Tag - nashville

What I Am Not Going To Say
At My AA Meeting Today

I’m going to go to my AA “Home Group” this morning. This is what I probably will not “share” with the meeting:

Hi, I’m Paul and I’m an alcoholic.

I feel compelled to  say something today that’s going to sound like AA heresy. But I feel like I have to speak my truth here even if it means becoming the first person to ever be excommunicated from AA…

I don’t really know but one or two of you here, so most of you have know way of knowing what a tough time I’ve been having over the past year. My wife decided last – well, it’s been almost a year now – that she needs to live in Portland Oregon, where her two adult sons and her now  one-and-a-half year old granddaughter live.  And as you can see, I am not in Portland, Oregon. I have been to Portland at least a dozen times since ‘the kids’ moved there in the early ‘aughts, but I’ve never felt like I’ve wanted to live there. After more than two decades, I’m rooted here.

Welcome to Portland!

Welcome to Portland!

And as a recovering alcoholic myself, it’s hard to fathom how I am going to live in a city that greets you getting off the plane with a huge sign that says “Give In To Beer.”

Thursday night, I learned that a dear friend had died this week, most likely from complications of alcoholism. He was only a year older than I am. I think that news kinda put me over the edge…

Which brings me to yesterday. Yesterday was a day off from a new job that I got last summer which has absolutely been my salvation over the past 6 months. I like the work, it truly takes me out of myself and makes me a better person than I am when when I’m by myself. But sometimes the days off are challenging because, well, there’s nobody to talk to.

Yesterday, I felt knots in my stomach, that spinning wheel of loneliness and sadness, fear and despair. As I said later to my sponsor, I was having a tough day…

In the middle of the day, I made some calls and sent out some texts, to see if there was somebody in my orbit who could meet me for lunch or coffee. All those overtures came up empty. People are busy.

At one point, I was driving around town and started thinking, “maybe what I need is a meeting…” I had no idea where there was one in the middle of the day on a Friday. I was in town, driving around, and thought about going over to ‘202,’ but… I just couldn’t quite convince myself to do that, either. It wasn’t until later in the day that I fully realized why.

I didn’t go to 202 for the same reason that I don’t go to more AA meetings like this one: because I really dislike the whole format and structure of these gatherings.

A couple of years ago I ran across a TED talk by a Scandinavian counselor named Johann Hari that talked about the antidote to addiction being not just abstinence but connection.

Connection. That is what I was longing for  yesterday. And sadly it is not what I get at these meetings. I don’t really get a meaningful level of connection and engagement from sitting through an hour of extemporaneous  3 minute monologues. And I really don’t like the unstated pressure to be witty and profound if and when I take my own turn to ‘“share.”

So mostly I come to these meetings, sit in silence, and hope I get to hold a girl’s hand when when we all stand up to recite the Lord’s Prayer (which I usually don’t actually recite.  It’s a Jesus prayer and I’m a Jew.).

I know that the whole “no cross talk” structure of these meetings is essential to their decorum. But jeezus, sometimes what you really need is to actually talk to somebody.  The absence of dialog defeats my whole purpose of being here.  It actually makes me feel more isolated when what I need is something… not superficial. When I need the give and take of an actual conversation.

In the realm of recovery, I know that I’m one of the very lucky ones. The compulsion to drink or smoke or sniff (my primary drug of choice for nearly 20 years was pot; thank god I never got in to heroin or crack…) completely left me after, I dunno, somewhere between 30 and 60 days. That was back in 1987 – 29+ years ago – so I don’t really remember. I just know that there are a lot of recovering alcoholic types who struggle with the compulsion every day. That’s why the program insists that recovery is “One Day At A Time.” So I know that I am among the most fortunate of recovering ‘polyholics.’

What I’m trying to say here is: when I’m feeling isolated and alone – the very conditions that might spark a round of drinking if my sobriety was not as strong as it is – the last thing I need in the world is to sit in a hard chair feeling like a lame loser because I’m not to going to be as entertaining as the guy who “shared” before me or the woman who will share after me.  But that’s the structure. And I sometimes I just fucking hate it.

I come to these meetings because they give me the opportunity to at least experience and be grateful for – if not actually “share” – my sobriety, and the fact that I because I quit sipping, sniffing and puffing nearly 30 years ago, I am still living – even it that presently means struggling with some of the most difficult choices I have ever had to face.

I have an “altar” of sorts in my home on which rest photographs of my ancestors, and also the photographs of several friends whose lives were cut short by their addictions. I have another photo to add to that collection now.

