They Came, They Conquered, They Went Home

By: Marc-Alan Barnette

Somewhat complementary to the blog we ran a few months ago about not being intimidated by Music City, this week a veteran singer/songwriter there contributes an entry about keeping your head up if you go to Nashville but end up leaving there.  For more from him, see the links at the end of this blog, including two appearances he has made on our “Now Hear This Entertainment” podcast.

Marc-Alan Barnette (left) and our Bruce Wawrzyniak at the 2016 Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival in AlabamaThese past few months, I've been aware of several friends of mine, finally making a very painful decision for them, and having to move BACK to their hometowns after, in some cases, decades in Nashville.

They have all been wonderful, talented people and I am so much better for having known them as is every person they have ever come across. They have been songwriters, artists, promoters, management people, etc., from all stripes, who have actually done quite a few things in this town, and should be very proud of their accomplishments.

But there is always a feeling of defeat, that you didn't "MAKE IT" (I ABSOLUTELY HATE THAT TERM), and become the big star that all the friends and families expected. NONSENSE! You can't define a career by financial situation or fame. I have known so many tremendous writers, artists, people that SHOULD HAVE BEEN MAJOR STARS, SONGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HUGE HITS, and sometimes things just don't happen, no matter how good people are. Or people that had that brief run of luck and then had to make changes in their lives.

But I hope those people realize what they HAVE DONE.

When I talk to new people about possibly moving here, I always tell them, take it easy, slowly and methodically. What happens to you here might not be where you think you are going to be. But if you do it right, you will find some amazing things: Never let your highs be too high or lows be too low. And if you have to move back, don't worry.


Nashville is one of the greatest communities in the world. People, most of which are from somewhere else, all get exactly who you are and what you are trying to do. They are doing the same.

We all get very involved in each other's lives. And people care, they really care, about each other. They are there when there are losses, in families or loved ones. When children grow up. When someone goes through a rough patch, health-wise or financially.

There are lessons you learn here by OSMOSIS. You just SOAK up things to do and NOT TO DO. You learn by doing: Writing, performing, recording songs, and being around other people just like you. Experiencing the victories and defeats of others along with yourself.

You walk away better than you ever believed you could be. Your songs are far better than you might have ever done without the move. You are also FAR AHEAD of anyone in your home area.

By being around such similarly motivated people, you find how to give to others. You find how to share things you have and even when you don't have things, you are able to find something you can contribute to other people's lives. You touch people's lives sometimes in ways you never even realize.  You make a difference.

You get the other sides of this, the reality as well as the dream. You find out how many things can just NOT work out because they don't work out. You can see some negative aspects of the business, which takes the BLINDERS off. But it helps you in other walks of life.

Giving you a sense of reality makes you less vulnerable and therefore able to view things in a more realistic point of view. And by that, I don't just mean music. I mean business, seeing rip-offs coming and avoiding things like "get rich quick" scams. You have seen some con artists and can recognize it long before they can hook you into something. And again, you can help other people avoid some unnecessary entanglements.

You can see things in your hometown that you didn't realize before. You can help in charitable giving. You can help your home music scene by using things you have learned here. You can help others avoid dead ends and roadblocks by passing on information.

Man, some of the parents of those "wanna be" kids are REALLY GONNA LOVE YOU!!!!!

Sometimes moving home allows you to BREATHE. People that have families, children, can lean on the friends and family members. This is REALLY GREAT when it comes to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, seeing those kids that they would only get to see a couple of times a year. Sometimes this can quite literally mean life or death, in areas where a loved one might be in the latter stages of life. Having a little bit of quality time that you have left can be a great comfort to some families.

And sometimes you can go back to getting PAID FOR GIGS! When you are in Nashville, where everyone plays for free, it is really hard to make any money whatsoever. So getting in some venues, special events, that you might actually GET PAID is a pretty cool thing. And with your newfound abilities, this can pay off well!

I've known a LOT of people who successfully make trips to Nashville while living in other areas. They make regular trips to write, record, perform, network. I know some that are here so frequently, hitting all the social events, doing shows, that nobody realizes they DON'T LIVE HERE!

And if you have built your own network of people, they are still gonna be there. Planning rounds, doing shows, making pitches on songs. In the world of the ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORK you can do that from anywhere!

I have also known plenty who made trips, stayed a while, went home, and THEN things got really hot for them in Nashville. I knew one writer who moved home, and before he got resettled in HAD A NUMBER ONE SONG ON THE RADIO. He never did totally move back, but was able to get a place here and in his home area.

It is always why I followed the advice of RON MUIR, my mentor, who said, "Be nice to everyone. You see the same people on the way DOWN you saw on the WAY UP."

So to my great friends who have made some tough decisions, KEEP YOUR CHIN UP! You did not fail. You are doing what you have to do. Adjusting to what LIFE PUTS IN YOUR WAY. Celebrate it. Tell people about it. Use it to your advantage. Never forget your friends. WE still love ya!

And come on back anytime. You are ALWAYS WELCOME HERE!

Marc-Alan Barnette has written more than three thousand songs.  He is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and, as a performer, opened for the likes of the Charlie Daniels Band, Tanya Tucker, Patty Loveless, and Restless Heart.  Read another guest blog we had posted from him last year.  And, listen to our interviews with him on “Now Hear This Entertainment” Episode 12 and Episode 102.  Visit his website to learn about his Nashville tours and more.

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