NOTE: I know I haven’t posted in ages but there are several posts coming, including some that cover that missing period of time.
As always, when I’m in Nashville, I listen to a lot of music, so much that I was hitting overwhelm every evening. There were just so many songs at every show, so many gorgeous lyrics and beautiful melodies; I found it hard to take it all in. There were so many that I could’ve included on this list but I tried to stick to the ones that stuck out to me the most, the ones that I really, really felt during the trip; these are my favourites, the ones that felt the most meaningful.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE by Kelsea Ballerini (Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Karen Fairchild, and Alyssa Vanderheym)
Pretty much ever since I saw Kelsea live in February, this song has been playing in the background of my brain. It’s so catchy and so uplifting, from the lyrics to the melody to the production. The second verse and pre-chorus have always been particularly moving for me: the verse feels very true to my experience of life and the pre-chorus – especially the lines “Oh, I don’t think about the chapters / It’s all about turning the page” – really speaks to me, maybe because that’s something I struggle with. The song fills me with such joy that I find myself skipping and dancing when I listen to it, even if I’m in the middle of the street. I first saw Kelsea on my first trip to Nashville and can’t help associating her with it so I wasn’t surprised to have it in my head for the whole flight.
Favourite Lyrics: “If I’m honest / Growing up, it kind of hurts like hell / It’s chaotic, ironic / But it’s how I learn to find myself, yeah // Thank God, I don’t know about tomorrow / Thank God, I take it day by day / Oh, I don’t think about the chapters / It’s all about turning the page”
Radio Silence by Natalie Hemby (Written by Rosi Golan and Natalie Hemby)
This is quite possibly my favourite song to come out of Nashville. I love Natalie Hemby – as a songwriter, as a singer, and as a person, as you probably know if you follow my blog – and this is, I think, my favourite song of hers. The lyrics, the melody, the production… Her voice… I absolutely love all of it. It sounds like the feeling it’s describing: that shock, that sadness and loneliness, that devastation. I’ve definitely experienced what’s described in the song and from the first listen, it’s always resonated so strongly. As I got settled back in to the Nashville routine, I listened to it a lot and even ended up recording and posting a little cover of a snippet of it.
Favourite Lyrics: “I wasn’t ready for / The way you shut the door / And lеft me standin’ in the frame” AND “I tried to reach you through the growin’ static / I tried to replicate the fading magic / Did everything to keep the signal from dyin’ / All I got was radio silence // I tried to tell you that it’s gonna get better / I tried to put the pieces back together / Did everything to keep the signal from dyin’ / All I got was radio silence”
Diamond Rings and Old Barstools by Tim McGraw (Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton) (Performed by Barry Dean)
This song is one of the first I heard in Nashville and I think, because of that, it feels very nostalgic. That first trip was so magical. I heard this at my first Tin Pan South show ever and between the detail of the lyric and the rise and fall of the melody, it just feels like a classic country song. I don’t know if I can explain it better than that.
Favourite Lyrics: “Diamond rings and old barstools / One’s for queens and one’s for fools / One’s the future and one’s the past / One’s forever and one won’t last”
Humble And Kind by Lori McKenna (Written and Performed by Lori McKenna)
This is a song that will never get old. It will never get less moving. It has this beautifully encouraging and uplifting way of talking about moving through life without sounding like it’s preaching. In my Nashville Playlist (2019) post, I talked about this song and how hearing it live feels like a spiritual experience and that assessment remains true. There’s something about the lyrics, the melody, her voice, and a room full of people murmuring along (not wanting to overwhelm her voice but so moved by the moment) that is just magical.
Favourite Lyrics: “Hold the door, say ‘please,’ say ‘thank you’ / Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie / I know you got mountains to climb / But always stay humble and kind / When those dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you / When the work you put in is realized / Let yourself feel the pride / But always stay humble and kind” AND “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you / When you get where you’re going don’t forget turn back around / And help the next one in line / Always stay humble and kind”
Too Much Of A Good Thing by Madeline Edwards (Written by Madeline Edwards, Ian Christian, and Trannie Anderson) (Performed by Madeline Edwards, Laura Veltz, Kate York, and a couple of members of Madeline’s band)
During one Tin Pan South show, I was both introduced to Madeline Edwards and then got to hear her album almost in full. I completely fell in love with it and it’s been so hard to choose just one song for this list: her voice, the lyrics and melodies, the production… it’s all gorgeous. I think I have to choose the closer, which is called ‘Too Much Of A Good Thing.’ It’s the perfect closer to the album, simple and sweet with a lot less production than many of the earlier tracks (although, as I said, I do love those too – this is just so perfect for the song and perfect to close the album). It allows you to focus in on her voice and the lyrics, which are uplifting and encouraging and poignant. The song contemplates the idea that maybe good things can last, that the idea that we’ve all been taught – that ‘You can have too much of good thing’ – isn’t true. She talked about how much that had impacted her life and how trying to have faith in the idea that good things can happen, can be enjoyed, can last has helped her and allowed her to really feel and be present in the good. This is something that I really struggle with so the song really resonated with me and the more I listen to it, the more emotional I get.
