While I have not lived in Nashville (yet), I have spent a lot of time there and know quite a bit about the town.
Thus, I really enjoyed the new Associated Press feature about rocker Sheryl Crow‘s decision to move — as in pack up her life and really move — to Guitar Town and give country music a try.
The story is full of all kinds of details that stick, if you get Nashville, but I thought it really needed one or two additional paragraphs, or at least a few extra lines. Yes, this is Nashville, so we are talking about a religion ghost that slipped into this story, but was given very little attention.
Now, the whole key to this story is that the life of a musician in Nashville — the pop-culture capital of the Bible Belt — is somewhat different than life in a place like Los Angeles. In the country music biz artists need to court a broader audience, including the people who run radio stations. It’s a place where even the big stars are expected to project a bit of down-home attitude.
Like I said, this story gets that down, starting with some advice from a guy named Brad, who urged her to go country for keeps:
Crow thought about it and Paisley’s message took hold. But it meant she would have to change things up and embrace Nashville’s country music culture. Eventually, he helped kick start the new record, suggested producer Justin Niebank and introduced her to songwriter Chris Dubois, who served as a co-writer and informal song editor. She changed her songwriting tack, looking to match the more visceral, story-telling style of the genre.
And no one succeeds in country music without courting radio — thus the bus. Most of country music’s biggest stars started that way and Crow — 20 years after releasing her first album, the five times platinum “Tuesday Night Music Club” — didn’t see herself as exempt, no matter how many millions of albums she’s already sold.
The first day of radio tour she hit larger markets like Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee, Atlanta, Orlando, Fla., and some privately owned stations in smaller towns, too. One day, three states. Welcome to country.
“I say that it’s fun, but it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Crow said. “Because sitting on the bus and only getting the gratification of only playing like a couple of songs, and then driving for two more hours and then getting to play a couple more songs. It’s really hard, but it’s great, you know? … I’ve felt really embraced.”
So the musician is adapting.
But what about the woman whose private life has, on occasion, been the stuff of tabloid headlines? How’s she doing?
Suffice it to say that the title of her first country album is “Feels Like Home.”
Now, read this next little slice of the story and spot the amazing detail that just flies past.
The title could easily refer to her new life in Nashville, where she moved seven years ago after beating breast cancer. She’s since adopted two young sons, Levi and Wyatt, and settled into the creative community. Her kids go to school with the kids of other artists — she recently held a fundraiser for a local school — and they all see each other at church.
“It’s really idyllic,” she said. “And the other great thing about it is I can get off the airplane and there’s no paparazzi.”
So Crow’s kids also hang out with their school buddies — at church?
Yes, that’s Nashville, alright.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know more about where Crow — after seven years in town and surviving a brush with death — goes to church. Guitar town has plenty of amazing churches, including some very alive and vital congregations that remain aligned with more progressive denominations.
This is a city in which even some of the biggest of stars slip quietly in and out of the balconies of major churches and some have been known to get involved at the level of social causes, helping the poor, youth group concerts, etc.
So I’ll ask the question that just about everybody asks newcomers when they hit Nashville, the question that methinks the AP team should have been bold enough to ask in this case: So, Ms. Crow, where do you go to church?