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VOL. 43 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 1, 2019

Songwriters, flippers dream of hitting it big – just once

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At one point in the city’s storied past, Nashville’s population included approximately 20,000 musicians, singers, songwriters and a host of others employed by ancillary industries of the music business, according to a music industry insider.

Today there is a new group of dreamers that have migrated to town who are more interested in drill bits than writing hits and would rather flip a house than turn a phrase.

The flippers have invaded, and the cacophony they create – nail guns, screeching drills, shrieking saws, belt sanders on hardwood floors and staccato beeps of the trucks in reverse – fill the air.

Songwriters and flippers share many of the same traits in that there are talented flippers and horrific flippers, just like the songwriters. Thom Schuyler, a songwriter’s songwriter, once penned a classic called “16th Avenue” that should be required listening for all aspiring to earn a live in the songwriting trade.

Many who come to Nashville in search of writing a No. 1 song have done little or no research as to how they will earn a living from songwriting once they arrive.

Flippers are the same. Some have never driven a nail straight through a piece of lumber on the first try, think crown moulding and crown molding are two different things.

They are prone to calling a cornice a Cornish, as in the hen, and cannot understand why anyone would ever need an architect. Others in the flipper field are the opposite with more degrees and designations than a Harvard dean, but no common sense.

One songwriter who worked with prospective recording artists bemoaned the fact that one of his friends was sending his daughter to town to pursue a career in music, hopefully as a recording artist. His friend had sent his daughter to all of the finest schools in the land and she had been classically trained by some of the greatest vocal instructors of all time.

“It’s going to take me years to unlearn her all of that technique,” he lamented.

In some writing sessions, successful writers marvel at the newcomer’s use of “out-of-town chords,” only to say, let’s not complicate this.

There are only seven major chords. Everyone is drawing from the same deck. However, according to Shawn Persinger, quoting guitarist Nick Didkovsky and physicist Jon Charpie, there could be as many as 2,341 playable chords.

One builder’s material sheet showed 109 components to a house, each with numerous options. For example, the HVAC could be gas, electric, geothermal or solar, and within all of those sources are numerous levels of quality. The possibilities are infinite.

The legendary writer Harlan Howard is credited with having coined the phrase “three chords and the truth” to describe country music, and that description remains intact. The challenge is which three chords and how to make the truth interesting.

Flippers often have to start with three boards and a roof – maybe three hundred boards – but the challenge is how to take the same components available to everyone and fashion it into a commercially viable product.

Schuyler wrote:

“From the corners of the country

From the cities and the farm

With years and years of living tucked up

Underneath their arms

They walk away from everything

Just to see a dream come true

God bless the boys that make the noise

On 16th Avenue”

And that applies to some of the flippers who make the noise on all the street and avenues. Flippers come here based on all of the “It City” promotion and attention and, to borrow a line from Schulyer, “because one time someone told them about a friend of a friend they knew” who sold a house and made big bucks on a Nashville Avenue.

The part of the story that does not reach the small towns is his line, “They’ve all dialed the phone collect to home” from one of those Avenues.

Once reaching town, many songwriters work within the industry and serve makeshift apprenticeships, perhaps playing some demo sessions, or if their musicianship is deemed worthy they may play some sessions for some of the labels.

Those who are good enough might hit the road with a major recording artist and play hit songs night after night while observing the artists interpretation of the songs.

The Bluebird Café, the iconic songwriter venue, offers novices opportunities to hone their skills before live audiences while exposing the newbies to the best writers in the world on a nightly basis.

The wet-behind-the ear flippers should join a construction crew for a reputable builder in order to serve an apprenticeship and note how homes are constructed in this area. They will be exposed to numerous short cuts and bad habits as they learn their trade.

At that point, they should work with a Realtor and a lender in order to be prepared for that magic moment when Venus aligns with Mars and the affordable property with the most upside comes into sight. Then they have their No. 1.

Again from Thom Schuyler.

“Ah, but then one night in some empty room

Where no curtains ever hung

Like a miracle some golden words

Roll off of someone’s tongue

And after years of being nothing

They’re all looking right at you

And for a while they’ll go in style

On 16th Avenue.”

There is upside aplenty in Nashville for flippers and songwriters, alike. All they need is talent, a strong work ethic, experience and a solid support group. Oh yeah, one more thing, a big break.

Richard Courtney is a licensed real estate broker with Fridrich and Clark Realty and can be contacted at his website www.richardcourtney.com.

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