My husband and I choose to spend every Thanksgiving in an American city we’ve never been to and spend four days immersing ourselves in local food and culture and avoiding turkey. This year we went to Nashville. I didn’t know much about Nashville other than Connie Britton, and a general dislike of country music (Garth Brooks and Patsy Cline were probably the most I knew about it). I left four days later not only with an appreciation for the music itself, but a reinvigorated passion for my craft that was spurred by the commitment to artistry I witnessed and a deeper emotional investment in truthful storytelling than I’ve ever experienced.
I could tell you Nashville is just like LA, it’s a town built around an industry. In one, everyone has a script in their back pocket, in the other, they’ve got a song. I could tell you that like LA, sometimes “making it” is just about luck. I could tell you about the guy we saw playing on the street corner, and the truck that pulled up right as we were walking past with a man that said: “Hey buddy, I love your sound, come play for me down at Robert’s tomorrow morning, ten am, let’s see what we can do.”
But that wouldn’t be truthful to what I really walked away with from Nashville.
Photo by Jade Broadus
I walked away with a feeling that it was a town of artists committed to nothing more than creating great music. Everywhere you look there are live music venues, even on Thanksgiving week we attended five or six open mic nights of young performers and songwriters, who instead of taking the night off, were making the rounds, playing their songs. You’d look around the room and think: they’ve got to be playing for someone, some music exec has to be here. But the more you watched, and the more you listened, the more you got the sense they weren’t playing for anyone other than themselves and for the sake of improving their own craft.
And it wasn’t just the young musicians with big dreams. We spent an evening at a Holiday Inn near Vanderbilt University listening to a songwriter night. An elderly man who had written songs for John Denver and a slew of other famous names and a woman who wrote all of George Strait’s hits, spent the night getting up on stage and in rounds, singing the new songs they were working on. As I listened to these heart breaking, moving lyrics that came from such a deep place of emotional truth, I wondered, why are they here? They’ve already had hit songs. These are clearly going to become hit songs. So it can’t be that they were dying to do a show for a couple of tourists and a few other musicians. So why?
The more I watched, the more I firmly believe once they packed up their guitars, and drove home, they just pulled their guitars back out and kept working on the songs. Asking themselves: how can I make this better, how can I hit that sequence, how can I adjust this phrase. Their pursuit was not one of fame or success, but one of pure artistry. How can I be better, more truthful, more honest, better than yesterday. The joy on their face as they played came from the pure celebration and exploration of their work and no one or nothing else.
It is no different as actors. The joy of what we do should be the same if it’s in a Holiday Inn or on the Grand Ole Opry stage, in class or on CSI – the art is the same.
I landed back in LA with a strengthened resolution moving forward. I will continue to metaphorically pick up my guitar, to play in every open mic, to write my own songs, to play them everywhere I can, with a commitment only to improvement and growth. And if I am lucky enough one day to have a man pull up in a truck and invite me to play on the big stage, I will know all it means is just a change of venue.
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