Courtesy of ‘The People’s News’ publication
Week 1 Diary
With my Cole Clark guitar padded up with plenty of spare t-shirts to keep her safe, and my guitar case wrapped in no less than 10 meters of fragile tape, I set off from beautiful Queensland to begin my journey to Nashville, United States, on the trip of a lifetime I’d been dreaming about for several years.
After 37 hours of travelling, passing through Sydney, and San Francisco, I had a very quick stopover in Nashville, and then took a flight to Charleston, West Virginia. Finding myself surrounded by several musicians on the plane, I was already starting to feel I was in my element.
West Virginia clearly knew I was coming to visit. Donned with ‘Almost Heaven’ phrases from my favourite song, John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’, I heard it playing as I anxiously waited for my guitar to arrive unscathed from the baggage collection. Needless to say, West Virginia and I instantly hit it off and I knew this place was special right away! I particularly liked their covid safe handwashing suggestions in the bathrooms, telling you to wash for as long as it takes for you to sing the chorus of ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’.
We took a ride from the airport to Charleston, West Virginia’s capital, located on the beautiful Kanawha River. After passing the gold-doomed State Capitol building, I instantly spotted the tour bus we were joining with my friends, the Davisson Brothers Band. A little wander through Charleston, and a stop at Rock City Cupcakes for the most amazing cupcakes! I knew the tour bus needed a tray of those beauties!
Soon Chris and Donnie from the Davisson Brothers Band arrived and welcomed us onto their tour bus. It was the most amazing bus I’d seen, with beds for all the band and crew, big lounges, perfect for jamming and fully kitted out! Before we knew it, we were down sound checking at the tiered ampitheatre stage, which backed onto the beautiful Kanawha River.
Next, we jumped in the van with the Davisson Brothers to head to a radio interview about the show they were playing that night, ‘Live at the Levee’. It was a great experience meeting the radio hosts at WCHS and they invited me to sing live to air, and have a chat on radio. It was a great experience and as it turns out, it aired to 72 stations across America.
Back to the tour bus we went, for a bit of jamming with Donnie, Chris and the band before the show and a run over my songs together. The crowds poured into the ampitheatre, as did the boats, cruising in on the river behind main stage. I joined the band on stage and sang a few songs with them, the highlight obviously being ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ which the West Virginian’s just loved …. you can check it out on my Facebook or Instagram @lilygracelive.
Straight after the show, we were back on the bus, headed north towards Fairmont via a diversion for some of West Virginia’s iconic pepperoni and cheese rolls. In Bridgeport, I recouped a little from some jet lag before the next nights show.
We arrived for sound-check at The Copper House Grill in Fairmont and met the other band in the line-up, called Songs From The Road Band, a fantastic bluegrass band from Carolina. In no time at all, we were all sitting in the tour bus, and they were joining in with my songs on their fiddles, mandolins and banjos. My first single, Annie June sounded awesome with all of these instruments added in.
The show was a great night, with the whole crowd dancing. I was blown away to find some fans turning up who had followed my journey from the other side of the world! The end of the night transformed into a huge collaboration of artists on stage with a plethora of instruments and finished the show on a great high.
My whirlwind weekend in West Virginia was truly incredible, and the most amazing experience.
Now back in Nashville, and although everything feels a bit backwards, driving on the wrong side of the road, and going around roundabouts in reverse, writing of the music didn’t change. I spent my day penning a song with another amazing song-writer. This one is a really beautiful, pretty song together about the feeling of anxiousness, and I can’t wait to share it with you one day soon.
Week 2 Diary
My week began playing my first writers round at The Commodore Grill in Midtown, Nashville. Myself and two others took to the stage and each took turns to sing songs, explaining the story of the song to the audience. I sang some of my favourite originals and one that’s extra special to me, and fitting for this trip, called Tennessee which goes ‘I can’t wait to be, writing harmonies, it all seems to start out with a song’.
