I was brought to my knees more than once in Nashville. I grew up on old country. I had The Judds Greatest Hits on cassette tape my stepmother let me blare in car rides home. I wailed to Patsy Cline before I knew what heartbreak was—except I did. Daddy divorced Mama when I was six months old. I knew every word to that Tammy Wynette song.
My first concert was Willie Nelson at three. In elementary school, I’d stick a finger between my Mom’s Lionel Richie and Fleetwood Mac album to pull out The Highwaymen. That got me hooked on Waylon. Papa is a Doors fan, and I started digging rock and roll. I left rural Wisconsin for the coasts, but collected cowboy boots into my teens resoling them to this day.
I didn’t mind chanting the pledge of allegiance at Tootsies my first day in Nash, because it felt like coming home, to my songwriters, less complicated than my New York hip hop or New Orleans jazz. We can’t help a good country lyric because it’s chords about family, the open road, and real lovin’.
The past six months around Santa Fe, I’ve been covering old standards mixed with blues, reminded that the truth grounds us. I love singing “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” Kitty Wells made it the first number one, country hit for a female back in 1952, a pioneer in the business.
Tears streamed down my face that Nashville Sunday at the famed Station Inn. I sang in churches as a kid and am a sucker for Gospel. Val Storey performed two riveting sets, and while reminding us to keep Jesus in our hearts said, “Now, I don’t know where you’re at right now in your life…”
Ha. Yeah, I thought. Where am I at…? And when do we even take the time to ask that?
The second time I cried in Nashville, I was hung-over on whiskey. Walked into the Country Music Hall of Fame expecting to blow through and make it to that jazz club on Printer’s Alley I’d heard about for lunch. I grabbed my ticket and nodded at the gentleman guiding me into an elevator that led me to a visiting Emmylou Harris exhibit.
She was one of my Mom’s nicknames for me, and we’d watch Harris on television with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. She blared Willie. Mama is a Willie fan and rivals you all out there, on her love for him. I listened to outlaws so much it’s no wonder I started dating them. Relating all to well to Jessie Colter’s biography.
So as I headed into the outlaw section complete with sound and video nooks of each, I got a lump in my throat leaving Johnny and June upstairs to spot—The Judds. On special exhibit, followed by Pasty’s dresses and Kitty’s first parlor guitar. It was one of those moments where life meets up with your heart and guts. I had to catch my breath, stifling cries next to a family starring to check on me.
Don’t mind me, I’m just humbled. Humbled to be living most days, but also to be thriving, to be on the kind of path that places me in front of the kind of mentors to move me further. I said a prayer right when I landed in Nashville, may I please see and hear the sounds I’m meant to hear. I sure did. And don’t we all deserve that? To feel in sync with our direction—moved still, to tears…by the sheer joy of this living.
Where you at right now?
*EB sings at Chile Line Brewing March 11th 7:30ish if you’re blowin’ through Santa Fe, NM…!