Years ago, I saw Vince Gill at the Bluebird Café in Nashville. Tennessee. I sat within five feet of him. Close enough to reach out and shake his hand, but I didn’t. He was a legend and I was an amateur songwriter that felt unworthy to be within such proximity of greatness. I felt like any second someone was going to come along and ask me to leave. “Excuse me sir, but that chair is reserved for celebrities or you know, important people. You’ll need to leave immediately.” My fears were slightly relieved when the lights went down and the show started. I was safe for now.
It was a songwriters round, as per usual at the Bluebird. Four songwriters sitting in a circle. Playing hit songs and telling well-crafted stories. Each song was perfect. I remember thinking I should give up songwriting because I could never write at the level I was hearing. Towards the end of the show, Vince Gill sang “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and my life changed. It was a song he had written for his brother’s funeral. I’m sure he had sung it a million times. But on this night, he became transparent, emotional and affected by his own words. He was reliving the pain from which that song came and I saw the tears form in his eyes and fall to his lap from my courtside seat. It was a powerful and vulnerable moment. I actually felt like I was intruding on a private conversation and that I should quietly excuse myself and leave. I remember a brief pause at the end of the performance. The moment was so sacred, we weren’t sure if we should interrupt it with applause. And then we did. With grown men pretending their allergies were acting up and women checking to see how much mascara had been wept away, we applauded. We hurt for Vince because he had shown us his broken heart. And we hurt for ourselves because if you’ve lived long enough, you have felt sorrow. And that song triggered our memories. The kind of sorrow that rings true in “Go Rest High On That Mountain.”
A song had changed my life. Driving home that evening, I was obsessed with the idea of duplicating the experience in some form or fashion for my friends in Atlanta and strangers around the country. I’m not talking about just inviting a few songwriters and sitting in a circle and swapping songs. No, I wanted to create a continuum of powerful moments that could change the lives of people everywhere. I wasn’t totally sure how to do it, but I knew I had to simply start... so I did.
In April of 2007, in Milton, Georgia at Scottsdale Farms Landscape Company and Nursery, Home By Dark, simply started. - james