But jeezus, sometimes you just want to talk to somebody. Sometimes you just need a hug.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know damn well that I would not be alive today had I not started going to AA meetings back in 1987.   And I come to meetings so that I don’t take that gift of sobriety for granted.

But yesterday, I needed something else.

OK, I guess my three minutes are up.

Thanks for listening.

RobinWilliams

The Joy of Making Music:
Karen Waldrup At Douglas Corner

For those of you new subscribers who haven’t seen the expression before, “The Joy of Making Music” is the umbrella/brand for my studio and performance photography business.

This week I had the pleasure of shooting Karen Waldrup at a showcase she performed at Douglas Corner in Nashville.

I met Karen at a music industry gathering a few weeks ago. I was there with my camera (name tag: “My name is Paul; Ask me about my silent shutters”) and met Karen  hanging back at the bar at 3rd and Lindsley while waiting for the proceedings to commence.  We traded business cards. Then I saw a flyer on the bulletin board at “my office” promoting her showcase and figured, “may as well…”

These “industry showcases” are not your typical ‘singer/songwriter’ show; they’re kick-out-the-jams and belt-it to-the-rafters (well, depending on the act) affairs intended to get the attention of the industry types who can make a difference in a rising artist’s career (read that: label heads).

From what I can tell, Karen Waldrup has been banging on some of those doors for a while – and now she’s got the chops and her career is primed for a breakthrough.   She’s got an A-Team band behind her, and this was as ‘professional’ a showcase as I’ve seen in my twenty-plus years in Nashville.

As befits any truly original musician or performer, Karen Waldrup is not an easy woman to peg: she’s a little country, a little southern rock, a little pop. She’s a southern girl who likes her whiskey and wonders if her ex-lover’s fancy new wife serves it as well as she did.  She’s a polished performer with a powerful stage presence who can deliver the goods across the spectrum from hard rocking country to acoustic power ballads.

I caught her here in the rare moment on stage when she seems to be soaking it all in; I say “rare” because  most of the time she was full-throated rocking out. (The rest of the photos will have to wait until she and her management team have signed off on them.)

In the meantime, have a  listen to Karen’s 2015 EP “Getaway”

and check out this rhinestone-fringed guitar!
It's a bird... it's a plane... it's Karen Waldrop's rhinestone-fringed guitar!

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s Karen Waldrop’s rhinestone-fringed guitar!

Y’All Are Gonna Wanna Get Hip
to Bonnie Bishop

About 5 years ago, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the annual American Music Conference here in Nashville (little known fact: I was actually on the Founding Council that started the AMA back in like 2000).

After the conference, I sat down with the program guide from all the showcase and went on line (at the time it was LaLa.com) to stream/listen to some of the artists whose showcases I’d missed.  One track stopped me in… well, my tracks.  It was an artist I’d never heard of named Bonnie Bishop and the track was called “Lucky Ones.” Here, listen to it for yourself:

Bonnie has released a couple of records since then; visit her Spotify page to hear more.  What you’re going to hear is one of the gut-wrenching-est voices this side of… well, Janis Joplin comes to mind…

I tracked her down later that year, and she let me photograph a showcase that she performed at one of Nashville’s clubs.  She was still doing her level best to land a fucking record deal…

Over the past decade+, Bonnie Bishop’s career has seen all the vagaries  typical of today’s itinerant, independent singer/songwriters – they who that travel and toil under the radar of the mainstream commercial music industry.  They for whom the life of an “artist” is “mostly driving.”

Two years ago, she was on the threshold of throwing it all in.

That’s all going change with the release of  her new CD, “Ain’t Who I Was” next month.  The title track was released today:

And here’s what you need to know about the pedigree of this new record, which will be officially released on May 27:

  1. It was produced by Nashville’s hottest producer, the Chet Atkins/Owen Bradley of the twenty-teens, Dave Cobb.  Talk about being on a roll: Dave Cobb is responsible for the breakthrough solo releases by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and  2016 multi- CMA, Grammy and ACM winner Chris Stapleton (all Spotify links).  You just don’t get any hotter a hand than the one Dave Cobb has been playing over the past few years.  And the Atkins/Bradley reference is not an overstatement – he recently took over the keys to Nashville’s fabled Studio A (sometimes referred to as Nashville’s Abbey Road), which was built by Chet and Owen in the 1960s and narrowly escaped  a condo-developer’s wrecking ball in 2014.
  2. The release and distribution of “Ain’t Who I Was” is being handled by Thirty Tigers, a new-paradigm label services and distribution company that is one of the few companies  that has cracked the code on the new digital business – and not coincidentally the same firm that handled the break out releases for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, among others.

