I never traveled to Nashville, Tennessee before, but this last week work brought me there. As someone who only really likes simple old school country and even then I’m kinda prudish about it, I tried not to think about the city much before getting there. I figured it’s a city, it’s south of Wisconsin by a few states, and the company is paying for nearly everything. Why think about it? Why scare yourself out of liking Music City, where down home musicians hunt for fame? Why embarrass your ego with the anticipation of experiencing a brief moment in history of the country music scene in the USA? Don’t get redneck over a work thing.
But then that punk girl tingle tickled my belly button. Isn’t Jack White’s telephone-booth-sized recording studio in Nashville? That cool box into which Neil Young squeezed himself and his guitar just to record “Crazy” by Willie Nelson? Wasn’t it like some musical history treasure that Jack White excavated and restored for the modern world to appreciate? Yeah, pretty sure that’s in Nashville.
Why look at that! When I Googled “Jack White, Nashville, Tennessee” I got links to http://www.thirdsmanrecords.com, the studio owned by Jack White. I saw the image of the industrial building with the bold red and screaming yellow bay doors… that was where I needed to go on this trip. The thought flipped my stomach. I realized that if I go there I must sing. I must sing an appropriate song for Dave. What is the appropriate song? It must speak of love. It kinda has to be a country song, I mean it’s Nashville. Damn. I only know a few country songs, and word-for-word recitation is extremely low.
What Johnny Cash songs? Wait a second, pick a song that sounds good in your range at least. And what the heck is that? I haven’t sung in so long.
I did not have any country songs memorized but “My Funny Valentine,” (which is jazz not country but would do in a pinch) and only about three quarters of “Walking After Midnight,” “Crazy,” and “The Devil’s Right Hand.” Maybe I could bullshit myself through “On the Road Again,” or “The Gambler.” I might even convince someone I knew, “Hey Good Lookin'” and, “Walk The Line.” But that’s the extreme extant of my country music experience. I loved the album that Loretta Lynn recorded with Jack White. For some reason I could not conjure up one song note for note in my head in my hotel room on the eighteenth floor.
All I could think about is Neil Young pinching out Crazy in that skinny booth, and then I heard Willie Nelson sing it instead, but then he passed the booth space privileges to Patsy Cline. The problem was they only sang the first two phrases over and over in my head. ‘Crazy. I’m crazy for feeling so lonely. Crazy. Crazy for feeling so blue.’ That’s the furthest we all go. None of us, Neil, Willie, Patsy or me, could remember what words followed. We could all hum the rest of the tune, and nod to each other when we actually hit the right sharp note in the ever-changing key, but the words… They returned later. We could jump back in singing, “…I’m crazy for trying, and crazy for crying, and I’m crazy for loving you.” We all get there just fine. But the whole damn middle was missing.
I reached out to my phone to type in “Crazy lyrics, Willie Nelson.” A window popped up inviting me to choose between two expensive options for internet in my room. It was supposed to be free according to the front desk lady, but apparently the internet didn’t know this at the time.
I tried to turn off wi-fi and rely on cell service alone. This did not work. I searched my iTunes to find anything remotely useful, anything that would do. No. Nothing. The strange relief of seeing I really didn’t carry around much in the way of country songs seemed ridiculously satisfying and frustrating at the same time. I had Patsy Cline’s “Walking after Midnight,” and Johnny Cash singing, “The Devil’s Right Hand.” That was it. The Devil’s Right Hand had nothing to do with love, and “Walking After Midnight,” seemed awkwardly inappropriate, like just a tad off from the obvious honest truth.
I hate failure. This must be done, I was too close, and it must be done right, it’s final vinyl after all. I needed to get the right song nailed down, in about eleven and a half hours.
…to be continued…