Hello everyone! Today I am excited to bring you another documentary review of a project called It All Begins With a Song. Our friends at TriCoast Entertainment enjoyed my review of Bombshells and Dollies (which you can read HERE) so much that they asked if I would look at another project that they are releasing soon and I happily agreed.
It All Begins With a Song is a story about one of music’s most important forces: The Nashville songwriter. Packed full of raw and stripped-down performances, this film will give you a new appreciation of how we all connect through songs and why they are more important than ever.
Ironically enough, the doc does not begin with a song. Instead, it begins with this quote:
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had about five hundred of my songs recorded. I’ve had forty-two top twenty singles. Had twenty-five of those songs end up being number ones, which means nobody knows who the f–k I am.”
That is what the documentary is really about: the people behind the hits. The ones who write and create the catchy tunes that you hear on the radio every day. The unseen and underappreciated creators who keep the industry alive with their lyrics, melodies, and musical prowess.
If you’ve ever wondered how a number one hit single is made, who the creators behind the curtain really are, and what goes into a song that will endure for generations, this is the documentary for you.
And, even more than that, this documentary is about Nashville, the home of the musician. To quote Bart Herbison, the Executive Director of NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International):
“This is the only town I’ve ever known where banks have a stage in the back. They literally have stages in some of the banks around here and some of the songwriters will get up — every waiter that waits on you, every person that valet parks your car, is a world-class, gifted musician.”
What I enjoyed most about this doc was the historical description of how the industry used to look and how that has changed and adapted over time.
Quickly, here is what I learned: in the past, once artists had made it at the Nashville Grand Ole Opry, they would spend the week traveling around the country performing their hits, but would always return to The Grand Ole Opry on the weekends. When these stars came back, they were greeted by songwriters living in Nashville who had spent the week working on new songs and tunes for the stars to play.
Essentially, to quote Rodney Crowell, a man who has written songs recorded by the likes of Johnny Cash and Keith Urban:
“So, an industry was born out of entertainers being out on the road and not having enough time to write songs.”
I also really enjoyed watching the artists, like Brett James, perform the song that they wrote. These are songs that you have heard played on the radio, in movies, in stores and performed by famous musicians like Willie Nelson, Bruno Mars, Journey, and Christina Perri, but hearing it from the creator is a quietly powerful and moving experience.
What They Could Have Added
Having a degree in psychology, I do think there was potential for the documentary to delve deeper into the psyche of the songwriters who have their work played over the radio countless times, but who remain unknown.
Now, this may not have been what the filmmakers wanted to focus on and it could have led to a much darker exploration of fame and celebrity, but I do think it would have been interesting to have some raw reactions from the people responsible for these mega-hits.
Are they angry? Jealous? Hurt? Or are they happy with their situation? Do they enjoy writing their songs in solitude? Do these men and women not want the pressures of fame?
To be fully transparent with this review, they do touch on this briefly in a very interesting way, though I wish we had spent more time on this. Several songwriters talk about how supportive writing group meetings are and how everyone leans on each other, which seems incredibly kind.
As Bart Herbison says:
“Songwriting may be the only profession that I’ve ever seen where every songwriter genuinely is trying to teach the person that’s gonna be their competition.”
That is a very wonderful sentiment and something that many of us could learn from and hope to embody in our own individual industries.
There is also the quote from Erin McCarley, a singer/songwriter, that expresses the joy these musicians experience at having any of their work released:
“I remember I hadn’t released any music yet and finally got to release my first record. And I was at the grocery store, just came out, and was standing on the corner with my bags and this car came and pulled up at the stoplight and the windows were rolled down and she was listening to my song on the radio and singing. And it was the coolest feeling.”
While I am not a country music fan, I still found the documentary interesting and illuminating, as it provided an in-depth look at an industry, and a community that no one really talks about.
If you are a fan of country music, this is a must-see, but if you are simply curious as to how the hits are made and learning about the people involved behind the scenes and the process of making a hit, then I would certainly recommend checking out It All Begins With a Song.
TriCoast Entertainment will release ‘It All Begins With A Song’ digitally 3/3 (Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, FlixFling, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu) Look for it soon!
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