Monday, June 18, 2012

bye Nashville, hello California

Goodbye Nashville, I hope to see you again.
I had a great time there and can't wait to come back again in the near future. Yesterday, no wait, the day before we left Nashville for Las Vegas and then to Burbank, California. The past 10 days in Nashville, I was looking for a place that sold stationary stuff because I wanted to draw. We walked past two bookshops and to our surprise, they only sold books. In Malaysia, when the sign says 'bookshop' it sells  maybe 80 percent stationary and 20 percent books. Sometimes I see them sell chocolates, toys and all sorts of other stuff before I find the books. Over here, a bookshop only sold books. I couldn't find any sketchbook at all. On the last day at the airport, we finally found something remotely close to a sketchbook: notebook with yellow pages and blue lines. Good enough, it was better than nothing. I started drawing right away.
During the CMA Fest, I was looking for a place that sold sharpie markers because I wanted to ask some of the country artist to sign my guitar. Couldn't find any. Then, out of the blue someone ran across the sidewalk and dropped her sharpie marker. She was one of the volunteers probably rushing somewhere. I picked it up wanting to give it back to her but couldn't find her anywhere. So I got a pen! I was right at the end of the Hunter Hayes meet and greet line and he didn't have enough time to sign for us at the back. Another thing that is really different is that here, when the sign says 'meet and greet' they also actually mean 'meet and greet'.
I've been to many in Malaysia. Marié Digby, Lee Dewyze, Yuna, Greyson Chance and Joe Brooks and not once did I see the artist and people managing the crowd so nice. Hunter Hayes took pictures, got to talk to each person and sign a stuff for every single person he had time for. I noticed all of them do that and I guess thats where the name meet and greet came from. The people managing the queue ask politely for you to move and let us know that there would be a slim chance for the people at the back to actually meet him. I got so used to those people shoving us into lines and pushing, and then we only get a few seconds with the artist. They should call it 'sign and go'. Yuna was the only exception in Malaysia I think. That was actually very pleasant.
From Nashville, we went on a plane to Las Vegas. Looking out the window I saw a lot of desert and hills it was really beautiful. There was a giant lake or river and all the buildings. We too lots of pictures but I can't upload them now because we're in another airport (8th airport this trip) and my camera cable had been checked in. When we got to the vegas airport, there were slot machines everywhere. Literally everywhere, even in front of the toilets. They also sold iPods and Beats by Dr. Dre headphones from a vending machine. There were people everywhere that there were no seats left so most of the passengers sat on the floor. We found a place to eat after walking around. I had a pretzel and papa had a giant slice of pizza. Huge could be an understatement. Then we went to the platform (is that what its called?) to queue for out flight to Burbank. Only it was the wrong platform. So we walked to the other end where they changed the boarding place to and made it just in time. It was an incredibly short flight. Someone came to pick us up and brought us to the university of the west, where we were going to stay. It was a nice place and we got a room each. I decided to stay on the couch with my dad. The trees I learnt were called Cypress grew really tall and the view was amazing. The internet was not accessible so we had a break from facebook, blogger, tumblr and whatever else for a day but I didn't really miss it much. yet. The next day, (um I can't remember his name) brought us for breakfast at the restaurant nearby and they had awesome food. I ordered waffles and hot chocolate. One tip, if you were to come to america is don't ever order hot chocolate. When I ordered it, I imagined it like Milo. But it is really creamy and filled to the top with whipped cream. It was also very, very sweet. I can't be ordering milo kosong here. The other day, the same thing happened to me when I ordered frozen hot chocolate in Nashville. The cup was more like a bowl. A little bigger and it could qualify as a pot. Like the hot chocolate here, it was sweet, creamy and filled with whipped cream. They gave me so much I couldn't finnish half of it with the help of my dad even after I poured it into a cup and sipped it along the way.
The waffles thank goodness were the same size as the ones in Malaysia. Maybe they use the same machine... It was sooo good. It came with a scoop of what I thought was ice-cream. But it was a scoop of butter. It tasted so nice but I couldn't finnish it either. Am I talking too much about food? After that we went to a temple. A chinese temple where my dad had meetings to attend. We took the car, just like how we took a car to the breakfast place. We walked so little here compared to Nashville. We met a few nuns and they talked with my dad for a long time. More people came in and joined the meeting and then we went for lunch with more people joining us. We had chinese food. Papa must've been so happy. It was really good too. Then a nun showed us around the temple. It was huge and I felt like I was in Taiwan instead of California. Almost everyone spoke chinese or are chinese. The shops around were either korean or chinese.
In the afternoon proffessor lancaster, my dad's friend picked us up to go see Hollywood. There actually wasn't much to see. A lot of the studio's have moved out and other than that, we drove past the Hollywood sign, the stars on the sidewalk, and the houses at Bell Air and Beverly Hills. The houses weren't exceptionally huge because we didn't drive all the way in, but they looked beautiful. magical even. The trees were tall and shady, some houses had giant walls built so high you can't even see the house itself. And that was the end of the Hollywood tour. Pictures later! After that, we jammed our way back to Rosemead where we were staying for dinner. Back to the dry, brown grass and dusty roads. We ate at a chinese vegetarian restaurant. Like I said, a little confusing. It was a little like Taiwan and also like home. I got to eat my favorite sweet and sour pork (which is actually tofu). We came back to the university, and found the resident assistant and he helped us get online! Yay, internet! Went on there for a short while on the public computers and logged off after chatting with my mom. I am not a PC user at all. It took a while to figure out how to shut down. lol. Then went to bed. Or couch.
Just now proffessor lancaster took us for breakfast at the same place we ate at yesterday. I didn't order hot chocolate. I had a nice cup of sugar-less coffee and Strawberry Rhubard. Strawberries are huge and it was yummy. Couldn't finnish it, so now it's in a container next to me. Saving it for lunch :)
We're going to board in about half an hour. I think I wrote too much nonsense and didn't bother proof-reading, so thanks for reading it until the end and bearing with me! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Nashville.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes for a moment. I could've pinched myself, anything to remind me this is real life. I packed my bag and felt like I was forgetting something. We're really going, and I was beyond excited.


