TV’s Next Big Stars!

KG has graciously blogged about our Monday in Nashville over here at “still to come”. Teaser: we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame & the historic RCA Studio B. She did a super awesome job, but I have one point I need to add. It’s unimportant in the flow of our Monday, but all-important in what happened on Tuesday…which is what this post is about…
At multiple points on Monday evening we lounged about the hostel common area with our new friend Tom. During one of such times the hostel manager Ron came to show us a notice he’d receive. Please don’t confuse Ron with Ron 😡. As opposed to my arch-nemesis Ron 😡 this guy was super helpful & became like a pen pal to me while I was planning the trip/stuck in Denver. Here’s what Ron’s notice said:
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Yes we took a picture of it. We’d hate to forget any of the details and miss our big break on country music television. Originally we didn’t think we’d get to partake in the taping, but our flight home wasn’t until the afternoon so the morning filming worked perfect for us.

After our customary stop at Starbucks we met Tom at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday morning. Filming was to happen in the round glass building attached to it’s front.
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We were briefed slightly then left to chat with the other extras. Many of them were young people trying to break in to the music in various ways (singers, songwriters, producers). They were there to see how a tv taping worked, in case it was relevant in their future careers. We were here for a cool story and a chance to be on tv 😉
The next 2.5 hours were spent being a glorified laugh/clap track. We cheered at the start of each segment. We clapped as they ended. We laughed when the director told us the hosts were saying something funny…although as time went on we learned to trust our instincts and laugh at things we thought were funny. We also learned that laughter must be exaggerated to be effective. It wasn’t super exciting but it was incitingly interesting.
The hosts of the CMT Hot 20, Cody Alan & Alecia Davis, were professional but fun. They played off us all standing there staring at them like it wasn’t awkward and required very few do-over takes. They also smiled a lot…way more than I could ever smile. And with so many bright shiny teeth.
The takes were done in order but per camera. They did all the shots through the show from the fixed camera. Then when through the show again with shots from the steady-cam.
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Then, at lunch time when we were staring to feel our stomachs grumble, they did a TGI Friday’s spot for the Superbowl weekend. We watched them eat cheesey macaroni bites over and over while we starved in the audience.
In the end it was a neat experience and we were glad we went, even if it did spoil the number one video 2 weeks in advance. Who knew they filmed these countdowns so far in advance!? Spoiler: It was Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert’s “We Were Us”. Plus we got to touch people who had once touched people like Luke Bryan & Keith Urban…what hunks. Wait I touched Keith Urban once…he was dressed like a hobo 😉

On the way back from Bridgestone, with sore hands from all the clapping, we swung by the field & the parking lot for photos. We explain why these are of importance in “Nashville’s Nashville”.
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After changing clothes and making sure we were properly packed we hopped in a cab to the airport. There is a flat rate fee between Broadway and the airport, making this the most economical way to travel. We dealt with security immediately. We are stressers and just wanted to be ready to fly and able to relax.

Once unloaded of our suitcases and ready for take off we sought out lunch. We used a trick we’d learned on this trip and followed our ears to the only place with live music: Tootsies Orchid Lounge! Dedicated readers will recognize this as our favorite Broadway haunt. Well apparently it has an airport location too! We munched down burgers and listened to Jeff Ivy serenade us. He was very good and gave us his CD to “spread about Canada.” So all of you out there in internet land: go check out Jeff Ivy! And all of you how actually know me, let me know if you want me to burn you a copy of his CD. We have the artist’s permission to distribute!

Our plane trip was uneventful. We did have to pass through the dreaded Denver International Airport, but I put on my brave face and tried to reminisce fondly about my stay there.
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We landed safely back in Edmonton in the middle of the night, excited for work the next day…or not… The real world sucks! And on the happy note…

Love & Luck,
Kris

You Got to Know When to Hold ‘Em

So today, on Day 4 of my Nashville trip, I am actually going to blog about Nashville. I know, crazy! KG is still at her conference until tomorrow afternoon so I had the day to myself to explore. It was serene to wake up and know I didn’t need to rush to the airport to sit on standby, only to have my flight cancelled. Instead I showered, got ready slowly and casually wandered around my top-rate hotel. Nashville is already so much better than Denver.

Here’s a great tip for anyone staying at the Opryland Hotel: the Wildhorse Shuttle. You can get either a 1-day or 3-day pass that allows you unlimited transportation between downtown and the resort. You see, the majority of Nashville’s Things to See can be found around Downtown in the western part of the city. The Opry & Opryland however are about a 20 minute drive east of this central location. It would be super inconvenient if not for the shuttle. I purchased the pass and hoped on a bus to the Ryman Auditorium (one of 2 downtown stops, along with the Wildhorse Saloon).

