door, but then it’s quite the opposite.  Gonna have to get used to that one.

The Sound of a Million Dreams

“So I’ll labor for hours ’cause I know the power of a song when a song hits you right.  Pouring my soul into stories of life hoping someone will hear one tonight.  Maybe my voice will cut through the noise, and stir up an old memory.  Out of these piano keys comes the sound, the sound of a million dreams.”


So this is it.  In less than 36 hours I will be on a plane to Nashville.  I feel so unprepared (partly due to the fact that I haven’t even attempted to start packing yet).  It was hard enough to pack airplane-ready bags for a three week trip to Europe, but now I have to pack a bag (or two) that is under 50 pounds that needs to last me three and a half months.  You could say I am stressed about this entire experience.

I am so excited to have this amazing opportunity to study at the Contemporary Music Center, but currently I am freaking out.  This is the perfect opportunity for me to get a foothold in the country music capital of the world; the place where I know I will need to move if I want to have a career in country music, but I know that in this program and in this city, I am judged on my talent.  Not my brains, not how hard I try, but on good I am.  I want this so bad though, so there is nothing that could stop me from going after this, especially not myself.

This experience being all about music, I am trying to center my blog a little bit about music.  The title of the blog “in this crazy town” is from the Jason Aldean song “Crazy Town” which I am often reminded of when thinking about my upcoming travels to Nashville.

“It’s a crazy town full of neon dreams, everybody plays, everybody sings.  Hollywood with a touch of twang, to be a star you gotta bang, bang, bang.  Bend those strings ’til the Hank comes out.  Make all the drunk girls scream and shout.  You love it, you hate it, we’re all just trying to make it in this crazy town.”

The title of this post “The Sound of a Million Dreams” is a song by David Nail that has been really inspiring to me as I try to pursue a career in music, since it talks about the work and dreams put into being a musician.  Another song that has been similarly inspiring I used in the header image, “Even if it Breaks Your Heart” by the Eli Young Band.

“Some dreams stay with you forever, drag you around but bring you back to where you were.  Some dreams keep on getting better, gotta keep believing if you wanna know for sure.  Oh, oh, I can hear ‘em playing, I can hear the ringing of a beat-up old guitar.  Oh, oh I can hear ‘em singing, keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.”

Whether I’m ready or not, this new chapter of my life is beginning.  I’m excited and terrified.  I’m really hoping that this experience teaches me to overcome my fears and be a better performer.  If I don’t, then this is going to be a very painful semester with a live show every week and a 6-8 day tour with a show every day.

Here’s hoping!