I’ve always possessed a stirring obsession with small towns. Growing up in New York City, the whole concept was rather foreign to me, as my 20-story apartment building was a town unto itself. And thus I began making myself an imaginary resident of places with a number of restaurants you can count on one hand; general stores with flags out front; quirky shops that sold useless items like lavender soaps in the shape of a snail. I spent a summer wandering around Burlington, Vermont, taking classes and pretending I lived there; and as an adult, I frequented Woodstock, New York so many times I could wander the street blind (a useful tool, as many activities in the area predispose one to fuzzy vision).
And I was well-aware of the duality of my nature, in that, for as much as fantasized about living in a home on a Main Street, where I could park an easel on my porch and gracefully pass away time (or at least, let’s be realistic, park myself on the porch with a bag of chips and a copy of Rolling Stone), I yearned for the city too – I needed the anonymity that sharing your day with one-thousand strangers provides, the constant adrenaline rush of never really being alone. More than anything, I idolized communities within the metropolis – like 60s Greenwich Village and Haight-Ashbury, places that formed artistic enclaves within the concrete expanses that contained them.
It seemed impossible to find a place where I could indulge both sides of my personality, until I discovered East Nashville. While no place is a utopia (though if someone opened up a 24-hour deli and a 500-capacity rock venue, I might be convinced), it’s a magical neighborhood that caters to those of us who yearn for both community and the innate artistic push that sometimes only comes in the shadows of skyscrapers (or at least a teeny skyline of some kind).
Adrian Krygowski came to East Nashville for similar reasons, but primarily to nurture his soulful, gritty folk that, like our fair town, is part small-town America (pedal steel licks) and part city hustle (lyrics inspired by blue-collar struggle and forlorn loves).
His LP, Roam, came out this month, and assembles an excellent cast of musicians including Paul Niehaus (Calexico, Justin Townes Earle) and Jared Manzo (Chris Scruggs). And for his Nashville Five, Adrian ticks down five things that can only happen in our weird, charming, small-town-but-not home of East Nashville.
By Adrian Krygowski
5 Things That Can Only Happen in (East) Nashville
1) How I met my band: Usually one of the first questions new-to-towners ask me is how I found my band in the sea of musicians. Recently had this conversation with JBW and TerryFest, and my story aligns with many before me. Asking for a pedal-steel player for a few upcoming shows, my producer at the time put me in touch with Alex McCollough; Alex couldn’t play the show I needed but referred me to Fats Kaplin; again couldn’t do it but referred me to Paul Niehaus. Turns out I could’ve met Paul through multiple other sources. Had to take the long way…
Few months later I was referred to a new bassist who just left his day job to play music full-time, Jared Manzo. He was only playing with Chris Scruggs and Sarah Gayle Meech at the time, so we became a trio. Soon after, others found out Jared is a badass, and now he’s everywhere.
2) Hot Chicken: Depends on who you ask, this might be Nashville’s greatest asset, or it’s downright worst. I think the good stuff beats Snapple for “best stuff on earth.” Bad hot chicken may or may not put your digestive system into organ failure, or you wished it would anyway.. Prince’s still beats everything else, hands down. Mild for the rookies, medium for those who have nothing else to do that day. Last time I tried to play at The Basement afterwards, it didn’t work out so good. Side note: If you ever want to hear the funniest rant Sam Lewis has, ask him what he thinks of Hot Chicken.
3) Red Barn Round-Up: The best way to spend a Sunday. World-class music, potluck food, BYOB, for those who are down to chill out for the afternoon. Take the heavy-hitters and legends, both onstage and music-biz, and have them all hang out in a driveway; most bring their kids for a family-friendly time. Last time I was there, my friend Adam Hill brought his whole family, and after chatting for a few minutes he went to go check on his little one. Turns out, his kid was in the back yard playing with yard flowers with Dan Auerbach.
4) Out of town guests: In the year and change I’ve lived here, I’ve seen Dan Auerbach, Danger Mouse, JTE, Amanda Shires, Hayes Carll in the audience while onstage, seen Robyn Hitchcock sit-in with Derek Hoke right after my own set at $2 Tuesday, and seen so many talented artists play in a room no more than 200-head audience, I’ve lost count. Feels like a once-in-a-lifetime show happens weekly here. Last time my parents were out of town guests, they were so starstruck that my bassist is playing with Chris Scruggs, they needed a photo of us as proof.
5) Respect for the pre-DIY days of Nashville: I don’t co-write, never liked it, it’s not my thing. But I’m happy several of my East-side friends host songwriting get-togethers, and song-trades. Peter Cooper guided me through the concept of “Shot in the Dark” lyrics during a Songwriters Workshop session at someones house, first session I went to; I’m glad everyone on both sides of the river see value in a good song. We all are driving to be better, and it’s an encouraging town. But everyone here understands the value in good help.