NASHVILLE (Billboard) - It seemed like it was never going to quit raining.
While I was busy placing buckets under the leaks in our home in Franklin, Tenn., my entire stage and set for my new tour was waiting in downtown Nashville, with rehearsals set for May 3.
By that morning, however, it would all be under four feet of water. At another facility, all my guitars, amps, effects, cases, cables — essentially everything I tour with — would suffer the same fate.
I’m not alone. Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Brent Mason, John Fogerty and countless others lost instruments and more. And the most heartbreaking of all was the sight of a johnboat floating down the aisle of the Grand Ole Opry.
But then the sun came out. And as Nashville started to dry, something beautiful began to happen. Volunteers, youth groups and churches flooded streets just like the Harpeth and Cumberland Rivers had only hours before. There wasn’t any looting to speak of, no anger even.
Everywhere I went I saw determination in the wake of tragedy. And the music community took the ball and began to run. Businesses on Music Row closed so their employees could volunteer. Gill led a local telethon. Others like Taylor Swift donated large sums of money. Myself, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and others made the rounds on national news programs trying to raise awareness. The Opry moved into another building temporarily, and the show went on.
Money is still being raised, benefit concerts continue to be planned, and from what I saw absolutely no one is taking this lying down. As the national media began to take notice, I think the world got a good look at our town, our music and our heart. I even got a call from President Barack Obama checking on the Opry and our city and pledging the government’s help. What began as devastation became an opportunity. A chance for growth. And the real Nashville is on display in a way that can only be seen in times of adversity. And it is handling all of it with grace.
As I write this, I’m just exhausted. We begin rehearsals tomorrow, 10 days late. However, in a strange way, I know someday this is going to be one of my fondest memories of touring.
That seems strange, I know. But we learned about ourselves this week. I mean, my crew stood in knee-deep water lifting every last piece of equipment they could save. Then they lined up for tetanus shots. Bo O’Brien lost his jeep trying to haul off video gear, Mike Garibedian single-handedly saved our monitor rig lifting one piece at a time. And now we’re all scrambling to pull off the miracle of making it still work. We’ve always been a close group, but now we’re WWII close.
It’s a funny thing, this music business. All of us lucky enough to be a part of it can be spoiled brats at times. Like our ridiculous tour riders stating “absolutely no blue M&Ms.” Artists can lose sight of their priorities, myself included.
But as I write this, I am far from worried about meaningless amenities. When I finally walk out onstage in Virginia Beach, Va., on the first date of the H2O tour — no need to point out the irony, thank you — it will mean so much more to all of us than any other tour we’ve ever done. Or probably ever will. I will stand up there more thankful than I’ve ever been for the people in the audience, the band at my back, the crew that makes it happen and the town I’ve never been prouder to represent.
Brad Paisley is a country singer-songwriter and guitarist whose latest album is "American Saturday Night."