RollingStone.com has got a great account of the kismet that went into the song selection and production of this new record:

The recording sessions were coming to an end when Cobb’s cousin, singer/songwriter Brent Cobb, walked into the studio with a track he’d co-written earlier that afternoon.

“Dave opens a brand new bottle of his favorite tequila,” Bishop remembers, “and we all take shots. Then Adam [Hood] and Brent play us the song they wrote. I have chills. I look over at Dave, who is nodding his head and grinning at me. Then I sing the words back to them while Brent plays the guitar and they sound so natural coming out of my mouth. It’s like I’ve been singing this song all my life.”

The song was “Ain’t Who I Was,” which became the title track to the new CD. When you hear it, you can’t help but think that the spiral has come back around, only at a much higher level, and that Bonnie Bishop is about to become, truly, one of “the lucky ones.”

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Bonnie Bishop promo photo by Jason Lee Denton

Go See “Machisma”

File this one under “Paul attempts to review an art show”:

Karen Renee Robb and Nina Covington

Karen Renee Robb, one of the subjects of “Machisma”  and Nina Covington, the photographer/artist who created the exhibit.

I want to encourage all my readers (well, those that live in or near Nashville) to hasten themselves down to The Arcade in downtown Nashville [Google Maps]. On the ground floor, next door to Manny’s Pizza (best place in Nashville for real New York street-style pizza) you’ll find Corvidae Collective Gallery.  Climb the stairs, go around the corner, and behold Nina Covington’s marvelous photo exhibit, “Machisma.”

What you will see is a stunning collection of black-and-white-on-metal prints of women Nina has photographed over the past two years.

I think “Machisma” is a word Nina coined herself.  I’m going to go out on  limb here and surmise that the term is a feminized version of the word that the spell-checker on my laptop keeps wanting to correct it to, the more familiar  “machismo.”

My dictionary defines “machismo” as “strong or aggressive masculine pride.”  I believe what Nina has captured in this riveting portrait series is the feminine equivalent, which is actually something very different.  Both genders can be “strong” but where the masculine version is “aggressive” the feminine version is more, “I’m not coming after you, but I’m not taking any of your shit, either.”

What Nina Covington has assembled over a period of two years is a series of black and white portraits of women from all walks of life, all of which show women at both their most vulnerable and their most powerful.

nina+3-notpixed

Nina Covington with three of the prints from “Machisma” – her mother, herself, and her grandmother. Photo © Kirabelle Frabotta

They all posed… I’m at a slight loss for words here, because to say the subjects are “topless”  engages all manner of pop-culture stereotypes and invokes a certain risqué and daring – which is not what these photographs are about.  So let’s just say that all the subjects, regardless of body type, have posed for Nina’s camera “without the burden of clothing” over their torsos.

And, perhaps a bit oddly in light of all those cultural stereotypes, that is precisely how/where the images derive their impressive power. “Machisma” captures the infinite variety of female body types apart from the hyper-sexualized, impossible-without-makeup-and-Photoshop “ideal” form.

Nina’s secret for capturing these compelling images?  I overheard her at the opening last Saturday (April 2)  telling a visitor, “I spent an hour with each subject just talking” before she even opened her camera bag or set any lights.

I have been learning in the course of my photo work that finding a rapport with your subject is infinitely more important than all the technical details like camera settings and light angles.  As a photographer myself I was duly impressed with the technical excellence of all these portraits, but I am even more impressed with the character that is captured in each image.

I’ve said enough.  Go see the photos, they do a much better job of speaking for themselves than I can do speaking for them. And better yet, take your daughters.

(If you’re not near Nashville or otherwise not able to see the show, click the banner below to see the images on the Corvidae Collective Gallery website:

machisma

Nashville Sold Its Soul – To the NFL

The $300-million white elephant on the banks of the Cumberland.

There have been a LOT of lamentations lately about how Nashville has “lost its soul” in the face of rapid destruction and development.

This morning I woke up to some insight on where that all started.  I have posted the results of those rumination over on Medium.com:

Money quote:

Read between the lines and you’ll realize that since 1997, Nashville is the only city in these United States that has obtained an NFL franchise where there was none before.

