Gretta Ziller walks Countrytown through her Nashville tour diary.
Sometimes, life presents us with moments so profound that, even as a songwriter, I do not have words for the experience. As I look back on my recent whirlwind trip to Nashville, I'm left with a heart brimming with joy, a head filled with music, and a soul moved by unforgettable experiences. Instead of boring you with a play-by-play of my entire journey, let me share the highlights that made this adventure truly remarkable.
My journey began with a week spent at the cozy home of my dear friend, Jasper "Shelton" Hollis, another graduate from the Academy. It was a week filled with creativity as I shuttled back and forth between Shelton’s place and Nashville for co-writing sessions. Collaborating with renowned songwriters like Derek Garten, Phil Barton, Kylie Sackley, and Mando Saenz was an exhilarating experience.
Gretta Ziller with Kylie Sackley & Phil Barton
Join our community with our FREE weekly newsletter
Gretta Ziller with Mando Saenz
Gretta Ziller with Derek Garten
That first weekend, I took full advantage of my time and drove to Muscle Shoals. I spent time at the W.C. Handy museum, where I stood before the piano he wrote St Louis Blues on and wept (My song St Louis is a thank you to this piece of music). He most famously is the ‘Father of the Blues’ but also is the starting point for my music career.
If you ever find yourself in Florence, Alabama, do not miss the W.C. Handy Museum—it's a small treasure trove of music history. I also delved into the rich legacy of FAME recording studio, toured a Frank Lloyd Wright house and stood in awe on top of an Indian mound.
My second week kicked off with more co-writing sessions, this time with the talented Jerry Salley and a very familiar name in Australian Country, O'Shea. Mark and Jay graciously hosted me, marking the beginning of my Nashville Sister Cities exchange—a heartwarming experience where I was welcomed into the homes of two other generous families.
The week was a blend of creativity and live music. I even embarked on an unusual musical journey, heading to The Caverns near Chattanooga for Darrell Scott's birthday tribute to Hank Williams—held in a cave! Yes, you read that correctly, a concert in a cave, and it was nothing short of extraordinary. Despite my two left feet, I also swung by Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge and Santa's Pub, where I soaked up the essence of Texas swing and two-stepping tunes.
Darrell Scott at The Caverns
The third week marked the culmination of my trip with Americana Fest. For years, I had heard vague and mystifying accounts from fellow Aussies who had attended the festival, but now I understand why. The festival is a whirlwind of seminars, showcases, meet and greets; there is so much going on that I now know that no two people’s experiences would be alike.
I attended seminars and talks, enjoyed showcases, met new friends, and rekindled old connections. The highlight was undoubtedly playing at the legendary Bluebird Cafe—a momentous occasion for any songwriter. My official showcase at Janes Hideaway was filled with joy, surrounded by friends and industry professionals. And, of course, the Aussie BBQ at The 5 Spot was a vibrant celebration of Australian Americana music and its incredible diversity.
In the end, I returned home with a heart brimming with inspiration and a vision for the next 12 to 24 months. My cup is not just full; it's overflowing with the joy of music and the experiences of a lifetime.
I'd like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the CMAA, The Academy of Country Music, Maton Guitars, the Tamworth Regional Council, Nashville Sister Cities, and all those involved for their dedication in making this scholarship available to artists like me. I cherished every moment, and I can hardly wait to embark on this musical journey once again.
Gretta Ziller performing at the Bluebird Cafe
1. Darrell Scott (If you don't already know who he is)
2. Teddy and the Rough Riders
3. Jessica Pearson & the East Wind
4. Brianne Lee
5. The Secret Sisters
Music has the incredible power to unite us, and my Nashville adventure reaffirmed that truth. It's not just about the songs; it's about the stories and the souls that create them. Nashville, thank you for filling my cup with the joy of music.