I wake to a phone call from my sister, letting me know that Jessica Moskaluke was awarded the top consolation at The Canadian Country Music Awards for the third consecutive year. Deservedly so.
In the winter of 2011, fellow road-dog, Chris Henderson and I agreed to splitting tour administrative duties. Sharing databases, contacts and tactics. Nothing too serious. Some anchor dates and a few fillers; we’d hit radio and hustle our wares as best we could. Both spending time with engineer/producer, Brad Prosko he would also have Jess in to do back-up vocals in and around her jet-setting. Regina to LA, upload to YouTube. Regina to Nashville, studio. Regina to LA, upload to YouTube. The proximity of the three of us naturally led to slingin’ a couple guitars and working out vocal ranges. Jess extending YouTube love, Chris and I booking shows. We tested the waters infront of a wine-soaked crowd in a Fillmore, SK basement and worked out the kinks on the fly. A power-study of each other’s originals and a Gordon Lightfoot cover for good measure. Prairie shows that were sold out and others that were as desolate as the surrounding area. The first leg consisted of red-eye drives, minus thirty-five degree weather, and Henderson and I getting wasted. For as business as we were, Jess was Business. Monitoring YouTube stats and planning future releases. All chasing the dream, Jessi was being chased back. If it happened once, it happened repeatedly, Jessica defending her direction and Henderson and I challenging it. The second leg, in early 2012 consisted of red-eye drives, minus forty degree weather and blowing a tire north or my family farm. Jess showed her grit and walked in high heels, bag in tote, a mile to the warmth of my parents kitchen. Raw talent and grit.
Sleeping on the floor of the van in Indiana, I wouldn’t have wanted any other news.
Upon disbanding, Jess and Chris would continue to insert themselves into the Nashville mechanics. Co-writing with the who’s who and attaining radio play. I’d do my thing. Mainly, hustle CD’s door to door. Three paths. One yet to go to Music City.
At seventeen, I argued I didn’t need school and wanted to go to California. My parents roof said otherwise. At twenty-six I disclosed my plans to move to Austin. My bank account said otherwise.
At thirty-three I shut my mouth.
My version of chasing The Dream was a basement floor in Pilot Butte, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Medicine Hat, and Vancouver. The floor of a 2001 GMC Savana. My old bed at my parents, cheap Regina apartment solo, Toronto, cheap Regina apartment live-in, my old bed at my parents. The floor of a 2001 GMC Savana. Regina bungalow. The floor of a 2012 Dodge Caravan.
I slept in my snap-shirt and throw the remainder of “The Three Pounder” in the bush. The mustard/ham combo left an acidic goo in my mouth. I catch early morning Louisville traffic and catch an I65 Cracker Barrel. I could get right used to being called Sweetheart, Doll, and Hun. Maybe that’s half the reason I stop. That and the grits. Like my old man, I twist the top of the pepper shaker. Mix in both pods of butter and eat the biscuits dry. Fried apple on top of the hash-brown casserole. Cholula over Tabasco, mood depending. Small pieces of the country ham in the gravy. Biscuits in the gravy. More gravy. Finish it with the spoon. Black coffee and Owen Meany. Parlour guitar hanging on the wall that I consider haggling with management over. Check out the Jayhawks apparel, run back into the restaurant to leave a tip, finish the last mouthful of cold coffee.
Saskatchewan songwriter, Colter Wall is in Kentucky but another cosmic opportunity came his way that sees himself and manager Mary Sparr back in Saskatoon. Opening for Ian Tyson. My young contemporaries stars align. A text to Mary lines up a loose plan to cross paths upon their return. I cross the Tennessee line.
Last minute planning gave way to an East Nashvillian bending his full-time tenant plans to accommodate my need for a temporary home-base. I send him a text that I’m behind and it’ll be closer to 3 pm before I pull in. He’s relaxed and happy to help. Even though it’s only been a day, the southern humidity has my pores wide open. The full stomach is good for my mental state but is passing. I can spend months on the road making money – it’s a different story spending it. Carefully spending. Not making. Post gig cash always lifts a travelling spirit. Post gig cash, a couple beers and a toke can keep you running on full until the next post gig cash, couple beers and a toke. Months can pass. The idea of pulling into Nashville is and isn’t a big deal. Maybe indifferent to a version of me that knew sooner or later I’d hang there. A big deal to the version of me that’s now doing it. Mom brought me back a personalized Nashville key chain from a conference she attended years ago – meaning to bring it along as an amulet, it’s probably in that storage unit off of Macdonald street. Mildly superstitious, I’m surprised this bothers me. Catching the anxiety early, I breathe.
Another attempt at road tranquility leads to turning to an outside source for direction. A FedEx truck passes. I’ve been good with staying off my phone while driving, I can’t help but pick it up to snap a picture of what I think I saw.
An immediate reply. I follow it into Music City, past the Trinity Lane Exit. Past an add for The Devil’s Dungeon Haunted House attraction. I take the Cleveland St exit. I acquaint myself with my temporary landlord. His name’s Christian. I leave to buy a bed. Try life-hack internet trick to blow it up without a pump and eat a french roll and Walmart tomatoes for supper. Christian offers olive oil and balsamic. Second tenant, Marshall offers an electric air pump.
As I lay down for the night, I check my phone. Jess replied to my voicemail with an ‘I love you too’ and I missed a call from Chris. The internet lets me know that the day I arrive in Nashville is the thirteenth anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death.
I’m back to sleeping on the floor. A new version of the dream.