Thursday, November 10, 2011

Long(ing)ley to Nashville

A few years back, when I was looking around on the International Songwriting Competition site, listening to past winners, I saw an irresistible title. The winner in 2006 for Americana was “Girls With Apartments In Nashville” by Joy Lynn White and Duane Jarvis. It’s a little lyric about the flood of young, pretty things who flock to Nashville, ready to take the town by storm with their voice, their fretwork and their songs. Film actors to LA, stage actors to NYC, country singers to Nashville.

And when someone tells you they’re making that move, gonna make it in the big city, you want to wish them well, you hope the best for them, and at the same time you wince inwardly, knowing the odds, and how ruthless a dream can be in cutting down sensible advice.

But I think Liz Longley has a better shot than most. I had heard about Liz for a while, as she’s originally from Philly, and her name comes up from time to time (“oh, she’s great!”) but I hadn’t made it out to one of her gigs. Last night, my friends Seth Glier and Ryan Hommel were back at the Tin Angel, and they were opening for Liz. Liz and Seth went to music school together, are good friends, and are currently touring to raise awareness of food banks – on the “Food For Thought” tour, they are collecting non-perishable foods for delivery within the community. (I made sure I brought a nice full bag, which of course broke while carrying it out to the van).

But as I say, she a lot working in her favor. Her songwriting is quite good – humorous at times, creative, a knack for phrasing, and with the crucial knowledge of when a song happens…what events, sent through the prism of what notions, crystallize into a few verses and chorus that say a little and resonate.

And she’s young, which is a two-edged sword. Young people flock to Nashville, and most will be chewed up by the system because of their lack of life experience. But you have to be young, and stay young, to attract any attention from those who shine the spotlights so many want to feel on their faces.

More to the point, she has a fan base already, built up with care from Philly out to the rest of the country. People in Nashville don’t want to figure out what they can do for you – they want to know what you can do for them. You can’t build a fan base in Nashville, just about everyone there is a fellow songwriter. But it’s a smart place to be – for collaboration, networking, studio sessions – if you have musical life outside. Relationships with songwriters and venues all over the map – something to offer, something that means something.

And her boyfriend, Gus Berry, who plays guitar and sings backup with her, is mainly into production and engineering, which is where actual money is being made these days. So they won’t starve. And knowing your way around a studio is crucial for the do-it-yourself-ness of today’s market.

So, with a solid fanbase, a studio guru, a few CDs in the can, a catalog of songs, a record of co-writing, plus youth and good looks and a sweet voice – there’s not much more you can pack in your trunk before heading to Music City USA. I was glad to meet Liz last night, and wish her and Gus well in Nashville, I hope the best for them, and I didn’t even wince inwardly when I said that.

No comments: