By Erika Chassner
Attention NYC songwriters of any genre: Nashville is calling your name. New York can be a hard place to shut out the noise and listen for the creative voice within, so this summer, I joined my songwriting dad for a weekend intensive course in Nashville at NSAI’s (Nashville Songwriters Association International) song camp. Having been struck with a case of major writers block, I got a lot more than the dose of creative inspiration I was seeking.
Dubbed Music City, Nashville is one of the epicenters for aspiring songwriters. Although it still leans heavily toward country, it’s very likely that a night at the well-known Bluebird Café can include a performance by someone singing more mainstream pop hits, like Regie Hamm, winner of the American Idol Song Contest. You also have a good chance of seeing artists ranging from Jojo Herman of Widespread Panic to Carrie Underwood mingling with one another in the audience. Most people you meet (and you will meet many in this friendly city) moved to Nashville with a musical dream. Each person has a story to tell and will gladly share it with you whether through a song or conversation. One chart-topping successful songwriter and NSAI teacher, Jason Blume, told a story about eating catfood when he was first starting out. He has since written for Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and many others. If you leave the city feeling uninspired, you should demand a refund. But I assure you, you won’t. It is a city of dreamers watching their dreams become reality.
I spent the majority of my days in song camp, which is offered by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Taught by the geniuses behind the hit songs of chart topping artists across genres, song camp is a three-day course of practical workshops geared towards making your songs better. The students ranged in levels of talent and there is even an Advanced Songwriting camp for the more seasoned writer. My favorite portion of the program was the breakout group song critique sessions, where the teachers would evaluate the student’s songs. Since you are in a small group forum, you also are able to receive feedback from the other students as well.
At the end of the eight hour day of sessions, there are a plethora of bars with live music to choose from. We stayed in the West End area one night and went to the Commodore, which is tucked away inside a Holiday Inn and happens to be one of the most popular “writers’ nights” in Nashville. Each night featured different songwriters who played in the round. Downtown has a Key West-like vibe and is the most popular area to visit at night with a number of clubs and bars featuring original and cover band music. From BB Kings to The Listening Room, you can easily hop from one bar to the next.
Everything tastes better in Nashville too. From BBQ to down home Southern cooking, you will not leave hungry. If you get homesick at all and are craving a good bagel, a stop at Noshville Deli is in order. Be careful when ordering the silver dollar pancakes as they are actually potato pancakes, but completely delicious. We had limited spare time, but managed to venture over to see the campuses of Belmont University and Vanderbilt University, both surrounded by lush green foliage.
At the end of my three day camp, I left Nashville ready to return to NYC with a renewed sense of inspiration and peace. I will most definitely be back to visit and take more of the courses NSAI offers throughout the year. Music city has become my new haven of creativity and I am so glad I discovered it!