I live in a city called “Music City.” I live in a city where jazz doesn’t function, blues is a ghoststory, and rock is a fairytale; where the venues close at 2, the bands quit by one, and nobody’s ever seen a time-clock; where the guys in the balcony wear more makeup than the background singers onstage, where the jeans are ironed and the boots shined. I live in a city where music row is for rent; where the city’s biggest draw is a faux-divebar’s Thursday coverband; where bands call home before L.A., where “Christian” is a genre, and “Belmont” is an adjective. I live in a city where country came to die.
A city half-heartedly fighting its own contraditions: geographically Southern but culturally sterile. A city lacking New Orleans’ history, Atlanta’s vibrance, or Memphis’ culture; neither upstart regional capital nor loveable underdog, demographically confused, economically stagnant, logistically dysfunctional. A city palpably lacking self-esteem. A city of first-generation redneck yuppies. Orlando with a muddled twang. Charlotte with designer boots.
I live in a city with short limits and a small scope. I live in a city where it’s better to be mentioned in a bad Ryan Adams song than not at all; where Toby Keith’s official title is “Recording Artist” rather than “Sergeant of Apes,” or “Public Enemy Number Six”; where the cops write tickets rather than make arrests; where the restaurant owners, newspaper editors, art gallery curators, music venue bookers, indie hipsters, and city-governors cite “how they do it in [other city],” and none of them I live in [other city], a city where everyone is from somewhere else…or wants to be.
I live in a city called by nearly any name you can conjure, and nearly any name that’ll fit; a city that doesn’t sleep and doesn’t wake, doesn’t grow or shrink, doesn’t live or die; a city tucked safely in the shadows of something bigger than itself, writing its own history in the footnotes of another’s, lying on its foundations and dreaming in the dark. I live in a city called Nashville, but only until I die somewhere else.