What Nashville Did For Me

Did you know that 100 people move to Nashville a day? One hundred hopeful musicians, songwriters, singers, guitar players, and music industry hopefuls flood into the small city of Nashville to chase their hopes and dreams.  Let me tell you, the idea of moving to Nashville was definitely at the forefront of my mind when I planned my trip south.  The thought of going for a short trip and never leaving was very alluring.  I wanted to feel like I was coming home.  I wanted to feel like Nashville had all the answers.  I wanted to feel humbled, and like I should really just go home and practice before getting up on that stage.  Nashville did a lot for me, but it didn’t quite do the thinks I expected it to. 

Ever since the Nashville TV drama hit the airwaves, it has become apparent that anyone who can strum a G chord has made it there life mission to go to Nashville to get discovered and be “The Next Carrie Underwood” as one talented, young hopeful said to me with not a waver in her voice.  I admired her ability to qualify exactly what she wanted to achieve.  I’ve always struggled with that.  Instead I usually shrug and half-heartedly joke that I want to be a rock star. 

The thing is, the old school music business model of being picked up by a label, developed, and signed only really exists now in the Top 40 Pop music world.  In the stream of Country music, 80% of the music played on the radio is male, and the few female artists that are already on the country airwaves are pretty incredible (insert: Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, even Shania Twain is making her comeback). For the hundreds of gorgeous girls who can (or can’t) sing, the chances of having success in that world seem very slim.  There are also many business’s that will take full advantage of these folks, charging them astronomical amounts of money to manage and develop them.  If I could humbly offer any advice, always have an entertainment lawyer look over any contracts before you sign them, and ask around about what the industry standards are for rates and percentages.  But I digress. 

I didn’t come to Nashville to be the next bubble gum country sensation.  But I had entertained the small notion of maybe writing music for them.  The thing is, when I sat down at various co-writes to write these songs, it all seemed so contrived.  From the pure fact that most of the songwriters in Nashville are progressive and forward thinking, the population of people that they are writing for are very conservative, and pretty single-minded when it comes to guns, trucks, and sexualizing women in song.  I realized I would most likely be writing songs for some jacked-up bro wearing a plaid shirt and a baseball cap singing about all the things I don’t believe in.  But still, I tried to play ball, because when in Nashville… so I wrote a song called “God, Guns, and Gasoline”.  Maybe I’ll play it for your some time.  Maybe. 

Now let me back up and say, that the southern folk of the United States are some of the warmest and most generous people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  There wasn’t one person I met who wasn’t whole heartedly interested in meeting me, and after finding out I was living out of my van, offer up there couch for me to sleep on, and with a rib-eye steak to suckle on while I lulled myself to sleep to boot. Southern Hospitality is real and it’s an amazing thing that the rest of us could stand to learn from. 

If I may say, I was surprised to find that I held up my end pretty well in the grand scheme of things while I was there, musically speaking.  It wasn’t long before I played the Blue Bird Cafe, received an invitation to perform at the coveted Listening Room, and was asked to sing harmonies on a song being recorded at Reba Mcentire’s studio.  (No, I didn't get to see her, but I did pass Chris Stapleton and his wife on the sidewalk on my second day in music city!) Nashville has an amazing radio station called Lightening 100 and I was also invited to be their featured “Songwriter of the Week.” THAT’S CRAZY!! 

I even got a showcase right on Broadway that I had to quickly throw a band together for, and let me tell you - it was terrifying! In a city who’s economy is run by music, they don’t pay the musicians to perform at the venues.  So I had an unpaid gig, which was good because I didn’t have a work visa, but bad because how could I ask strangers to play for free?  But I just believed that if I put one foot in front of the other, I would figure it out.  And I did.  I made some great friends in a very short time and they graciously agreed to play with me and I'm beyond grateful.  I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunities that I had. 

Nashville helped me realize that what I love most, is writing my own music, in my own style, speaking about controversial and honest topics that matter to me.  I love performing for a listening crowd of people who understand what I’m putting out there, and love that I’m giving them everything I have, even if that crowd is three deep. 

What Nashville did for me, was solidify my goals and dreams to be a well-known touring artist.  While I could easily move right on into a life in Nashville and join the masses competing for that non-existent A&R rep’s attention and whiskey tab, Nashville has given me the courage to sacrifice some of the things I hold dear in exchange for the hustle of the independent artist. 

I’ve decided to let go of my beautiful cottage in Victoria, BC and spend the next year living out of my van so I can afford to continue to pursue my career in music.  In 2018, I plan to spend the year touring the United States, Europe, and Canada to continue sharing my songs and meeting new people.  I hope to gain more supporters across the globe on my Patreon account so I can continue to afford to record and produce new music, as well as earn a modest income. 

I don’t know much about the world, but Nashville helped me realize this about myself.  I made a decision to travel across the continent with little-to-no money, with no expectations, and only the idea of discovering great music.  If there was any doubt in my mind, I know now that I have the courage, tenacity, and motivation to pursue a career in a truly challenging industry.  I believe I can rise about the noise, and find my tribe - as hokey as that sounds. We’re all just people, and we all just want to feel something.  For me, that’s the music I create, and nothing brings me more pleasure in the world than sharing it with the people who want to hear it. 

-Elli xo

3 comments

  • Kate

    Kate

    Beautiful words. Thanks so much for sharing this!! Sounds like such an impactful trip, and in very different ways than expected! So impressed

    Beautiful words. Thanks so much for sharing this!! Sounds like such an impactful trip, and in very different ways than expected! So impressed

  • Laura

    Laura Victoria

    Great Blog! So Happy you are having such great experiences. Take care you. ~Laura

    Great Blog! So Happy you are having such great experiences. Take care you.
    ~Laura

  • Jesse O'Leary

    Jesse O'Leary BC

    Awesome story! Great adventure! Best of luck on your travels!

    Awesome story! Great adventure! Best of luck on your travels!

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