My Nashville Playlist (2022)

From Brighton to Boston to Nashville and then back to Brighton, I was listening to a lot of music and like on previous trips, I enjoyed keeping notes of which songs I was listening to. These are all songs that were prominent during my trip, songs that I will probably always connect back to this trip. I didn’t necessarily have a song for every single day but given that I was away for just over two weeks, I figured that this was a perfectly decent number of songs for a playlist.


‘I Wanna Get Better’ by Bleachers

The reason we stopped in Boston on the way to Nashville was so that I could finally see Bleachers live and see them play the Strange Desire album from start to finish, an album that means so much to me. I could’ve chosen ‘Like a River Runs’ because that song is tied with this one as my favourite Bleachers song but the energy of the crowd during this song took my breath away. It was amazing.

Favourite Lyrics: “Woke up this morning early before my family / From this dream where she was trying to show me / How a life can move from the darkness / She said to get better // So I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet / And I crash my car cause I wanna get carried away / That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself / ‘Hey, I wanna get better!’ // I didn’t know I was lonely ’til i saw your face / I wanna get better, better, better, better / I wanna get better / I didn’t know I was broken ’til i wanted to change / I wanna get better, better, better, better / I wanna get better”

WARNING: FLASHING LIGHTS!


‘Humble Quest’ by Maren Morris

Maren Morris’ new album came out the day I flew into Nashville and so I listened to it as I flew back into town. While I love a lot of the songs, ‘Humble Quest’ stood out to me straight away and it was stuck in my head for days afterwards. I really related to it although I’m not sure what part of me it’s speaking to. But the lyrics “And damn I do my best / Not gonna hold my breath / ‘Cause I still haven’t found it yet / No, I still haven’t found it yet” just resonate really strongly. And it’s catchy as hell.

Favourite Lyrics: “Haven’t looked up in a while / Been biting my tongue behind a smile / Falling on swords that I can’t see / Poison my well on the daily / Got easier not to ask / Just kept hitting my head on the glass / I was so nice till I woke up / I was polite till I spoke up // I’m on a humble quest / And damn I do my best / Not gonna hold my breath / ‘Cause I still haven’t found it yet / No, I still haven’t found it yet”


‘Circles Around This Town’ by Maren Morris

While I was in Nashville (and still recovering from the flights, the jet lag, and the Bleachers concert), Maren Morris’ Amazon Prime show was streamed from New York and I was able to watch it. I really, really enjoyed it and I could’ve chosen so many different songs but ‘Circles Around This Town’ just felt like the right choice. It’s the first single from the new album and the first song she played for this show. I wasn’t sure about it when she first released it but it’s grown on me so much since then, so much since the album came out. It’s so her and yet so easy to connect to.

Favourite Lyrics: “So many times I thought about leaving / Got my ass kicked trying to compete with / Everybody else’s ones that got away / Hung around long enough to catch a break // Couple hundred songs and the ones that finally worked / Was the one about a car and the one about a church / That I wrote // Driving circles around this town / Trying to write circles around this town / Trying to say something with meaning, something worth singing about / I’ve been kind and I’ve been ruthless / Yeah, I got here but the truth is / Thought when I hit it, it’d all look different / But I still got the pedal down / Driving circles around this town / Driving circles around this town”


‘Eighteen’ by Kalie Shorr

Kalie is one of my favourite artists and songwriters and this one is gut-wrenching. It’s beautifully written and while I literally can’t name my favourite songs of hers because I love so many of them, this is one of the ones that I love a lot. I’d never heard it live though – up to this point anyway – but she played it at the Song Suffragettes 8th Anniversary show, which was my first show back in Nashville. That was particularly sweet: because of the pandemic, I haven’t seen Kalie live since she released her debut album, Open Book, which is one of my favourite albums ever so it was very special to hear a song from the album now that I’m finally back in the US and able to see her perform.

