Neal Johnston at the Bluebird Cafe

Nashville opened my eyes somewhat to the extent of my pessimism. Charlie X had ended our text exchange by writing that I’d fit right in there, which seemed so counter-intuitive to me as to be insincere. While I really can’t read her intentions, it turns out that she was pretty right on.

Part of my misprojection was founded on falling into the common error of mistaking the tip for the iceberg; that is, the most visible part of a music scene for the great mass of it. I should know better, and do know better in a general way. For some reason I ignored my own understanding in the case of Nashville – likely as a reactive response, out of a sense of insecurity. I was looking at Nashville from the perspective of my own self-doubt and alienation. I assumed I wouldn’t fit in because I’m neither country enough nor young enough.

The scene at the Bluebird Cafe open mic on Monday night certainly validated my idea of the Nashville scene. In fact, it was more of a teen country music beauty pageant than I had ever imagined, with a majority of the performers under 20, a fair number under 16, and only very few over 30. I was an obvious outlier. But my song was very well-received, and a good number of people – both audience and other artists – reached out to make contact afterward.

Hanging out at the Douglas’ Corner Cafe open mic the next night furthered my sense for a seemingly vast musical community underlying the star-making machinery, drawn to it, but rendered independent by a sort of perpetual marginality. The lure of riches is ever-present, but there remains an abiding appreciation for community and craft.

And it’s relative to this that I glimpsed the possibility that Charlie might be right about me fitting right in, given my own appreciation for these finer things, the strength of my songs, and my attraction to the possibility of making a decent living in music.

I still don’t have a sense that my songs are quite right for that industry, but they’re not so far outside of the box that I couldn’t get wrapped up in pursuing the possibility of finding a niche within sprawling mansion of Graceland.

I don’t imagine pursuing it, because Hamlet Among the Pirates, and some other things, feel both more real and more plausible, but it was nice to feel a sense of mundane possibility involving other musicians, as a brief respite from my persistence sense of imprisonment within the nutshell of my own mind.

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