Favourite Lyrics: “Well, life don’t always work like that / And hearts don’t have to break / And God don’t give to take it back / And dreams don’t have to fade / You can fly too close to the sun / And never melt your wings / And you can’t have too much of a good thing” AND “What if the love you want is the love you find?” AND “What if fear turns into scared of nothing? / You don’t have to let go of what you always wanted”
Let It Be Love by The Six One Five Collective (Written and Performed by Michael Logen)
I could list so many songs from this round because everyone was amazing: Michael Logen was fantastic, Bethany Joy Lenz is a born performer and has a stunning voice, Jeff Cohen is a wonderful songwriter, Jenn Bostic’s vocals were mind-blowing, and special guest Ben Earle (of The Shires) was great too. As I said, everyone was incredible and it was definitely one of the best rounds of the festival (although most of the rounds I went to were really, really good). But the ones that have been most stuck in my head are Michael Logen’s so I had to choose one of his for this list and this one just resonated so, so deeply, especially after the sadness of the week. With everyone singing the repeated line of the chorus – “Let it be love, love, love” – I could’ve cried because it just felt so powerful, everyone in the room connected by love, by music, by this fierce hope that things can and will get better, that we can make them better. It was just really moving, almost like a spiritual experience, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Favourite Lyrics: “If there’s only one thing that I’m known for / Just one legacy I leave behind / Just one word written over my hearthstone / Just one lesson I’ve learned in this life // Let it be love, love, love” AND “If it’s only one kingdom we’re building / Just one future we’re falling into / … // Let it be love, love, love” AND “Let it be love that holds us / Love that moulds us / Let it be love by which we are known / Let it be love that sees us / Love that frees us / Let it be love that leads us back home”
One Pink Line by Seth Ennis (Written by Seth Ennis, Cameron Bedell, and Lauren McLamb) (Performed by Seth Ennis)
Before playing this song, Seth Ennis talked about infertility, an issue that’s really close to his heart. He talked about how his parents had struggled with it and how one of his best friends was too and how that had inspired this song, how he’d written it for them. He’d never played it before but it was just beautiful. I’m not generally a fan of songs that are religious or are written as if speaking to God but I think it’s fair to say that many religious people who struggle with issues like infertility do question God when going through things like this. And you obviously don’t have to be religious to struggle with the ‘why’ of struggles like these. So it fits the circumstances here and is very poignant in this context. The imagery was vivid and heartbreaking; it felt very simple but certainly not boring, just letting the lyrics shine. And while it would make a nice story, I’m kind of glad that it didn’t have a happy ending because the difficult parts of life often don’t just magically resolve themselves; we have to muddle our way through and out of them in whatever way works best for us (which, of course, is different for each of us). We don’t always get a ‘why.’ I hope someone releases it because I think it could help a lot of people going through that kind of hard time.
Favourite Lyrics: “I can’t take one more ‘What are y’all waiting for?’ / One more night of her crying on the bathroom floor / So here I am // I know I’m not supposed to ask you why / And I know you’ve got a plan and it’s all in your time / If you only ever answer one more prayer I send up to the sky, just one time / Could you let her see more than one pink like?” AND “She was smiling when her little sister’s boy turned two years old / But I’m the only one who knows she cried that whole way home / And it breaks me when her heart breaks but nothing kills me / Like knowing how good a mama that woman would be” AND “And I’ll paint the room and I’ll build the crib / But you put a little heartbeat in it / That part’s out of my hands / And help me out here, man”
Crazy Love by Cassidy Daniels (Written by Cassidy Daniels and Unknown) (Performed by Cassidy Daniels)
Cassidy Daniels was the special guest at this round and came on stage to sing this song. She was funny and engaging and then she started to sing and oh my god, she blew the roof off The Listening Room. She has an absolutely amazing voice, truly, truly incredible. The song was deeply atmospheric and lyrics paint a dark but emotive picture. The melody climbs and falls; it has this almost lazy, organic movement that really fits her voice – it’s easy to imagine someone dancing to it or performing a gymnastics routine with it in the background – and matches the moody energy.
