A little over a week into my tour, I'm here in Nashville, the great music city of lore. Upon arrival, I took a leisurely cruise down Broadway, which turned out to be the most touristy area around. My first impression: A life-size plastic Elvis on the sidewalk in front of a bar where a country band was playing at 11 AM. Only in Nashville, yes sir. I couldn't find much musical happenings that night because as it happened it was Super Bowl Sunday. So I stayed in and got some valuable practice time. Next day was much different. After checking out the local vegan spot, The Wild Cow (great meal, disappointing donut) I headed over to the infamous Bluebird Cafe for open mic night. The Bluebird open mic is a "writers' night" which means no covers allowed -- these people want to hear your original music. How to define "original music" is something I might debate at another time, but anyway this place has some good mojo. It's one of those open mics where 47 people show up to play and only maybe 30 of them actually get a chance, and sign up works by lottery system. I got lucky! I got slot number 23 and I played "Let it Shine" Got a good response and saw some very solid talent all around that night. Definitely could learn a thing or two about songwriting from the folks around here. So for a large part of this tour, I'm counting on CouchSurfing.org for places to stay. As it happens, the local weekly CS meetup is an open mic night at Cafe Coco tonight, here in Nashville. Who knows what could happen.
One week into the tour and this feels like just about the most exciting thing I've ever experienced. I've traveled from Florida to Knoxville (my current location) and now I'm headed for the midwest, then back east through Texas to Alabama. After that, I will make my way up north towards Vermont. Quite a journey I have got myself into!
I'm here in Charlottesville, VA where we had an earthquake yesterday. A real earthquake! This was my first time experiencing such a phenomenon so it was quite exciting for me. It was very rumbly and shaky, just like in the movies.
While I prepare for my shows here in town, I'm taking Chapman Stick lessons from Greg Howard and basically just camping out in my Couch Surfing host's yard. By the way, Couchsurfing.org is amazing. Best way to travel. Forget hotels, go on CS and find a host, make friends, actually get some human interaction on your travels. My host here in Charlottesville has a very inspiring garden of vegetables, herbs, tall sunflowers and corn stalks, arranged in a spiral pattern around the meditation area.
My CS host in Orlando basically arranged a show for me, which ended up evolving into something wonderful. Long story short, there was a miscommunication with the venue, so we all went to a (badass, vegan friendly) coffee shop called Austin's, and I played a set there, for a much larger audience than I would have otherwise. Just a testament to staying cool and keeping the faith that everything works itself out and opportunity is waiting around every corner to jump out at you like "SURPRISE!!!!"
The real gem of my trip so far has been my visit to WildRoots, a re-wilding homestead on the border of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. When I say re-wilding, I mean these people are living primitively, building structures made from materials gathered right where they live, and eating foraged, caught, and roadkilled food, and cooking with bear fat from bears they caught in the forest. They are doing this sustainably, and they are helping the land become wild again. This place is on the side of a steep mountain. The structures are mostly a reasonable distance apart, connected by skinny trails that cut through thick vegetation. To your left, the wall of a mountain. To your right, a steep drop down to the beautiful stream below, the stream that provides the water these people drink and bathe in. Visiting Wildroots was especially inspiring. The music of the insects and the trees and the stream down below sang me a lullaby to which I slept better than ever before.