London Country Music Night 2018
Last week Nashville was back in (London) town for Country Music Week 2018. I had been waiting a year for this after attending the inaugural series in 2017 and I picked up my tickets (very) early after nearly missing out on the sold out show last year. As an aside, in trying to wrangle my way into the sold out show last year I ended up getting a membership to Bush Hall (near Shepherds Bush station) which I would highly recommend to music fans of all stripes – in my opinion it is one of one of the best live music venues in London where I saw some truly memorable gigs, including a fantastic Tim O’Brien solo show. If I had missed the event last time around I may never have heard about Marcus Hummon, the writer behind hits like Cowboy Take Me Away (Dixie Chicks) and Bless The Broken Road (Rascal Flatts) which was one of those musical revelations you only have a few times in life. He is the father of Levi Hummon, a very accomplished writer and performer in his own right (check out Red White and You) who also played on the same stage last year together with Lindsay Ell and JT Harding, two other fantastic Nashville songwriters.
The event was a Songwriters Round hosted by Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe (heavily featured in ‘Nashville’ the tv series if you’re into that – I am!) where, as the name suggests, four songwriters sit in a row onstage armed just with acoustic guitars and take turns playing their songs after telling the story behind the music – how they wrote the songs and what they mean. Last night (stage right to left) it was Jimmie Allen, Eric Paslay, Lee Miller and Cassadee Pope, supported by two guitarists on lead and harmonies. I wanted to be surprised so I hadn’t listened any of the songs beforehand: Blue Jeans and Best Shot (which I’m listening to as I write this) by Jimmie Allen stood out, as well as She Don’t Love You by Eric Paslay, which reminded me of a George Jones classic. Some of the introductions were as good as the songs: Lee Miller told the story about being confronted by a CNN journalist after playing ‘I’m Still a Guy’ (a hit that he wrote and Brad Paisley recorded) at a function in Washington, DC because of the song’s inappropriate lyrics – check them out online (!) but that conversation is about as topical as you can get these days! Jimmie Allen’s story about sweating for ten years after moving to Nashville before he got a record deal was also moving, as was his introduction to Warrior, about his grandmother who recently passed away.
It wasn’t a song or a story about a song that made the evening for me but the simple description of the songwriter’s job. In one of his last song introductions Lee Miller said that the one thing he wanted us to go home with was a glimpse into his world. Day after day he said, writers like him walk into tiny rooms in Nashville studios where they create these songs out of thin air – they walk into the room and there is no song and a few hours later they walk out and it’s there, like magic. That is what is so hard to grasp when you hear a beautifully written song that makes perfect sense – chorus follows verse, melody follows lyric and you want to listen again when it’s over, as if it the song had always existed in that form, always meant to be – but you forget that the song did not exist before one or a few of these writers got into a room and pulled it out of thin air. Once again, think about it, one day ‘Hey Jude’ doesn’t exist, then Paul goes into a room, comes out a few hours later and it’s there – pure magic!
Talk about inspiration to go home and write about Country Music Week 2018…!