The next day, I journeyed out of the city to pen a song with a friend of mine that I’ve written with in the past and another writer, who was more of a lyricist. We worked more on the melody and he worked a little more on the lyric. We wrote a vibrant and catchy little song that got my Mum dancing on the couch when she came to collect me.
I was keen to explore the buzz of downtown, so we set off on a big walk along Broadway to downtown to wander along all the honky tonk bars. Live music was pouring out on each and every level, most of them have three levels, right up to their roof top bars.
Next we headed out to watch a writers’ round with some amazing writers who have written songs for Blake Shelton, Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Barbra Streisand, Rodney Atkins, George Strait, Reba McEntire, and Kenny Rogers to name a few. Still pinching myself, that able to write with one of them last week, and he loved writing with me so much that we’ve booked in some more writes together. The venue was beautiful, at the Hutton Hotel, with the most eloquent stage, and it was a really intimate performance and an evening I won’t forget.
Thursday was our road tripping day. We drove to Lawrenceburg, south west of Nashville. Here I visited WLX radio who have been playing my latest song. I was so pleased to meet the great Lonnie, known as LB on radio. We chatted all things Australian. He was very interested in sharing Australia with his listeners. He was very interested in our foods, our animals and how we like to spend our days in Australia. He was awesome, he played my song, and I sang another 2 songs live to air also.
After accidently heading the wrong direction on the interstate (that’s what they use for highways or motorways in the US), we quickly turned around and headed back to Nashville, via a stop to sample the famous Chick Fil A for their famous chicken sandwiches.
This weekend, we have had the fun of enjoying a day at CMA Fest, one of the biggest country music festivals in America. I was able to see some of my favourite US artists, such as Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini, along with a performance by Australia’s own Starmaker, Max Jackson. The streets are closed off, stages are set up everywhere, and the vibe is exciting.
Last night extra special. I was treated to the Grand Ole Opry, the most historic show that made country music famous. The auditorium was filled with people, and the show featured new stars, superstars and legends of country music. We enjoyed performances from Jeannie Seely, Riders in the Sky, Caitlyn Smith, Bill Anderson, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mike Snider, Mickey Guyton and Vince Gill. Each one of them stood on the iconic timber circle that sits centre stage. The iconic circle was removed from the original stage at the Ryman Auditorium which was in use from 1943 through to 1974 before the Grand Ole Opry was built. Inlaid in the stage, with all of it’s scuffs and scars of the greats and dreamers who have stood on it before them.
At the end of the show, I had the pleasure of meeting the amazing Vince Gill backstage. Then, I was ushered to a special Q & A session with Bill Anderson about his new album launch. He had the most inspiring stories to tell about his inspiration for writing some of his songs, and he told us entertaining stories of how his collaboration with Vince Gill and Dolly Parton came about. I loved hearing his stories. It was an absolute honour to be introduced to him at the end of the evening during my tour of the dressing rooms and backstage areas of the Grand Ole Opry. What a magical experience it was, one that will stay with me forever.
Week 3 Diary
This week was one full of songwriting, shows and performing. I had co-writes everyday this week and spent a lot of my time meeting other songwriters and collaborating with them on new songs which is my favourite thing to do!! This week was a big week of writing, 6 new songs created and I’m loving the results.
This week I made a little stop into Nashville city to film a podcast, ‘The Business Side of Music’. It’ll be coming out next week.
We spent our nights going out to concerts, shows, and writers rounds! This week we watched two rounds and we went to the Colbie Caillat concert that my friend was opening. I’ve been listening to Colbie since I was 7 and the first song I learned on guitar was her song, ‘Bubbly’. It was so good to finally see her live.
Later this week, I received a call asking if I could play at a festival in New Jersey, called the Barefoot Country Festival. I took a quick look at the lineup and was so excited to see the list of amazing artists playing there, such as Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Walker Hayes, Callista Clark, and Cooper Alan, so of course I jumped at the opportunity.
So we flew to Philadelphia this weekend. Upon landing, we received a message that my guitar had not boarded our same flight…my absolute, worst nightmare! Apparently it was still in Nashville. The airline assured us that they would bring it to us, so we kept going to Wildwoods, on the shores of New Jersey. Thankfully, my guitar arrived late last night…so the show could go on!
