Fan Fair 2011 Recap (CMA Music Fest)

Every year, country music fans flock to Nashville, TN for CMA Music Fest (formerly called Fan Fair) for 4 plus days for the opportunity to meet their favorite country singers and catch show after show after show!  This year, Fan Fair lasted an entire week for me.  I performed 8 different shows with 7 rehearsals, and I had to learn 73 songs just for that week.  So I thought for fun, I'd recap the entire week to give a quick insight into how wild and awesome this week was.

On the Saturday, June 4th, I had 6 songs to learn for a show with Kelly Ann Hocter at Hotel Indigo. The band met up a few hours before the show for a short rehearsal then played a 30 minute set that same evening. And so Fan Fair begins!  I also got a phone call from David Lee Murphy's management asking if I could perform with David on the main River Stage on Saturday, but it was the same time as Julie Roberts' fan party so I couldn't do it. I really wanted to try to work it out, but there was just no way. It's not the 30 minute set that becomes the issue, it's literally how to get across town, even just 5 or 6 blocks, in enough time. Maybe next year!

On Monday, June 6th, Billy Yates was the featured songwriter at a songwriter's night that happens every Monday at Dan McGuinness. Billy asked me to perform with him so we met up and played 5 songs.  What I thought was going to be a short night turned into a late night partly because we were hanging out and having fun, but then my car got blocked in by 2 motorcycles who parked in my same space in front and behind me. I couldn't get out and had to wait for them to come back and leave, so I ended up getting home around 12:30am.

The next afternoon, I met up with the rest of the guys in the band for Billy Yates' "Countriest of the Country" show! This show is one of my favorites of the entire week. I've been fortunate enough to be part of it and be the band leader for the past 4 years. It's a multi-artist show that runs a lot like the Grand Ole Opry where artists each play a couple songs. The show lasts 4 hours, and the proceeds benefit an organization called Christmas For The Children. We ran through the 6 songs for Billy's set for the show, but I had a total of 21 songs I had to learn for this year's show.

On Wednesday, we loaded into the Ernest Tubb Texas Troubadour Theater at 1pm and began run throughs for the big show! Each artist drops by and we run the songs through one time each before the show, then the show begins at 6pm. It's really hard to describe the show and how much work and fun it is! But I do have one video posted on my Video link and others on YouTube at this point. Please check them out! You can search under my name on YouTube, and I'll work on getting more links posted to take you directly to them.  This year's list of artists that I performed with were: Opry legend, Jeannie Seely, Darryl Worley, Trent Tomlinson, Tammy Cochran, Adam Gregory, Julie Roberts, Buddy Jewell, and Hall of Fame member and former Statler Brother, Jimmy Fortune!!  After the show, we stayed for the meet & greet with the artists and didn't get home until after 2 am.

Thursday morning, I had a writing appointment and wrote a new song with a couple friends. I left the offices at The Song Factory and found out it was "Hot Dog Day" on Music Row. SunTrust Bank hosts Hot Dog Day every year where writers and artists can eat free hot dogs, chips, and beer. I got there right before it ended, but sat down with the one and only, Phil Kaufman. It was a little surreal and a lotta cool all at the same time. Phile spent 25 years working with EmmyLou Harris (who I love so much!) and of course, is known for carrying out Gram Parson's final wishes.  If you don't know the story, watch the movie Grand Theft Parsons.  Then I left the row to head to a 3 hour rehearsal for Julie Roberts which included 22 songs that we had to prepare for her Fan Appreciation party, then left that rehearsal to do 2 more rehearsals that same night with Vickie Raye and Crystal Hoyt who each had 7 songs each to learn. It was a very long day.

Friday morning, I had another writing appointment. We didn't finish a song, but we found some really good ideas to work on next time we get together. Then headed over to rehearse with Julie Roberts again. That was all I had going on Friday, but it was still a solid 8-10 hour day.

Saturday was another big day! I loaded in at the Listening Room Cafe at 1pm to play Julie Roberts' Fan Appreciation Party. The party was scheduled for 2:30-4:30, and originally, I thought we were going to play from 3-4, but we started at 2:45 and played all 22 songs. Wow, is right! I had to be downtown to play the show with Vickie and Crystal at 6:00 and was supposed to meet up with the others at 4:30 to share a ride downtown. But since we played all 22 songs at Julie's party, we didn't finish until 5:00. The show went great, but I was feeling pretty stressed afterwards thinking that I needed to be downtown by 5 to set up for our show. A friend drove me the 5 blocks downtown and dropped me off, but suddenly, I was standing outside the club and the manager wouldn't let us in because he said it was too crowded. He made us stand outside for an hour, and at this point, we found out they were also running an hour behind. Instead of starting at 6, we didn't start until 7. The setup was extremely rushed and although we played great, the sound system left a lot to be desired.  After the show, I got back to my car at 9pm and hadn't eaten since noon, so I stopped off for some sushi!

Sunday was the final day of Fan Fair. I loaded in at Limelight at 4:30p to play Julie Roberts' CD Release party. We took the stage at 5:50 and played 15 or 16 songs. The set ended at 7:20, but I had to be at the Bluebird Cafe by 8:00 to play guitar for a friend as well.  I made it to the Bluebird at 7:55, and my friend was the 2nd person on the list so we went on at 8:15.

In the end, Fan Fair 2011 was crazy, fabulous, intense, awesome, and most importantly, FUN!

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