Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bagels in Nashville

Nashville is not noted for its international cuisine. The approach to food is as meat-and-potatoes and no-nonsense and down-home as its approach to music: Real, authentic and with country roots.

So finding a decent bagel is not an easy proposition. They are a very, very New York phenomenon, and as any bagel snob knows, a real bagel is boiled before it is baked. (My unscientific and totally unfounded theory about why "good" bagels can be frozen and microwaved is the water content from the boiling process).

Luckily, one "authentic" chain, Brueggers, has two stores in Nashville, one downtown and one to the south-west a bit, close to where I was staying. And good thing, as I had promised to bring bagels to Jen Foster's for breakfast.

Jen Foster lives in Nashville, but is not a "Nashville artist." She is an "indie pop" artist, creating catchy ballads about the usual stuff of life (breakups, high school, love, remorse, joy, vacations, Home Depot, etc.) with a strong pop sound. She grabs effortlessly (it seems) for catchy hooks and is a first-rate lyricist, speaking and singing from her heart. And as an out lesbian, with a strong gay fan base, she does not move in the same circles as most Nashvillians (or as we joked, "Nash-villains").

But the label both defines and constricts her in an unfair way. Her music transcends any gender politics, as her numerous awards (Great American Song Contest, International Acoustic Music Awards, John Lennon Songwriting Contest) will attest. Take a listen to her newest song, "Closer to Nowhere," about the dead-endedness of most peoples' lives. This song won First Prize in the AAA category of the International Songwriting Competition last year.

Which is how I met her, as her name and picture were just below mine on the winners' page. I e-mailed her a congratulations (and it turned out we had a couple mutual friends). Several e-mails and missed phone dates later, I got together with her while I was in the city.

In person, she is warm and open and at a place in her life where she's quite comfortable with who she is. If we hadn't both had prior afternoon commitments, we might have just talked all day. It was a great visit and hopefully the first of many. She's like bagels in Nashville - tough to find, but of high quality and worth searching for.

Her new CD will come out in 2009, but four songs from it are currently available on "Songs From Thirty-Nine."

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