Once downtown there are several areas you can walk to. Today I set out to explore the Capitol Area. As you might guess, this encompasses the blocks surrounding the Tennessee State Capitol Building. I love these old government building but know that there are many places KG would rather go, so it made it an ideal location for me to spend my solo time. I wandered around the Capitol and nearby Legislative Plaza enjoying the architecture.
Lunch came from a food truck I happened upon on the street. I was hungry and how could anyone resist something called Bacon Nation?! I had a Supreme BLT that was LOADED with bacon, although I was tempted by the Heart Attack on a Bun (a 50% beef / 50% bacon burger sandwiched between 2 bacon grilled cheese sandwiches) and the Tennessee Taco (where the taco shell was actually weaved out of bacon).
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After lunch I visited the Tennessee State Museum. I LOVE museums. I get to a new place and one of the first questions I ask the internet is what museums there are & are they even a little bit worth seeing. My pal the internet told me this one was. The TSM chronologically told the story of Tennessee’s people from its early native tribes through the Civil War era. When you first decend the stairs it looks a bit run down, but people give this place a chance. The further you get into it the better the displays get and the more in depth information you get. I mean there are plenty of artifacts from early times, but they aren’t displayed in the most eye-catching fashion. Future exhibits have dioramas and fun stories and videos to better catch the attention of the visitor. Some of the highlights for me were:
The Dugout Canoe – It was an actual dugout canoe used by the native tribes of Tennessee. It was found on a lake bottom and was one of only 2 to ever be found in decent condition in the state. It just amazes me how it is carved out of one long log and is still expertly crafted, even at 35+ feet long.
The Printing Press – This display didn’t provide much information but was artistically displayed…plus I find printing presses fascinating. I think it’s my favorite piece of historical technology…which I now realize might be a weird thing to have a favorite of…
I took a break to watch the Battle of Kings Mountain film. It told of how the British were forced out of Tennessee, then systematically North Carolina, and victory inspired rebellion & the creation of the USA as an independent nation. It could have been a bit over zealous in the battles importance, but I got to sit in a rocking chair while watching it, so it makes my list of favorite parts 🙂
I paid particular attention to the section on Tennessean Presidents. There have been three US Presidents born in this great state: James K Polk, Andrew Johnson & Andrew Jackson. Jackson seemed like a particularly kick-ass guy. He had a talent for dueling…like with pistons at 40 paces kind of dueling. Anytime he felt his or his wife’s honor was threatened he would challenge his opponent to a duel. This hurt his political career when he actually killed a man, Charles Dickinson, in 1806. Luckily he was also a great General and his military victories won back people’s favor. In 1829 he became America’s 7th President.
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When I left the museum it was raining. It didn’t take long for that rain to turn into hail and I considered going to catch the bus home. Then I emerge onto Broadway and the super-tourist in me changed my mind. Bars, honkytonks, restaurants and western shops lined this main strip. I walked one side, then the other, ignoring the cold & damp. You could hear the live music escaping through open doors and that seemed like a way better idea then going back to the hotel. I picked a fun bar and found a table with a good view of the stage. I sat down, ordered a locally brewed beer (Yazoo Hefeweizen…delicious!) and pulled out my iPad. That’s when the magic happened. Just as I got settled in the handsome performer strummed his guitar and crooned out my all-time favorite tune The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. It was such a perfect Nashville moment that I also started to cry. Denver was totally worth it for this 🙂
This afternoon’s haunt was Rippy’s on Broadway & 5th. Not the most hidden-away gem, I mean it’s literally across the street from the Bridgestone Arena, but just because tourists can find it doesn’t mean its bad. Mixed in with the country music decor & neon beer signs are nascar hoods & memorabilia and I suddenly remember how much I love the South. As an Alberta girl born-and-raised these are kinda my people. The small stage in the corner housed three singers seated in a row, all with guitars. They cycled through, each taking turns singing a song while the others backed them up when they could. There was the country boy with a sexy western shirt, strong jaw and who loved the classics. A cute, little, blonde girl with the right amount of twang and a wide variety of country tunes. And an edgier girl with a smokey tone and a tendency to apply original pacing to hit pop songs. They were so good. It still blows my mind that people of this talent level riddle the bar scene in this town. How can so many good singers live in such a tight space. Do I automatically become better by just being exposed to them? Perhaps it is like an air-born virus that I can catch if I stick around long enough? Or something in the water? Seriously, if you know let me in not he secret…I need all the help I can get. My album is selling at all 😉
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While I blogged (Can I talk about blogging in a blog post? Does that like break the 4th wall or something?) I got so caught up in the variety of music that I realized I missed the next shuttle. Oh well, I guess I’ll try the Yazoo Pale Ale and keep listening 🙂 These 3 singers could really do it all. I heard some Patsy Cline, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars and Owl City. The one girl did a really cool country version of Lorde’s Royals. They also each threw in a few original songs that left me wanting their album(s). I have a bad feeling that I’m going to want to do this every time we see someone play this week. Oh well, my engineers salary can help support these struggling artists a bit.

