Photo courtesy of 90 East Photography and Think Country/Nashville People
Nashville is a boom town when it comes to employment. Need a job? Move here. There are so many jobs available there aren’t enough people to fill them. We need bodies. I know this because I have a daughter that works as a manager in retail and she struggles to find employees. When it comes to jobs, there are so many different kinds here. There is one job that you’ll never see anyone hiring for though. It’s called Parent of an Artist.
There are so many young artists in this town that rely on their parents in order to work in the music industry. Their parents drive them to gigs. Adults need to accompany minors to most venues if they want to play there. Young artists are often still going through school and living at home, so there’s a financial burden they don’t have to worry about as much as older artists that are on their own. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
These parents come in every form you can imagine. They all have their own way of handling their situation. Some are heavily involved with their child’s career. Some prefer to hang back as much as possible. There are the “momagers”, the mothers that serve as their artist child’s manager and become so entwined in the business that they develop a rather notorious reputation around Nashville. Back in the day, they were referred to as “stage mothers” and if someone saw one approaching, they usually ran. These are the parents that work too hard to try and further their child’s career, to the point of becoming a nuisance.
Not every parent of a young artist is difficult. Many are quite the opposite. When Nashville People decided to interview one of these parents, we knew we weren’t going to look for a “momager” type (and fathers can be just as bothersome as mothers). We wanted someone who fell into the “laid back” artist parent category. It didn’t take us long to think of one.
Angie Davis is the mother of young country artist, Ava Paige. Paige, who we have interviewed twice for Think Country, and covered extensively, is currently battling leukemia. At this time, she’s having her ups and downs and trying her best to keep up with her music a little bit at a time when she’s feeling up to it. We thought it would be interesting to find out what it’s like to be the parent of a young artist and having the added responsibilities, stress and emotional roller coaster of a major medical issue going on with that child. We wondered how she was doing it. She agreed to talk to us about it and I think you’ll find what she had to say interesting. I also think you’re going to fall in love with her. I’ll let you hear things just as they went that day in Davis’s living room in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.
Photo courtesy of trip101.com
Nashville People: Where were you born?
Angie Davis: Seymour, Tennessee, that’s in Sevier County, in between Dollywood and Knoxville. It was a little one light town at the time. It’s bigger now.
Image courtesy of townmapsusa.com
NP: What brought you to Nashville?
AD: Nursing school.
NP: Being a mom to two kids, one in music, the other not in music, and having a husband too, you juggle a lot of stuff. What’s your secret to not losing your mind?
AD: Hmmm… I wish I could say it was alcohol but I don’t drink (laughing).
NP: Well, that throws that answer out.
AD: You know, I don’t know.
NP: Are you just lucky?
AD: I don’t get stressed a lot. I just kind of go with the flow. Even during my pregnancies my husband was like, “You’re not even hormonal.” I never really have those big mood changes, I’m just kind of even keeled. What you see is what you get. I always try to have a positive attitude on everything. I try to be the devil’s advocate. I don’t know, I just try to go with the moment and not get too stressed out with the situation. Pick your battles. I have a seventeen-year old son that drives me crazy and pushes my buttons and has had me more riled up than anyone has in my whole life, but I love him, he’s my boy.
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: So, you just kind of let things happen and take the “this too shall pass” attitude.
AD: Yeah. You know, they can’t live at home forever. (Laughing)
NP: (Laughing) And you have a good sense of humor.
AD: Luckily, my husband, we’re a lot alike on a lot of things. We believe in just giving your best and being good to others and it comes back around and trying to live a happy life. (Laughs) He always has this quote, “A pig lives in mud long enough, it loves the mud,” but I mean, you can always try and make the best out of situations, have faith in your God that it’s gonna work, and he always laughs at me that I can actually fall asleep with everything going on. At night I can lay my head down and I’m at peace with things. So, whatever, bring it on, you know. (Laughs)
NP: It’s either going to work or it’s not. (Laughs)
(Daughter Ava Paige interjected here as she was in the room at times during this interview)
Ava Paige: We were in the ICU one time, and in the ICU, there’s no such thing as sleep there, and privacy, there’s no such thing as privacy either. So, they raised my bed up and I don’t know why. The cot the parents are supposed to sleep on was way behind, like, I couldn’t see you (referring to Angie), and she was like, “No, we’re not doin’ that,” so she put a rocking chair right next to my bed and she just face planted on the bed all night.”
