“Lordy don’t the wheels turn slow” is the next line in that song. A song performed by Alan Jackson and could easily have been written by my breakfast companion.
Roger just dropped me off back at my hotel, so I grabbed my laptop and a coffee from the lobby coffee shop to recount this most unique morning.
My day to day life is pretty routine. I don’t travel extensively and my social circles are pretty small, but from time to time, I find myself someplace entirely unique and unexpected.
That Roger, is Roger Murrah, acclaimed Nashville songwriter. Our meeting is the direct result of wanting to know about a particular line in another country song. Several months ago, as part of an Origin of Inspiration segment, I tracked down it’s author and found myself on the phone with him. You likely don’t know Roger’s work, but have most certainly heard it. Roger has written countless songs for artists including Alan Jackson, Al Jarreau , Conway Twitty, and country music group Alabama. I enjoyed my phone call this past Spring and decided to email him when I found out that I was heading up to Nashville on business.
I’ve spoken to a number of influential people over the years, but Roger has been one of the most generous with his time. He suggested we meet for breakfast and he drove us out to Pancake Pantry, a local breakfast spot that’s walls have seen and heard the best in the country music business over the years. Surprisingly, we walked right in and were seated within minutes. After ordering, we talked for the better part of an hour. Topics of conversation ranged from how the industry works to our childhoods and family life. I picked his brain on the nature of music and words, but at every pause, he wanted to know about me. Roger has worked with just about everyone you can think of in country music. Someone with his resume could just as easily have talked endlessly about his own merits. He’s written ten number one hits and has awards that surely must fill a large wall in his office. However, I was the one answering questions about me. That speaks volumes about the character and integrity of someone. I sat there realizing that this, was what humility looked like.
Before heading back to the hotel, Roger drove us through Music Row, a historical district in Nashville that is home to numerous businesses related to music. Left and right, he called out the headquarters of labels and publishing companies that are the major players in the music industry. Sony, BMI, RCA. All the greats have been there. Elvis and nearly anyone you could possibly think of part or present. While my musical tastes are broad, I don’t spend all that much time listening to the music that was born and raised here. I like the older guys and don’t really care for the new stuff, but the culture and concentration of talent here are impressive.
When you talk to people, every once in a while, they say something specific. And you hear it again. And you hear it again as it resonates within you, and you hold onto it. It is a statement that you will need again later. I had asked Roger what mistake up and coming hopeful musicians make most often. His reply is what echoed. He said, “They wait for the phone to ring”. But I could swear he said it several times. I’m really not sure what he went on to say while I was thinking about that. I needed that one for me.
I’m barely a musician, and I certainly didn’t come to Nashville to “make it”. However, I do have a purpose and a mission. I have this blog, and a podcast, and a YouTube channel, and a website, and ideas. So many ideas.
I find self-promotion particularly distasteful, and steer clear of it as much as I can. As Roger and I spoke, I found myself using the metaphor of life as a road on several occasions. In one such instance, I told him that quite simply, I was just wanting to help people push their cars up the hill of life and put a rock behind the tires of those too tired to go on.
These projects of mine are my life’s work. The end game may end up being high profile, but will certainly come to nothing without the efforts of today. And tomorrow. And the next day. I deliberately don’t chase numbers. But the numbers matter. They are indicators of people reached, and reach people I must. I’m just here to help. I look to Fred Rogers, and Garrison Keillor, and Bob Ross, and Anthony Bourdain, and the countless other unknown people who have extended kindness and acceptance and encouragement, and sparked inspiration. So I will continue my life’s work. The fruit may come slowly, but as long as people are helped, it does not matter.
On the way back to my hotel, we drove by new hotel construction owned by Richard Branson. Cranes are everywhere as Nashville booms and booms. The joke is that the crane is the state bird. (Get it?) The old is being enveloped by the new, and I looked up at the unfinished floors wondering if my work would ever reach their heights, and then it occurred to me that the purpose of the hotel was to make money. And then it occurred to me that the true purpose of the hotel – the building, was to accommodate guests, and make them feel welcomed and comfortable. True. Purpose. What is it? Usually, not what it appears at first.
So, with that breakfast conversation, and car ride realization, I will continue to produce content that encourages and inspires. But, I will seek out avenues in which to distribute it. I will more clearly define what this multimedia thing is to become, and I will remain satisfied with the progress of today and focused on the progress of tomorrow.
Someone once told me something I rather quickly dismissed. But Roger said almost the exact something to me again about an hour ago. He told me that I was “one of the most interesting people he has ever met”. What do you do with that?
I’m unique, but so are you. Maybe I’m more differently unique. What do you do with that? Well, while I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t want to waste it, and I won’t wait for the phone to ring.