There’s a magically irreplaceable feeling I get whenever I enter a stadium with 30,000+ strangers. I have a deep connection with those people even though they vary in political affiliation, race, religion and size. When we are all singing along to the chorus of a song we hold dear, none of the diversity seems to matter, because in that moment there is no controversy… only unity (a nice escape in this too-often hateful world). The music brings us together. Within the walls of the stadium, there is something that cannot be found anywhere else. The music gives us common ground.
When I think of a live music experience that has changed my life, I can’t help but think of every concert I’ve attended. Every show has changed my life in some way, but most specifically, CMA Fest was life-changing.
CMA Fest is four solid days of country music in downtown Nashville, from up-and-coming artists playing in restaurants to multi-platinum artists singing to 60,000 people. I have both worked at CMA Fest and attended several times. I remember sitting in the “nosebleed” section at the very top, during the 2012 CMA Fest, tears subtly creeping down my face as the 60,000+ sang along to the same songs time and time again. I remember sitting next to a woman from Switzerland. We carried on conversation like old friends—effortlessly and lightheartedly.
In front of me, there was a couple from Italy. The announcer at the CMA Fest that night named off all the countries of people represented at the music festival: Australia, Canada, London, Mexico, Sweden… the list went on. There were nearly 40 countries represented at the festival that year. I still remember the chills running down my spine when it was announced.
I remember being shocked that music, country music in this specific instance, could bring the 60,000 people attending CMA Fest together. The entire LP Field, where the Titans football team plays, was filled. In a world where conflict is second-nature and hate seems to arise more easily than love, the LP Field was the perfect escape that evening.
You can hear a song on the radio and feel magic. You can drive down the road and unwind after a stressful day while listening to your favorite music, and you can be inspired by it. But nothing in the world can replace the feelings and stories associated with live music. Live music connects you with the artist and the fan base on a level you otherwise would not reach. Live music inspires you to follow your dreams, make changes in your life and fight for what and whom you love. Live music changes lives in a way that a song you stream on Spotify could never fulfill.
Live music is more complex than any other kind because the artist is vulnerable. Often times, the artist will tell stories about his or her personal inspiration for a song. Artists also usually play a longer and more unique version of the song on Spotify. Those extra minutes and estranged chord progressions add depth and perspective to a song that otherwise could be remembered as just another song on the radio. I cannot tell you how many times I have fully believed that I hated a song on the radio, but fell in love with that same song after hearing it played live. Live music has the power to do that.
In this playlist, you will find a few beautiful live songs. Some of them are country, some are pop. Each of the songs are a beautiful league of its own. Eric Church takes his three or four minute long song, “Springsteen,” and turns it into a beautiful ten minute journey down memory lane. John Mayer does the same thing with “Gravity,” and somehow those ten minutes pass in the blink of an eye.
Brad Paisley says a few words before “Letter to Me,” a nostalgic song about what he would say to himself at 17 years old. Adele sings “To Make You Feel My Love” and can soften even the hardest of hearts with her brilliant voice that sounds even better than usual on this live cut. Kacey Musgraves and Maroon 5 take R&B covers and turn them into their own.
Live music can provoke emotion and inspire you unlike anything else. As you listen to these songs, close your eyes. Place yourself in a stadium with 30,000 strangers who, believe it or not, are more like you than you think. At some level, you have all formed a relationship with the artist and their lyrics. You have all fallen in love with the same catchy tunes or soft ballads. Imagine you’re in that venue. Pay attention to the words and walk down your own memory lane. Re-visit memories, be vulnerable and open up to change if you feel the desire. But above all, be inspired.