“Missoula,” a friend told me years ago, “just doesn’t quite work. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but this town just doesn’t work right.” At the time, I’m sure I didn’t know what he was talking about, but now, having grown accustomed to the bizarre ebb and flow of people in and out of this town, I think I understand.
It may be something that generally afflicts the post-collegiate set, or it could be some combination of socioeconomic forces, but whatever the cause, Missoula seems to be a nice place to visit (for like, 10 years) but not a place that many seem to be able to hang onto for very long. Especially musicians.
Cory Heydon is a prime example of this, and at the same time, it is clear that this veteran of the local bar circuit has definitely outgrown the valley that has been his home since starting college. Barring short stints in Austin and San Diego, Heydon has been a fixture in over 10 bars and restaurants in Missoula for more than five years. Indeed, it’s time to move on and try something new.
“I could stay here and play three or four nights a week until I’m 70 years old,” Heydon says, “and I have a million reasons to stay, but one reason to go that’s more important—regret. I don’t want to regret not trying this out.”
What Heydon is going to “try out” is the nothing less than the Nashville music scene. And while such an endeavor is fraught with all kinds of fiduciary and spiritual peril, Heydon is encouraged by friends who’ve made the move to the Music City. Incidentally, one of those friends is Susan Gibson, who you might remember for belting out tunes in Missoula a few years ago. In fact, you’ve no doubt heard Gibson’s work, post-Missoula; she wrote the song “Wide Open Spaces” that made the Dixie Chicks the current darlings of country music.
But for Heydon, the draw of musical friends in Nashville is only part of the attraction. “I’m looking forward to pounding nails,” says the part-time carpenter. While Heydon’s blend of country, folk and blues has served him well enough to avoid wage slavery, the idea of not “living in bars all the time” appeals to Heydon.
“I just want to hang out and learn more about songwriting,” says Heydon. “The times I’ve been there, there’s been this great vibe with the people I know there, this ‘River Runs Through It,’ Montana-mystic thing, which is cool.”
For Heydon, a native of Redyard (yeah, that’s in Big Sky Country), the Montana-mystic, singer/songwriter thing should play out well. His songwriting is pure Americana, lending itself best to Heydon’s own singing and playing, but no doubt attractive to veteran performers in search of well-crafted song. Going to Nashville and taking a shot at another level of success seems like a natural next step for Heydon.
And in a way, making that step is probably the best reply to my friend’s assertion that Missoula doesn’t work; Missoula does work, sometimes so well, that it’s successes have to move on.
Cory Heydon plays his farewell gig this Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Top Hat at 10 p.m. Cover $2.