I'm playing shows this weekend in my hometown, St. Louis. I grew up in the city, moving out to the 'burbs when I was about seven. I fell in love in this city. To this day, I am deeply attached t the lazy Mississippi River, the rich culture, and the warm, practical Midwesterners that call St. Louis home.
What makes a place home? Is it geography? Where you were born? The place you feel at rest? Family?
I began informally exploring this concept about two years ago when I started making semi-weekly trips to Nashville. I knew that Nashville was where I wanted to work, but I still wanted to live in St. Louis. I wondered if it might be possible to do both- spend three day weekends in Nashville, and be home in St. Louis on the week days. My wife supported me, so I packed an overnight bag, and hit the road for Nashville to test my theory.
I built a ton of great relationships over the next year with many musicians in the Nashville area. I'd go down, meet for coffee or at their studio, and we'd have a great time together. Some friends were amazingly kind and let me sleep in their studio. Other times I would drive all night to get home, or sleep in my car. It was strangely bohemian, and I loved it.
But as all long distance relationships go, I eventually had to commit. The moment of decision came over Starbucks Coffee with a musician friend. He explained that until I was living in Nashville, I'll forever be the foreigner, the outsider. It hurt because I knew he was right.
I check my watch. It's 8:47 AM in St. Louis, and I'm killing time at Picasso's Coffeehouse before my first show today. It's been 9 months since I've called this place home, but it doesn't feel that way. The barista is a friend from high school. The owner of this place hired me to play music before I knew I wanted to do music for a career. I feel at home here more than anywhere in the world.
This is the problem with mobility, with modern life. You get to choose what and where home is. My ancestors knew that if they wanted to move to Nashville, it was a hard 7 day trip back to St. Louis. It's less than 5 hours on the highway for me to reach the place I grew up. You never have to say goodbye forever. You never have to commit.
This is my generation. Wandering across the earth searching for somewhere that feels like home.