Favourite Lyrics: “Which one did you fuck harder my best friend or my self esteem / Remember when you got drunk and said you were the only one dumb enough to love me / I don’t want to live just following your script / The actress is too young and the director is a narcissist” AND “I see you out with younger versions of me / While I’m trying to find who I used to be / I’m terrified that you and I will always be chasing eighteen // This isn’t normal, this isn’t okay / But I didn’t know any better, so I thought it’d be better to stay / Almost beautiful, the things that you taught me / I think I really loved you, I think you really loved that I was / Eighteen”


‘abcdefu’ by GAYLE (Performed by Song Suffragettes – Mia Morris, Ava Paige, Autumn Nicholas, Kalie Shorr, Ava Suppelsa, and Lanie Gardner)

This was one of the songs the Song Suffragettes covered during their anniversary show and it just got stuck in my head. It’s such a mood, both in the context of a break up and when you’re just pissed off: just fuck everybody and all of the stupid things about them that irritate you. The dog is spared though, which just cracks me up. It’s so catchy and my brain was just switching back and forth between this song and ‘Humble Quest’ by Maren Morris.

Favourite Lyrics: “Dated a girl that I hate for the attention / She only made it two days, what a connection / It’s like you’d do anything for my affection / You’re goin’ all about it in the worst ways // I was into you, but I’m over it now / And I was tryin’ to be nice / But nothing’s getting through, so let me spell it out // ABCDE FU / And your mom and your sister and your job / And your broke-ass car and that shit you call art / Fuck you and your friends that I’ll never see again / Everybody but your dog, you can all fuck off / Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah / ABCDE FU”


‘half of my hometown’ by  Kelsea Ballerini (Performed by Kelsea Ballerini and Nicolle Galyon)

Kelsea Ballerini was being honoured at the Song Suffragettes show (the same one Kalie was playing at) and after an interview with Nicolle Galyon (who is also very awesome), the two of them played a couple of the songs they’ve written together that Kelsea’s released. That was very cool and ‘half of my hometown’ is one of my favourite songs on Kelsea’s latest album so it was very cool to hear her sing it live. I love the detail in the lyrics that is so specific to her and yet it’s such a relatable feeling.

Favourite Lyrics: “Back roads raise us / Highways take us / Memories make us wanna go back // To our hometown, settle down / Talk about that one touchdown / Raise some kids in red and black / Go Bobcats, while the other half / Of my hometown was in the crowd / They knew the words, they sang them loud / And all I wanna do is make them proud / ‘Cause half of me will always be / From Knoxville, Tennessee / My hometown / ‘Cause I’m half of my hometown”


‘Small Town Hypocrite’ by Caylee Hammack

I first saw Caylee Hammack in 2017 – at a Tin Pan South show – and she actually played this song. Now, at my first Tin Pan South show of 2022 – my first in three years – she played it again and I was just so happy to be seeing her perform again (another thing that was taken away by the pandemic). In that time, she’s put out an album that I love and is working on her music, some of which she played during the show. She has an incredible voice, which only amplifies the emotion in the song. I also got to have a conversation with her and she’s such a sweetheart. It was, all in all, an excellent start to the festival.

Favourite Lyrics: “And that scholarship was a ship that sailed / When I chose you and daddy gave me hell / I made myself into someone else just to love you, damn, I loved you / Took all my plans and I put ’em in a box / Phantom pains for the wings I lost / Had me circling rings in the catalogs / For seven years and you never got the hint / Ain’t that some shit / I’m just a small-town hypocrite // Swore we’d be running, running, running this town / But you’re just running, running, running around / And I’m staring at a picket fence / Wondering where the hell time went / I should’ve been running, running, running by now / But I just hang around”


‘My First Last Name’ by Madison Kozak 

I could’ve chosen any of the songs Madison Kozak played during her Tin Pan South show because I loved all of them but this one has always been special to me. I’ll never get to have a relationship like this with my Dad but it’s nice to imagine. It makes me super emotional but not in a negative way – or at least, not in a wholly negative way. It does make me sad but I’m grateful for the song. It reminds me of my Dad and the good parts of our relationship. It’s a beautifully written song and I can’t wait to hear the other songs she played that she’s planning to release soon.

