Chattanooga Travelogue

I spent my entire first year in Nashville meeting new friends and playing music. This year I'm starting to venture out of the city. I want to see all of the cool things Tennessee and the surrounding states have to offer. I thought I'd share these places with you as I visit them. Have a must see place I should visit? Let me know in the comments and I'll check it out!

This last week I drove an hour Southwest of Nashville to check out Jackson Falls. It's a unique waterfall that flows down and feeds into the Duck River. Fun fact, the Duck River is the most biologically diverse river in North America. It has over 50 species of freshwater mussels and 151 species of fish!

Walking down the 900 foot path you're greeted by a beautiful cascade that empties into a small clear pool at the bottom. So what makes it unique you ask? If you're careful and climb up above the cascade you will see. The water slides down a slope before washing across the flat Rock and over the lip. You can walk up and stand in the water as it rushes down. The day I went we hadn't had much rain recently so the flow of water was weak. But you can imagine how great it would look after rainfall.

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On Friday I drove down to Chattanooga. It was a beautiful day and a nice scenic drive. I went to check out the Tennessee Aquarium I'd heard so much about. The aquarium has a lot of the standard sea creatures you've come to expect. However there are some stand out things. For one, I haven't seen such a diverse jellyfish collection anywhere else.

 

They also have a great collection of beautiful butterflies. There's even a window into a small room where you can see their cocoons and watch them hatch. They were flying all over the place and would even land on your finger.

 

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The staff are genuinely interested in the exhibits and will answer any questions. There are interactive sections that staff are stationed at to talk to guests. Overall great aquarium and I would definitely recommend it if you're in the area.

 

The next day I visited Rock City in Lookout Mountain, GA. It's a natural rock garden with the nice Lookout Mountain overlook. The waterfall is man-made but it looks cool. There's a plaque at the lookout that says you can see seven states from it. This is based on journal entries from both union and confederate soldiers but has never been proven. Either way it's a cool roadside attraction.

 

 

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Last but certainly not least I drove to Ruby Falls. This cave system first opened to the public in 1930. Leo Lambert who first excavated the cave in 1928 named it after his wife Ruby. The guided tours have you take an elevator down a few hundred feet. Walking through narrow passages of cave formations you slowly descend over 1,120 feet. What do you find at the end of the tour at 1,120 feet? A massive underground waterfall of course!!

 

The trip was a lot of fun! I definitely plan on doing more. If you enjoy blog posts like this let me know in the comments and I'll be sure to write more.

Oh and I almost forgot, I have some very cool things on the music front. Make sure you join my email list here if you haven't already. You'll get a free song download and other exclusives. I have new songs I'll be sharing online soon. I'm still compiling songs for my full length album. I plan on releasing it by the end of this year.

I wanted to share this cool poster with you for a show I have next week. The poster was created by my friend Meaghan Cahill.  

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I also just printed t-shirts for the first time. You can check them out by clicking here. The blue shirts are limited edition and there aren't many so pick yours up today!

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As always thank you so much for your support. I couldn't do this without your help!

Nashville Updates

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As I sit here in Eighth & Roast sipping an iced coffee a beautiful day is unfolding. It's seventy degrees here in Nashville with a light breeze. Fall is quickly becoming my favorite time of year here. I took the above picture this morning atop Love Circle Hill. As I was driving up the incline Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" started playing over Spotify. While I am enjoying this weather I can't help but think of those weathering the storm. My heart goes out to everyone in those areas being hit, stay safe!

I've been playing a number of writer's rounds and shows around town. If you've never heard of a writer's round I'll explain, as it seems to be a uniquely Nashville thing. There are so many musicians in this city that when you play an open mic you're typically limited to one song. The writer's round is something in between an open mic and a show. You get three or four original songs and you share the stage with two or three other songwriters. Since all performers are on stage at the same time the audience gets to hear everyone. The first songwriter plays a song and then the next and on down the line until it loops back. It's a great way for songwriters to network and try out songs when they may not want to play a full show.

