Nashville may be the country music capital of the world, but at a time when its struggling to rebuild from devastating floods, its billing as Music City has never been as fitting.
Recording artists from all genres who call Nashville home are responding to the disaster.
Pop star Ke$ha flew in from New York early last week and saw the damage before her plane touched down.
“I looked outside and I saw lakes, except for in the middle of the lake there would be a roof. I was a little confused,” she said in a phone interview.
After her mom picked her up, she heard on the radio about the number of animals in need of help, so they went straight to buy 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food and delivered it to a local animal shelter. Ke$ha feels so strongly about helping Nashville rebuild, she’s planning a benefit concert at Limelight on June 16.
“It’s my home. I don’t know anything else. It’s the place I come to help me feel all right and grounded,” she said. “This city has helped nurture me as a musician … I owe a lot to this place, which is why I’m taking it so close to heart and trying to help people realize the magnitude of the situation.”
Nine people were confirmed dead and at least 2,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in Nashville by the flooding that struck Tennessee May 1-2. Flood waters also submerged parts of the Grand Ole Opry House and the Opryland Resort as well as bars and clubs in the city’s downtown tourist district. About 2,600 people have been left homeless, and thousands evacuated. Damages have been estimated at $1.5 billion and climbing.
Still, despite the devastation, some in Nashville feel that the flooding has been underplayed nationally. Nathan Followill, drummer for the Grammy-winning rock band Kings of Leon, was in New York City when he learned about the flood.
“The news here was dominated by the oil spill (in the Gulf of Mexico) and the bomb scare in Times Square so I found out from a phone call. It was heartbreaking to see my city in such bad shape,” he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, and we are figuring out the best way for us to contribute.”
Fellow rocker and music producer Jack White feels lucky that the building where he physically established his record label, Third Man Records, escaped the flood. The Nashville resident is donating the profits that his record store made on Saturday to flood victims, and on Monday, he and the entire Third Man staff were planning to help with clean up efforts through Hands On Nashville, a volunteer agency.
“It’s just one of those things when you’re in any kind of community, if an asteroid falls, you all get together and clean it up. It doesn’t matter what it is,” said White.
Taylor Swift already has donated $500,000 to flood relief. She announced the donation last week during a local telethon where stars including Keith Urban, Vince Gill and Darius Rucker performed and helped raise $1.7 million.
“Being at home during the storm, I honestly could not believe what was happening to the city and the people I love so dearly,” said Swift in an e-mail to The AP.
Swift will be helping to raise more money on June 22 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena by performing at “Nashville Rising,” a benefit concert hosted by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. The lineup includes Miley Cyrus, Carrie Underwood, Lynyrd Skynrd, Brooks & Dunn, LeAnn Rimes, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Luke Bryan.
Brad Paisley, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Rodney Atkins and others will be participating in the first national telethon for flood relief on Sunday on the GAC network, from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium.
No matter how long it takes to repair the physical damage, Ke$ha is certain that Nashville won’t lose its vibe.
“Our sense of community is very strong, and I feel like everyone’s committed to helping each other. That itself can maintain a positive energy,” she said.
Followill of Kings of Leon agrees.
“Nashvillians are strong so I definitely think we will recover stronger than ever,” he said. “So tourists get … to Music City and help us get back to normal.”