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: Now, that’s what you call going with the flow.
AD: That’s it, exactly. She always wanted to be able to see us even if we were in the same room.
NP: You could see her right?
AP: Oh, yeah. (Laughing)
NP: Did you ever dream that Ava’s career would go as far as it has already when she was a little girl?
AD: At fourteen and fifteen, probably not. We knew it would happen just because we saw that drive at such a young age. I mean, she was constantly bringing me pieces of paper, “I wrote a song, write it down,” because she couldn’t write. I just found a couple, by the way, I love that. I find those videos of her singing karaoke and when she started taking guitar it kept coming. The drive was there so young. You know, especially guitar, sometimes she’d get frustrated, but even still, in the back of my mind, I guess we always figured that would be her way to go. Now, at fourteen and fifteen, she just turned fifteen, probably not. I don’t think we thought at thirteen she’d be out making relationships to work on her craft and writing.
NP: You thought maybe at this point she’d still be taking guitar lessons and working on it, but not out doing it professionally.
AD: Right, not this young. Later on, yeah maybe, but at fourteen I wouldn’t think she’d be out playin’ bars, but we knew something was there pretty early and we decided to throw fuel on it. With both kids we tried to throw so much at them and see what sticks. You know, volleyball, baseball, soccer, softball, gymnastics, Taekwondo, tennis, golf, they’ve done a lot. They’ve done it all. My son drifted more toward sports, even though I made him take piano for three years and he hated every bit of it, so I finally stopped. Ava quit sports even though she loved softball and she still golfs. So, you just have to see what sticks, but with Ava we just knew what stuck because the drive was there. Guitar lessons weren’t like, “Ugh, guitar lessons today,” it was more like, “It’s guitar lessons today!” She always looked forward to them.
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige Music
NP: What’s a typical day like for you on one of Ava’s gig days?
AD: Well, I’m her alarm clock. I wake her up in the morning. This musician’s life, we had to get used to that. You’re out until ten or eleven at night and you sleep until nine or ten. My role mainly was reminders. I would be a great reminder. She would practice and I would say, “Hey, do you want to run through your set with me?” I do her clothes mainly. She’s not one for fashion so I do all her clothes for her.
(Ava Paige overheard this part of the conversation and jumped in)
AP: My mom dresses me and she does a good job.
NP: So, you’re a little bit like the fashion coordinator.
AD: I’m not a fashion model, just with her. (Laughs) Let’s see, I get breakfast for everybody. Like, for The George Jones, we know we have to be out the door at this time and it’s almost like it’s gotten to be clockwork, a natural kind of thing.
NP: If you weren’t the one who was watching the time, would things fall apart?
AD: No, she’s good at that, but I tell her the time. Like, “Hey guys, we have to be out of the house by seven.” She’s the one that’s dressed and ready to go. My son, that’s a different story, but we’re talking about her. No, she’s typically ready right when she needs to be. She packs all her stuff. I don’t do any of that now. Now, when we first started, I will admit, she was maybe ten or eleven when she started to do some gigs, there have been extra cables bought at the nearest music store, you know, but my husband’s real big on having things where you need them and having them there and making sure if you need a cord you have a backup cord. If you need batteries, you have backup batteries. So, we’re really good about making sure she has what she needs. I’ll always remind her if she’s running low on batteries that we need to get her some.
NP: How many times have you had to run from a gig to buy, say, strings, because she broke one?
AD: When she was younger there was one set where she kept having difficulty with one of her Taylor guitars and the fretboard kept breaking ‘em. I might have had to run upstairs at The George Jones and borrow some strings.
(Ava interjected here)
AP: I went through five packs.
AD: The one string kept breaking and the girl upstairs was looking for batteries so we swapped, so that kind of worked out. One time we showed up at a gig and they didn’t tell us we needed in-ear monitors so I had to run to Guitar Center to buy her those. There’s been hit writers who are professionals that have been playing for years who have played in rounds she’s in, they’ll break a string or need an extra battery. My little girl, at thirteen, would raise her hand and say, “I have an extra one,” and she’d go get them whatever they needed. She’s usually pretty prepared, so I don’t really go do those things too often. She forgot her guitar strap one time and she just had to play without the strap. That was a long time ago, but those days have stopped. She’s good now.
