It All Begins With a Song REVIEW – Simplistic But Effective

It All Begins With a Song offers a standard but effective documentary approach to the unsung heroes of the music industry.

It All Begins With A Song
It All Begins With A Song

When we think about songs, the first and often only thought that comes to mind is the performer. We rarely pause to think about all of the others that worked on bringing the song to our ears: producers, audio engineers and technicians, the crew that sets up and takes down the stage for shows; the list goes on. It All Begins with a Song, the new documentary from Venezuelan filmmaker Chusy (Anywhere, USA), shines on a light on arguably the most vital yet unknown force in the music business: the songwriter. Specifically, those that are based in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville is known as Music City, and for good reason. A wide variety of tunes can be heard continuously playing through its streets. Talk a walk around downtown and you’ll see musicians playing their hearts out in every bar, on every street corner, and even inside of banks. The city serves as the hub for the country music scene, playing host to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the infamous Ryman Auditorium, which has seen countless shows inside of its walls.

But what exactly made Nashville the place to be for music lovers? Chusy interviews a wide array of songwriters and performers that call the city home, but most of the real reasons remain mysterious. Some choose to thank the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly broadcasted stage concert held in the city that began in 1925 and continues to this day, making it the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. At the time when radio was king, the program was credited with bringing flocks of fans and artists to the city. That’s certainly a factor, but most of the interviewees settle on the fact the area just has a certain vibe and energy to it that attracts people.

Most of Chusy’s subjects arrived in Nashville ready to make it big, encouraged to move there and become part of the community in order to make their dreams come true. Of course, like any struggling artist, they spend years waiting for opportunities, waiting tables, living off of credit cards, and playing wherever and whenever they can. One person states that “Everyone here is a world-class gifted musician or songwriter”, but for so much competition, the atmosphere is anything but toxic. The interviewees remark on how helpful everyone there is, and how there’s an endless stream of free advice and collaboration. Some locales, such as The Bluebird Café, are known to be spaces that encourage and assist the city’s up and coming songwriters.

Songwriters are often overlooked, perhaps owing to the fact that most people don’t care to know the writer behind their favorite artists’ hit songs. They don’t receive the same recognition that the performers do, and chances are that most viewers of this documentary will be unfamiliar with their names, but will certainly know of their work. Chusy highlights the various writers’ credits – ranging from songs performed by Elvis to Willie Nelson to Christina Aguilera and countless more – and gives them the opportunity to perform their songs themselves.

But this isn’t a story about how these artists are bitter or jaded about not having the superstar status that the people performing their songs have. Chusy’s interviewees live for the writing process, which they describe as therapy, a drug, or prayer. According to them, the act of songwriting is opening oneself up to receive, and It All Begins With a Song captures that magic and joyous feeling that music creates. It explores how it’s a universal and collaborative affair, how songs have the power to turn bad into good, and the emotional impact that they leave on both the listener and the creator.

The documentary’s approach is simplistic, consisting almost entirely of its numerous interviews. There’s plenty of information about the music industry and creative process that aspiring musicians and fans will find interesting, but the lack of a narrative can often make it tough for the film to keep your complete attention. Still, music lovers can find many inspiring stories and words of wisdom within It All Begins With a Song, and the talent on display is undeniable. As both a way to recognize and celebrate the countless songwriters that call Nashville home, the documentary is a winner.

Review screener provided

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It All Begins With A Song
It All Begins With a Song offers a standard but effective documentary approach to the unsung heroes of the music industry.