Every year, a new crop of starry-eyed aspiring artists makes its way to Nashville, each one hoping their small-town success will translate with much larger audiences. They take jobs that allow them time to focus on crafting new music and hope for viral success on outlets like TikTok, YouTube and Spotify. They chase publishing deals and record deals, and spend their time at writers’ rounds or co-writing sessions, hellbent on writing the next Big Hit.
Country superstar Brad Paisley pays tribute to the time-worn journey of artists trying their luck up and down the streets of 16th Avenue in his new song, “City of Music,” which released Friday (June 11). Paisley co-wrote the track with Lee Thomas Miller and Ross Copperman, while Copperman and Luke Wooten produced the song.
The song originates with soft guitar work and lyrics of the “karaoke queen of Tyler, Texas” who packs her songs and other belongings, and leaves the Lone Star state to pursue her dreams in Nashville, or what Paisley and his co-writers call the “Hillbilly Holy Land.” She takes a job selling boots in a downtown store in Nashville (perhaps the writers’ choice of a boot store is a nod to one of Garth Brooks’ pre-fame gigs).
In Paisley’s new song, the female singer-songwriter sells some boots to another young writer on a Friday, which leads to a date later that night, followed by a co-writing session.
They sat around singing George and Tammy/and woke up on a co-write, Paisley sings infusing the lyrics with his signature wit, and adding, Maybe it’ll last forever, maybe only a week or two/ Sometimes you write the songs and sometimes the songs write you.
Along the way, “City of Music” includes nods to not only George Jones and Tammy Wynette, but the “Mother Church” a.k.a. the Ryman Auditorium, “I Fall To Pieces” songwriter Harlan Howard, country music legend Hank Williams, and Mother Maybelle Carter, the matriarch of the Carter Family, known for a style of guitar playing known as the “Carter Scratch.”
The song’s bridge also some tidbits of advice for newcomers: Sing it for the ghosts that came before you/And play till your fingers hurt/Leave something that’ll ring out after/ In the rafters of the Mother Church.
Paisley is back on the road this summer, having launched his Tour 2021 on June 5 by performing at Panama City Beach’s Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam. Joining Paisley on his remaining tour dates are his “Freedom Was a Highway” collaborator Jimmie Allen as well as newcomer Kameron Marlowe.
On July 4, he will headline Nashville’s Let Freedom Sing! celebration.