Traveling Part 4, Nashville the Music City

The bright lights of the bar signs illuminate the ground in front of me while I bob and weave through cowboy hats and high heels.  The chilly night air is filled with sounds of hopes and dreams;  southern drawls, guitar riffs, and kick drum thumps beg for the attention of the passerby’s. Everyone has one motive and they lay it all on the stage every night, make it big.

In high school I had an infatuation with soccer. I played on two teams, played when I wasn’t playing and all of my friends either played, or were friends with people who played.  One of those friends was Stewart Halcomb.  Stew had one of those infectious personalities that everyone seemed to be drawn to.  It also helped that he was a lot louder than your average individual.  He was super smart, with all A’s, perfect attendance, and he had the GPA of a future college graduate.  In high school all he wanted was to be a doctor.  We’d play soccer 6 days a week and the rest of the time he’d study or do homework.  It’s safe to say that “Stew Baby” was my best friend.

Stewart was always a lot more popular than myself.  He had grown up in Enterprise, and was somehow involved in all the clubs.  One of his favorites was the FFA (Future Farmers of America) quartet, and the FFA string band.  Both of which he sang in and was always really well known in.

We graduated and parted ways.  My little Mazda drove me to South Dakota where I found my climbing career.  And Stewart, well I watched Stewart perform for a jam packed bar for six hours last night in downtown Nashville.  He didn’t go to med school, or law school, or any other of the professions that he could’ve easily done, instead he’s been living in two bedroom apartments with eight people and playing music all over the southeast.

I showed up in Nashville around lunchtime Wednesday.  I walked into Stewart’s 5 bedroom house to find him balls deep in social networking.  He spends his days promoting himself all over the internet and trying to book shows at different venues all over the Nashville area.  He looked ragged, tired and down.  He wasn’t the same perma-stoked Stewart Halcomb from high school.   I watched Stewart float through the rest of the day.  He seemed to be just taking everything in stride as if the hectics of his day were a normality.  He didn’t smile much, he just moved about taking care of what needed to be done.

At six o’clock sharp, we rolled up in front of the Tequila Cowboy right on the infamous Broadway of Nashville.  The back door of his Honda minivan opened and we rushed all his equipment inside.  A large man with a beard was perched on a stool in the spotlight on stage.  He picked his guitar and sang with twang while Stew and his bandmates set up behind him.  Stewart was still floating through the motions, seeming as if he was a guy at a cubicle for the 900th day.  The soundcheck finished, the lights went down, and Stewart changed.  With a huge smile on his face he greeted the crowded bar and began to dance around the stage singing songs he knows by heart.  His band jammed flawlessly behind him.

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I realized as I watched Stewart fully enjoy all six hours on stage, that he wasn’t much different than me.  Never mind the black and white cowboy boots, never mind the twang in his voice, the ya’lls, or the yeehaws.  Stewart chased his dreams, and he was living them right there on stage in front of me.

The old Stewart was there all along, he exists on stage.  In high school I always assumed Stewart would chase an education and fall into the monotony of work life. Stewart winded around the bar with a five gallon bucket plastered with a bold “TIPS.”  He counted out the money, divvied it out and went home with a small wad of cash in hand.  Every night, every show, every stage, every song is different.  His life revolves around music and, in turn, music revolves around him.  I’m more happy for Stewart’s success in happiness than I ever would’ve been for his success as a doctor.  He didn’t sell out on his dream, and even when times are hard and the tip bucket goes home empty, the music still plays.  The crowd still cheers.  And Stewart still smiles.

 

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This is for Stew, the happiest dude I’ve ever known and one of my best friends.  Don’t let it become a job.  Keep your head up and keep plugging.  Most of all, no matter how hard you work, how far you go, or how big you become, always remember the people around you, for you can’t conquer the world alone.

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