I played my first full show in Nashville on September 30th at Cafe Coco with John Franco and my friend Cooper Baker. The show went really well and was hosted by our friend Cody Bottoms. Cody not only runs some of the best sound in the city but also hosts the open mic on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Cafe Coco. I'm not exaggerating when I say this open mic is easily the best in Nashville. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you've never been you need to come here! Sign up starts at 7pm but you'll want to make sure you get there by 6:30pm to make sure you get a spot. There are no hoops to jump through, no phone calls to secret numbers, no sitting through four hours of openers, no host writing his friends into the early slots, just a pen and a piece of paper.

I've been working on writing new songs and I have a few that I'm really excited about. One of them is a duet and it's coming along really well. Another is a song about songwriting and the struggle that comes with it, I covered that a little in my post on success. I've been focused on writing but I'm also working on developing a really interesting and engaging live show. Which is why I'm in the process of putting a band together.  I've been meeting with great local musicians and I hope to be playing shows with them as soon as November. My sound is evolving, I'm challenging myself and using my voice more. It will still be Folk/Americana music but definitely a bigger sound. 

I have another really cool development but it's a bit too early to announce. Sign up to my email list and you'll be the first to hear about it! Also for a limited time when you sign up I'm offering a free song download from my debut EP so check it out!

I also wanted to share with you this Spotify playlist I put together. If you're a fan of old folk, country and blues music I think you'll enjoy it. It will also give you an insight into a lot of the music that influences me. Make sure to follow the playlist on Spotify as I'm adding new songs to it all the time!

I really want to thank everyone who has supported me and liked my music page on Facebook. We recently hit 400 likes which is insane to me! I really hope to see you at one of the shows listed above so I can thank you in person. Come say hi and grab a CD or free sticker! Thanks as always for reading, we'll talk again soon!

The Process Part 2: Don't Hold Yourself Back

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How have you been, and how's the writing coming? Me, I've been juggling live music three to four times a week, working on songs and writing this blog. It's been pretty crazy but I'm committed to it. I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.  I enjoy reading your comments so keep them coming! Make sure you subscribe to my email list below to get notifications when I post new blog entries. Check out my Facebook page as well, it's where I debut new songs and announce shows! Now without further ado let's get into part two of The Process!

 

In this series I'll be explaining skills you can put into practice to improve your songwriting. They've helped me in my writing and they can do the same for you. Whether you're just starting out or have been writing for years I'm confident there's something here for you. 

 

In this second part of The Process, we discuss listening to yourself as well as ignoring yourself when necessary.  If you're just joining us, make sure you go back and read part one for additional tips! As we progress we'll be digging deeper into the writing and performance process, stay tuned!

 

5) Take Notes: So you're in the car driving down the highway and suddenly a great new lyric pops into your head, what do you do? One thing I do is call my own number and leave a voicemail singing or speaking the lyrics. Here's the thing you need to remember, your memory is both better and worse than you think. When I'm playing a six-minute song sometimes I'll amaze myself like how the hell did I remember all of those lyrics? So yeah you might surprise yourself that way but on the other hand we all forget important things from one second to the next. If you've every said "well if it was important I would have remembered it," I'm imploring you to take a different approach! Back in the day everyone had to have a pen and pad on them but in these days of smart phones and tablets you have no excuse! Either record yourself speaking, singing or text or email it to yourself. There have been studies that say writing something down improves memorization. So if you recorded it I'd recommend writing it down as well when you get home! Take notes and record because ideas will not stick around and no you won't remember them in the morning!

 

6) Silence your internal editor: We are all our own worst critics, this is both a good and bad thing. Sometimes criticism is justified and will make you a better writer. It's when criticism hinders productivity that it becomes a problem. We all have an internal editor that tells us what we are thinking is stupid and not worth writing down. That internal editor is almost always wrong, ignore your editor and get it on the page! Often we don't fully appreciate what we have until we've had the time to appreciate it.