NP: Life has gotten easier and better through experience.
NP: So, you would say your day is pretty easy as far as getting ready for a gig because she’s learned to be self-sufficient and prepared.
AD: Yeah, it is. The only thing is when you’re trying to make time in that day to get to your son’s baseball game because you haven’t gone to one in a long time.
NP: When they’re both on the same day?
AD: Right, at the same time. It’s so hard, especially when she’s gigged so much. Me and my husband, we try and swap out, but mainly he’s baseball and I’m music because he can’t do the late night stuff. He has to work every day to make sure we can do this.
NP: There’s not a jealousy between the two kids, right?
AD: Oh, no. They’ve never been that way. The other thing is trying to make time for your spouse. You know how on airplanes they always say to put the oxygen masks on yourself before your kids?
AD: Well, we always had this thing when the kids were younger where we would take a vacation without the kids. Our feeling was if mom and dad aren’t healthy, the family’s not going to be healthy.
NP: That’s really true.
AD: I mean, there’s crazy times where we’re like passing ships in the night. I’m coming to bed real late and he gets up real early. Even sometimes where I have to go lay down with her (Ava) if she’s having a bad night and she’ll go, “Go lay down with Daddy, he needs you more than I do right now.” (Laughing) So, I would say that’s probably the hardest thing, it’s adjusting my time where I have enough for everybody.
NP: I would agree, that must be very difficult.
AD: Then there’s trying to have my hair done twice a year. (Laughing a lot)
NP: Interesting people you’ve met via Ava’s career? I’m sure you’ve met quite a few just because you have to go to all these gigs.
AD: Oh, yeah.
NP: Also, while she’s playing, I’m sure people are coming up to you and saying how talented she is.
AD: One of the craziest things that happened, and I felt really bad because I should have known, was when Ava was singing at Cool Springs Mall and a gentleman was watching and taking pictures and he came up to me and said, “Your daughter’s so good, she’s amazing,” things like that. You know, you hear that a lot and you’ll thank them and you don’t know if that’s enough and you wonder if you come across as genuine because I am genuine. I love to hear that and I do appreciate it. Then he was just asking if she covers “When You Say Nothing at All”, and I told him that she didn’t. Some of those songs, you have to really perfect them before you play them at a gig. She was doing “Girl Next Door” and that’s the one he was freaking out about, and he told me, “I just texted Brandy Clark and told her I just saw this thirteen-year old girl do ‘Girl Next Door’ at Cool Springs Mall and she was really good, you should have seen her.”
NP: Anyone that tells you he just texted Brandy Clark is going to make you take notice.
AD: You kind of do and you kind of don’t. You don’t know. It’s Nashville, so you never know. You kind of half expect that someone could know Brandy Clark. So, then he said, “Well, I bet she could do ‘When You Say Nothing At All’ really well.” I said, “Oh, thank you,” and we were just talking and then he said, “Well, I just wanted to say I think she has a great future,” and I thanked him and then he walked off. He never said his name or anything and I just thought it was really sweet of him to say that. So, we were at the food court grabbing something to drink after she was done and I looked down at my phone and on Twitter, Don Schlitz had tweeted about Ava singing this Brandy Clark song, “Oh, my gosh, you need to hear this 13-year old singing this song,” and I’m going, “Oh, my God,” so, he wrote “When You Say Nothing At All”. He wrote “The Gambler”.
Video courtesy of Songwriter Agency and YouTube
NP: You were probably thinking, “I should have talked to him more!”
AD: I should have at least known who he was.
NP: Yes, but faces aren’t something you’re going to necessarily know all the time.
AD: And that’s the reason that Brandy Clark started following Ava on Twitter and we still stay in touch with her. She just came and saw her. That’s how we got in touch with her. She followed Ava after that and just after that the last couple of years she’ll reach out, “Loved your cover,” and when she got sick she was like, “I want to come see her,” and she came and saw her. So, that was kind of how we met her, through all that stuff.
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: That’s really cool.
AD: Like, the whole Ashley (McBryde) thing, we met from Travis Meadows and Cheley Tackett, that whole circle, but it’s amazing when you find out how big this town is, but it’s so small.
NP: It’s so small, so, so small and you never know who you’re standing next to, and sometimes you’ll hear people talking and it’s very hard not to want to jump in and say something.