At one point three members of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks came in doing a pre-game scavenger hunt…? Is this a thing? Because if it is that’s pretty cool. I like the idea of hockey teams getting to explore the cities they visit and doing fun things together before their games. But why am I always so inclined to think people are lying when they make claims like “I’m on the Anaheim Mighty Ducks” or “I work for NASA”? Oh yeah, it’s probably because I love making up stories to random strangers when I’m traveling. “Why yes, I am competing at these World Figure Skating Championships I am going to.” Or “What am I doing? Oh I’m a travel blogger.” I don’t know why I want to compulsively lie about things that don’t matter to people I don’t know but I think it’s so fun. Anyways, they got on stage to lip-sync a song. They got a girl to do a body shot off one of them. They created quite an entertaining ruckus.

When she’d finished her sessions (which you can read about over here) KG hopped on the shuttle and joined me downtown. We headed for supper at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. We really wanted live music while we ate but were not yet pumped up enough for a full band. This was one of the only places that were still in “just a guy and his guitar” mode at this point in the evening. KG had chicken fajitas that tasted like they’d been cooked in coconut oil…nice touch Jimmy. I had a jerk chick burger that was the perfect amount of spicy & juicy. In the end wastin’ away in Margaritaville was a quality choice.
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With food in our bellies we were ready for something a bit more high energy. Rather than limiting ourselves to only one location for the evening we engaged in to self-guided bar crawl of Broadway. We had one drink in three different bars, each selected by walking down the street & turning into wherever had acts that sounded enticing.

The first bar was called Honky Tonk Central. Its decor was lacking but the staff was friendly & the selection of local beers was commendable. For music they seemed to have an ever changing rotation of singers & musicians. Eventually you started to recognize people as they bounced from microphone to guitar to backup singer, etc. it provided a nice variety & ensured each requested cover was performed by the ideal artists, but was also a bit disjointed. You weren’t able to settle into the groove of one or two people because genres, styles and voices kept jarring you in new directions.

Stop #2 was Second Fiddle. This is a more intimate bar decorated with a music theme (radios, cellos, etc hanging on the walls). I was a bit disturbed by the radio – alcohol – alcohol – microwave – knives – nacho cheese machine – alcohol set up behind the bar, but not enough for it to ruin the atmosphere. The music was good at the time, although forgettable in the long run. They also cycled many people in on stage, so that eventually we we’re let wondering if we were the only people in the place not in the band.
Last but definitely not least was the Whiskey Bent Saloon. As we went by the bouncer suggested, “You should come on here…this guy (points to random guy) is playing right away.” “Ok.” Apparently we aren’t hard to convince. It worked out well because I loved this bar. It had exactly the feel we were looking for…being both energized but also chill and worn-in but also classy. The classic country setting was modernized with mellow blue lighting and the crowd was enthused but not obnoxiously rowdy. And to add to the fun it was All Original Music Night. Most bands/singers you see here are performing 95% covers (often requested from the audience…accompanied by a tip because tips are how they get paid) and 5% original material (that is on a cd available for purchase). This is entertaining because you can sing along and bop to the familiar beats, however if their original material is quality I want to hear what an artist can do on their own. How else will I know what sets them apart from everyone else and how they fit into today’s music industry? Oh god, reality singing shows have ruined me…. The first act had rock star hair, a rough tone and endless amounts of soul…and I do not remember any part of his name. He was our favorite we’d seen so far, but when the 2nd act took to the stage he wiped everything else from our minds. Spencer Mulder sounded as if he was already an established country star. His songs resonated with you personally, stuck with you like you’d heard them a thousand times and lulled you into the most calm sense of happiness. Basically we loved him and began fangirling along with a group of ladies who were also attending KG’s conference. FYI Event people are fun. These ladies had to be 15+ years older than us so we felt our fangirl behavior was allowed. We immediately searched iTunes for Spencer’s music but were sad to find he only had 2 albums that were several years old. Don’t worry though! He is releasing a 4 song EP on his website very soon…keep watch for it! We watched with nervous anticipation as the last act set-up. How could they be as entertaining as Spencer? The band was called The Timothy Chance Band and was headed by the dude who had been hosting the event up until now. He wore a perplexing outfit of too-long dress pants, half unbuttoned shirt, silver chains, sweat bands on his arms, and backwards ball cap. Homeless or Hippie? Trick Question! He is neither; he is actually a country rapper. How did I not know country hip-hop is a thing??? This is something I am going to be so into…I love non threatening rap music…like white British rappers. Basically I’m the least hard core person ever. There guys killed it. The band jammed out. Tim rocked the stage. And the crowd went wild. We went wild. Our new friends (Michele with one L, Michelle with 2 L’s and Jill with 2 L’s from Pennsylvania) went wild. It was insanely entertaining…partially insane due to this new genre. I’ve read that it’s becoming more main stream though; Tim even had a theme song for Nascar this season! So keep your ears open for this guy!
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Love & Luck,
Kris