By: AJ Bigler
The bus could barely move, all I wanted to do was get home, I had been on my feet for eight hours at work, and I wanted a soft couch and a stupid TV show. The sidewalks on Broadway could not hold one more soul, they were completely jammed. It was CMA week in Nashville Tennessee, and people had come from every corner of the earth to be a part of a completely unique celebration.
Nashville is indeed a magic place. This is the town that calls itself music city, and nowhere else does the term fit, or is even applied. New York is Wall Street and the theatre, but it does call itself Theatre city, LA is Hollywood, but it does not call itself movie city. There are too many other things in these places that would not allow them to do such a thing; they are both, a megopolis, so the terms would not fit. Nashville on the other hand is a medium size town that has many other things going on also, but somehow the term fits, and the CMA festival is proof of it.
Could there be a rock and roll festival where people come from all over the world to see almost every major Rock Star? Too many fights. Is there a Hip HOP festival, where fans come from all over the world to see almost every rap and hip hop star? Too much ego, too much gun play. Only country music is close enough to its fans to do something anywhere near this. It is magic, and this is a magic place.
People come from every corner of the globe with their songs on a CD or a guitar on their back to throw in their talent and see if they can get a spot at the poker table. The odds are about 10,000 to one against them, and most of the people who come here know it, and yet here they are. There is a friendly comradery that pervades through the songwriting community, especially among the 98 percent of the people who have no chance, and yet they try anyway. I never could decide if it was delusion or immense faith. I think the two go hand in hand, the successful writers I know, were both things until they got their first hits, then you can leave out the delusional part. For most of us, both words still apply.
There are little boxes in some of the major music companies where any schnook can leave a CD of their songs. I know one guy at one of them who told me that about 2000 songs a week go through their business. He had no reason to deceive me, so I will say he is about right. These people know that 90% of the hits are written by 1% of the writers, but still they keep those boxes in the lobby, they know very well that what they are looking for most; just might show up.
And so I stay in Nashville Tennessee, knowing I am still in the 98%. And yet somehow I feel it in my corpuscles, that some of the songs I have deserve to be heard, and will benefit the world if they are. Delusion and immense faith still apply here. If I am lying to myself, it would behoove us both if you were to go to my website aj-bigler.com/music, and listen to a song or two for at least a verse and a chorus, and leave me a comment. Just tell me what you really think, do not spare my feelings, my mother will do that, and I expect it from her. I neither desire nor expect it from you.
Nashville is a medium sized town that has an impact on our culture that far exceeds its size. We do it for real here, and I love that idea. I have no place at the table, but a miracle could change that on any given day. I still hang on to the belief that if some of this music found a home with a great artist, I could have my hit, maybe even sit at the table and be a worthy contributor. We all must earn the right to be heard, 80% hard work 15% talent, 5% luck, it is the magic formula, all success is built on it.
PLEASE tell me if you think I am wrong. Aj-bigler.com/music
So beating my head against the wall trying to play one of Beethoven’s simplest pieces, leads me to the conclusion, I am way out of my league. So again, the question remains why?
I will tell you, because when it gets somewhere in the vicinity of right, I am in awe of what Beethoven did with his chord structure, his melodies, his note placement. It makes me wonder, if it is so simple and profound, is there something to be learned by doing this? The answer of course is a resounding yes. It is intimidating and inspiring at the same time, a schnook like me taking lessons from Beethoven! I doubt if I will ever get it right, but making slow progress helps me to understand his music, and more importantly, my own. I find myself using some of his tricks with my own songs, and that is an amazing thing to contemplate.
The masters have a way of taking the simple and making it sublime, their music helps us understand that what pours from the soul of a human being, can have a profound effect on many other souls, mine certainly included. It is still my hope that I may have such an effect with some of my songs.
“She looked alright by dawns early light” the opening line of “independence day”, by Gretchen Peters, she is one of the greats in our time. Her songs should be studied carefully by anyone who wants to write songs, and is serious about it. There is a short list of these people, Gretchen included, who can, in my opinion, put their songs and music on the same shelf Beethoven is on . These are people who can teach me much, and I intend to learn many lessons from them.
So I listen to and learn music from the greats, and find myself enriched. So regardless of any top ten hits I don’t have yet, and my plodding along on the piano, I find myself in awe. That is enough reason for me to get it wrong so many times on the piano.
Somewhere south of Twin Falls Idaho I was able to get a radio station. Don Henley came on and went in to a song called, “learn to be Still”. A haunting song about the value of turning your mind off, and really being alive, right here, right now. I was brought to tears, one of those moments you never forget. I’ll admit to being an old softy, but why? Because a song, a silly little song, a melody attached to a string of words was able to reach out of that radio and hit me where I live. What an amazing thing for Don Henley to do! I have been a fan for many years because he wrote, and produced songs that moved millions of people, that is power, and he has mastered the art of doing it.
Yellow ribbons are tied to a tree or a mail box; we all know what that means. That’s a song. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That’s a song. She loves you yeah yeah yeah; you’re singing the melody right now. That’s a song. Sweet Caroline, go ahead, sing the next three notes. That’s a song.
Music and words have the power to change the world, The Soldiers were “over there” and “Johnny came marching home” We are lifted saddened and even angered. How does this happen?
Speculation, because people are hungry, even starving for ways to be moved. All people feel every emotion there is, but their talents are elsewhere. They have technical, physical, or mental abilities. Thank God for them, they drive the trucks build the cars, wait the tables. They make the world go; we could not live without them.
These marvelous human beings are feeling everything there is to feel at all times, and someone like Don Henley, who can express these emotions, fills a basic human need. The empty part of us is filled, just a little bit, the loneliness is expressed, The anger is released, just a little bit, Love is expressed, it’s loss is relieved, just a little bit.
Humans must have food, water, shelter, and clothing and at least a partial feeling of security, but close behind these physical necessities are the emotional needs that music fills. We will die without our physical needs being met, but we will go mad, if our emotional needs are not met as well. I do not want to imagine a world without the songs and music that surrounds us every day. If it isn’t coming from a speaker somewhere, we will hum them in our minds. Thank you God for the people who make music, they fill a vital need. Just as our bodies would starve without food, the world would quickly be devoid of humans if all music was taken away, it is the food our souls and minds we must have if we are to survive. Even people who’s songs are only heard in their private worlds are vital, this therapy, this imagining makes it possible for them to maintain their sanity. We are all a part of God, everything is connected, from Beethoven to the guy singing to his kids in the living room, it is all a part of the grand design we have come to know as the universe.
Our songs and music are ingrained into every layer of our being, mental physical and spiritual; they are an important part of what we are. It is my mission to write a song that will sooth the soul of someone I have never met a world away.