AD: Exactly, or you have to be really careful about critiquing a song in public because the writer could be sitting right next to your table, or driving your Uber and listening.
NP: Right, you just don’t know.
AD: We taught her that growing up. We really worked on her tact, just to teach her. That’s something as a parent I thought was really important. If I was going to release my thirteen-year old into a world with all these writers who were mainly older, one, she had to be able to tote her load, to carry herself and present herself. I don’t want to be right there with you. We wanted her to interview well and speak well. I don’t want to say “adultish”, but carry her own, because she never wanted to be like the little thirteen-year old, do you know what I mean?
NP: Oh yeah, definitely. Now that I know her, I sure do.
AD: She still doesn’t want to be the little fifteen-year old.
NP: She doesn’t come across that way. (Ava was in the room at that point and I told her directly that she did not come across in a juvenile manner to me)
AD: So, that’s what we were trying to do, and I would get her books or we would listen to podcasts on how to have a good co-write, or what not to do at a co-write. I would try to help her learn those things because as a parent you just want to set your child up to be a success, you know? She can learn from her failures and her mistakes, that’s all good, but I kind of wanted to give her the ground rules so I researched and I learned. I found out which podcasts to listen to. Then there were times she would come home and say, “I did not like that co-write at all. I’m not going back.” I would tell her, “No. You’re going back and you’re going to finish it. You’re going to give them another chance.” You know, I never wanted to put her in harm’s way, but just because it wasn’t the most fun you’ve ever had doesn’t mean you don’t finish it. You go give them another chance, and she’s learned that sometimes the second time is way better than the first.
NP: Right. Somebody could have just had a bad day that first time.
AD: Yes, somebody could have had a really bad day the first day of the write, but you know, I didn’t know anything about the music business.
NP: True. Coming in as a nurse, how would you?
AD: Yeah, it’s been a learning experience, and meeting all those people has been kind of neat. You do get to talk to everybody because you’re the proud mom and everybody points out the mom because I’m always there. She never really goes anywhere without me.
NP: Do you ever have this dream that one day you’re just going to be able to sit there in the audience as an anonymous person and just watch?
AD: No, I want everybody to know I’m mama! (Laughing out loud) Yeah, well, I mean, we’ve gone backstage at the Opry and we watched the curtain come up and I just remember looking at her and thinking I can’t wait for the day when I get to sit out there and watch that curtain come up and see them bring you out on stage. Those moments, yes, and I can be waving and wearing whatever, an “I’m Mama” shirt (laughing). I’m all good with that.
NP: It has to be quite an experience to have your daughter in that situation.
AD: It is, and you never get tired of hearing your daughter sing.
NP: I know, and not even the same songs.
NP: You know firsthand what it’s like to have a child in the music business. For other parents who have kids that are seriously considering a move to Nashville to do this, is it expensive?
NP: Yes, so they should be prepared?
AD: Yes. Having kids in general is expensive. My son’s travel ball is really expensive. Her best friend rides horses and that’s expensive, almost anything they get in can be expensive, but I think at some point, they have to pick their passion. You throw so much at them and you see what sticks. I think at this age they know what they’re gonna do and you dive into that and you just kind of focus on that. Like my son, he’s not playing baseball and football now. He was, but now we invest in baseball, that’s our big one. I think if your child, I mean, we got lucky with this one, she knows, she’s passionate. She already knows what she wants to do with the rest of her life, that’s rare for a kid to know that. A lot of them go to college and still have no clue what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives.
NP: That’s true.
AD: We know that’s what she wants to do with the rest of her life. The dedication’s there, the passion’s there, so it doesn’t bother us to invest in it, but now she pretty much buys her own stuff. She’s made, invested and saved money, so now when she wants to buy a guitar, sometimes she can get dad to fork in a little bit, but a lot of the time she can just take it out of her savings from all of her tips. She’s lucky though, starting young. The people she’s out running around with, they’re trying to live on their own and do this, it’s hard. She got lucky starting early, making money she can spend. I mean, she’ll sock some away for her Loose Leaf tea that she gets, or art pencils or whatever she wants to buy, but mainly if we go to buy things like batteries or strings, it comes out of her account.
NP: That’s now, but along the way, those were things you bought.