Try this stream of consciousness exercise and let me know how it works for you! This is a good exercise for when you can't think of anything to write. Give yourself a ten-minute limit and start writing. Write anything and everything that comes to mind. The key is don't pause, keep your hand writing as fast as you can. If your mind goes blank keep writing the last word you wrote until a new thought pops up. Practice this on a regular basis and you should see a noticeable increase in the amount of writing you get on the page. Much of this writing won't be useable but we all have to write a ton of crap before something worth using appears.

 

7) Chisel away excess: So you've written a song or at least have a big bulky outline of a song on the page. You aren't happy with it, good you shouldn't be! We don't just write songs, we write them and edit, polish, agonize over, play over and over etc. Many songs that are regarded as bad have generally good ideas, they just haven't been properly polished. One of the first things I do when I go through a rough song I've written is I make sure I'm not saying the same thing multiple times. It's surprising how many times I'll find a line restating something I've already said or have insinuated in an earlier line. Each line is an opportunity to elaborate and pull the listener in deeper, don't waste any space!

The next thing I do is play the song over and over while cutting or editing anything that ruins the flow. I also look to see if I can be more specific if I feel the story warrants that. There are times when saying "the woman" is preferable to saying "Sarah." There are times when saying "crimson" works better than saying red. There's a fine line between using descriptive language effectively and attempting to sound intelligent, tread carefully!

 

8) Learn from others instead of drawing comparisons - Have you ever listened to your favorite artist and said I'll never be that good? When you listen to an artist in their prime you're listening to someone who has perfected their craft and delivery over many years. And believe me they themselves do not think they are perfect. More than likely they wish they were as good as some other artist. There was a great interview with Bob Dylan a few years ago and they were asking him about his early songwriting. I'm paraphrasing but he said I can do some things I couldn't do back then but I can't do that anymore. It's good to remember that everything we write is a product of where we are at that moment. Focus on writing good songs and the rest will follow. Great artists are consistent in the quality of what they produce.

Another thing I want to touch on is as an artist you will cover topics that have been covered before. Don't waste time entertaining the part of your brain that says it's been said before so there's no point in writing it. There is a point in writing it as long as you write it from your own unique point of view!  Say you're writing a love song, write it as if you were writing the first love song!  

 

Thanks so much for reading this, I hope you've found it useful! Share this with anyone you think it could benefit! Please Like and Comment because it helps build our community! Who is your favorite songwriter and what qualities make them unique? Until next time my friends, keep writing great songs!

 

Songwriting Confidence Builder #368: Next time you're in the grocery store or pharmacy stop what you're doing and listen. Listen to the lyrics of the music playing over the speakers!  

 

The Process part 1: Becoming a Better Songwriter

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When I finished writing my song The Outlaw I had been writing off and on for about ten years. I never had any real aspiration to become a musician but in that moment I saw a path. For the first time I was happy with a song and felt my lyrics and playing were on the same level. All musicians will tell you there's a moment of surprise where you're suddenly able to do something you never were before. It's kind of the "wax on, wax off" concept of The Karate Kid. One minute you're sitting on the couch and the next minute you're playing Doc Watson style bluegrass licks. (Okay maybe not quite like that ha)

 

In this series I'll be explaining some of these skills so you can consciously practice them. They've helped me in my writing and they can do the same for you. Whether you're just starting out or have been writing for years I'm confident there's something here for you.

 

In this first part of the series I've come to call The Process, I'll be discussing tips to consider before even putting pen to paper. Stay tuned friends, as we progress we'll be digging deeper into the writing and performance process!