Favourite Lyrics: “Yeah, he set the bar real high / But I met a real good guy / Still not much of a crier / Till we’re halfway down the aisle // He’s the son of the salesman / Short glass, old fashioned / ‘How are things going lately?’ / ‘Stop on by, bring the baby’ / People they say, I’m more like him everyday / He can give me away, but no one can take / My first last name”


‘i quit drinking’ by Kelsea Ballerini and LANY (Written by Kelsea Ballerini, Paul Jason Klein, and Nicolle Galyon) (Performed by Nicolle Gaylon)

I love Nicolle Galyon’s songwriting and she has a gorgeous singing voice; she makes all of these iconic songs her own and I love that she’s created a label to specifically support women. She’s just awesome and, again, I could’ve chosen any of the songs that she played. This particular festival slot was a hard one because there were multiple great shows on at that time but I’m really happy I chose this one. I also got to talk to her briefly after the show and she was really lovely. I still feel like I’m getting my feet under me socially, after so long with little in person socialisation (and so I feel very awkward still), but talking about music and songwriting is my favourite thing so that does make it easier.

Favourite Lyrics: “We used to be / Dizzy all morning / Hungover, pouring / Cups of coffee black / Kiss and crawl right back / Under the covers / Down for another / Hour in that bed / Now, I’m here instead // Waking up sober, it feels kind of nice / Except that I can’t sleep at night // You’re the reason there’s no whiskey  anywhere inside this house / You’re the reason all my friends know I don’t go downtown / You’re the reason I hate champagne, never used to turn it down / You’re the only thing I want when one drop hits my mouth / Baby, you’re the reason / I quit drinking // I quit thinking (I quit thinking) / Staring at the ceiling (Oh) / And all my cabernet is down the kitchen sink, yeah (It’s down the kitchen sink, yeah) / I quit mixing (I quit mixing) / All my drinks and feelings / It’s not fixing that you’re gone”


‘Doin’ Fine’ by Lauren Alaina (Performed by Emily Shackelton)

I still remember the first time I heard Emily Shackelton play this song at a Tin Pan South round and how it just hit me; like, the autobiographical details are clearly not mine but the message of the song has been so applicable to me so many times throughout my life and here we are again and it’s still true. There was a new level of poignancy in the performance of this song though as it was written with busbee who is no longer with us – he died late 2019 – and this is the first Tin Pan South since then. Emily dedicated it to him and from what I’ve heard, he was an amazing person. I’m sorry that I never got to meet him.

Favourite Lyrics: “I’m doin’ fine enough to know that everyone’s a little broken / Fine enough to learn that hearts are best when they’re wide open / I still got fear inside of me / I’m not okay, but I’m gonna be alright / Oh, for the first time in a long, long time I’m doin’ fine / I’m doin’ fine”


‘Where Would You Rather Die?’ by Kalie Shorr

I could’ve easily chosen any and all of the songs she performed (and I have chosen two from the round because I love her songs so much) but this was the only one that was completely new to me and it just blew me away. She paints such vivid portraits with her lyrics and the fact that it was based on a real experience (although it obviously did not involve actually dying) makes it even more enjoyable. I would love a music video for this song because it’s just such a wild story.

Favourite Lyrics: THE WHOLE DAMN SONG.


‘The World Keeps Spinning’ by Kalie Shorr

This song gets me every time. Kalie has been open about the inspiring of the song, that it’s about her older sister’s death and while the details are specific to her life, I think it’s very easy to relate to if you’ve lost anyone, especially if they died suddenly. I relate it to my Dad. It makes me well up every time – or full on sob if I’m feeling particularly emotional – because it’s so beautifully written and gets right to the heart of grief. As sad as it is, it’s one of my favourite Kalie songs.

Favourite Lyrics: “The 5th of January is on the calendar every year / Like some kind of messed up holiday to remind me that you’re not here / I hear people laughing, I don’t get the joke / But I can’t hold it against them, cause it’s not like they know // It was just another day, until it wasn’t // The sky / Didn’t even have the decency to cry / And that damn sun still found a way to shine / When the heartache’s hitting / I think it’s kind of cruel that the world keeps spinning”


‘Crowded Table’ by The Highwomen (Performed by Natalie Hemby)

I love Natalie Hemby and she’s always the first person I look for in the Tin Pan South line-up. She’s a fantastic writer, as well as an utterly hilarious and genuinely lovely person. This song kind of reminds me of growing up: my house was always busy and there was always a lot of people around. We were a big, tight knit family (we’re still close but we’re all a bit more spread out now so getting together is harder) and we often congregated around the table at meal times. So, when I listen to it, it reminds me of that. Hearing it live was very cool and the fact that she gave me a shout out before playing this song (in front of the amazing songwriters on stage and the whole show’s audience) just makes me love this song even more; it symbolises a very special memory.