Favourite Lyrics: “I’ll show you crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy love / The kind I know that you’ve be dreaming of / Yeah, baby, if you’re all in / And you give it all you got then / I’ll show you crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy love”
The Longer I Live (feat. Ryan Kinder) by Aaron Goodvin (Written by Skip Black, Ryan Kinder, and Erin Goodman) (Performed by Skip Black)
I knew I wanted to see Skip Black since he’s done so much work with Kalie Shorr, who I absolutely love (and I love the songs that they’ve written together), and the whole round was good but Skip was my favourite and this was my favourite song that he played. Like ‘Humble And Kind’ and ‘Let It Be Love,’ it’s a song that looks at life and passes on the most important lessons learned without preaching or patronising. It feels honest and sincere and generous. It’s like all of the best country songs: they’re the ones we pass down and pass on because they connect us to each other. That’s where I’ve always felt the deepest spirituality and it’s songs like this where I feel that most profoundly.
Favourite Lyrics: “The longer I live, the more I’m alive” AND “The longer I live, the more I learn / How to just be patient waiting my turn / We all got dreams to chase, it ain’t a race / Ain’t about coming in first / The longer I live, the more I learn” AND “The longer I live, the less I need / All the people telling me who to be / I finally understand / That who I am works just fine for me / The longer I live, the less I need” AND “The longer I live, the more I love”
What Hurts The Most by Rascal Flatts (Written by Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson) (Performed by Jeffrey Steele)
I talked about this song in last year’s Nashville Playlist post: “Somewhat hilariously, the first version of this song that I heard – in my Dad’s car – was the more dance/club version. I have no idea why my Dad had it on a CD but hearing it still brings back fond memories. Hearing the country version for the first time was a bit of a surprise but given the memories of my Dad, I have a soft spot for it and hearing Jeffrey Steele perform it was incredible. He’s an amazing singer and an amazing guitarist; it was a bit like the musical equivalent of a religious experience.” All of this was very true for hearing it this time but he also told the story behind it, the writing process and the success it had, and both of those were deeply connected with his own father, which only made me love it more.
Favourite Lyrics: “It’s hard to deal with the pain of losing you everywhere I go / But I’m doing it / It’s hard to force that smile when I see our old friends / And I’m alone // Still harder getting up, getting dressed, living with this regret / But I know if I could do it over / I would trade, give away all the words that I saved in my heart / That I left unspoken // What hurts the most / Is being so close / And having so much to say (much to say) / And watching you walk away / And never knowing / What could’ve been / And not seeing that love in you / Is what I was trying to do”
Leaving Tennessee by Carter Faith (Written by Carter Faith, Jen Stegall, and Margaret Valentine) (Performed by Carter Faith)
I’ve seen Carter perform a couple of times now and I love this song so much. She’s got such a sweet voice, the melody is so natural and comforting, and the lyrics feel simple but resonate deeply. I think it’s stuck with me so strongly because, while I’ll probably never be able to live in Nashville – for a variety of reasons – I do feel like a part of me never leaves, that I reconnect with it every time I return to the city. So, in some ways, it’s a really sad song for me but also a really comforting one.
Favourite Lyrics: “I would always pack my bags and go before they could find me out / I would always hit the road before they could pin me down / And when I tell you I’m a rolling stone and that I’m never gonna feel at home / Don’t listen to me, you know better, baby / I ain’t ever leaving Tennessee”
No One Cares by Mia Morris (Written and Performed by Mia Morris)
I’ve been seeing Mia perform with Song Suffragettes for years now, in person and over the livestream, and it’s amazing to see how much she’s developed not only as a musician (I swear she can play, like, seven instruments at once – she even used a bowl from the audience member in front of her during this show) but also as a songwriter over this time; she has such a distinctive style as a writer and performer that it’s hard not to get sucked into her songs (I mean, who else could write such a hilarious and smart song about Stacy from ‘Stacy’s Mom’ by Fountains of Wayne and have them sign off on it?!). But during the show I went to, she played this one, which is just so funny. We’ve all had at least one moment in life where, in conversation with someone, we’ve wanted to roll our eyes and say, ‘NO ONE CARES,’ and this song is perfect for that internal monologue.
