Country Spotlight: Margaret Durante’s Nashville (And Beyond!) Diaries

September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm , by

One week to go! You have through September 30 to enter to win a trip to Nashville, including tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and a visit (plus lunch!) with Margaret in the studio. Watch the video for more details and click here to enter. After the video, read on to find out about Margaret’s continuing work on her upcoming album, all while she planned some downtime on a frantic yet fabulous European family vacation.

When I was a kid, I was convinced that time sped up during the month of August. The threat of a new school year would loom over me and I would lust after the month of June, where there were an infinite number of days to play outside and go to the beach. Now I think it’s downright funny that I used to dread the devastation that is (gasp!) the end of the summer because I love the fall. It’s my favorite of the seasons, for so many reasons. (Uhm, no, that rhyme was not intentional by the way.) Autumn is so full of anticipation and everyone is rejuvenated by their summer that they’re ready to tackle all the big goals they’ve set for themselves. And let’s face it, the clothes and the shoes are so much more exciting in the fall … and it’s not so dang hot outside.

Last I left you all, I was telling you about being in the studio and finishing up the vocals on 5 new songs we’d tracked for my upcoming album. The next steps in the whole process would be the selection of our favorite vocals; an overdub session (where the musicians come back to the studio and add new parts or change existing ones); a background vocals session; a mixing session; most likely another mixing session; and possibly even another one to redo the previous ones, depending on how fickle we are. Ha! As you can see, we weren’t nearly as finished with this project as I’d originally thought in my last post. Complicating things was the fact that I had long-standing plans to go on a big family vacation and the trip was landing smack dab in the middle of all this studio work. It all made me feel a bit anxious but, in hindsight, it was silly for me to worry. The recording process cannot and should not be rushed. My producer and label head, James Stroud, is as down-to-earth as it gets and he understands that while I have my musical family in Nashville, my family back home is very important to me, too. And besides—I was about to be heading off on my very own European vacation!

Don't let their age fool you: Pop-Pop and Mimi are young at heart and ready for some fun on the seas!

By the time I left the States, my parents had already been in Madrid a day. My mom’s parents (a.k.a. Mimi and Pop Pop), though, were flying to Barcelona with me and my two sisters and we were all to meet up in Barcelona, the city from which our Epic Norwegian Cruise Line ship was departing. Now, I fancy myself a seasoned traveler, but nothing prepared me for the insanity yet to come.

My sisters and I had just a 45-minute layover in Frankfurt in which we needed to get the three of us and our grandparents through customs, security and a mile-long sprint to our gate—conveniently located in the opposite wing of the airport. After an overnight flight to Frankfurt, we were completely groggy and exhausted, which just upped the difficulty level of this Amazing Race worthy feat. When we got off the plane, we loaded into a bus that seemed to meander for 20 minutes until arriving at the customs gate. My older sister Claire grabbed my younger sister Theresa and I by the wrists and asked every person in the line if we could pleeease cut ahead of them. Theresa and I were a little shamefaced about the line-jumping, but a group of sweet Irish women tsk-tsked anyone who put up a fuss. When we finally got through customs, we found the unflappable Mimi and Pop Pop all calm, cool and collected, being escorted by the crew from our flight. (They’d sat in a different section of the plane, so we’d actually taken different buses to customs.)

Me and my fly girls, Claire and Theresa, excited for our big family getaway.

Reunited with our grandparents, we all got on another long security line. Pop Pop was frowning at the connecting flights board and luckily someone noticed and quickly ushered us to an express line. (Side note: Pop Pop was wearing bright red pants and he’s a very dashing older gentleman. My theory is that people readily assist him because he so distinctly stands out.) Even with the help of the express line, we only had 20 minutes to get to our flight to Spain so Theresa and I decided we’d run ahead to the gate. I am not kidding when I say it was a 15-minute run, filled with stairs and elevators around every turn. Finally we saw our gate at the end of a hall. We sent someone driving a cart to find our grandparents and sister who were left behind, frantically yelling, “Find the man in the bright red pants!” Literally seconds before the door shut, we saw a cart zooming toward us with our crew. After all this, mind you, we were grounded for 15+ minutes due to technical difficulties, but we made it!

My little sister Theresa is also a little fashionista. Here we are enjoying the sights in Florence.

Getting there was so stressful that if I wasn’t ready for my vacation yet I was sure as hell ready by the time we boarded the ship. My mom’s little sister, Kippi, and her family met us in Barcelona along with her in laws, so we had a group of 13. Our first stop was in Florence and we saw so much: the statue of David, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio—it was all so beautiful! The next day we went to Rome and our guide Grazia knew her stuff, showing us Vatican City, St. Peter’s Cathedral and Basilica, the Roma Forum and the Coliseum, just to name a few places. Seeing the ruins was overwhelming and gave me a better understanding of just how “new” America is. Next stop? Naples! We saw Sorrento and Salerno and took a little boat down the Amalfi coast. We stopped in a small beach town and my sisters, parents and I sat in the middle of the square at a tiny café and ordered the best margherita pizza ever. (We also drank unpasteurized beer, which I’m pretty sure was my dad’s favorite discovery.) The last stop was Palma Majorca, Spain, which was also the first place I set foot in the Mediterranean. All in all, the vacation was incredible and I had never been to any of these places. I was so lucky to have the chance to see them, but even luckier to have my family there right beside me. And I would go through all the craziness of getting there over again if it meant I’d get another week like that.

With everything that everyone has going on, we were so lucky to find a time for the 13 of us to get together and make the trip. I clumsily forced myself to relax but if I’d had the ability to stay plugged in and connected from the other side of the world, relaxing would have been that much harder. Also, with music there is no 9-to-5 schedule and you are constantly on the clock. Some of the best song ideas come at three in the morning and there is no punching the card at the end of the day. I had lots of lovely distractions with my family, but the music I am working on was never out of mind. I felt like it was much needed time to let the songs marinate in their current state before proceeding and the music, I hope, will ultimately be better for it … but maybe I’m justifying my vacation too much now ☺.

Mimi and I kicking back and relaxing. It doesn't get much better than this!

I can bet that your life is filled with important things that demand your time and overwhelm you, but sometimes just taking a step back and allowing yourself the time to enjoy those around you can help hit that spiritual “reset” button. I’ll admit that there were times on my trip where I’d break down and log on to my satellite Wi-Fi—that charged an ungodly rate per minute, by the way—so I could check my mail and listen to the rough mp3s of my new music. Mostly, though, I had no other option but to enjoy myself and my family, which was liberating. Before I knew it, I was back in Nashville and back in the studio, keeping very busy with rehearsals for my upcoming show at the end of the month.

Like every year, I wish time had slowed at some points this past August, but it was time well spent no matter how quickly it passed. And as for the coming Fall? Well, I’ve got a few big goals to tackle, so bring it on!

3 Responses to “Country Spotlight: Margaret Durante’s Nashville (And Beyond!) Diaries”

  1. I love these chats with Margaret. She is a good writer as well as her music accomplishments. Good luck in the future. I am proud of you.

  2. Getting ready for my Jersey holiday weekend.

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