A year ago, I decided I wanted to go to Nashville. I've been watching the CMA fest online for a few years. Living vicariously through the pictures just wishing one day I could be there. I told my parents about it and the were like "go for it!!!" I love their extremely high optimism and support. I recorded 5 of my original songs at a studio as part of my fundraising to get to Nashville. It was simple, acoustic. Looking back I felt I could've done a whole lot better, but that was the past and I'm learning from that. I did a total of three shows at café's and a few open mics and within a year, managed to get just enough money for the air plane ticket. I have everyone who supported me to thank.

On Monday, my dad and I went to the airport with my grandparents, sister, brother and mom. We said goodbye and walked towards the terminal and our adventures to come.
Our flight to Hong Kong was delayed by an hour so when we got there, we rushed to catch the next flight to New York and made it just in time. It was a fancy plane. With individual TV's and remotes. They served food that was hot, and drinks that were cold. I looked out the window as we flew through night, day and night again, just utterly mesmerized by the clouds and need I mention?
Sunsets.


16 hours- one movie and the entire season 3 of Modern Family later, we finally arrived in New York. It was late and cold. We took a taxi to Newark where my dad found a really cheap inn to stay the night before our flight to Nashville the next day. As we were in the car, we got to look at the city and all the lights from a distance and it was beautiful. Maybe all cities at night are like that.. 
We arrived at the inn at about 1 am. It was nice. There was a TV and two beds and internet which was a lot more than we could ask for. 
We got up early the next morning, and went downstairs for breakfast. There was a waffle machine and you could make your own waffles. Put the cup at a machine that looked like a coffee machine but it dispensed batter instead. Cool! They also had cereal. "Awesome!" was my first thought. We took the shuttle to the airport to check in and then took a train to New York city. It was cold. And they call this summer? 
We arrived right at Madison Square Garden. Wow. So cool. We went full-on tourist taking pictures of EVERYTHING. At least we weren't the only one. It was just amazing. Loads of advertisements, buildings, people. 


We walked around just taking it all in. Then, we took the train back to the airport. Nashville was just four hours away. The flight from Newark to Chicago was short and I fell asleep in the plane. Jet lag hadn't hit me yet. I've never experienced jet lag before so I wouldn't know if I'd gotten it or not. I did not. Dad did though. We arrived at Chicago not long after and had really hot tea at a café. So hot that I didn't drink it. I brought it into the plane to drink after cooling it down for half the trip. I'm contradicting that way. I don't like the cold but when it's hot I'd rather be cold, and when it's cold, I'd wish it was warmer. 
This plane didn't fly that high so I looked out the window the whole time watching the buildings and cars get smaller and smaller until they looked like ants were living in them. 