AD: Oh, yeah, but anytime you see your kid passionate about something, and if you’re able to do it as a parent, you’ll buy it. Whether it’s t-shirts, jerseys, cleats, bats, whatever, every time they grow out of them. So, it was the same thing when she would grow out of her guitars when she was younger, we bought her second guitar, and a third guitar. Then we were like, “Now, this might be the last one we’re buying you. You can start saving up for your own now.”
NP: (Directed at Ava) As you keep excelling in this profession, I’m sure the guitar collection will continue to grow.
AD: Either you’ll get a sponsor or you better keep saving your tips. (Laughing)
NP: I think a sponsorship is coming Ava. Taylor should definitely be sponsoring you.
NP: Any advice to a parent of a kid who lives in, say, Des Moines, Iowa, and that kid is about thirteen, fourteen-years old and they’re Hell bent for leather to come to Nashville? They’re set on coming here because their kid’s been winning awards left and right in Des Moines and he’s good, but again, it’s that “big fish in a small pond” scenario. It’s always impossible to convince people of that. They never believe it until they actually get here. Then it’s a rude awakening. What’s your advice to those parents?
AD: If you come here you are definitely a little bitty fish in a big pond. I think we’ve spoken to a couple people on this. We’re lucky that Ava was born here. That makes a huge difference. If you’re not from here, my advice would be to hone in on your skills, continue to win those awards left and right, and come here whenever you feel like it. Come visit and vacation. Schedule some writes and make connections. Ava has co-writers that come here all the time, some that are here two weeks out of every month. To up and move at that age, I don’t advise that. I would just advise making all your connections and take as many trips here as you can, and then when the kid is eighteen-years old or ready to move on their own, they’ll have a good start.
(Ava wanted to add something here)
AP: She said come here on vacation, but make the connections while you’re here because there’s always Skype writing.
AD: Yeah, and she Skype writes a lot with people from out of state, and to just pack up and move here, I’ve seen people do that. They packed their whole lives up to hope to make it. You go broke real fast. Now, if you plan, maybe you’re saying, “I’m going to move to Nashville in five years.” What are you going to do in those five years to get yourself ready for that move? So, how about coming down here once a month or twice a month and make those connections? It’s all about relationships, and to say you’re going to pack up and move here to make those relationships, yeah, that would be nice and great, but then what are you going to do for income? You can’t just come here and live off whatever. Even if you have family here, you can’t live off them.
NP: Right. You have to have a concrete plan.
AD: So, why not take it slow? Come to Nashville, do some writes. Come to songwriter rounds, meet some people, hand out your cards, “Let’s write, let’s Skype write.” Get involved with the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) and the Global Songwriters Connection. Try and make as many of those connections as you can. Then when you get to write via Skype you get to know more people and guess what? The next time you’re planning a trip to Nashville you can say, “Hey, I’m coming to town in six months, let’s get together and write.” You get to know more people, maybe you write more than once. Ava does that with some people from out of town, like her Canadian co-writers. When they come in, they stay for two weeks because it’s expensive to come here. They get in as many writes as they can while they’re here. I would say do that, and publishing deals, if you’re looking for publishing deals or artists deals, they’ll sign you if you’re that good, you know. You don’t have to be here, but you should make all those relationships as much as you can while you’re away. Give yourself a deadline, you know, three years, five years and you’re going to move to Nashville. Hopefully by then when you show up in Nashville you’ve got ten people on the list ready to write with you or to give you gigs or those kinds of things.
NP: That’s great advice, because it’s your kid’s career, not yours, and you may not have the desire to move. When they hit eighteen if they still really want to go, they can start seriously putting the plan in action themselves.
AD: Now, if your kid’s fourteen from Iowa and they’re blowing it up, and they’ve already come down here and done the work, and they’ve got heads turning, and the family can make the move because your job allows it, that’s a different story, but that’s not common. It’s not common for a writer to make it. It’s not common for an artist to make it.
NP: It’s competitive.
AD: It’s very competitive.
NP: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being part of a music family?
AD: I would say all of the work you see singer/songwriters do and you still have to give your crap away. That, to me, is hard.
NP: I think that’s the answer that nobody else would think of to say. I actually think that’s the answer.
AD: Well, my husband and I own our own business, and if we just gave our stuff away I don’t think we’d make it.
NP: You wouldn’t.
AD: So, for him, he has a really hard time grasping how the music industry works.
NP: Everybody gives a lot of things away.
