Leigh Likes Music
Singer Leigh Nash writes about some the music world lost, the light she sees, and life.
So...2020 hasn’t panned out the way we thought it would, has it?
A devastating tornado in early March followed only weeks later by a pandemic, turned the city inside out. We were given shelter in place orders rendering many truly alone. A city full of lights and music, suddenly dimmed, silenced. Our music venues so full of life had to close, leaving the owners, promoters, and of course musicians up a creek without a paddle in sight.
In the beginning, it was clear many musicians would move mountains to stay connected to their fan base. I saw constant live-streams of artists performing, emoting, comforting, looking for comfort, sharing their fears, and probably hiding them just the same. I was in awe of the energy it must have been taking to muster a live show during such a time.
Hell, I was curled up with my little hands tightly gripping a bottle of anxiety meds and watching Designing Women from start to finish.
Yet so many of my fellow workers in song were fearlessly soldiering on, seemingly determined to make rhyme or reason of the sudden free fall. To make it somehow work to their benefit is how I interpreted many of these artists’ efforts. For a while, I admit, I gave them the side-eye. The “mal ojo” as I like to say.
I continued to be fearful as I know so many of us have been and maybe still are. I took to the yard and laid around on blankets, taking pictures of flowers, telling myself that was a more proper way to process what was happening. We got all the games down from my sons’ closet and tried to find some joy there. And we did. Sweet moments were intermixed with white-knuckled calls home to my mom in Texas begging her to tell me it would all be better soon. As if she somehow held the key.
Joe Diffie died on March 29th of Covid-19. His light in this world snuffed out. How I loved his music. It was ebullient. He was effervescent to me and I know many, many others. I remember hearing If The Devil danced for the first time in high school. I thought those were some of the most genius lyrics I’d ever heard, still do. Or similarly Is It Cold In Here, still blows my mind. Is it cold in here, or is it just you? That line still slays me. How I wish i could have met him and gushed over all the genius he gave us.
A few weeks later one of my musical heroes, Adam Schlesinger passed from complications of coronavirus. He was 52. I don’t believe I’ll ever think of him gone and not feel like I’m falling. As much of a die-hard country fan as I am Adam’s band, Fountains of Wayne, turned my head hard in another direction. He wrote so much brilliant music in his career, but every single song on their self-titled 1996 album still listens like my ears are on roller skates. Such a joyful, snarky, delightful perfect pop record. I got to meet him once. It was like standing next to Paul McCartney to me.
I’m sure I said something to that effect, or potentially something completely asinine. Like the time I said something completely inappropriate to Raul Malo at a party, yep, cleared the room. Sometimes when I’m trying to say I’m a huge fan, it comes out as sexual harassment. Anywho, Adam was and will always remain a bright flame of inspiration to me. A little Buddy Holly mixed with Brian Wilson, perhaps? Genius, and we won’t get another just like him.
That is when the knot started to slip for me. The artists keeping on keeping on became heroic in my eyes. They weren’t just pulling themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps, they were buoying the spirits of folks that desperately needed it. Angels in the wings, strumming their strings.
No more ‘mal ojo’ from this jackass. I lowered my shoulders down, humbled myself, and remembered this town for what it is. Tough as nails, full of history and the best and truest grit. I began to admire every live performance on all the platforms. Realizing, of course, that not only were people processing and trying to offer hope, but there has also been a desperate need to keep food on our tables. We musicians, most of us anyway, don’t have the steadiest of incomes in a non-pandemic year.
When the news came that John Prine was ill with the virus, I began to see the posts on social media and the desperate sadness in them. “We can’t lose him, not now, not like this,” I swear I stayed awake 2 days and nights thinking if I prayed hard enough, I could stave off his passing. I know, who do I think I am? I was just so worried for people’s hearts. At this time, we just really weren’t ready to swallow that pill. And yet, it came. We lost another great, super-human, human. One of the very best.
I met him once, his kind open face and eyes shining like diamonds. He was so very gentle and sincere. Back in January 2020, we took my son to the classic Sperry’s for his 16th birthday. I love Sperrys, you can pick up a delicious steak or maybe a rich older fella. John walked in and we remarked how well he looked and how wonderful it was to see him out and about, enjoying a drink with friends. I’m thankful we got to point him out to my son - “Hey Henry, see that guy over there? That’s a bonafide legend, just wait till we get in the car and play you his songs.” We did, and we all felt he’d added such an extra charm to our kid’s big 16.
Everyone has their process, everyone responds to the stings and burns and pricks (both kinds) of life differently. Let the band play on. And amidst political protests, mask-wearing, toilet paper shortages, and a pretty weak meat selection at the K(roger), that’s exactly what Nashville did. I have never loved this city more. I believe we are seeing signs of life again. The players are playing. Masked, but ever brilliant.
I am thrilled to contribute to arc|HIVE Nashville and hope to imbue humor, truth, humility, inspiration, and encouragement to my fellow music community. We will come through this stronger and more spectacular than ever. You just watch. In the words of the great John Prine:
“In spite of ourselves
We’ll end up sittin’ on a rainbow
Against all odds
Honey, we’re the big door prize
We’re gonna spite our noses right off our faces
There won’t be nothin’ but big old hearts
Dancin’ in our eyes”
I love you, Nashville...let’s keep on keepin’ on,
A Fellow Troubadour