(This completes the series of blog posts about the new songs... thanks a million if you've been reading for the last ten days. I hope you've enjoyed the journey)
ON THE JANUARY trip to Nashville, I was still recovering from a bad flu and chest infection that had laid me low at the start of the year. The city was frozen, with snow along the highways and no-one coming out to the gigs. The trip was a mixed blessing – some of the shows were uplifting experiences and others felt like a waste of time and energy. And sometimes you couldn’t tell one from the other until you were on the way home.
I had tried to line up some meetings. One e-mail contact who had promised a meeting stopped answering my e-mails as soon as I landed on US soil. Another hot contact turned into an e-mail that bounced back. Two others didn’t answer their phones. All entirely typical Nashville. I was visiting one of the remaining leads, a contact, at his office in the city – and we began talking about the music industry.
- How many songs have you written? He asked me after a while.
I considered for a second. About... 49, 50? I said.
He nodded and thought for a while.
- How many of them, if you were honest, do you think are suitable to pitch to publishers, labels, recording artists and agents in Nashville?
(How do you answer that question? The songwriter is the LAST person to ask – the most finely crafted thing you think you’ve ever written could lie DEAD ON ITS BACK as far as the audience or the industry is concerned. It’s almost impossible to tell)
I wracked my brain. I thought about songs that I thought had potential. I tried to imagine Garth Brooks singing them. I imagined Faith Hill singing them. I imagined Kenny bloody Rodgers singing them.
- I’m not sure, I said honestly, after a pause. About nine or ten?
- Hmmm... How long are you here for?
- Until Tuesday.
- Tuesday, huh? He said, and looked out the window.
- You see, he said, starting to explain gently, the guy who brought you here today in a CAB has 25 songs ready to pitch to the industry, and he’s here banging on my door 365 days of the year. You’ve got NINE... and you leave on Tuesday.
I know he was only trying to give it to me straight, in case I had some rose-tinted version of the Nashville fable in my head. But the enormity of the task suddenly became clear. You’re a songwriter, and everyone says you should take your songs to Nashville. But of course, the blindingly obvious thing that occurs to you every now and then is... They’ve already got a million more songs in Nashville than they know what to do with. And every hopeful kid who gets off the bus brings another couple of dozen. It sometimes feels like trying to knock down the Empire State Building by throwing rocks at it. I’m not saying songwriters shouldn't go to Nashville. But they should all be aware when they arrive of how many other people got here the day before they did.
I remember going back to the hotel and looking out the window at the snow on Broadway, and this song kind of unfolded itself in about an hour. I felt very dispirited, and I missed my baby and I was convinced that the best thing I could do was just go on home. Because whatever I was going to do would start with me. It would start in my own hands and heart, so I should just go home and do good work.
Within a week of coming home, I was in the studio making a start on the album. And this was the first track we recorded.
The musicians on this track are:
Anthony Toner – vocals, guitars
Clive Culbertson – bass
John McCullough – piano
Paul Hamilton - drums
NASHVILLE SNOWFLAKE - lyrics
From my hotel room in Nashville,
I see it starting to snow:
both sides of the Cumberland River and Music City Row.
Falling on the sleepless and the homeless,
on the geniuses and fools,
on the parking lots and the backyard swimming pools.
And it makes me miss my baby,
a little bigger than the day before.
And whatever was important between us, is just a little more.
Every song is a snowflake that wants to live forever.
They’ve been falling from the sky so long.
They blow between the passing cars on Broadway,
and as they land upon your tongue, they’re gone.
And it makes you feel so helpless,
the way weather is supposed to do,
as I turn up my collar, and think about you.
Songs can always get you there –
you don’t know how they do it.
They move your heart and your feet,
and somehow get you through it.