Oh Mercy’s latest album When We Talk About Love was written across three American cities on an elongated USA excursion by frontman Alex Gow. The album is full of personal, potent and polished pop songs, drawing inspiration from the Americana, steady rock and folk music that resonates in America’s south. Gow was based in Nashville for a few months, so we asked him to reminisce about his favourite things in the city he briefly called home.
Well, I was living in East Nashville on Porter Road. I liked it there. It’s close to ‘the action’ but far enough removed to enjoy some tranquil living. I lived in a log cabin – enormous and 100-years-old. Dogs. Cafes. Mexican restaurants. In summer the lightning bugs (or fireflies) were a sight to behold. I thought I was losing my mind when I first saw them. Apparently they’re quite common in the South in the warmer months. There’s also churches. Baptist churches. Heaps of them. You can smoke inside in the bars. I don’t smoke, but I sure as hell did there. Drinking fine whiskeys for eight dollars. Smoking. Rock ‘n’ roll music. Good stuff. I even started going to church. I thought it might be a good way to meet women. I wasn’t wrong.
Apart from my bed, I most liked to spend my time in bars. There were a couple of no fuss bars close by, most of which hosted live music. The 5 Spot. Dino’s. Mickey’s. I would wake up late. Drink some coffee. Go for a jog. Make some music in my undies. Eat some oats. Then go to a bar for dinner. I would often remain there. Walk home. Take in the beauty of homes at night. Huge blocks. Some set back 20 odd metres from the road. No fence needed. Dogs on chains. Cat’s on pick up truck roofs. Quiet as hell. Sleep, repeat.
Well, I usually woke up too late for breakfast, but my first meal of the day was often from Mas Tacos (although I had to rely on the generosity of my housemate who had a car to drive me there). The tortilla soup was excellent, as were all of the tacos. The iced coffee horchata was great. Made me feel good. Full of beans. Excitable. My house mate was dating a girl that was working there. She was an excellent singer/songwriter. Most of the people working there were. The lines were often sizeable, but it was always worth the wait. Menu on the chalk board. Coloured outdoor lights indoors. Art by local artists on the wall. Great music. They’d sometimes play music recorded by their staff. (Don’t let that put you off, this is Nashville, it was always high class). They have their own food truck too. It would often be so busy that they’d have to park the truck in the car park of their own restaurant.
Favourite place to end a long night
Apart from in bed? Lets say on the roof top of Dino’s. Teaching my friends how to bowl a leg break while drinking cheap beer. The actual place smelt like deep fried dog breath, so the roof was the spot to be. Nashville, and the majority of the USA felt to me like a series of uninspired, cheap, pre-fab shop fronts with an Eden thrown in the mix every now and then. Now, life is hard, living well takes money, money is hard to come by – I get it – people are just doing their best. But it starts to bring a brother down. Until you hit somewhere like Dino’s. Which smells bad, but is in fact an Eden. A smelly Eden.
Favourite day trip
Well, my friend Pat and I would often try to kill ourselves at a hot chicken place. Hattie B’s it was called. Ordering the real hot one. It was seasoned with Ghost Pepper, which they put in grenades. Then we would play table tennis at his recording studio. Maybe ‘lay down some tunes’. Sometimes we would then go sing some Dusty Springfield songs karaoke style at Santa’s pub. No drinks on stage and no swearing. Then maybe break into a fancy hotel and swim in their pool. Talk about Townes Van Zandt andTaylor Swift.
Favourite place to swim
Nashville is land locked, but we spoke of heading down to the Gulf. We never made it. I spent a day at Percy Priest Lake with friends. It was a good time. Floating around on inner tubes of truck tires. Telling everyone that it’s nice to go swimming without having to worry about crocodiles. That usually I swim with a knife strapped to my leg. That my friend Tom from school got taken by a crock and a shark at the same time. Me and Chad kicked the footy. I took a screamer on his mum’s shoulders. Making friends for life.
Favourite hidden gem
The Flea Market was unreal. Some pretty interesting characters from outside of town would come in to sell their stuff. Happy to have a chat. I spent a lot of time sorting through people’s old family photos. One guy had ended up with a million of them, somehow. Some pretty poetic shots in there.You’d take a handful for a few dollars. After I’d been sorting through them for an hour, laughing, maybe crying a little, the guy asked me in his charming hillbilly manner, “Are you some kind of artist?” I took a moment, and replied, “No, I’m a pervert.” Not a lie. Photos of intimate, private moments that I’ve hijacked, thank you.
Don’t leave Nashville without…
You’ve gotta visit a honky-tonk on Lower Broadway. Music venues. Bars. With the neon signs. You know the ones. My favourite was Robert’s. As far as I understand, the best new players play in the house band there. They’ll get head hunted by older hot shot country guys to play in their touring band. Meaning, they can play real good. It’s all very impressive, even if country/rock ‘n’ roll isn’t your ‘thing’. Drinks are cheap. People are friendly. It’s a good time.
Best meal under $10
You’ve gotta try some hot chicken. Get the hottest. They’ll make you sign a waiver in case you perish. But if you manage to stay alive, you’ll be glad you tried it. Delish.
Oh Mercy are touring When We Talk About Love, playing Howler in Melbourne on Saturday August 22, Oxford Art Factory in Sydney on Friday August 28 and Woolly Mammoth in Brisbane on Friday September 4. Click here for info and tickets.