Exclusive: Watch Songwriting Legend Rodney Crowell Roam the Streets of Music City in "Nashville 1972"

Music Video Rodney Crowell
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When Rodney Crowell wrote “Nashville 1972,” he had no intention of even putting it on his next album, let alone making a music video for it. “I barely remember writing it,” Crowell says, estimating that it probably came about around five years ago after he started out with the song’s first line about his dog Banjo. It only existed on a cassette recording, but at some point—he’s still not sure how—his manager heard the song and insisted that it be on his forthcoming record, Close Ties, remarking that it would make the perfect bookend for the album’s opening track, “East Houston Blues.”

The song paints a picture of the world Crowell found himself in after arriving in Nashville and becoming involved with the burgeoning “alternative country” scene in the early ‘70s, with names like Guy Clark, Vince Gill and Steve Earle littered throughout the lyrical landscape. Asked what fundamental lessons he learned from coming up within that group, he quickly responds, “The writer’s work ethic,” adding, “You learn that writing is work, and all of us young guys in those formative years figured out that you just slept during the day and stayed up all night, at first in pursuit of girls and then in pursuit of the perfect song.” As with many great music scenes of the past, the well of creativity that seemed to be springing from Nashville at that time is something Crowell attributes to a sort of collaborative competition, saying, “With the poor man’s salons where we hung out, sitting around drinking and sharing songs, when you were working you’d be trying to come up with something that you could be proud of when it was your turn to play one.”

When it comes to the Nashville Crowell sees today, he believes things are coming full circle. “When I arrived it was anything but corporate,” he recalls, “but that got turned around, certainly coming into the ‘90s.” In his mind, a pressure to come in and find immediate success “didn’t allow for the gestation needed to bring poetry into the game. Young writers didn’t get a chance to ponder the poetry of it.” But he sees things coming around, especially in what he refers to as “the hipsters of East Nashville.” “It’s a lot like the whole society, where there’s this one percent of the industry that sees a lot of success, but you’ve got this subculture of dedicated artists coming into town who are in the pursuit of art,” he states, citing Maren Morris as a new artist he sees achieving major success with some “real chops.”

As for the video, it was directed by Reid Long on real 16mm black-and-white film and shows Crowell walking the streets of the titular city, where he ends up busking on the street outside Robert’s Honky Tonk—that is, until he serendipitously heard the band inside the bar playing one of his songs, the 1988 number-one country single “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” and decided to spontaneously join them onstage. “I don’t think we could have ended up with a better ending if we scripted it,” he says.

Watch Paste’s exclusive premiere of the video above. Close Ties is out March 31 via New West Records and available for preorder here. Crowell will be hitting the road next week for a spring tour around the U.S. and will also be playing a handful of festivals this summer. All of those upcoming dates can be found below, beneath video from his session in the Paste Studio in NYC earlier this week.

Rodney Crowell Tour Dates:

14 – Aspen, Colo. @ Wheeler Opera House
15 – Fort Collins, Colo. @ Bohemian Nights
16 – Boulder, Colo. @ eTown Hall
18 – Nashville, Tenn. @ TPAC at Andrew Jackson Hall (TEDxNashville)
23 – Kansas City, Mo. @ Knuckleheads
24 – St. Louis, Mo. @ Off Broadway
25 – Chicago, Ill. @ City Winery Chicago
30 – New York, N.Y. @ City Winery NYC
31 – Sellersville, Penn. @ Sellersville Theatre

01 – Washington, D.C. @ The Hamilton
07 – Austin, Texas @ Paramount Theater*
14 – Virginia City, Nev. @ Piper’s Opera House
16 – Nashville, Tenn. @ 3rd and Lindsley

07 – Santa Barbara, Calif. @ Lobero Theater
09 – West Hollywood, Calif. @ The Troubador
10 – Berkeley, Calif. @ Freight & Salvage
12 – Portland, Ore. @ Alberta Rose Theater
13 – Olympia, Wash. @ Capitol Theater

22 – Telluride, Colo. @ Telluride Americana Music Festival

27 – Fayetteville, Ark. @ Fayetteville Roots Festival

16 – Briston, Tenn. @ Briston Rhythm and Roots Reunion
22 – Amesbury, Mass. @ Amesbury Harvest & Country Music Festival
23 – Boothbay Harbor, Maine @ The Opera House

(* = Darrell K. Royal Homecoming Show Honoring Guy Clark and Tamara Saviano)

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