So if the problems besetting Nashville — this loss of the city’s “soul” — seem more acute than those of other cities… perphaps that’s your explanation.

Read the full text: Nashville Sold Its Soul – To The NFL 

Nashville August Super Moon Prints and Wallpaper

Maybe you’ve seen these photos that I posted on Facebook of the August Super Moon rising over Nashville: supermoon_600The response has been very gratifying.  Several people have said these are the nicest photos they’ve ever seen of Nashville.  That might be debatable (he says, feigning modesty), but in any case, several people have purchased prints.

In addition to the prints, I’m throwing in a digital file that looks really cool as the “wallpaper” on your smart phone or tablet:

MoonrisePhone_400Just follow THIS LINK for details and ordering

Waiting for the Super Moon

This past Saturday night (August 29), the Earth experienced another one of these occasional “Super Moon” events where the full moon is a few miles closer to the Earth than is normally the case.
I got permission to go up to the 30th floor terrace of the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower State Office Building at the corner of Charlotte and Rosa Parks Blvd – it’s one of the highest points in all of downtown Nashville, and is the vantage point where I shot my entry in the Mayor’s Skyline Photo Contest back in 2013.  Some of you might remember that shot:
Music City Sunrise - October, 2013  Click to embiggen

Music City Sunrise – October, 2013 Click to embiggen

Well, the management at the Tower has changed, but I nevertheless managed to finagle my way back up there for the moon rise this past Saturday.  So here’s me, 30 floors up, waiting for the moon…

According to my trusty photographer’s ephemeris, the super moon should be coming up right over the river in about 10 minutes.  Image shot with iPhone 6 and edited in Snapseed.

 

More “Joy of Making Music” Melissa Greener

Melissa_Greener-P2130647I’ve known Melissa Greener since she first arrived in Nashville (from native Detroit) about five years ago.  We have traveled in familiar circles all that time, but I think I have actually heard/seen her perform just once, when she sat in for a few songs amid somebody else’s set… somewhere.  The details are fuzzy, all I remember is she played a “fan fret” acoustic guitar – an instrumental choice indicative of a woman of some distinction, even if I can’t remember now what exactly she played on that exotic instrument.

Well I sure remember her material now.

Last Friday, Melissa performed a set at the Douglas Corner Cafe in Nashville – which she mentioned from the stage was her first full show here in the entire time she’s called Nashville home.

It was worth the wait.  Boy, was it worth the wait.

For this show, Melissa assembled a full band (sorry, I don’t know the name of all the players – will update when that info comes across my transom). The stage was filled with keyboard, bass, drums, lead guitar and two harmony vocalists.  And despite all that personnel, this was the blessed (i.e. rare) show where the quantity of sound did not drown out the lyric content.

Melissa Greener proved to be an incredibly compelling performer.  Start with deft, intricate guitar figures played on both acoustic and electric guitars (no fan frets); add rich, thoughtful lyric imagery (that you could actually hear!) sung with a solid, soaring alto and joined byroof-raising harmonies from Kira Small and Vicki Carrico, and you’ve got the makings of one of the most outstanding shows I’ve seen in Nashville in quite a while.

The house was full, no doubt a testament to the many friends that Melissa has made over the five years she’s been among us.

But what was really impressive was the response when the show was over: these jaded Nashville audiences rarely rise at the end of a club show by a local; but this night, as Melissa Greener wrapped up her final tune, the audience was on its feet.

Or as one observer from the audience commented after the show, “we knew that she was good… but we didn’t know that she was that good!”

Melissa pours her heart and soul into every note and word.  Hopefully these photos catch some of that spirit.

Listen to the opening track from Melissa’s  2013 CD “Transistor Corazon” while the slide show plays.  When it’s over, click the Spotify link below to listen to the entire album.  And when it’s over, don’t be surprised if you feeling like playing it again (as I am doing as I finish this post…)

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A “Band On The Brink” – An ‘Industry’ On The Edge

Last night, a rogues gallery of characters from Nashville’s business and creative communities assembled at the Belcourt Theater to deliver what could be considered a start-of-the-New-Year self-assessment: 

bannerThere were three parts to the evening that did a surprisingly good job of hitting any number of moving targets.

The first part was a short documentary film describing the origins, history, demise and resurrection of a band called “The New Dylans.”  The film was the final, compiled installment in a year long effort to document the reconstitution of a group that broke up in the mid 1990s – and uses their tale as an object lesson on the State of The Music Industry in Nashville in the Digital Age. Read More