Did that just happen? It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves a lot over the last ten years or so as we (metaphorically) sweep out the studio floor after a mesmerising session or interview. In Nashville this year it happened about twice or three times a day.
It started early too. Within a couple of hours of our first morning we had our hands on a grammy.(I checked my spelling twice there) You can hear some of the fruits of our labours this coming Tuesday on Another Country when you’ll hear some of the records we heard on our little Mitsubishi rental car radio. Listen out for some great things from Conway Twitty and Carly Pearce heard in the car or spilling from a honky-tonk or two or at a song writers round.
Conversationally we catch up with Johnny Cash’s younger brother, Tommy Cash, radio veteran Keith Bilbrey but spend a great deal of time with the great John Prine. Our first Nashville ‘moment’ came early on the first morning as we steered our car out of the parking garage and fumbled around to find our go-to modern country radio station…Nash FM. (There are a few but, for whatever reason I’ve used this FM station as a reliable guide to what’s happening on country radio at any given moment.) To our delight and surprise the opening chords for ‘A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega’ were playing. It was a magical moment as we were due to catch up with the singer and writer of the song, Ashley McBryde the following day.
When the day came round we found our way to a famous club gig in Music City called Third and Lindsley. It was around 6 o’clock in the evening and we’d timed it to be there for her finishing a sound-check. The doors weren’t opening for another hour and winter was having one last blast as sleet started to fall. Nevertheless, snaking round the club was a 150 yard queue of fans determined not to miss the support act...Ashley McBryde. The gig was a triumph as you might expect and for 40 minutes before the show we sat down with her in her dressing room and heard the story of how Ashley played her own string of dive bars or as she sings it:
It took a whole lot of yes I wills and I don’t care
A whole lot of basement dives and county fairs
To this show right now and y’all sure look good out there
Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere
Later on that first morning we had another ‘Did that just happen?’ moments too. I think it was walking out of John Prine‘s ‘Oh Boy Records’ office and realising we’d spent an hour with one of the greatest songwriters of the last 50 years. We were celebrating the fact John is releasing his first new recording since before Another Country went on air and the fact we were getting a chance to reflect on his rich back catalogue of songs. We talked about ‘The Tree of Forgiveness’ (it’s a nightclub you know), Dan Auerbach and then we talked through some old songs and that Chicago mail route John was walking when he came home and wrote Sam Stone. It’s all in a fascinating second hour this Tuesday.
Along the way you’ll hear how Keith Bilbrey remembers his first night hosting The Opry and you’ll hear some amazing music and how Ray Stevens came to Music City where, aged 79, he’s opening his own caba-ray. Only in Nashville folks!
We’re on air from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM. Join me if you can.