 

1) Read: What is the first step to improving your skills as a writer? Reading great writing of course! It seems like common sense yet so few of us do it. Many of us have drifted away from reading because we associate it with school and work. It should be fun, there's nothing like getting lost in a great book. If you're on page fifty and it feels like work don't feel obligated to suffer through it. Don't feel like you're missing something when you're not enthralled by books everyone else seems to love. Some classics are true works of art and some are just bestsellers from sixty years ago. Read challenging things with words you don't know. Stop halfway through a paragraph, look up the word and reread the sentence so it makes sense. There's no age at which you stop improving so keep working at it! The better command you have of your chosen language the better you'll be able to express yourself in it.

 

2) Listen: Who are your favorite songwriters? What makes them great? Consciously or subconsciously we start out emulating our favorite artists. Everyone wants to start with their own sound and writing style but that comes later. Now here's the key, make sure you are listening to the best example of the style of writing you want to create. If you learn everything emulating someone who can't write then you can guess how good you'll be. Have you ever listened to a song and said they should have used this word instead? If you have then you're thinking like a songwriter, you should analyze every song you hear. Was it just a bad word choice, or a compromise made for sake of the flow of the song? In future posts I'll go more in depth into listening and delivery.

 

3) Sit: We all convince ourselves that we're so busy yet often fill our days with things that don't satisfy or benefit us. We have goals yet don't put the time in to see them to fruition. Dreams don't come true by virtue of them being dreams but little steps do add up to big things. You need to relax and be in the right mindset to write a song, you can't force these things. It may not happen in the first ten or even thirty minutes but I know you'll persevere. We have to tell our brain okay it's time to get into songwriting mode. You'll start to notice trends of what helps get you into that mode. You might say hey somehow writing was easier the other day and I wrote three great verses. Ask yourself what did you do differently the other day? Maybe you had a cup of coffee or maybe it took picking up your guitar for lyrics to come to you. I have no doubt you'll get it down and figure out the perfect formula needed for you to write songs.

 

4) Take your time: We've all heard interviews where a songwriter says I don't know it just came to me in fifteen minutes. The story of the ten year song isn't nearly as romantic but there's something admirable in the discipline. Every ten minutes a songwriter somewhere ruins a song that is 80% great by adding 20% filler because they didn't feel like putting the time in. (I may or may not have made this stat up) Well I'm here to tell you, put the time in if you want to be noticed! When you are releasing music into the world you are affecting your reputation.  Do you want a reputation of they occasionally put out a good song so we'll see? Or do you want your reputation to be their past material has been so good that I'm sure it's amazing? That's the kind of loyalty you build when you put the time in to make sure your writing is up to par. It's called dedication and your songs deserve it.  Taking the time to make sure a song is right is what separates the pros from the amateurs.

 

Thanks so much for reading this, I hope you've found it useful. If you've enjoyed this it really helps grow the community when you like, comment and share! What are some books or authors you've read who you feel you've learned from?  What are some tips that have helped improve your writing? What would you like to see me cover in future posts? Until we speak again, remember you and you alone determine how far you take this!

Success

"How many years are you going to give it?"

I've been asked this a couple of times since I announced my move to Nashville. This is a pretty common thing that artists ask themselves. How long am I willing to struggle before I either reach my definition of success or admit defeat.

This question is entirely dependent upon the artist.  I can definitely tell you the type of artists who are more likely to stick around though.  They are the ones for whom making art is not a choice. Now it's amazing to be appreciated but believe me when I say I'd be making music either way.  Something clicks in my brain and I feel compelled to pick up the guitar and play. The wonderful thing about doing something you love is it doesn't feel like work.  You are improving at something, often without consciously attempting to improve.  If I were to relate it to food it would be like getting to eat cake every day and waking to find you've lost weight. Although in reality if this happens make sure you get checked for a tape worm!

I've heard many stories of musicians heading to Nashville or any other big music city only to return defeated. If fame is your focus then you're in this business for the wrong reasons and almost guaranteed to be disappointed. If you make quality art and work to perfect your craft, people will take notice. This is a long lonesome road but it's not like you and I ever had a choice. We will make music until we die because it's what we love and that to me is success.