Starting Over In Nashville (Part 4)
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
Although I miss my wife and kids, being alone in Nashville allows me the time to work as much as I can. I meet people for lunch or coffee every day, write emails, make phone calls, and see and play as much music as possible. I'd been doing this diligently since arriving in November when I started to realize it was wearing on me. I don't mind working hard. The problem was, despite my efforts, I still wasn't getting any paid gigs and my energy was starting to fade. I knew my chances of playing regularly in Nashville would be over if I didn't stay patient and remain focused and positive, but it was getting harder every week. Waiting for work is one thing but if the phone never rings you're not waiting - just wasting time. That's how I was feeling when I got an email from a producer (David Henry, True Tone Studios) saying he needed a drummer for a session. My first session in Nashville, after four months of networking.
The session would be six songs for an artist named Tori Sparks. I met with her and got some demos of the tunes. She was great and I knew we would have an easy day tracking. I worked on the arrangements and met her once more to play through the music, but before we even had a chance to record David called again to ask if I could do a song for another singer/songwriter named Rod Picott. He said they'd already recorded the album and were scheduled to mix it when Rod wrote a new song and wanted to put it the record. The session was happening that week. "Thank you sir, may I have another?"
I got to the studio at 10 a.m. to set up. Rod was really nice and the song was great. The bassist ended up being a guy I'd seen play live a bunch of times since I got to town. When we met he squinted and said "I know you." It was funny because he didn't know me as a drummer, but as an audience member. The session went real well. Great producer, song, and players. Pat Buchanan was laying some guitar on it as I left and the track was great in the end; just what I had imagined a Nashville session to be. I even made sense of my first Numbers chart. The next week I did Tori's session and that went really well, too.
A couple weeks later I called and met up with a great local guitarist named Tom Mason. Tom lives in the middle of Shelby Bottoms Park with his wife, Pru Clearwater, and their dog Erroll. In typical Nashville fashion both Tom and Pru have original records out. They also play together in a band called The Big Happy. We met at their place in the park and went for a dog walk. Tom is a nice guy and we had a good talk. Later that night he called to ask if I would be interested in house sitting and watching Erroll while The Big Happy went on a three week tour. Their house is so remote I could set up in the living room and play drums all day without bothering anybody. The dog was cool, too, so I took him up on it.
I had done some sessions in town and that felt good but as the days went on I started to get antsy again. I didn't have anything on the books and had no songs to learn or music to work on. These are the times you wonder if you'll ever get another call. I didn't have gigs but I had a house where I could play some drums so I decided to just set up and start hitting. After a couple of hours I took a break and there was a message from a guy I'd met a few nights earlier named Will Champlin, inviting me to a big jam that afternoon at his studio. A chance to meet players and make music was exactly what I wanted and I called him back and went down there.
Will is the son of Bill Champlin, of the Sons of Champlin. (son of the Sons of... it gets confusing) Like his Dad, Will is also a singer/songwriter/producer, and they live in a big, beautiful house in the suburbs of Nashville with a professional studio in their basement. The players at the jam were great and we were having a good time. After playing for a while we took a break and I noticed Billy Ward's book sitting on the table. I picked it up and started reading a chapter called "How to Get Work". In the book he says that when there's nothing lined up, the way to get the phone ringing is to just set up your drums and play. I would have thought that notion was a little "new agey" had it not just happened to me exactly as he'd described it. We played for a couple more hours and when I got to my car to leave I had a message from an amazing artist named Luke Doucet asking if I could do a session with him the following week. "Great!" (Weird!)
I have a four song session tomorrow. I met the artist (Jon Roniger) at a show and two days later his producers (Robert Reynolds and Jim Reilly) called to see if I could do the recording. I'll be splitting the record with the great, Rich Redmond. I went to the studio (16 Ton Studios) and got the demos yesterday. Rich was cutting a track when I got there, playing right in the pocket, making perfect choices, drums sounding huge. Add to that he looks like a frickin' movie star and couldn't be nicer. If I had forgotten where I was for a minute, Rich Redmond reminded me.
I went home and got right to work on the songs; memorizing the arrangements, getting comfortable with the tempos, thinking of beat and fill ideas... If Nashville doesn't work out in the end it wont be because I didn't try my hardest. I'm going to go down there and NAIL that session! Then I'm going to get more jobs and nail those, too.
The weather in Nashville has turned to Spring and the flowers and trees are in full bloom. It's like living in a tropical rain forest. Meanwhile, 2300 miles away, my daughter lost her first tooth and I haven't seen her new smile yet, and my son came in 2nd in the Pinewood Derby race and I had to settle for the excitement in his voice. I see a light at the end of the tunnel, though, and if I can get that light brighter we'll have a great life here. For now I just have to remain patient and stay focused and positive. Patient. Focused and positive.