Comedian, musician, host of Chris Crofton's Advice King Podcast and former Nashvillian Chris Crofton asked the Scene for an advice column, so we gave him one. Crowning himself the “Advice King,” Crofton will share his hard-won wisdom with whosoever seeks it. Follow Crofton on Facebook and Twitter, and to submit a question for the Advice King, email bestofbread[at]gmail[dot]com or editor[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.
Dear Advice King,I’ve been hired to paint a mural on the side of a new condominium development in Nashville. What should it be? Angel wings? A big bourbon bottle? A guitar with wings? A bourbon bottle with wings?
—Leon in Nashville
“Listen a minute, will ya? Will ya listen a minute? Now listen. ... A lot of people who get up here and sing, I know it’s fun, ya know, it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun for me, I get my feelings off through my music, but listen. ... You got your life wrapped up in it, and it’s very difficult to come up here and lay something down when people. ... It’s like last Sunday, I went to a Hopi ceremonial dance in the desert, and there were a lot of people there and there were tourists ... and there were tourists who were getting into it like Indians, and there were Indians who were getting into it like tourists, and I think that you’re acting like tourists, man. Give us some respect.” —Joni Mitchell at the Isle of Wight Festival, 1970
Joni Mitchell doesn’t like tourists — and neither does anyone else. The city of Nashville has been turned over to tourists. There is nothing inherently wrong with a tourist, but if you are trying to do something serious — something deep, something that is important to you — they are the last people you want to have around. Joni was trying to sing her heartfelt songs. Regular Nashvillians are trying to live their lives. Both of these activities require soul and seriousness. Tourists are on a lark, taking a break from their own (possibly serious and soulful) reality. The last thing they are looking for is depth. Mixing frivolous people together with serious people causes extreme discomfort — for the serious people, anyway. The frivolous ones are usually too drunk to notice.
And when I say that “the city of Nashville has been turned over to tourists,” you probably think I am exaggerating. I am not. And the reason I am not is because of Nashville’s “business-friendly” policy-makers and ... Airbnb. City leaders being “business-friendly” means you let developers from out of town make over your city with pretty much zero input from actual residents. It means you can build a boutique hotel anywhere except on the grounds of a historic fort — and it turned out even that was negotiable at one point. Airbnb means that even though the house next door to you might look like a regular house, it is actually a boutique hotel.
Compounding the problem in Nashville is the fact that Nashville isn’t that big. Developers have been able to completely change the vibe of an entire city in about seven years. The tourists are ecstatic, and the residents are depressed. That’s because in the case of Nashville, THE RESIDENTS are the attraction. There’s no ocean. No mountains. There’s just neighborhoods. The tourists roam — and reside — on the same streets where regular people are trying to do the soulful, serious business of living their lives. Some of these regular people happen to make music — the music that the tourists are ostensibly in Nashville to hear. But the vast majority of tourists aren’t in Nashville to listen to music — even if they say they are. They’re there to get drunk as shit.
A couple of months ago I was in Nashville visiting my family. As I was leaving the airport, I walked past a flattened “penis” straw on the sidewalk. If you aren’t familiar with these novelty straws, they are popular party favors at bachelorette parties. I guess the idea behind them is that the woman getting married won’t be able to suck anymore strange dicks once she’s hitched so she should ... suck as many as she can before that? Mostly plastic ones that are on the end of straws? I have no idea, and I don’t actually give a fuck — I just think they, and the insipid corporatist party culture that spawned them, are depressing.
The point is that Nashville isn’t a city known primarily for its music and people anymore. It’s a city known for being a great place to get blackout drunk and suck on plastic dicks. A city that is able to support multiple businesses devoted to administering IVs to hungover people.
What’s this question about again? Oh yeah, murals. Well, I’m pretty sure a substantial, thought-provoking piece of public art (of which Nashville has a few) would be considered a buzzkill. Condo developers and bachelorettes aren’t into social realism — too heavy. They don’t want "Guernica." They are looking for some light subject matter that will serve as an innocuous backdrop for mindless consumption or light subject matter that will lead to an Instagram photo that will act as an enticement to other frivolous people to visit to Nashville and mindlessly consume (or some weird, colorful blobs). I’d go with the bourbon bottle with wings. Paint some guitar strings on the side of the bottle.
By the way, I love Nashville with all my heart. I still consider it to be my home. I love its soulful, serious™ (normal, non-tourist) residents, and its music. That’s the only reason I get so fired up about this stuff.