Favourite Lyrics: “The door is always open / Your picture’s on my wall / Everyone’s a little broken / And everyone belongs / Yeah, everyone belongs // I want a house with a crowded table / And a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we’re young and able / And bring us back together when the day is done”


‘What Hurts The Most’ by Rascal Flatts (Performed by Jeffrey Steele)

Somewhat hilariously, the first version of this song that I heard – in my Dad’s car – was the more dance/club version. I have no idea why my Dad had it on a CD but hearing it still brings back fond memories. Hearing the country version for the first time was a bit of a surprise but given the memories of my Dad, I have a soft spot for it and hearing Jeffrey Steele perform it was incredible. He’s an amazing singer and an amazing guitarist; it was a bit like the musical equivalent of a religious experience.

Favourite Lyrics: “It’s hard to deal with the pain of losing you everywhere I go / But I’m doing it / It’s hard to force that smile when I see our old friends / And I’m alone // Still harder getting up, getting dressed, living with this regret / But I know if I could do it over / I would trade, give away all the words that I saved in my heart / That I left unspoken // What hurts the most / Is being so close / And having so much to say (much to say) / And watching you walk away / And never knowing / What could’ve been / And not seeing that love in you / Is what I was trying to do”


‘right where you left me’ by Taylor Swift

I was listening to evermore quite a bit, given that it was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. It might not have won but it’s still an amazing album and I love it so much. ‘right where you left me’ is such a fascinating song: so specific and yet so relatable; so beautifully written, with some really cool techniques. I wrote about it in my full evermore post. I love it and it’s been stuck in my head on and off during my trip.

Favourite Lyrics: “Help, I’m still at the restaurant / Still sitting in a corner I haunt / Cross-legged in the dim light / They say, ‘What a sad sight’ / I, I swear you could hear a hair pin drop / Right when I felt the moment stop / Glass shattered on the white cloth / Everybody moved on / I, I stayed there / Dust collected on my pinned-up hair / They expected me to find somewhere / Some perspective, but I sat and stared / Right where you left me / You left me no, oh, you left me no / You left me no choice but to stay here forever” AND “Help, I’m still at the restaurant / Still sitting in a corner I haunt / Cross-legged in the dim light / They say, ‘What a sad sight’ / I, I stayed there / Dust collected on my pinned-up hair / I’m sure that you got a wife out there / Kids and Christmas, but I’m unaware / ‘Cause I’m right where / I cause no harm, mind my business / If our love died young, I can’t bear witness / And it’s been so long / But if you ever think you got it wrong / I’m right where you left me / You left me no, oh, you left me no / You left me no choice but to stay here forever”


‘HEARTFIRST’ by Kelsea Ballerini

I’ve very used to the first singles of a new chapter not landing well with me – with basically all artists – so I was very pleasantly surprised when I loved this song straight away. It’s fun, it’s adorable, and it’s so feel good. It’s so uplifting and joyful. The imagery is gorgeous and while it’s obviously about a romantic relationship, the broader idea of jumping into every thing heart first is very relatable to me.

Favourite Lyrics: “I couldn’t wait till later, talking in the elevator / Then we’re kissing in the back of the car” AND “Could be forever or we might break / That’s just the kind of risk that we take / My head is yelling that I could get hurt / But I’m gonna jump right in / Baby, with my heartfirst” AND “And I can’t even stop myself anymore / Oh, we couldn’t end the perfect night outside my front door”


So here is my Nashville 2022 playlist. There were definitely more songs I could’ve included but I tried to keep some sort of constraint on myself, otherwise this probably could’ve gone on forever. There were just so many songs to choose from, practically every day. Anyway. A musical post for a very musical trip.

