A Nashville Songwriter’s Survival Guide

Nashville's Lower Broadway.
Nashville’s Lower Broadway.

Inside Lightning 100’s cozy, crowded office, interns work hard to organize all the CDs that local musicians send into the station. Keeping up with those submissions can be overwhelming, and taking the time to listen to each one can be exhausting. That’s why Adams enjoys meeting musicians face to face.

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“At the end of the day, you’re held more accountable if you’ve met someone,” he admits. “If they come up and shake your hand and talk to you, you can put a face with the name. The best move is to get to know the people you’re sending your music to. Here, the smart labels or management companies will tell us, ‘Okay, we wanna come perform for everyone at the station. John Doe is gonna bring his guitar, a couple pizzas, and some soda, and he’s gonna play three songs for the staff.’ That’s a great way to get in front of some radio people. At the end of the day, all radio employees are poor. And we love pizza.”


When a city is inundated with this many bands, the best ones don’t always bubble to the top. A solid song isn’t enough. A solid show isn’t enough. A band needs to be great, onstage and off.

For Wells Adams, the responsibility falls to the frontman of the band.

“If you record sounds good, that’s great.” he admits. “But if you can’t put on an amazing live show, I don’t really care. The frontman role is so important. When someone comes into the studio and I’m interviewing them on-air, I need them to be good. They need to have energy. They can’t answer every question with ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s all about how they present themselves in interviews, and what they’re like offstage. It makes my job easier, and it makes the listeners pay more attention. Look at Justin Timberlake; he’s famous because he’s a great songwriter and performer, but he’s also famous because he’s freakin’ hilarious. People like to see him on Fallon. They wanna see him on Saturday Night Live. He can dance, too, but who cares?”

Vince Gill offers a different spin.

“People in Nashville always think they need to be lucky, but an awful lot of skill will create that luck,” he says. “There’s a million ways to open the door, a million ways to meet the right person or land the right opportunity. There’s a bunch of people that have been humbled here, and a smaller amount of people who’ve had the courage to come back. What’s neat about this town is there’s so many people who’re willing to starve to try to do it. You can’t take the safe way and pinch your bets. Most people that have had a good stroke of luck in this world, it’s because they chose to risk it all.”

This article appears in our July/August 2014 issue. Buy it here or download it here. Or better yet, subscribe

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