On Thursday night, Andy and I drove to Nashville to visit one of my best friends. For three days we enjoyed good food, live music, and great company. As much as I love writing, and am looking forward to finishing my manuscript, it’s always hard to come back down to earth after a fun, carefree weekend like that.
What helps, though, is how inspired I was by the trip. Big softie that I am, I actually cried a bit at the Grand Ole Opry. They showed clips of Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood being invited to join the Opry family. They led us through the artist’s entrance, over to the dressing rooms, and then onto the stage. Standing on the infamous center circle, looking out into the auditorium, I imagined what it might be like as a young country singer. To see a full house. To hear the thundering applause. To feel all that history paired up with all those years performing for free in smoky bars, sending out demos to record labels, eating nothing but ramen, writing song after song at three in the morning. And then, if you’re lucky, to be singing at the Opry. A dream come true.
Later that night we went to the Bluebird Cafe. It was like going back in time, to those smoky bars I was talking about. (Except there was no smoke, and I think these guys get paid.) Four songwriters, plus an amazing accompanist, played “in the round” — an unmarked circle in the center of the cafe. We sat close around them, practically elbow to elbow, while they took turns sharing their songs and their stories. Again I was struck by the passion, the heart, in their music and their words. It reminded me of my own journey, my own heart.
They sang of love and laughter, of heartbreak and regret. They sang from a place of honesty. The clarity of their vocals, the purity of their guitars… Genuine emotion poured out of both the musicians and the audience, like so much magic.
That’s what I want to do with my writing. I want to stand on the Opry stage, and I want to sing at the Bluebird Cafe. I want to achieve my dream without forgetting where the passion started. I want to bring readers in the round with me.