Tin Pan South 2020

As someone who considers Nashville their home away from home, I was devastated when my trip was cancelled due to the pandemic. I knew it was the right, safe thing to do and I honestly wouldn’t have considered going, given the potential to get stuck there, but I was still incredibly upset. Even though it can be a very stressful time (with all the unknowns and potential for surprises), it’s one of my favourite parts of the year; I was hugely disappointed to miss out on Tin Pan South, Song Suffragettes, seeing my Nashville friends again, visiting my favourite places, and so on. So many things were cancelled but that was one of the hardest.

I knew NSAI were hoping to reschedule Tin Pan South for later in the year but as the pandemic went on, that looked less and less likely. But then they announced that they would be holding an online version of the festival, which was very exciting. There were considerably less shows than usual and some of the big names that always play were missing, which was unexpected, but I assume that that was to do with technical or pandemic-related issues. It was just a bit sad because there were certain people I was really looking forward to seeing again. But oh well. Hopefully I’ll get to see them next time.

I’d thought that I would have to get up in the middle of the night (never have time zones affected my life as much as they have in the last six months) to watch the livestreams, which I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, but then I discovered that the shows were available on the website the next day so I could at least attempt to get some real sleep and then watch the shows during normal waking hours. That was a very pleasant and much appreciated surprise, making my experience of it as a virtual festival so much better than expected.


TUESDAY

I didn’t end up watching any shows from the first night. Both Tuesday and Wednesday were very long, stressful days for me and I just couldn’t manage anything more than I absolutely had to do. Fortunately there wasn’t anyone that I was desperate to see so it wasn’t a disaster. I would’ve liked to browse the livestreams afterwards to potentially find new (to me anyway), awesome songwriters – that’s always one of my favourite parts of the festival – but as far as I can tell, the livestreams only stayed up for twenty four hours and they were gone before I had time to look.

WEDNESDAY

Aaron Barker, Jim Collins, and Mignon – I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to Tin Pan South looking like my university lectures rather than a songwriters’ round. That definitely threw me more than I’d expected but I did still enjoy it. Mignon was the draw for me: she was great when I saw her back in 2017 (I think) at Song Suffragettes and she was amazing in this round. She was definitely my favourite. I really loved ‘I Got You’ and ‘Story of My Heart’ was a close second.

Desmond Child, Erika Ender, and Victoria Shaw – This one had some really good performances (especially Desmond Child singing ‘Livin’ on a Prayer,’ although I still have to see him perform it at a live round one day – I bet the atmosphere in the room is amazing!) but it felt very much like a series of separate performances glued together. One of the best bits of these rounds are how the performers interact and join in on each other’s songs and I really missed that.

THURSDAY

Chris Barron, Jeff Cohen, and Toby Lightman – This show felt much more like a Tin Pan South round, with the writers chatting and joking around. I found myself smiling A LOT. The reason I picked this show was Jeff Cohen: I’ve met him a few times and seen him perform at various similar events and not only is he a great writer, he’s also a genuinely lovely guy. So I was really excited to see him play again. Toby Lightman was an awesome new find; I loved all of her songs but I especially loved ‘Breathe In.’ Chris Barron was probably furthest from my musical tastes but he was a great performer and had some hilarious stories to tell about the songs and about touring. So I really enjoyed that show and I think a big part of that was because it felt like a real show.

Kris Delmhorst, Mark Erelli, and Lori McKenna – I really enjoyed this round and I think a big part of that was that it was an actual songwriters’ round: it was the three of them in a room together. The conversation and interaction was so real and natural and that was really nice to see. I always enjoy seeing Lori McKenna perform and I love how she talks about songwriting. She played ‘People Get Old’ and ‘Humble and Kind,’ which I’m pretty sure is my favourite of hers. It’s so simple but so beautiful and so emotional, so heartbreakingly sincere. I also really liked Kris Delmhorst; I thought she was awesome. I especially loved her first song, ‘Wind’s Gonna Find A Way.’ They ended with ‘Girl Crush,’ a song I really dislike so I stopped the stream there. I wanted to finish on a positive, inspired note, which I knew I wouldn’t if I listened to ‘Girl Crush.’

FRIDAY

I didn’t end up watching any of the Friday shows. The combination of lots to do and trying to fight off a headache just made it one thing too many to manage. Plus there wasn’t anyone I felt super strongly about seeing. So I just took the day off from Tin Pan South, especially as there were three shows on the Saturday that I needed to pack in.

