Have you guys been watching the HBO series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways? It’s an 8-part documentary series by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (and Nirvana, she said unnecessarily) which he describes as “a love letter to the history of American music.”
The premise is this: The Foos travel to eight different American cities, get together with musicians representative of that region, and ultimately collaborate to write and record a new song at one of that city’s signature recording studios. The end of each episode premieres the song from that city. All the songs will comprise the Foo Fighters’ new album, Sonic Highways.
Last night, we watched the episode from Nashville that we DVRd Friday night. I was particularly interested in this episode since I grew up in Tennessee and have been to Nashville on numerous occasions. It’s only as an adult that I have developed a deep appreciation for the unique culture Nashville represents.
I found this episode absolutely riveting. Grohl and friends sat down with Zac Brown, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and many others to get a sense of what music means in Nashville. Without exception, they were told that the music is “all about the story.”
Grohl stated that he was drawn to the ‘outsiders’ of a situation and thus gravitated toward Zac Brown and Willie Nelson. Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris described how Willie had trouble ‘making it’ in Nashville as a clean-cut, buttoned-down artist, and so returned to Texas where he let his hair grow out and was able to be himself. It’s there where, as they put it, “he found his congregation.”
The Nashville episode resulted in the song Congregation, which was recorded at Southern Ground Studio, an historic recording studio (originally a Cumberland Presbyterian church and later the home of Monument Records) now owned by Zac Brown. One especially intriguing part of the show was Brown and his people showing off some of the treasures they uncovered at the studio after they acquired it. There were entire filing cabinets full of documents and recordings from many of the greats, from Jerry Lee Lewis to Roy Orbison to Willie Nelson.
I love this series and what they’re attempting to do. It reminds me that the roots of music are so much deeper than we normally take the time to appreciate.
Egypt has pyramids, Brazil has rain forest…
We have music.