Thursday, October 9, 2008

Young Queen Coles

There’s much to say about Nashville, of course, and much of it has been said many times. This was my second visit, but only my first to really explore the music scene/business.

I have been told repeatedly and often that the Nashville scene rewards long-toiling residents, and is mostly closed to outsiders, carpetbaggers and their ilk. That’s probably true. It is very much a handshake, workshop, community town. And that’s not a knock, it’s perfectly understandable. You work with the folks who are around you all the time, and Nashville is so overpopulated with incredible musicians and great writers, that working remotely with an out-of-towner is an alien prospect.

Doesn’t stop a guy from trying, though.

I had a very good sit-down with Ralph Murphy of ASCAP, a courtly and eloquent gentleman with years of insight into the business, who gave me hard truths in the nicest possible way; and another good sitdown with a songwriter/self-publisher who gave me both en- and dis- couragement, and some good general advice.

I finally met my friend and co-writer, Eduard Glumov of Kazakhstan, and we took in Writers’ Night at the famed Bluebird Café. One great writer/singer after another. I enjoyed the enthusiasm of a guy named Maury Davis, and both of us were taken by a singer/writer named Julie Forester. Julie is a demo singer, and commits to her songs in a major way, approaching them as an actress as much as a vocalist. She thought her way through each ‘beat’ of the song, as a Yale Drama student might. Both Eduard and I wanted to talk to her about co-writing.

The next night, I caught up with Julie at a solo gig she was doing, at a bar that was a lot harder to find than it looked like on the map. I wanted to show up (because Nashville is a “showing up” town), and chat a bit more, before moving off to Writers’ Night The Blue Bar (a great disappointment, as when I got there, I found out they weren’t doing Writers’ Night that evening). She kept imploring the crowd to hang around for the other act, a lady named Coles Whalen, as she was “fierce.”

I hadn’t intended to stay, but “fierce” only begins to describe Coles Whalen. She sang with an intensity and commitment, with exemplary musicianship. Her songs were all closely observed mini-acts of sex, contrition and absolution. The performance and the musicianship were always fierce, the lyrics all good and in some cases exemplary. You should watch her video performance of “Wrecking Ball” and listen to “So it is” which is a lyric I wish I had written. That I wish I *could* write.

More Nashville later on, in particular a wonderful visit I had with Jen Foster, but she deserves more than a desultory paragraph….

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