We landed in Nashville safe and really, really excited. There were guitars in the airport and music playing. We took another taxi to the hostel we were going to be staying at for the next ten days. It's called Music City Hostel. It was still under construction but it was awesome nevertheless. Looking out the window you could see the LP field and Riverfront, literally in the CMA fest itself. I was so excited! That night, a girl named Kelsey was performing at Hotel Indigo nearby. I've been a fan of hers through the internet for quite a while now.
Anyway, I read about it on Facebook and we decided to go watch her perform live. She is really good, even better live than I've heard her on youtube and her songs are really good. My dad told me to go say hi. He had to give me a little push because I was too much of a coward. I said hi and told her I loved her music and we talked a very little bit (I'm not good at talking. she was excellent at it though) Can't believe she's only 13. Then her mom introduced me to Jack Scott, the person who runs the writer's night at Hotel Indigo and told me about a bunch of other places I could sing at. 


The Next four days were incredibly busy at the CMA Fest. It was hot, but not as hot as Malaysia though. It was amazing. Every corner you turned was filled with people. Every bit of silence filled with music.


At night, when the festival stalls take a break, everyone heads to the LP field to... listen to MORE music. All the established singers perform there. Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill to name a few. My seat was really high up and on the first day, I walked all the way up there. Then on the second day, I met some really nice people at the fan photo line and they got seat way up there too. People call them the nose-bleed seats. We talked a bit and enjoyed the concert.


People here are really nice and its not that hard to talk to them either. We all share the same love for country music. The whole festival, although it was filled with people was really relaxed. I was wandering around and found a booth where you could sign up to sing and also stand a chance to win a guitar. I signed up and sang. Singing in the CMA Fest, it was really fun. I ended up singing there three times in that four days.


Kelsey introduced me to Jack Scott and he introduced me to Nolan Neal who asked me to sing at Hotel Indigo on the second day of the festival. I couldn't possibly say no. There was a band there from LA called the Voodoo Fix and I played their in-between set with Nolan. We took turns to play a song each. He is so good! 


After singing at Hotel Indigo, we rushed to the LP field because Faith Hill was performing that night. Made it in time and it was just amazing! 
I also got interviewed by GAC and Briana Barner, (a student journalist I think.) writing for a college project. It was an exciting experience. 



The festival ended and music was still around but not as much. I met so many awesome people including Kenny Chesney and many upcoming artist. It was a truly inspiring week for me and I think all the fans. We'd queue up in the hot sun to meet them. We bought their CD's, and it's nice to see that they are all so humble and nice, and that they appreciate it too. I got to watch the performances from far away online and now stand so close that when they poured water at the crowd, I actually got wet. So close that the sound from speakers felt like wind blowing through an electric fan. It was so exciting and amazing. It was surreal.

On Monday, I went to get my guitar fixed nearby because the neck was bent and we walked around Music Row a bit before going to the Bluebird Café. We went to try our luck there. Legendary, that place. Actually, it's just an ordinary café but the people, music and energy makes it so much better. It has a very nice feel to it. That day it was really crowded because it so happened to be the Bluebird's 30th anniversary. We got there one and a half hours early and the queue was already two shop lots long and it kept getting longer. I didn't get to sing there, but we did get to enjoy the show and watch all those talented writers sing. At least I got a ticket for next time!


I didn't get to sing at the Bluebird Café, I can't say I'm not disappointed at all, but I know the chances were against me. Now I'm kind of glad I didn't sing there. Everyone was so good, I think I'm not good enough yet. Just watching and learning as much as I can is good enough. For now. 

I got to sing at Hotel Indigo again yesterday evening and I was put together with two really talented teenagers around my age. We sang three songs, each taking turns to sing our own. I sang Tonight, that didn't go too bad. Then when it was my turn again, I sang Running Away. I completely messed up the strumming and my first thought was that I ruined it, everyone's going to hate my music now. Hopefully my last song would make it better. I sang Red, people actually liked it. Someone said it was the best song of the set! That caught me completely off guard. The girl who was in the middle, Haley Georgia liked my song so much she thought of recording it?!? She's really serious into this. Not like me, just playing for fun. She's actually here to make a record. She asked me if I could give her my song, but we'll see how it goes. I told her we could write together if I don't give her Red. She seemed to like the idea of that. I told my mom about it and she was like "So how?, you're leaving on Friday." and I'm like "It's not the end of the world, we have the internet." Maybe I could write for her, but chances are slim. We'll just go with the flow. It's definitely a learning experience. 

Nashville is so beautiful. I can understand how people write songs everyday in this place. I could've swore I just stepped into a painting. 


Thank you to everyone who supported me and helped get me here. Thank you for getting my little CD or coming to my performances, and even for your kind words of encouragement. I really appreciate it! 


-Amrita