We live in a world where we tell people how we feel as soon as we start to feel it. If someone hurts our feelings, makes us mad, happy, or just drives us crazy, we want to let them know. The same can be said for when someone totally and utterly changes our lives. We want them to know how much they’ve impacted our lives, because the worst words are the ones that go left unsaid. The people who change our lives can be people we see everyday whether it be teachers, coaches, parents, or friends. But in a lot of cases, they’re people who we don’t see regularly, or even at all. One of the biggest things that provides people an escape from reality is music. Whether we feel low or high, music gets us through anything. The people behind the songs could mean the world to us, and the biggest injustice is never being able to tell them.
Artists like Taylor Swift has made her fans her friends. She talks to some on various social media platforms, hand picks them at her shows (and to go to her houses), sends them special gifts, and shows up for them. Even if they’re not (yet) someone Swift has met, someone could feel so connected to an artist like her from their bedroom floor, their voice blaring in the background. But as soon as they buy a ticket to a show of someone who saved their life, stadiums have a funny way of making that one person seem worlds away. There’s frustration and exhaustion connected to constantly tweeting/posting/blogging the same things hoping that artist will somehow see it, because all we want to do is tell them how we feel.
Nashville, Tennessee is known as the heart of country music. There’s bars owned by the biggest stars in the industry and sold out stadiums and arenas to fit their fans. But if someone dives into Nashville’s underground, they’ll find lesser known artists with the potential to change lives. That’s where I found the artists that changed mine. Kalie Shorr is an artist from Maine who moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. She wrote songs by day, and sold cigarettes and hot dogs by night. She made it in Nashville, and she’s making it in the music industry as a whole. Shorr has yet to play sold out stadiums (she's touring with Leann Rimes currently), but she’s been playing sold out shows at the Listening Room Cafe on Monday nights whenever she can. There’s an immediate connection in a room of a 100 that a room of 100,000 could never establish. The atmosphere becomes personal. There’s no meet and greet for these shows, there’s no such thing as pit or nosebleed seats. No insane production or complex choreography. It’s the artists, the guitars, and you. After the show, I went and started up conversation with Shorr, the initial encounters with someone who has changed my life. We talked about school and Nashville, and how much her song “Big Houses” made my mom and I sob. There was so much more to say that I followed Shorr on social media. I’ve told her everything from a long, continuous struggle with mental health, to dropping my pre calc class, to debating going to homecoming because of people who made it to be less like a fun event and more of a social standard. She knows of my accomplishments and shortcomings as well as my most trusted teacher, and jokes with her fans like lifelong friends. It started with seeing her and her guitar. And instead of having an unreachable artist I admire, I have a friend.
From that first visit to Nashville, I’ve listened to everything but the charts (besides of course, TS). I’m waiting on one of my friends who I met in Nashville to release her new music, and in the meantime, she's been giving me artists to listen to. I met Gail at the hot dog stand she works at, and even with just having a conversation without music being played, I can tell she’s going to be one of the best artists. Every artist playing bars and coffee houses have the potential to change lives. These smaller artists are the ones who make the biggest difference. One of the things Kalie told me is that happiness isn’t a destination. How life is about living happy moment to happy moment, that crying on bathroom floors is inevitable. She knows how much she's changed my life. Whether it be from conversations or from her songs. While listening to bigger artists feels like a safe space, it’s the smaller artists who feel like coming home.