Sunday, September 7, 2014

62 Days in Nashville

"Travel not to find yourselfbut to remember who you've been all along."
- Megan Gilger.

It was actually 65 days including all the travelling through changing timezones. I've been home in Malaysia for a month and have yet to write about my recent adventuring. "You need to tell people what happened. You have to write your report and tell people what happened" my mom tells me. Ahh, the life of a homeschooler.. consists of a lot of report writing. But honestly, after being home for so long, I'm still thinking about Nashville. I'm still reminiscing, and I'm still wishing I was there. It's like the feeling you get after reading an awesome book, and its so awesome that you don't want to read another book because you feel it wouldn't even come close. I actually did read a very good book and am currently not really reading anything else but that's beside the point. So where do I start, where do I start? The past few months could very well have been the best two months of my life so far and this is my "report". 

I started my adventure saving up for the actual adventure. Because life isn't just about the destination, it's also about the journey. And what a journey it was-- I raised funds on GoFundMe, did a couple of recitals and sang on the street. I'm so grateful to everyone who helped me chase my dreams

Why Nashville? Because I wanted to attend the annual country music festival (CMA Fest) and two workshops there: Pitch To Publishers workshop, and NSAI's Song Camp. I wanted to learn more about songwriting, and to see how my songs would be received. 
While in Nashville, my mom and I volunteered at a hostel. I walked from midtown (where we were staying, and where my mom volunteered) to downtown (where I did most of my volunteering) everyday. It took me 30 minutes to walk there, and 30 back. I walked until there were holes in my shoes and tan lines where I wore my watch but the time I spent walking gave me a lot of time to think and write songs, which I did. I must've looked like a crazy person, singing into my phone and all, but I must say; I have come up with songs while walking back and cleaning rooms that I'm very proud of. 

The last few weeks in Nashville flew by. I didn't want to leave, but I missed home at the same time. Oh, the irony. But before we left, I had one last scheduled performance and a couple more writer nights and open mics to attend. And of course I had to go to The Bluebird Cafe one last time to sing and to say hello and goodbye to the wonderful people I've met there. Till next time at least. 
I performed at Jack Scott's Writer's Night at Renaissance Hotel. Two years ago, I played there for the first time when it used to be held at Hotel Indigo. It's funny how so much has changed, yet so much is still the same. I met the most amazing people there that night, and had so much fun performing. 
I also attended NSAI's Song Camp. There were so many people of all ages and all genres attending. I met someone writing songs for Broadway, and someone who writes the most amazing dance music. The first day of the workshop felt like the first day of school; there were mums reluctantly saying goodbye to their kids (my mom was one of them) and people getting to know each other. I sat way at the back of the conference room (of course) and talked to people. Okay, okay I tried to talk to people. I didn't feel as awkward there somehow. Maybe its because we were all crazy about songwriting and so we have so much to talk about, I don't know. The workshop was 3 full days of insanely awesome lectures, song sharing sessions, song critiques, and networking. We explored deeper into lyrics, melodies, songwriting methods, hooks and co-writing. We each got a song critique and got to listen to hit songwriters tell their stories behind their songs each day. 
I loved hearing about how the songwriters wrote their songs. Anything could be an inspiration; it could be a colour, or a word, or a movie. Sometimes it started off with a guitar, sometimes a piano, and sometimes they'd write to programable tracks. During one of the sessions, we got to hear the entire process because they recorded it all. It started from beats, then moved on to a couple of words and a lot of mumbling, then the demo and finally the radio version. It was so fascinating! Hearing them share their experiences was both inspiring and reassuring. 
I was especially nervous about my song critiques. Each time I passed my lyric sheets around, I could hear my heart pounding, and I hoped no one else could hear it. During the breakout sessions there weren't many people because we were broken into smaller groups. I never had my songs critiqued before, and after attending the workshops, I realised my songs weren't exactly following that "rules". I don't always follow the general song structure or write to radio-friendly song lengths. One of my songs; 'Dreaming' didn't even rhyme. I was SO surprised that for all the 3 song critiques, I got very good feedback for my songs. It's not that I doubt myself that much (I do, a little. But only a little. Okay, maybe a little more than a little.) but these were professional songwriters. Some of them had won or had been nominated for many awards including Grammys. I couldn't comprehend it. I still can't. 

I made new friends, and got asked to do some co-writing. I had never co-written before, so all this was so exciting and new to me. I managed to squeeze co-writing sessions with Olivia and Diana on my last 3 days in Nashville. It's a very interesting process; learning how other people write their songs and how to write a song together. 
It was too soon to be packing my bags all over again. We had a lovely southern breakfast with our friends at the hostel and went to the airport. The journey home felt so much longer than the journey there. The constant change in timezones resulted in me giving my family the wrong arrival date, but by the time I realised my mistake, we were thousands of feet in the air above Chicago and there was no way to let them know. 
I had learnt so much and I feel like I've grown more in my songwriting. I read an article recently about why people like to travel. It's not just the being-in-a-new-place kind of rush, but it is the energies you get from being in a place where everyone is excited to be there. How everyone travelled to the same place you're travelling to for almost the same reason. It also talked about how after you've come home, you'll always get the urge to travel again. The buzz will disappear, and it said that no matter how much you think had changed, it will all be the same again as you go back to your ordinary life. I don't want to go back to who I was before all this adventuring. I don't want to stay completely unchanged. After many, many flights and long naps on the plane, Nashville didn't feel real. But there were photos, and souvenirs. I even packed dandelions in my suitcase. Not the small ones like we have in Malaysia, but the big ones the size of your fist. So it had to be real. 
I don't know how to express how thankful I am to have been able to experience all of this. And to have experienced it with my mom. I thought I could do it on my own, but I don't think I could. She likes to rub it in my face all the time- the fact that I did actually need her there, and really enjoyed her company.
I'm so grateful to everyone who had supported me. Thank you so, so much for believing in me. I can't wait to share some exciting news with you! 

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