The set up for the Barefoot Country festival was awesome. It was the biggest festival I’d ever been to. I played on the Coke stage and the crowd were so lovely in supporting me, hanging around until the end to say g’day.
What I loved about this festival was that we got to meet and watch so many amazing acts perform; Priscilla Block, Ernest and Chris Janson. Later that night, I joined the Davisson Brothers Band on stage in front of a huge audience. It was definitely the biggest crowd I’d ever performed to, and will be a moment I will not forget.
This week was amazing !!!
Week 4 Diary
This past week was one full of song writing, recording and collaborating.
I spent all my days in writing rooms collaborating with other writers. I worked with a lot of new people this week who all had different approaches and perspectives on things which kept me on my toes. That’s the funny thing about song writing. Every person in that room has a different vision of what the song means to them and what angle they’re taking. Someone could be talking about their ex-boyfriend, or their neighbour’s dog and at the end of a session, you get a blend of everyone’s vision in a completed song.
Thursday night was definitely the highlight of my week, and probably my greatest moment in Nashville so far. I got to play at the one and only, The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville! To play in the same round that Vince Gill, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Lady A & LeAnn Rimes have before me was pure magic !!!!! We arrived about 1.5 hrs early, thinking we would be there well before anyone else to take a couple of photos out the front. To our surprise, there was already a queue stretching from the front door, along the building. Our writer’s night had been sold out the week before, so anyone hoping to get in would have to line up for the few tickets available on the door. It’s only a little cafe, with its iconic blue awning out the front, but it is the heart of Music City, where singer-songwriters come to bare their souls and where some have been signed to record deals. It seats about 90 people on small round tables with some bar seating and in the church pews. I was one of four writers in the round, and we each took a turn talking about and singing our songs. I loved sharing my night with the wonderful writers, Kirsti Manna, Bill DiLuigi and Chaise Flanders and meeting many people afterwards. It was an amazing moment and I will never get over just how special this night was.
Week 5 Diary
This week was another busy one, full of exciting performances, writing sessions and collaborations. I met a lot of new people and continued to work with many of the creatives I have been working alongside while here in Nashville.
This week I had two exciting performances. One, a writer’s round with some other talented singer-songwriters at Maxwell Millennium House. It was a night full of music from 4pm until 11pm with all original songs. That’s one of the special things about Nashville, that everything revolves around song-writing and original music. As they put it, ‘it all starts out with the song’.
The weekend was leading up to July 4th, so there was a buzz around town and everyone was getting into the holiday spirit. I spent the weekend performing at Freedom Fest in Monterey, Tennessee. The line up was huge, with Chris Janson, Daryl Worley, Ty Herndon, Andy Griggs and my good mates, The Davisson Brothers Band, and everyone put on a great show.
I loved this gig because I got to play with a full band, and bring a lot of my new material to life. It was a really exciting event, with a great stage setup, and fireworks at the close of each nights’ show.
I got back to Nashville late this weekend and spent the rest of it meeting up with other artists/creatives and celebrating my first July 4th. The celebrations are huge deal here, with free concerts from huge headliners, Old Dominion and 30 minutes of fireworks. It was a great way to finish the weekend.
I’m heading into the studio this week and can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on.
Week 6 Diary
This week has been another exciting week here in Nashville
I headed into a studio and recorded some of my songs I’ve written during my time here in Nashville. This was so exciting. For the past year and a half, thanks to Covid-19, I’ve been working virtually, recording my vocals from afar and then getting the tracks sent back to me after the other musicians had added their guitar, bass, steel guitar, and drum parts. I finally got to meet the creative team and be really involved in the process which was super exciting.
We went to a studio which was all set up for recording. It was such a great space and was super exciting. Finally, I got to meet the musicians in person that had played on my previous tracks. The studio was amazing, with framed gold records all over the place.
The rest of my week was filled with heaps of songwriting, grabbing coffee and meeting cool people. I cannot wait to share all the music I’ve been working on.