AD: Everybody, yeah. You give all your crap away and you’re praying somebody hears it and goes, “Okay, I’m gonna take a bet on you.” The only other thing I think I worry about or I think is hard or frustrating is, you have to watch who you let into your circle, as far as trusting them with all your stuff, like your money. Or there’s, “Oh, I believe in you Ava. You could be the biggest thing. We could get you signed. It’s only gonna cost you $1,200.00 a month or $2,000.00 a month. I could make you a star.”
NP: That’s so bad.
AD: I know, right? So, we have a good team now and we’re working on getting bigger and better, but we’re always out to find a champion and Ava’s found some really good champions now and I really believe in them, and believe they’re in it for the right reasons and they’re not waiting for us to put money in their pockets. That, to me, is good, because the last couple years, wow. You know, you just have to watch because you get phone calls. You get phone calls like, “Oh, I’d love to work with your daughter,” and that kind of stuff.
NP: There are a lot of shady characters out there.
AD: Yes, and there are a lot of people who don’t know the difference and they do give money away. You’re already giving your stuff away anyway.
NP: I think those types of people like to prey on artists that come here and really don’t have anyone looking out for them.
AD: Yes, or for the parents who have these “mommy goggles” or “daddy goggles” on. They’re like, “Oh, my gosh, my daughter’s gonna be the next Taylor Swift. I just know it, and he says he’s gonna make her the next Taylor Swift. Here’s all your money. Here’s $5,000.00.”
NP: In a lot of those cases, it’s all the money those people have in the world.
AD: Yes, and they give it away to take a chance and they lose it. So, those two. Giving all your stuff away, which is a hard one to grasp sometimes. I’m gonna go out and sing all these things for free. Do all these songwriter rounds for free and do all these things for free in the hope that the right person is gonna hear the right song at the right time.
NP: You can do that for years before something happens, and those things do happen. It’s not like they’re unheard of, but you could put in a lot of work for a long time before something ever does happen. Maybe it never will.
AP: It’s a ten year town.
NP: That’s a long time, but yeah, there are a lot of scam artists out there.
AD: Yeah, those two things are probably the biggest. Other than that, I don’t really worry about the people as far as her co-writers or anything. At first we had to deal with the age challenge, but she’s proven herself enough now. There are still some out there now that’ll be (rolls her eyes), you know, whatever, but when you get publishers looking at you and supporting you, but again, she’s working hard.
NP: The work ethic is there and the talent is there.
NP: So, what do you do for you to make your life happy? What does Angie do for Angie when Angie has five seconds to herself?
AD: Hmmm… (she was really struggling to think of something)
NP: (Laughing) Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Angie has no life at all.
AD: Well, I have a housekeeper. I’ve had her for ten years. She was just here today and she comes in every two weeks.
NP: Yes! You go girl! Best answer ever.
(Ava piped in again)
AP: You golf.
AD: Yeah. On Tuesdays I golf with my girls. I haven’t really done it this a lot this year because we’ve had some setbacks, but…
NP: When you said, “I have a housekeeper,” that was enough for me.
AD: That’s my splurge. I’m not one to really go out and shop for myself. I don’t buy jewelry. I don’t buy me a whole lot of things, except my housekeeper. That’s my splurge and for the last ten years it has been.
NP: I think I need to go on that route. For now, Bill’s my housekeeper and he does an okay job when he gets on a tear. He just needs to get on a tear more often. (Laughing)
NP: Now, because you will be featured in the NASHVILLE PEOPLE section, we’re asking locals like you for recommendations on some things. Where’s a good place to get coffee?
AD: Just Love Coffee on Demonbreun.
NP: Best pizza?
AD: Oh, we just had it. It was near Vanderbilt. I can’t think of the name right now. Come back to that. We do still love Urban Cookhouse.
NP: I know that from my first interview with Ava. We went there. We loved it. I had some kind of Buffalo chicken wrap. It was really good.
AD: They have very good wraps and very good salads.
NP: A good place to get your hair done?
AD: You know, I moved to Pearl Salon in the Goodlettsville area. I was at Tangles for years, but I moved to Pearl Salon and I’ve been loving them the last couple times. I just checked and it actually says Madison, Tennessee, but I always thought it was Goodlettsville. I don’t know, it’s the Rivergate area.
NP: Somewhere in the Rivergate Mall area then. Not too far from me in Hendersonville then.
