Performing: A history lesson. 9.24.18
Performing. It’s something I have truly missed over the past two years while developing and writing in Nashville. I have always loved performing. My first local performance was at a sandwich shop in Muscle Shoals, the Trojan House, as a junior in high school. I remember that first performance so well, I was 16 and it was that night that sparked something inside me. I then began performing regularly at other restaurants (in high school some, but mostly throughout college) both in Muscle Shoals AND across the bridge that connects Muscle Shoals to Florence, Alabama… including City Hardware (they have the best skillet cookie you’ve ever had), River Bottom Grille (right on the Tennessee river), Swamper’s Bar and Grille and the 360 Grille (two restaurants connected to the Marriott Hotel), The Wild Lilly (which doubled as a petit four shop), Logan’s Roadhouse, Sperry’s Roadhouse, and Turtle Point’s Country Club right outside of town (I was the Sunday brunch entertainment). I just couldn’t get enough of the feeling of performing my favorite songs, meeting new people, learning the songs they requested, and sprinkling my own originals in between hoping that people would like them.
I don’t know if you are familiar with my love for the marimba. If not, BRACE YOURSELF. 😀 All four years of high school, in the spring, I competed in the Muscle Shoals Percussion Ensemble. If you don’t know what it is, it’s kind of difficult to explain and you should definitely take a minute to google it to understand it better. There are plenty of videos of me (with my Avril Lavigne looking eye liner) playing the marimba. You can type in “Muscle Shoals Percussion Ensemble” (I was there from 2009 to 2012) and find a scary good amount of footage of high school me. Anyway, the group is a 20ish member ensemble of percussion students who have the amazing opportunity to learn and grow as musicians by learning a composition rearranged by their band director into a 7ish minute piece. Our piece was typically a rearrangement of something classical like Carmen the Opera or works by Howard Hanson. We competed against other ensembles at different levels hoping to win a gold medal at the end of the season. Two of the years I competed, we won gold. It was amazing. I didn’t play any sports in high school, but this was what I considered my passion and my sport. I played the vibraphone the first two years, and the marimba the next two. I LOVED competing and working hard to be a musical and emotive marimba player.
In 2015 I competed in my university’s scholarship program, Miss University of North Alabama, hoping to win the title and compete in Miss Alabama. My initial reason to compete was because there was a…. you got it: talent portion. I knew I could perform for a LOT of people if I could do well in the competition, and I did! That experience helped me more than ever learn how to handle nerves under pressure, and how to walk in a swimsuit 10 minutes before changing clothes and performing a song. It’s kind of crazy now that I think back on it. When I won Miss University of North Alabama in 2015, along with the title, I gained even more opportunities to speak and perform around the community, for schools, and for corporate events. And then I sang and performed on the Miss Alabama stage. IT WAS AWESOME. I played the marimba and sang for the talent portion. I performed the song, “What a Feeling” from the movie Flashdance. Everyone knew the song, but most of those people did not know anyone who could play the marimba! I never pictured myself doing pageants, but I am grateful for that time in my life that helped me grow in a lot of ways.
When I moved to Nashville in 2016, I knew there would be change. I knew it would mean a new home, new friends, new hangout places, new everything. But I did not know I would go so long without performing. The first 6 months I would go home to perform every month or so, but after a while, I couldn’t keep up with performing back home. And I couldn’t perform in Nashville because when I wasn’t writing during the day, I was bartending… typically 6-7 shifts a week. I had to bartend to make rent, and I was trying to get my master’s degree online back home at the same time. So performing just kind of went to the back burner because you can only juggle so many things at once.
Let me introduce to you the point of this whole dang blog and why you just learned the story of my journey and my love for performing.
During the 2 years of being in Nashville, when I performed only for labels, publishers, co-writers in small conference-like rooms, I missed performing out. It hasn’t been every weekend like it was in Muscle Shoals. And my heart has quietly, subconsciously ached for it. And I realize it the most now because I am so grateful to be in a season where I am beginning to perform out again.
Last weekend I performed my debut at the Grand Ole Opry, and it was one of the best nights of my life. When Noah and I pulled into the parking spot that the parking attendant told us to go to in the lot, there was a sign in front of the spot that read “RESERVED for RACHEL WAMMACK” and we couldn’t believe it!! One of the coolest moments of the night. Then we walk inside where all the artists enter, and made it to my dressing room which had a piano against the wall. My guitarist and his wife were already there and we were all hugging and couldn’t believe it was finally here. Then I turn around, and see my parents and my beautiful niece Bella walking in. And Bella’s smile was so big and my heart just melted as she said “You look so pretty.” And I told her she looked gorgeous, and they wanted to go walk around and check out everything backstage. Then I performed an Instagram Live for the Opry’s Instagram, and performed my original song “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Speak for Me Anymore” and one of my favorite songs “Always Gonna Be You” written by one of my favorite writer’s Mike Reid. After the live video, I went to rehearse with the Opry band for 10 minutes. The only time we ever rehearsed. They are that good. I had four background singers who made my song “Closure” come to life. They were amazing. Then I went back to my dressing room and chatted with several people on my team who came out to support me. And before I knew it, it was time to take the stage. I stood side stage and couldn’t believe how completely calm I was. My manager told me to take it all in, and I walked out to the famous Opry center circle where so many great artists stood before me. I looked out at the people and sang my heart out. At the end, I saw people standing up and then realized I was in the middle of my first standing ovation. I looked to my right and picked out my uncle Tim and my cousin Sarah in the audience, and looked left and could see my best friend Faith’s dad and Faith’s husband too!! And I couldn’t believe I saw them out of all the people there! I took in every single second, and will never forget it.
It’s over a week later, and I’m still on cloud nine. I am getting SO HYPE to open for Brett Young on the CMT Fall Tour starting in November. And in the coming months I will be playing radio shows all over the United States. It’s like my soul is taking a breath because it’s just been absolutely completely worth the wait. Worth the process. Worth the work.
Thank YOU kind soul for following along this little RachWam history lesson today. Ha! I can’t wait to see you on the CMT tour or one of the radio shows. I’m just so happy to do what I love, and I’m forever grateful that this is my job… to perform my songs, write my heart out, and to meet music lovin’ people like you.