I met David Hall for the first time on the top floor of the L&C tower (Life and Casualty) in downtown Nashville. My band, the Evinrudes, was called up to do a radio interview with his station, WRLT, lightning 100, sometime in the late 90’s. Brandishing our acoustic instruments, we set up and began a lengthy interview about our rise to fame in Nashville, a phenomenon for a rock band to succeed out of what was known as a Country Music town.
David was very polite and professional, extending every courtesy to us. Radio interviews are stark, precisely timed for no dead space to occur and nerve-wracking as there is no erasing the impression you will leave from your performance. Though we had a number one song on the other rock/alternative station, 103 WKDF, we were still fairly new at the live, radio interview thing. It was thrilling, to say the least. Though I seemed to remain cavalier to everyone around me (probably some sort of defense mechanism to ward off the magnitude of hearing oneself in heavy rotation on the radio) I was honored to have been invited into that intimate space that is unique to D.J.’s, engineers, performers and producers: live radio. I sang and observed David transcending to another place, where he and his vocation were completely one. He was happy to do this for us, with us, he was happy to give us this gift.
Later on, after our band was run through the grist-mill of major label drama and corporate mergers, I embarked on a solo career and David was there to offer his support. Enthusiastically, he played my solo CD in it’s entirety one Sunday night ( I still can’t believe he did this) and then for a sequence of live Sunday night shows, he booked me as the opener for every major artist he brought through. He was always enthusiastic, always encouraging, he wanted me to succeed and he wasn’t shy about it. I think I might have still been stuck in my faux cavalier stage, still sort of not believing this was happening to me.
Unfortunately, I went through some personal crisis and was not able to continue pursuing a career in music at the time and I lost track of radio, of the thrill of playing music, of my past and all of its illusions and settled into some sort of future coma. I tried to convince myself that there was no humanity in the music industry, only greed and usage. I suppose I am ready to admit that I was wrong.
While David continued to champion local artists and convince Nashvillians to see the world as he did, I went to Divinity school, got my masters in theology and became a United Methodist minister, of all things. A couple of years ago, I contacted David to let him know of a benefit I was involved in at my church for our hunger outreach programs and he immediately gave me a slot of time on the air, wanted me to play something and interviewed me about the benefit. Rusty, I was completely creaky and out of practice. I was not on my game, let’s face it, my game was full of cobwebs, I was nervous about the transition from rock chic to church chic, surely I could not exist in both worlds. David didn’t really acknowledge the difference. He just said, after I played a terribly overwrought song about Abraham attempting to kill his son, Isaac, he just said, “it’s so great to hear your voice again.” Gracious.
Now I do funerals, I say holy words over the once living and walk behind the casket to the grave side, where I commend their souls to heaven and comfort the loved ones they have left behind. It is a great honor to do this work. Looking back, I realize that what David was doing with me was really not that different. He was trying to send me somewhere I had never been, a place that he believed I was special enough to go to, somewhere beyond here, traveling across the sound waves into the hearts of many people, where he felt I belonged. He was trying to send me there, but I never quite picked up the cue.
A year ago, I stopped by the station to deliver a new CD that I had worked on for seven years. Seven years in the making, I had finally closed the gap from where I had left off, come full circle. I assumed David would begin playing it instantly, that he would book me for live Sunday night shows and we would pick up where we left off. When weeks went by and I didn’t hear back from him, I began to wonder, is he afraid of me now that I am a minister? (It is quite a conversation killer with most people.) I never heard back from David, which was uncharacteristic for him. I emailed him, left a message, dropped a note on Facebook. I was puzzled as to why he wouldn’t respond with his usual enthusiasm.
The reality is that neither David nor I had changed much, but the world had moved forward significantly and rapidly, it was hard to imagine picking up where we had left off in this new reality. It is not as if any of us had been left behind, but our impressions had changed when cast into the future, doused by the forceful fire-hose of information. The drastic increase in the level of noise required to compete on the airwaves, the sacrifice of longevity and creativity for quick profit, the pressure to conform to shallow industry standards and show immediate results had numbed and deafened us to the subtle whisper of intimacy that we once shared. It was on our heels even in the 90’s. No one, not even David Hall, could manipulate those precious air waves that we once rode freely. It’s amazing that we got away with it for the time that we did. The truth is, it is anyone’s game, any anonymous person on any anonymous day with any anonymous and fleeting insight, I suppose I was grateful for that at one time. Now, it just seems hard to convince anyone to linger in a moment that is special. Perhaps I should sing more.