Favourite Lyrics: “Oh wait / Might be too late / There’s no one really left for you to irritate // Just now, I’ve reached my limit / Right now, you’re so full of it / Is there any way you could take a minute and just be quiet? / Let’s play listening, don’t say anything / For all the time you waste, all the stories you share / Here’s a little story for you, honey / No one cares”
Giving Up by Carmen Dianne (Written by Carmen Dianne and Unknown) (Performed by Carmen Dianne)
I’ve never seen someone play bass at Song Suffragettes (the musicianship of this show was incredible) so I was hooked as soon as Carmen started playing and I loved both of her songs. I found this one particularly emotive, which was only enhanced by her incredible vocals; it really resonated with an experience I’ve been in. But it was also empowering and rebellious and sassy, which I loved. The lyrics are really powerful and the melody sort of tumbles over itself in a really satisfying way. I’ve been listening to it over and over again.
Favourite Lyrics: “I gave up my platform(?) for you to stand taller / I gave up my freedom so you’re not alone / I gave up all these pieces of me just for some peace and quiet in our home / Gave up my breath for you to go waste it / I gave up my family to start one with you / I’ve done my share of giving and now I’m giving up on you” (I’m transcribing from the video after the fact so I’m not sure that these are entirely correct)
Nora Jane by Gina Venier (Written with Gina Venier, Savannah Santos, and Summer Overstreet) (Performed by Gina Venier)
I have never heard a song about a woman loving a woman in Nashville. Never. So not only did this song surprise me in the most gorgeous way, it’s also a beautifully written love song that touches on the fears of coming out and the relief of the story having a happy ending. The lyrics are simple but really touching and I can see why so many people feel so validated by her sharing her story, feel like she’s telling their story too. It’s not a story we hear often in country music and so I think it’s amazing that she’s telling it. Even though it’s not something that has ever required bravery in my own house, I can imagine how much courage it took to do that and then share it with the whole world; it felt like an honour to be trusted with that.
Favourite Lyrics: “What’s my dad gonna do when I bring you home? / What’s my mom gonna say when I tell her you’re the one I love? / Tell her you’re the one I want / Is my brother gonna hate me? / I’m afraid everyone I love won’t love me the same / When I tell ’em your name, Nora Jane” AND “My dad wasn’t too tough when I brought you home / My mom gave me a hug when I told her you’re the one I love / Told her you’re the one I want / My brother found a way to be okay / And I found everyone I love still loves me the same / When I tell ’em your name, Nora Jane”
Rainbow by Kacey Musgraves (Written by Kacey Musgraves, Natalie Hemby, and Shane McAnally) (Performed by Natalie Hemby)
Natalie Hemby was the special guest for the Song Suffragettes 9th Anniversary show so I’m throwing out my self-imposed rule book; she gets two songs from this show. She is my favourite person in Nashville after all. I love ‘Rainbow’ and it’s easily my favourite Kacey Musgraves song – and has been ever since I heard her play it live at Country2Country, I think it was, before even Pageant Material came out. And to know that they were all in need of that song when they wrote it made me love it even more. I love hearing songwriters sing songs that they worked on that were then released by someone else, even if it was someone else in the writing room, and I love hearing Natalie sing this song; there’s something about her voice that just makes me love it even more.
Favourite Lyrics: “When it rains it pours / But you didn’t even notice / It ain’t rainin’ anymore / It’s hard to breathe when all you know is / The struggle of / Staying above / The rising water line” AND “If you could see what I see / You’d be blinded by the colours / Yellow, red and orange, and green / And at least a million others” AND “Oh, tie up the boat / Take off your coat / And take a look around / Everything is alright now” AND “‘Cause the sky has finally opened / The rain and wind stopped blowin’ / But you’re stuck out in the same old storm again / Let go of your umbrella / ‘Cause, darling, I’m just tryin’ to tell ya / That there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head / Yeah, there’s always been a rainbow hangin’ over your head / It’ll all be alright” (So basically the whole song)
Crowded Table by The Highwomen (Written by Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, and Brandi Carlile) (Performed by Natalie Hemby)
One of my favourite moments of this trip was actually this song, Natalie’s last song for Song Suffragettes and the last performance I witnessed in Nashville. I love ‘Crowded Table,’ as I said in last year’s post: “This song kind of reminds me of growing up: my house was always busy and there was always a lot of people around. We were a big, tight knit family (we’re still close but we’re all a bit more spread out now so getting together is harder) and we often congregated around the table at meal times. So, when I listen to it, it reminds me of that.” But this time, she started playing it on stage and then changed her mind, getting up and restarting the song unplugged as she climbed off stage, walking around the room and singing it as she wound between the tables. It was a really special moment. I wish more people had been singing but it was still really magical and I was giddy with joy from the whole experience.
Favourite Lyrics: “I can be your streetlight / Showing you the way home / You can hold my hand / When you need to let go” AND “I want a house with a crowded table / And a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we’re young and able / And bring us back together when the day is done” AND “If we want a garden / We’re gonna have to..