There’s a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately – a raw chilling ballad about the life of a Nashville songwriter.
The name of the song is This Town Is Killing Me. The name of the artist is Caitlyn Smith (and the name of the album (EP to be exact) is Starfire.
It’s a beautiful EP and this song is truly special.
The first time I heard This Town Is Killing Me was last December in one Nashville music round. It wasn’t the first time I watched Caitlyn Smith perform live and one thing I can say with certainty about her stage presence is she’s the opposite of a wallflower. She sings with passion and conviction and to me, watching Caitlyn Smith perform, is watching a person who is exactly where they want to be doing what they’re born to do.
It’s a joy to watch and it’s contentious. I do think, however, that when we meet a person like this, in any field, we tend to think they have no care in the world or at least they figured out something we didn’t.
That’s not true of course and that’s exactly what the song is about. It’s about those times when you want to leave it all and go home. It’s also about few of the (many) problems today’s songwriters in Nashville face and knowing you can’t really go anywhere because you just know you’ll keep on trying no matter what.
When Caitlyn Smith introduced the song that night, she sounded almost apologetic. I don’t know whether it was because she was about to deliver such a personal confessional song that shatters an image some people may have on her,on being a songwriter or even on Nashville, or because she was aware of the contrast between the festive Christmas mood around us and her song. All I know is somewhere in Nashville between the noise and the jolly holly, a 3 minute songs touched a chord in everyone there. Nashville may not always listen but that night, we did.
The atmosphere that night and the contrast between the “everything’s great” image and real-life Nashville complexity reminded me one of my favorite TV Nashville moments – When Scarlett and Deacon sang This Town.
Both songs touch on the same subject and in many ways say the same thing. The beauty of the TV show is it manages to dramatize a very specific (and real) situation through fictional. characters; we understand what this song is about even without being songwriters in Nashville or any kind of artists simply by following Scarlett’s struggles with the demands of the music industry and Deacon’s decision on whether or not to give up music since he can’t play guitar anymore.
The beauty of (and sad thing about) Nashville, the city, is once you get there, you understand exactly what they’re all singing about. You experience there on a daily basis the dissonance between art and commerce. Between the grim statistics that show Nashville lost more than 80% of its songwriters due to the collapse of the music business and getting to know the faces and unbelievable talent behind the data; between the intimacy of music rounds and the big parties on Broadway.
You feel the temptation to keep on trying because it’s a friendly artistic town that makes dreams seems possible and because there are those exceptions of incredible artists who made it . But at the same time you also understand the urge to leave because you see the publicity sings on Music Row with the no.1 hits on the country charts and know it’s most likely not what you heard on (most) rounds and there are so many talented people who didn’t succeed.
This Town and This Town is Killing Me both tell specific stories of a specific city and a specific profession in a specific industry.
But it’s also, like the best specific songs, thanks to its precision and brutal honesty, very universal.
This Town can be anywhere, even in your imagination and you can also have any occupation…including being a writer who incidentally writes these lines. The only question left is this: Are you in or out?
Whatever you decide know you’re not alone. We are all in “This Town”.