By Greg Tutwiler – There’s nothing more intriguing to me than to watch musicians investing themselves into their craft. It’s one of my fondest memories, as a young kid, to have been able to play music in a high school and college rock band. We were never that great or terribly successful, but we were living the dream just the same.
From there, I was lucky enough to migrate into a life and business as a college and professional disc jockey, and while not the same thing, I was still able to enjoy a life of playing music for others. Over those years, I never lost my affection and fascination for the touring musician.
On The Road Again
Somehow, the idea of a perpetual road trip gets a hold of you – I understand why many musicians do it for a living. I also understand just how hard is can be. I’ve talked to so many of you over the years about it. When the opportunity arose to create a magazine about music; specifically about music often from the performer’s perspective, I knew it would be another way to keep my feet in the proverbial waters.
This industry that we get to write about has set up several pivot points, if you will, for itself. Places where like minded performers can congregate, encourage each other, and award the top performers for the year. Held annually in the fall or winter, it’s not often that any of them line up in a way that you could attend more than one at a time. However, this past fall (2016), The Americana Music Association (AMA), and the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), were scheduled just days apart. The AMA conference was planned for Nashville, TN in late September, and the IBMA the following week in Raleigh, NC. I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a road trip – not exactly like a hard working musician/band, but at least similar in nature.
My wife, Lisa, and I headed out at 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning for an eight hour drive into the heart of the music city. We had a scheduled appearance via way of an exhibit booth at the AMA exhibit hall beginning at 1:00 PM. The 530 mile trip down Interstate 81 was less congested than expected, and thanks to the time change from Eastern to Central time, we gained the hour needed to arrive 10 minutes before the exhibit hall doors opened.
Hit The Ground Runnin’
From that moment, we spent the next four days having wonderful conversations with so many enthusiastic musicians; and the next four evenings dashing around Nashville from one performance to another as the Americana artists displayed their latest wares to packed halls all over town. Several customary jaunts down Broadway Avenue treated us to a plethora of Honky-Tonks, t-shits shops, and boot stores. What would a trip to Nashville be without that! In between, we enjoyed lots of local dining including the customary White Castle burger, and maybe slept six hours a night.
Sunday morning we found ourselves up early once again heading to a Tennessee Titians / Oakland Raiders football game. How could we resist? We just happened to be in town. Did I mention that it was the hottest day on record in that stadium – and at the end of September?
We left that afternoon headed for an overnighter in Sevierville, TN, just outside Pigeon Forge. After playing tourist for a couple hours the next day, we set out across the Great Smokey Mountains (in fog and driving rain), on our way to Raleigh, NC for the IBMA conference scheduled to begin the next morning. By then, we were already feeling the effects of information overload and the weariness of extended travel. But, we had another round on the way – and it was exciting to anticipate just the same.
On To The Next City
Raleigh is a different city, and this music is a different kind of music. Even son, the experience was equally entertaining and enjoyable. We met up with my parents who spent the previous week hanging out at the Outerbanks bluegrass festival in Manteo, NC, before heading to the Raleigh convention center. Once again, we were reconnecting with friends, congregating in the hallways, and wandering all over downtown taking in some of the bluegrass industries finest offerings. Late nights, early mornings, and greasy spoons in between seemed to be the norm. The week’s festivities were capped off with the hugely popular Wide Open street fest, drawing over 80,000 fans to a free, two day event full of local crafts and food, and multiple stages featuring a daily line-up of bluegrass acts.
Let’s Do It Again
Friday evening around 7:00 PM, we head for the five hour trip home where I was scheduled to play music for a wedding reception the next day. It was 10 days that in some ways felt like 30, and in others, felt like a long weekend. Packing that much music in one road trip was delightfully exhausting. And, in a small way, I understand why bands can only do it for so long. Now in my 50s, I don’t imagine it’s a lifestyle I could sustain for very long, but it’s certainly a experience that I would happily consider enjoying again given the chance. My hat’s off to the musical road warriors out there, everywhere.