Nashville, Tennessee—The noon sun is shining on Music Row. The world-famous recording studios, radio stations, and record offices sit lined up like dominoes. I’m walking into one such studio right now.
This is weird.
I walk past mic stands, cables, and foam-covered walls.
When I was a teenager, I played music in a band. We were god-awful. What we lacked in musical talent, we made up for in body odor. One night, a Nashville man visited the bar and tipped the band one hundred dollars. My bandmates got so excited they left for Nashville to see if they could “make it.”
I didn’t go with them because I had a job I couldn’t afford to lose—also I couldn’t stand their smell.
In this town, people dream big. You can see them everywhere. Their dreams are too large to keep beneath their hats. They are hopeful, talented, nice-looking, and most of them don’t have a chance in Hades at “making it.”
At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
This morning, I met a sixty-seven-year-old man who once moved here from Indiana in hopes of becoming a country songwriter. He washes dishes, and also works as a construction worker. His face has some mileage on it.
“I came here after my mom died,” he said. “Thirty years ago. I just wanted to be able to say I gave it my best shot.”
If you listen to him talk, you’ll find out that he believes he’s somewhat of a failure because his name isn’t in neon lights.
“No, I don’t regret moving here,” he said. “But, it’s been real disappointing, I’ve learned how to be hopeful even when nothing’s working out, you know, that’s not easy.”
He laughed. I could see he was missing a few teeth.
There is something remarkably hopeful about this town and its residents. There is a kind of excitement here. It’s too bad the rest of the world can’t be so optimistic.
Hope might run thin in Indiana, but it’s in the drinking water here in Davidson County.
My uncle had that same pie-in-the-sky optimism. Long ago, I remember when he told me, “You keep practicing your guitar, and one day maybe you’ll go to Nashville, maybe one day you’ll ‘make it.’”
I’m middle-aged, it’s not looking good.
But then, my uncle and I had different goals in life. When I was a boy, my highest ambition was to survive the death of my father.
As a teenager, I wanted not to be a Panhandle hick—even if only for a few minutes.
When I was a grown man, I wanted earn a high-school and college education so I wouldn’t feel stupid when I looked in a mirror.
I’ve done those things. What else is there?
Today, all I want is for my family and friends to know I love them. Also, I want to catch some redfish from time to time, and to grow old with my wife.
But getting back to the recording studio. Right now I am inside a padded booth. An audio engineer named Kevin stands behind soundproof glass, looking at me, telling me it’s time to start recording.
I never thought I’d see the inside of a place like this.
I must be in shock because I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know how to act. I am here to deliver spoken words that will become the audiobook version of my novel. I wish someone would pinch me.
My wife is behind the glass. She gives me a thumbs-up. I wave at her like I am a complete goober.
She’s been with me through a lot. She’s watched me fall on my face. She watched me finish my education. And once, she started a standing ovation when I walked across a community college stage. And she’s here with me, in Nashville.
The words of an Indiana cowboy come back to me:
“The way I figure: long as I’m breathing, I’m gonna keep trying to write songs that’ll touch someone’s heart, whether they are ever on the radio or not, I want people to see that life is a blessing, it’s a real blessing, man, I believe that.”
I shook his hand and thanked him.
It was a genuine pleasure to shake the hand of a man who has already “made it.”