SATURDAY

Phil Barton, Seth Ennis, and Liz Rose – I really enjoyed this round because the three of them were just having such a great time, just having so much fun, joking around and being silly. They really didn’t let the virtual format put a dent in their show; they completely went to town, acting like they were playing Glastonbury and it was just so much fun to watch. I’ve always tried to go to the Liz Rose show at Tin Pan South so it was really cool to see her perform again, even if I have heard her perform some of the same songs before. I think I’ve seen Seth Ennis a couple of times now and he’s always great. I love his voice. But in this particular round, I think my favourite had to be Phil Barton. He just had so much energy; he was almost bouncing off the walls and it just made me smile and laugh and feel good. And there hasn’t been a lot of that to spare recently. He played ‘Skin & Bones’ (Eli Young Band), ‘Why Baby Why’ (Mickey Guyton), and ‘A Woman Like You’ (Lee Brice), which were all great. It was a really, really fun show – definitely the one I smiled most during.

Ryan Griffin, Carly Pearce, Riley Roth, and Emily Shackelton – This one was a very emotional show given that it was a tribute to busbee (an amazing songwriter who died last year, for those of you who didn’t know). It was very emotional with many of the writers performing important songs they’d written with him or songs they’d written about him since his death. Of the four of them, Carly Pearce and Emily Shackelton were my favourites.

Carly played her first big song, ‘Every Little Thing,’ which she’d written with and was then produced by busbee. Before playing her second song – a new one – she told the story of its inspiration: they were all at busbee’s funeral and Barry Dean was making a speech about him, talking about how it was just like him to have to get to Heaven first so that he could get the lay of the land and find all the best places to show his loved ones when they joined him. She just heard the song in that and pulled out her phone to write it down – she knew that, out of everyone, he wouldn’t have minded. The song was called ‘Show Me Around’ and it was absolutely stunning. I was in tears from the first few lines; it was a beautiful tribute but so heartbreakingly sad. Her final song was the last song that busbee had worked on, called, ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now.’ It was really powerful but I don’t think anything could’ve beaten ‘Show Me Around.’

I’ve seen Emily Shackelton before and I always try to see her if I can. She’s a gorgeous writer. She played ‘Doin’ Fine’ (Lauren Alaina), which is a song I love and then a new song, which I think was called ‘Killing Me’ that was super emotional. And then, before her last song, she spoke briefly about busbee. She talked about one of the last times they’d texted and she’d asked him whether he was writing anything. He replied, “I don’t think I’m gonna make any more music here, but I hear echoes of eternity.” That phrase has just enthralled me, ever since I heard it. From everything they said about him, he sounds like an incredible human being. She played a song she’d written not long after his death as she was trying to deal with all of her emotions, called ‘Raining For Months.’ It was so sad and so beautiful. She seemed especially emotional and I just wanted to reach through the screen and give her a hug.

Both Ryan Griffin and Riley Roth were good too; I particularly enjoyed Riley’s ‘Parents’ and ‘I Did This To Myself.’

It was a truly stunning round. It’s hard to choose a favourite because they all varied so drastically in mood and intensity but I think it’s safe to say that this one had the biggest effect on me and will be one that stays with me. I wish we could’ve all been there in person but since we couldn’t, I’m just so grateful that we could experience it at all. It was really special. Really, really special.

Chris Destephano and Emily Weisband – I immediately picked out this round because I love Chris Destephano. He was great: he told some great stories (and some great jokes) and delivered some really powerful performances. And Emily Weisband turned out to be a stunning new find (for me, at least). All of her songs were gorgeous but I particularly loved her unreleased song, ‘Sinning With You.’ It was just so delicate and beautiful. I also loved her performance of ‘Older Than I Am’ (Lennon Stella) and I definitely related to parts of ‘Getting Good’ (Lauren Alaina). It was a really, really good show, a nice balance of the first and second shows of the night and the perfect end to Tin Pan South 2020.


