Leaving Things Behind – What or who did you have to leave in order to chase your Nashville dreams?

The other day I was answering a questionaire for author, Wendy Willis’ upcoming book ‘Making It In Nashville‘ when one of the questions created a moment of pause – “What or who did you have to leave in order to chase your Nashville dreams?” The question was harder to answer than you might think and allowed for a great deal of reflection. As this factor is often underestimated if not ignored by those considering relocation to Nashville, I felt it was worthy of a post here.

The old saying “You never know what you have until it’s gone” is so true, and one that me and my family have come to fully understand upon relocating to Nashville. Shortly after I left my native homeland of New England I remember thinking “I’ll still be able to come home and visit once in a while. And of course I can always just call my friends and family on the phone when I miss them.” While initially this sounded like a good plan, the reality is that once you move 1300 miles away from your home, regular visits become impractical. And once those closest to you are no longer a part of your daily routines, some of these relationships can slowly begin to fragment.

Who did I have to leave to chase my Nashville dreams? When I left New England I left behind about 40 guitar students, many of whom I had been teaching for years and had become good friends. My parents and direct family, friends I had grown up with, people I played in bands with, and my wife and son’s family and friends were also rendered to essentially telephone and e-mail correspondence. You never realize how much you’ll miss these people until some time passes. Even though I do still keep in touch with my old friends and family, it’s still tough. In spite of the occasional visit back home, it’s almost as if many of them were part of another life.

What did I leave behind to chase my Nashville dreams? – Comfort, stability, my teaching career, my peers, my career as a nightclub musician, a familiar way of life, almost every relationship that ever meant anything to me, a 10 minute drive to the ocean, and all the familiar landmarks and places I had seen daily for 33 years. I also left behind harsh winters, as many bad habits as I could, and a music scene in which I could not find fulfillment. (In hindsight this lack of ‘fulfillment’ might actually have been more related to how I perceived myself than any fault of the music scene.)

The passage of time does change one’s perspective on life. It’s taken me almost a decade of working in Nashville to realize that I took a lot of things for granted in my earlier life. Nashville is a massive music industry full of opportunities that can’t be found elsewhere. While this is a good thing in some ways, it also creates an atmosphere of extreme competition, and a social atmosphere I often call ‘the land of the permanent job interview’. It wasn’t like that back home, and sometimes I miss that more carefree musical atmosphere. Most people in the Nashville music industry have an agenda and this can make it harder to find ‘real friends’. Sometimes I find myself yearning for the past, where genuine and deep relationships were more obvious.

While adjusting to the absence of all things familiar has been difficult, and I do miss my old life and friends, I am still glad I made this move. The journey has been far and wide, a life-changing experience that has taken me down many unsuspecting roads. Had I not embarked on this journey, I would not be the person I am today.

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