It All Begins With A Song, 2020.
Directed by Chusy.
Nashville, USA has always been known as Music City and It All Begins With A Song lets you know why. This documentary examines the work of those that create their art behind closed doors – bringing you all the songs you know and love.
It All Begins With A Song quite literally captures magic. Using a series of interviews, anecdotes, and acoustic performances, It All Begins With A Song places you right in the heart of a writing room and it’s hard not to walk away from this documentary feeling inspired and a better person for it. That is the power of music – something that It All Begins With A Song repeatedly homes in on. Being catchy is only one small reason why a song becomes a hit. Nashville’s songwriters take the human experience and condense it down into a three-minute masterpiece – and here we see that first hand.
Chusy really excels as director here. It All Begins With A Song has an 80 minute run-time which feels like it’s over in the blink of an eye. It takes great skill to use primarily spoken testimony alone to hold an audiences attention for 80 minutes but Chusy does effortlessly. The documentary has a great opening guaranteed to draw any sceptics in. You may not recognise any of the faces you see – but these people know that. As Brett James says, “Nobody knows who the fuck I am.” Moments later however, they all start reeling off the songs they’ve written: Don’t Stop Believin‘ (Journey), Stay (Rihanna), Like I’m Gonna Lose You (Meghan Trainor), Dude Looks Like A Lady (Aerosmith) and soon they all sound a little bit more familiar. It All Begins With A Song is a gateway to a whole new realm of the music industry that most people never delve into. The documentary highlights that there a probably over 100 songs being written in Nashville right now at this moment in time. This is the magic that makes Music City what it is and it jumps out of the screen.
It All Begins With A Song uses well-known quotations to divide the documentary into chapters. Perhaps the most famous of these is Harlan Howard’s “Country music isn’t nothing but three chords and the truth.” The documentary proves just how right Howard was in what is a surprisingly moving final act – and the documentary’s most in-depth case study. This examines a song called I Drive Your Truck – made famous by Lee Brice and written by Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary. Harrington came up with the idea for the song after hearing a man called Paul Monti speaking on the radio. Monti confessed how after losing his son, Jared, in Afghanistan, he took to driving Jared’s truck to help ease his grief. Alexander, Harrington, and Yeary then turned this into an incredibly heartfelt song. As Monti is being interviewed on how the song has impacted him, Alexander and Harrington turn up at the door. It’s a poignant moment followed by an incredibly raw acoustic rendition of the song. Despite having never met Monti prior to this, it’s evident that in the space of three-minutes, they captured his feelings perfectly. If It All Begins With A Song wanted to highlight how powerful song-writing can be, it most definitely did.
There are other stripped-back performances littered throughout It All Begins With A Song each encapsulating what the documentary is trying to say. The documentary’s featured songwriters recount all of the times they have faced rejections. Caitlyn Smith’s performance of her song, This Town Is Killing Me, then exemplifies this. She sings, “I sing my lungs out/confess my secrets, all my sins/but they don’t gave a damn/because if it don’t sound like the radio, pass.” In Nashville, song-writing is a religion. It’s how people cope with emotion but that doesn’t mean they never falter – which It All Begins With A Song shows. Jonathan Cain accounts how he almost gave up on song-writing when he couldn’t catch a break. He phoned his dad who told him, “Don’t stop believing, John.” The next day, Cain entered the writing room and wrote Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ – and it’s fair to say things changed wildly for him after that.
It All Begins With A Song is a great tourism ad for Nashville – but it’s also so much more. It’s a musical education and one that is set to inspire creativity in so many of its viewers. Regardless of what category of music you listen to, we all connect to the same thing – lyrics. When you strip the instruments away, what’s left are words. It All Begins With A Song introduces us to the creatives who pour their hearts out on a daily basis – and for that, we’re grateful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Available digitally on March 3rd 2020,