RINCON — The sounds that emanated from Music City in 2020 weren’t always pleasant. The guitars, fiddles, banjos and other instruments in Nashville, Tenn., were interrupted by roaring tornadoes, violent protests and a bomb.
“I think everybody is still kind of wondering what happened,” Effingham County native Braxton Calhoun said Friday in reference to the latest disaster — a Christmas Day suicide bombing that devastated a part of Nashville that he visits regularly.
Calhoun is a singer-songwriter who has called Nashville home since shortly after his graduation from Effingham County High School in 2002.
“I love Nashville,” he said. “I have been a part of it for a long time and I have watched it grow from what it was until what is now. ... To see all the destruction is kind of hard to swallow.”
Calhoun was in Springfield visiting his family when he heard about the Second Avenue explosion that dealt another major blow to Nashville’s entertainment district. It has been dealing with COVID-19 since last March, which is the same month that a tornado outbreak slammed the city.
The twisters killed 25 people.
Nashville was also the site of fiery demonstrations following the May death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota. More protests throughout the year.
“On Christmas Day, I don’t really watch TV too much,” Calhoun said. “It was mid-afternoon before I even hard about (the bombing). When I did, my wife had to stop me from jumping in my truck and heading on up there right then.”
Calhoun was concerned about his friends, including some who lived in second-floor apartments in the area of the blast.
“Second Avenue is like a side street off of Broadway that has honky tonks and bars,” Calhoun said. “It kind of has its own vibe and I used to love to play down there a bunch. I played at B.B. King’s, which is down there, and I played at the Doc Holliday Saloon.
“Both of those are shut down right now because you can’t even get down the street.”
Calhoun hasn’t been able to get close enough to the damage to fully appreciate it. He was moved by something he saw close to it, however — a flag draped that was draped over a compromised building by Nashville firefighters.
“When I turned the corner and saw it — I’m telling you — that was a sight, man,” Calhoun said. “It was a promise that Nashville and this country ain’t never going to back down to people who just want to see things burn.”
Investigators haven’t determined a motive for the bombing that injured eight people and destroyed dozens of buildings. The explosion originated in a recreational vehicle owned by 63-year-old Anthony Quinn Warner, a Nashville resident who is believed to have acted alone.
“I know there are tons of conspiracy theories going on with everything these days but I don’t think there was anything going on with the bombing other than there was an individual who wanted to cause a lot of damage,” Calhoun said. “I don’t understand it, but I don’t understand a lot of what is going on right now.”
Calhoun said he expects noteworthy music to result from the strife caused by 2020’s numerous woes
“Whether you are Luke Bryan filling out arenas or someone like me who is playing the 11 a.m. shift on a Tuesday (in a bar), I’ve said these times will produce some of the greatest musicians you have ever seen,” Calhoun said. “It has been a growing time because people have had to pull back in and kind of focus on what truly makes them happy when it comes to music. Why did you even start playing in the first place? A lot of musicians had to ask themselves that question this year, including me.
“I think a lot of musicians are finding good answers.”
Calhoun said 2020 was a productive year for him despite Nashville’s troubles.
“The silver lining of the past year is that I got to spend more time with my family than at any time in the last fifteen years,” he said. “Without the live shows (because of COVID-19), it’s been great to focus on what my true passion is in music, which is songwriting. Now, after catching the producer bug about a year or two back, I’m starting to see some opportunities come out of that as well.”
Some of Calhoun’s songs have been pitched to Sony and Warner Music.
“Something I wrote is sitting on the desk of someone who could take it all the way,” he said. “The ironic part is — even though this has been a record hard year for musicians — I’ve had more opportunities than I’ve ever dreamed of.
“I am extremely blessed, man. I always try to think that the Lord is going to provide in the darkest of times.”