(Source: By Tony Sauro, The Record, Stockton, Calif. (MCT) Victoria George has completed her educational degree in the real world of Nashville’s Music Row.
“I learned a lot about songwriting,” said the Corte Madera-based singer-songwriter and guitar player. “I was challenged in that it really upped the ante. I was able to mostly roll with it, but I’m definitely a Northern California girl.”
After spending 21/2 years in Music City – headquarters for American country songwriters, musicians and record executives – George is back home in Marin County.
She mastered some of the technical skills, but just couldn’t apply that slick Nashville sheen to her instinctively organic Americana folk sound.
So, there’ll be little noticeable difference when she and her five-piece band play Friday at St. Jorge Winery in Acampo.
“It was the best and worst of times, as they say,” George said of her Tennessee sojourn between 2008 and 2011. “Nashville’s a tough nut to crack. It’s easier to make a living here. But I got tons of songs from Nashville.”
That’s partly because songwriting – George grew up playing sports and learning languages and literature – is a 9-to-5 job there.
“I wrote almost any day I could,” George, 31, said recently as she entertained Shelby, her 4-month-old daughter. “I’d get thrown in a room with a perfect stranger. See what happens with so-and-so. It was either a home run or I couldn’t wait for the four hours to be over.”
She’d been creating under contract for a Nashville publishing company while living in Marin County.
“People said, ‘Hey, you should go to Nashville,’ ” George said. “So, I did. It’s like going from being a big fish in a small pond to being a little fish in a really big pond. It becomes very competitive.”
George, born in Fairfax in Marin County, lived in East Nashville, a “cool little neighborhood” with antebellum history across the Cumberland River.
“I think Nashville is a wonderful place,” George said. “But I definitely heard some things that made my head spin. Racially.”
Musically, it wasn’t her thing, as evidenced by “Lately I,” a five-track recording (her third since 2007) released after she returned to California in May 2011.
“Nashville music is very polished,” said George, a self-described “Americana” artist. “At least the main songwriters. … I like more organic-ness. I relate to more organic, laid-back, less-polished music with a little more dirt left on it.”
The music of Miranda Lambert and Eric Church fits that description for George, but most contemporary country “doesn’t really appeal to me,” she said. “It’s very messaged with a religious kind of overtone. Very conservative. I’m kinda sick of that stuff. Country music has a lot of dirt roads, but Americana is more exciting.”
George did learn about structure, style and technique during three- and four-member songwriter-in-the-round sessions: “Everybody keeps moving around the circle, talking about how their song came from a melody or a guitar lick.”
George – “I knew I liked to sing” – didn’t strum her initial guitar chord until she was 19. At Sir Francis Drake High School, she played softball and volleyball, competed in gymnastics and acted in musical theater.
It helps that she has a “very supportive,” “artsy-fartsy” family. Mom Judith is a photographer, father Frank collects art and older sisters Alexa and Jesslyn work in art in Southern California: “My medium just happened to be music.” Husband Adam is in the mortgage business.
George studied French and French literature at the University of Virginia, planning “to learn languages (she also knows Italian) and go live in Europe.”
After getting a guitar for her 19th birthday, she learned, “I could play a couple of chords, but it was so brutally hard to play. The physicality and coordination. It was hard on my fingers. I’d get calluses. But it was my vehicle for songwriting. If you’re a painter and you’re given three colors, you’re still gonna paint, but not with as much variety.”
Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Griffin, the Dixie Chicks, Tom Petty and Jackson Browne impressed and influenced her. George’s language became Americana folk music.
In 2008, she played a Nashville show with Junior Brown, a “guit-steel” specialist from Indiana. His manager was sufficiently impressed and George decided to “give (Nashville) a shot and see what it had to offer.”
Her third full-length album is in “fledgling form,” she said – “As much as you can with a newborn” – and George values her Nashville lessons.
“There was a lot of feedback and heartbreak,” she said. “I really had to figure out how to be me and maintain my sound. It took awhile after coming back to get comfortable.
“It’s kind of a good challenge to know what I really like. This is me. I don’t care if the people at Sony Records like it. It’s like a school of music there. I’m very grateful to Nashville. I had a lot to learn. You never can learn too much.”
Contact reporter Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2012 The Record (Stockton, Calif.)
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