So it was a week of pretty incredible and emotional shows. Tin Pan South has never failed to inspire me and apparently the virtual experience doesn’t change that. Of course, it wasn’t the same as the normal in-person experience – it didn’t have that same magic that you get from being in a room with these other people who are so passionate about songwriting but that’s not exactly surprising. But having said that, it was still so wonderful and so special and I’m so grateful to NSAI and everyone who worked to make it happen because I absolutely loved it. Tin Pan South is one of the highlights of my year and I feel so, so lucky not to have had to miss out on it as I’ve had to miss out on so many other things. This year, we’re all making huge compromises and having to come to terms with months worth of missed opportunities and stolen joy and I’m just so grateful that this experience wasn’t one of the things taken away by the pandemic and lockdown.

Nashville Looks Good On You

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This trip to Nashville wasn’t exactly what I’d expected. I’d had this vision of going out there and writing a load of songs and going to show after show after show and seeing all the friends I’ve made out there. I managed to do some of those things – and I’m really proud of what I achieved – but my mental health really dominated the trip, much more than I’d hoped it would.

We got off to a pretty rocky start when I forgot to take my medication the night before we flew out. We had to leave at two o’clock in the morning so I never really went to bed and therefore my nightly routine was disrupted. Plus I was excited and nervous and just generally all over the place. We got to the airport and I couldn’t even walk the distance to security, I was so completely out of energy. I thought it was the lack of sleep and stress of travelling but I physically couldn’t do it. We ended up asking the airport staff for assistance and they were absolutely amazing, at every airport we travelled through over the trip: they got me a wheelchair and took me wherever I needed to be, getting me early access to the planes, and so on. It was so helpful and honestly made the whole thing possible. I don’t know what I would’ve done without their help. It took a few days to recover and it was only then that we realised what had caused it.

The reason we go at this time of year is because the Nashville Songwriters Association International hold the Tin Pan South songwriters festival, where hundreds of songwriters perform songs that they’ve written. They have a great mix of famous and up and coming so you get a lot of different, beautifully written songs. All of the shows that I went to were good and some of them were fantastic. My favourites include Lori McKenna, Alyssa Micaela, Emily Shackelton, Hannah Ellis, Natalie Hemby, and Travis Meadows. They were truly incredible.

There were a couple of other musical highlights too. By some wonderful coincidence, Kelly Clarkson was playing the Bridgestone Arena while we were in Nashville. I’ve always wanted to see her and I’ve always wanted to go to a show at Bridgestone. And to make it even sweeter, Kelsea Ballerini – who I LOVE – was opening. So it was perfect. The show was amazing and I had a blast. Totally a bucket list moment.

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The other musical highlight was getting to see my friend, Caylan Hays, perform. We’ve written together several times and on my last trip, she came to see me play a gig and by another beautiful coincidence, she was playing on the last night of our stay. She was fantastic. She’s such a talented writer and I love her voice. Throw in some gorgeous electric guitar and I was in love. You can check out her music here.

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And of course, I got to go to two Song Suffragettes rounds. I love this organisation with my whole heart and so it meant so much to me to see both shows while I was there. They – the people who run it and the girls who play – are so inspiring and I hope I can play with them again someday.

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I had several writing sessions while we were there and for the most part, they were a struggle. I love the people I was writing with dearly but my brain still isn’t right: a casualty of my depression and the medications I’m taking. We’re still trying to find the balance where I’m emotionally stable and not creativity stifled. Still, I’m trying and I so appreciate these writers for having patience with me while I work through this. I also got to spend some time with friends, old and new, and they really inspired me in this dark patch of my life.

But throughout the trip, I really, really struggled. My anxiety was so high that I actually had trouble breathing and my depression was so overwhelming that I found myself falling apart (even in public places, which I’m usually able to avoid doing) multiple times. There were lots of tears and lots of Diazepam; it was very hard. I struggled desperately with wanting to go home and I was battling suicidal thoughts (helpfully described by Claudia Boleyn as, “my brain trying to kill me”) for most of the trip. In truth, it was a bit of a nightmare but there were some really great moments that helped me manage it and of course, I had my wonderful people (my Mum and my writing partner, Richard Sanderson) there to support me. The trip wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Also, shout out to Pancake Pantry for teaching me what it’s like to get excited about food.