I believe there are defining moments in all of our lives that help set us up for the next chapter or act in our story. I also believe God uses these moments through special people, who might only be in our lives for a season or a fleeting moment in time. For me, those people were Lady Antebellum and the place was Nashville, Tennessee. The year was 2014.
I was in my last year of college, and during college, you tend to hit that rough path of questions and doubts, like: Is this all worth it? or Am I really good enough to survive out there in my field? That’s where I was. I was a journalism major, which is a pretty dog-eat-dog world. I did a lot of comparing to my friends, who I thought were much better writers, seemed to have more experience and I just wasn’t sure that I was cut out for the journalism field. I wasn’t into hard-hitting news – I wanted to do entertainment, which is even more competitive with looks and fashion and really playing a part. I was frustrated, I was tired and I really just wanted to say, ‘Forget it, I’m just going to get a job at a restaurant and forget the big, crazy dreams I have. Maybe I’m not cut out for this after all.’ There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working a restaurant job – I admire people who have the patience to wait on people all day , but I wasn’t going to school to do that and for me, it would have just been a cop out.
One September afternoon, as I was getting ready to go to the fair with my best friend, my mom stood right next to me and asked what my schedule looked like for the following Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I looked at the planner, which was laying open right in front of me. I told her I had a couple classes, but nothing out of the ordinary, then followed up with, ‘why?’ She told me she’d won a radio contest and that we were going to Nashville for a few days. I didn’t question much, because as long as it was a legitimate contest and I would be in my favorite city, I didn’t need to know much else.
The next thing I knew, we were in our local airport, waiting to fly off to our next adventure in Music City.
In my journal before we embarked on this journey, I wrote:
I can already tell this trip is going to be something special.
I can just feel it.
I had no idea what was in store, but oh, did it ever change my life.
That Thursday, we explored the city and hit some of our normal touristy attractions, including The Country Music Hall of Fame, had lunch with one of our friends in the area, wandered down Broadway and toured the Grand Ole Opry. We had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Opry Mills, Moe’s and grabbed frozen yogurt at Sweet CeCe’s, then meandered into the Opryland hotel. All in all, a pretty successful day, I’d say.
The next morning, our last day in Nashville, I’ll be honest…I was cranky. I was in a funk that we didn’t have much time left and soon, I’d be back to reality. My mom said we had to meet with one of the ladies from the “radio station” and then we’d have some time before we left. It was driving me crazy that I didn’t know what we were going to be doing that day, but my mom just kept saying it would be fun. We had breakfast at the hotel, then met with the radio station at a local coffee shop, Frothy Monkey. We told her what we’d been doing, talked about country music and then she asked about my schooling. I told her I was a journalism major and how I wanted to end up in Nashville someday. Long story short, she said she knew someone at Country Weekly and asked if I would like to take a tour of the office. I was all about that, so, of course, I said ‘yes!’ I thought it would be a great time to meet people who were in the industry I wanted to be in someday and could see what it was actually like. So, off we went.
We walked into the office for Country Weekly; the studio where they did the radio shows, “America’s Morning Show” and “Nash Nights Live.” Then, we made our way into the studio where Kix Brooks records his show, a very cozy room with rugs, cozy couches and chairs, and lighting, like a living room in someone’s house. There was a film crew set up, and they explained to us that they were getting ready to film something, so we’d need to hurry. We glanced around and they asked if I wanted to take my picture in Kix’s chair. I tried to be quick and stay out of everyone’s way, but didn’t have much of a chance.
A couple seconds later, before I could get out of the chair I was sitting in, the door opened and a very tall familiar-looking guy walked in. It took my brain a second to register, and then it sunk in that it was Charles Kelley from Lady Antebellum. And behind him? Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, the other two members of Lady Antebellum. Charles said my name, and suddenly, I realized I was in the middle of something very crazy and that my mom was in on it. They told me that I was one of their “7 for 7” winners and they wanted to help me out. I was at a loss for words. Here was my favorite group standing right in front of me. They told me that I would be interviewing the stars on the red carpet at the premiere of the Nicholas Sparks movie, “Best of Me.” If that wasn’t enough, they added I would also write an article about my experience and it would be published in Country Weekly, and handed me a recorder, MacBook Air with a laptop case, which held some very important items, like a notebook, and pens.
Charles, Hillary and Dave kept hugging me and asked if I had any questions, which I was completely blanking on, because I was still in awe. They gave me advice and asked if I wanted them to sing anything. I asked if they could sing the theme song they’d done for the movie. Dave grabbed his guitar, as they all tried to remember how it started, since they’d never done it live before. They sang a verse and chorus of it, and I tried not to cry my eyes out as their beautiful harmonies filled the air. The film crew asked us to stick around for an “after” interview, so we sat on the couch and they asked us to talk about what had just happened. I’m not the most eloquent speaker, so I don’t know that I was able to put into words what had happened, nor was I able to even comprehend what was happening at the time either. In some ways, years later, I still don’t know if I have.
The following Tuesday, I found myself in Los Angeles, interviewing James Marsden, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, and of course, Lady Antebellum. As I stood behind the gate where the media was placed, and people started to arrive, I began to feel the nervousness and again, wondered whether I had what it took to be there, against professionals who were much prettier, had more experience, and were probably more charismatic than I was.
But, I silently prayed for Him to give me strength and to give me the words to say. I was able to chat and carry on conversation easily with these well-known, Hollywood celebrities that I would never have been able to otherwise. In our weakness, He is made strong. After the red carpet, we also got to watch the movie with the rest of the cast and attend the after party, where Lady Antebellum performed and we were able to take it easy and walk around. Although, I quickly realized “after parties” are not exactly my scene, but it’s fun to experience every once in awhile.
This was the kind of moment that even as it was happening, though I didn’t quite understand what it all meant, I knew it was ordained by God Himself. And it confirmed for me just why country music is so special to me, why I love Nashville so much and why I’m so drawn to this fascinating, hectic, wild, roller coaster ride that is the music industry. It was one of those glimpses that God occasionally gives us when we’re going through seasons of discouragement to continue to trust Him. Even when the roads are long and dark to this day, I can look back and remember that He’s been faithful before and He’ll do it again.
Tonight, Lady Antebellum starts their “You Look Good” World Tour in my hometown, Bakersfield, Calif., at Rabobank Arena, and to say I’m excited would be a complete understatement. Brett Young and Kelsea Ballerini will open the show. It’s going to be a good night! Expect a full review tomorrow.