Nashville, Tennessee. Five years ago I happened to come here for a week. Which turned into two. Which turned into three. Which turned into a five year ache to return and write songs with some of the best, play music in iconic venues and be inspired by the overwhelming respect for songwriting in this town.
I’m writing this four days after Americanafest – a week long intensive music festival and conference that celebrates songwriting like no other event I’ve ever experienced. It seems here like no one really cares how many records you’ve sold, how many people are coming to your shows or how many pairs of black skinny jeans you own… if you’re writing songs that make people cry/leap to their feet or nod their heads in agreement then you deserve a seat at the table. And if you’re not there yet – if you’re still learning the ropes, fumbling your way through three chords trying to find your version of the truth – then the table makes space for you anyway, and humbly teaches you a few things while sharing plate of corn chips.
Sure, there’s the business side of things – America is the most oversaturated music market in the world and Nashville is one of it’s music centres so it’s overwhelming how much is going on here and how many people are trying to ‘make it’…. what does that even MEAN? If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was here to make it big…..
Just to clarify, no I’m not here to make it big. I’m here to hear music and write music and see if I want to hang out in America a little bit more. The answer…. No. I mean, sure, I’d come back here and if someone asked me to tour the country I wouldn’t kick them in the boobs – but in terms of where I want to spend my time making music I have never felt such a strong respect and appreciation for what I have back home.
The rise of Americana music in Australia has been happening for a while and is gaining some real momentum. But what’s struck me this past week is how unique our Americana artists are. Maybe the lack of traditional channels to get our particular brand of music heard has resulted in a kind of creation free for all. We’re influenced by these Americana and songwriting greats without any national or industry rulebook for how we express ourselves. We’re making music that sounds like NOBODY else and our sound has developed as truly distinct and authentic. We might be a small island on the other side of the world but we know how to write a f**king good song.
Apart from attending the Americana Awards & Honours night (which was really more a who’s who gig of the cream of Americana over here) and catching some local highlights like Dori Freeman and Brandy Clark, I spent most of my time watching my Aussie friends completely smash their sets. I’m still exhausted, my head hurts and I’m terribly homesick… but I would come back in an instant to see them do it all over again.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Gig: Tamworth presents Australiana at Americana @ The Bluebird
Highlights: Tenderfoot, Emilee South, Liz Stringer, Falls, Andy Golledge, Sam Buckingham (what, am I not allowed to love my OWN songs?)
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Gig: Americana Honours & Awards Night @ The Bluebird Cafe
Highlights: The Milk Carton Kids, Jason Isbell, John Prine, Iris Dement, Rhiannon Giddens and some guy called Van Morrison. Ok, you’re right, no Aussie artists here but I just have to tell you that it was SO good and I cried SO much that the woman next to me gave me all the tissues from her handbag.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Gig: Metropolitan Groove Merchants Party
Highlights: Grizlee Train, Leah Blevins (also not Australian, sorry)
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15
Gig: In the Round @ The Bluebird Cafe
Highlights: Watching Emmylou Harris’s face while Kasey Chambers sang. Pure joy, respect and adoration.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
Gig: The Aussie BBQ @ The 5 Spot
Highlights: All Our Exes Live in Texas, Shane Nicholson, Larissa Tandy
Follow Sam Buckingham online at https://www.sambuckingham.com.