Time it was and what a time it was, it was
a time of innocence, a time of confidences
long ago it must be, I have a photograph
preserve your memories
they’re all that’s left you
Kris Kristofferson told me once, “…If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.” Almost twenty-two years later, I think I know what he means.
How do I begin. Where do I begin. And how do I end. This is my attempt at summing it all up. Warts and all.
I came to Nashville in July of 1990 on the advice of a good friend. We were both playing music in Philadelphia when he landed a gig with Lynyrd Skynyrd which left him in Nashville at the end of the tour. He loved the city, decided to stay and knew of a band in need of a drummer. He said it was my ideal band, a mix of Replacements, Smithereens, Beatles and well, every other incarnation you could think of. My life in Philly was miserable. I was actually living in Collingswood, NJ, playing in the most god-awful hair-metal band and dating a woman I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t get away fast enough. This is where I have to be careful so as not to give you the hour by hour, play by play details. Which is very hard to do as I’m hit with the reality that I’m to sum up my 21 plus year experience here in a Reader’s Digest amount of space. I need to do this as part of my process. Closure.
I will probably delete this and begin again several times, get angry, and sob deeply as I remember the people who are no longer around. I’ll smile in honor of the good times and then become paralyzed at the realization that it went by so incredibly fast.
A dog is said to experience life at a pace that puts it at about seven years for every one human year. I have have lived about four lifetimes here in Nashville as the grey at my temples reveals all you really need to know.
Rock’fish: The early years of moving here and playing on the local scene. The energy of creating something bombastic and traveling like gypsies with one common cause. Music. And… girls. They were synonymous. We were rude, loud and cocksure. We had long hair, big ideas and a really shitty van. We drove hundreds of miles for no money to win fans one at a time. The stories we could tell if we all got together would fill volumes and we were no different than the fifty other bands in town who believed exactly the same thing. Swing. China Black. Jet Black Factory. The Biscuits. Iodine. Geared and Primed. Walk the West. Jason and the Scorchers. Valentine Saloon. So many great bands and such an amazing period of time in the city.
Ace of Clubs. 12th & Porter. Exit-In. 328 Performance Hall. Pub of Love. Mainstreet. The End. And lets not forget the Goldrush. Legendary venues, some still here and some gone for good. I was a regular fixture at every-single one. When a dear friend passed recently, some of us gathered at a local watering hole for a gentle memorial and it was like stepping into a time machine when I crossed the threshold. We developed some very bad habits… some never got over them and paid the ultimate price but we developed some incredible life-long friendships as well. I have gotten to watch all my crazy rock n roll friends “grow up” and have kids of their own. Virtual mini-me’s who know how to play Beatles tunes before they are 10 and actually sing the lyrics to Big Star and Graham Parsons songs.
I achieved a dream of mine here in Nashville. A couple actually. Seven years and seven days from the moment I arrived as a drummer, I signed a publishing deal with a major publisher as a songwriter. All I ever wanted to be was a songwriter. I have been blessed to meet and have play on my records some of the finest musicians in the world. I mean on the entire planet. I thank each and everyone of you. Engineers, studio managers, techs… thank you. I got to travel the world on a guitar… here… in Nashville.
The Black Period: I completely lost my way and allowed people and circumstances to suck the spirit and marrow from my body. It lasted almost ten years. That’s a long time. When and if you ever let anyone take the only thing you truly possess, your soul… two things should happen:
1. You should be punched in squarely in the mouth for allowing it to happen.
2. You get a hug from a friend. Someone close who says, “it’s gonna be ok.”
The Aftermath: When you learn that what you thought was, wasn’t and who you thought was nowhere close… it does damage. Major damage and some people are perfectly fine with letting that happen. They’ll watch as you take the heat, even when you don’t deserve it. That kinda shit can do irreparable harm. My divorce aligned pretty closely with the events of September 11, 2001 and I will tell you, those were deep, dark days. I lost my music. I lost my confidence. I made some of the worst errors in judgement’s I’ve ever made. As I scrambled to regain my balance and purpose I hurt some people. For that I’ll be eternally sorry. The country was in a deep despair from the events of that Tuesday in September and I was right along side. I had been planning on going to NYC, start fresh. That wasn’t going to happen. My manager and retailers dropped me. My ex-publisher ended up with my house. A house we spent 18 months building. It all played out publicly. When you are crashing, it’s a feeding frenzy. Everybody wants their’s. When you’re on top, everyone would love to do lunch. When you fall, everyone is “in a meeting.” All of it. Gone in the blink of an eye.
An attempt at a new record came up short. Wonderful songs. Some of the strongest material I ever did sat dormant until recently. The “Songs From Before” collection is from this time frame. Trying to be hopeful when you’ve lost everything is extremely difficult. I wasn’t waving. I was drowning.
The Healing: One day… you wake up and have to decide to be happy. I started over. I started drawing, painting and reinventing myself. I spent a lot of time by myself. I went into my box. Reassessed. I started sailing. But for about 3 shows over the last ten years, my guitars sit eerily quiet in their cases waiting for the moment when I feel like I have something to say. I said my apologies and hope that any harm I may have caused or been a part of is forgiven. I took a regular J.O.B. My greatest fear. A job with an insurance plan and 401k. Albeit, this job in the film business cannot be compared on any level to a corporate job situation mind you… it was still a job. It allowed me to buy my little shack in the hood and heal. Cut my grass. Walk my dog. Remodel the kitchen. Put the studio back together. Unfortunately the cases sat closed. In the mean time, I wrote and illustrated a kids book of poetry called “Crash Landings” and featured some paintings in an art show or two. I became infatuated with the art of sailing and I met Melody. That makes my time in Nashville worth it. With Melody comes a level headed answer to my sometimes frantic, artistic interpretations. She’s got the artist in her as well. Once you see her paintings, you’ll understand what I mean. But she’s got something else… a quiet wisdom. Unassuming simple answers to the big, bad questions I have a tendency to dwell on. I tend to sit and spin on occasion and she knows where the “off” button is. To Mel add Jet. The healing is complete and it’s time to move on.
The exodus. How do you sum up so many lives in such a minimal amount of space. You don’t. There will be no big celebration. No long good-bye’s and tearful recriminations. I hardly see anyone anymore. Kids. soccer practice. Who’s moved and who’s moved on… passed on. My love affair with Nashville has been tenuous at best. Delicate and like fine china, easily broken and never well mended. I never once felt at home here. Accepted here. I can finally say that. I love my friends dearly and for a brief time it felt good to get back to Nashville from long stints on the road. But it never felt like I was going home. Why stay so long? I can’t really answer that. Maybe I just wanted to leave on my terms. Let me be clear. I’ve had some wonderful, extravagant times here in Nashville. I have learned a lot. Discovered, been witness to the births of babes and that fifteen minutes of fame bullshit we hear so much about. Many wonderful shiny moments. But as I come to this “end” or better yet, transition, different things resonate differently and I guess the metal in those hard times rings a little louder in this bell-tower than do the sweet-soft overtones of the good times. I posed the question at the beginning… How do I end? Quietly. Differently than how I began.
Kristofferson told me one other thing and it’s the most important thing I think I can ever remember. He said, “I try to live life by four basic rules; Tell the truth. Sing with passion. Work with laughter and live for love. Whenever I’ve strayed from those, I’ve usually ended up in deep shit. Oh, and… If you stay in Nashville long enough, it’ll drive you crazy.”
Good-bye Nashville. Time it was and what a time it was…