The Road To Nashville Ain’t Easy, Especially From Canada

TODAY, the S.A.C. hosts our first ever workshop for Canadian songwriters considering heading to Nashville.  The Road To Nashville:  Strategies for Canadian Songwriters Heading to Music City promises to be an informative event with a roster of Nashville experts including our very own President, Eddie Schwartz. Click for details.

Along the theme of going to Nashville, one of our members, Lisa Nicole, a 22 year old independent Country singer/songwriter based in Vancouver has a story of the fun and folly that ensued when she tried to go to Nashville.

In Her Words…

Here is my Nashville story:

I had the trip booked for a couple months now, along with a fellow musician, Jason Thomas, and my producer. I started with booking the Socan house. From there I started looking into writers nights and people to write with. I booked a couple small shows, along with sessions with writers such as Kathleen Higgins of the country band “The Higgins” and Daryl Burgess. During the time leading up to my dates to go (March 19th-March 26th) I was in a contest called Get Me The Menu. It was a contest on facebook for artists who are in the restaurant industry. The prize was $1000, which would cover my expenses to get to Nashville. I was neck and neck with another artist the whole time and ended up losing by 20 votes with 822. I did a successful show to fundraise money a couple days before I left. We raised over $500. Which covered my flight and Get Me The Menu also awarded me $250 for my efforts. So, I bought my flight.

My dad is funding my album and sent me with a little money to record a couple special tracks like fiddle, banjo, dobro,mandelin and steel guitar. This was going to be a great trip of writing, recording and doing shows in Nashville, a dream I’ve had since I was 15.

The day comes when I am set to go down to catch my flight in Nashville. Going across the border, I was so excited that I let it slip that I was doing shows. Right away, a red flag went up. I spent 2 hours at 2AM in the customs border and protection, fingerprints and everything. They wouldn’t let me through because they considered the shows as working, even though they weren’t paid. They said I could only come back with a working Visa. I was heartbroken, balling my eyes out at the customs. Nothing I said would change their mind. So I went home.

Right away I put my flight on hold. Got a couple hours of sleep and woke up when the Vancouver Consulate opened and called to see about getting an emergency Visa. It would take months. So, that wasn’t going to happen. I decided, what the heck,I can’t give up this easy! I’ll try again. I got paystubs showing I work in Canada, emails that I cancelled my Nashville shows, letters from work saying I will return to work, anything I thought would change their minds.

Off I went the next morning at 7am, this time I didn’t bring my guitar, that would have been a red flag again. Right away the border guy asked me “Why are you trying to come through the border today if you got denied yesterday?” There I went back into the Customs Border Protection office. I explained my situation, and showed them the paperwork. After an hour, he came back and said “I’m sorry, you need to come back with a Performance Visa.” I was so upset, it takes months and I’ve worked so hard for this. I wasn’t going to give up. I then asked to talk to his supervisor. The officer said they wouldn’t change their minds. After several minutes he came out, by this time I was in tears. I begged him, and tried showing him more emails on my phone. He still said, “No, I’m sorry mam, you need a performance visa.” I then asked to talk to his chief. They searched my car. And, after yet another half hour they came back and said “Ok you can go.” I couldn’t believe it !! I hugged the guy ! I did a happy dance right when I walked out the door. They asked me if I was a country singer and if I could sing a song. So, I sang them a song and off I went. On the other side I met Bill Buckingham, my producer. I found wifi at a local gym in Blaine, booked my flight which cost an extra $650 and off we went. We got a speeding ticket on the way, of course, as luck would have it.

In the back of my mind I was preparing to spend the week crying in a little ball. This was something I have really wanted since I was 15. I couldn’t believe they let me cross after denying me 4 times. Hard work really pays off, along with persistence!!

Click Here to visit Lisa Nicole’s Songwriters Profile.

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