I quietly made it my resolution in January to have one worthwhile new musical experience a month, and I'm happy to report that I'm batting 1.000 so far.
I don't play out as much as I used to; that's a result of being busier professionally and personally than I was four years ago. Also, frankly, of still being intimidated here in Nashville. It feels like EVERYONE here plays and sings. Everyone here writes songs and has a record and is trying harder than me to make a go of it, and sometimes my own efforts feel paltry and halfhearted. I'm fortunate in that I don't have to play to make a living, but it's easy to get complacent recording demos on my own.
In January, the goal was to get this new website up and running. I had a web designer make my original page for me in 2005 and had tried to maintain it myself, but I never took the time to learn enough HTML to make it work for me, and it ended up getting neglected in favor of Myspace (which is a shame, because Myspace certainly has a LOT working against it). I'm very happy with Hostbaby's web hosting service so far. I can update everything in real time, and it requires no use of HTML, which I appreciate.
In February, my project was to spend a day on the road with some folks from our church, Woodmont Baptist. We learned a bunch of songs for the Brownsville Family Homecoming in Brownsville, TN. We backed up a lot of soloists from the town on some traditional and gospel tunes. The show was in an auditorium that had once belonged to Brownsville High School, which gave the whole evening a very "Mighty Wind" kind of air to it.
My role in this particular group was to be the electric guitarist, which is one of the most fun (and probably most expendable) roles I can play in a group like this. The whole point is to showcase the singers (which were, to a person, absolutely fantastic). Between the vocalists and the rest of our great band (Randy Perkins on acoustic guitar, Jeff Smarr on bass, Carol Dickerson on piano, and Craig Williams on percussion), electric guitar is essentially icing on the cake. I can pick around and add accents and little counter-melodies and phrases, and if I don't overdo it or get too wanky, it works.
(the Gretsch Jet and Vox AC-4, my rig for the show. It can get pretty soulful.)
For me, the highlight of the night was getting to play with Russell Dickerson on his cover of a Josh Turner tune, "Long Black Train." Russell is a wonderfully talented songwriter and performer, and this felt like one of those moments where I'll be bragging to my kids someday about how I backed him up way back when. Being in Nashville, and playing with the Woodmont band, has definitely made me learn music quicker, and throwing this song together without ever rehearsing with Russell was a real Nashville moment for me. It also helped me learn that faking a country guitar solos are within my reach. Just don't tell Josh Turner :)