AD: I love ‘em and they’re much cheaper than I was paying before.
NP: Good place to go for a family dinner?
(Ava remembered the name of the pizzeria near Vanderbilt just then)
AP: Pizza Perfect.
Pizza Perfect Hillsboro Village photo courtesy of pizzaperfectonline.com
AD: Pizza Perfect, that’s it. Alright. Now, a family dinner. Hmmm…
AD: No. I hate that place. Dick’s downtown.
NP: I’ve never gone there.
AD: Oh, it’s awful. They’re just rude. Family dinner. Ava, what are some of our favorites?
AP: Demos’ is one.
NP: I love Demos’.
AD: Bob’s Steakhouse is my favorite, but that’s not family, that’s expensive. We love the Hermitage Steakhouse. It’s a small, little place. Does it have to be in Nashville? It’s not in Nashville.
NP: No, it doesn’t have to be. Just around Nashville.
AD: I would have to say the Hermitage Steakhouse is one of our favorites.
NP: A nice, quiet dinner with the husband?
AD: Bob’s Steak & Chophouse at the Omni. I love it.
Bob’s Steak & Chophouse photo courtesy of thrilllist.com
NP: Since I see you have dogs, how about a dog groomer?
AD: She’s in Mount Juliet.
AP: Don’t ever do Pet Smart.
AD: I just forgot the name, so I’m looking it up. Here it is. A Barking Lot.
NP: A Barking Lot, oh my gosh. That’s awesome.
AD: Yes, in Mount Juliet.
NP: Since Ava’s leukemia diagnosis, talk to me freely. Your emotions as a mom, obviously it’s not something you would have ever wished for, but take me down the road. What were you thinking from the beginning when it first happened to where we are today? Where are you?
AD: Um, wow. Hmm… I don’t want to cry on you. I don’t want to get all sappy.
NP: Well, you don’t have to be sappy, but don’t be afraid to be you either.
AD: Okay, we were busy. So, our life was “go, go, go, go, go”, doing this, doing that, meeting publishers and having a lot of really cool stuff happening. I mean, she was in Texas three days before, singing for kids who had cancer at Cook Children’s Hospital and they were inviting her back to come write with the kids and just all this stuff. Then all of a sudden your life comes to a stop and you hear those words and, oh my gosh, I don’t know how to explain how that makes you feel. It’s almost like you’re forgetting to breathe deeper. You know, when you take that deep breath sometimes and you’re like, “oh, my God, that felt so good,” it’s like that, but you’re shallow breathing for a while, I guess. They made us feel so comfortable knowing that it’s the most commonly treated cancer. We have the best pediatrician in the world, and when she gave us the first, “Okay, this is what it looks like what it’s gonna be. It could be a virus, but I’m sending you to Vanderbilt. They know you’re coming,” thinking it’s leukemia. Then she looked at me one time and she said to me, “If I could give your kid either leukemia or diabetes, only one, I’d give your kid leukemia every time. The reason I say that is with leukemia, they treat it. It’s so treatable. Three years, four years, whatever it is, you’re done. Most of them live to be the healthiest they can be. Diabetes, they live with it every day for the rest of their lives.” So, I think between knowing that and the Vanderbilt staff there was not…, wow… (deep breath).
AD: I thanked my husband multiple times for having a business where he was able to be with me and her at Vanderbilt, because we didn’t want to leave the hospital. We just didn’t want to be away. He went home one night, couldn’t stand it, came back. I went home one night, couldn’t stand it, came back. We just had to be there. So, those emotions were just, I don’t know. You’ll have to put together what I’m thinkin’ here. I guess a couple of weeks ago, I read Ava an article about a guy who had the same thing happen to him and he ended up having to have a stem cell replacement. He was in the hospital for like, forty days with no contact with anybody, he was in isolation. He said it was “the darkest forty days of my life.” Now he’s in college and he’s the captain of the swim team in college and he’s good now. We were in the car and I’m driving when I was telling her about it, and I’ll never forget it, she looks at me and she started crying. This was just two or three weeks ago, and she goes, “I never once thought this thing could take my life,” and she started crying. “I never let myself go there. I just thought you’d fight it and you’d go on and do whatever, I just never thought it could take my life.” To me and my husband, that’s the one thing you think about a lot when it’s your child. You don’t ever want to see your child go through something like this or die before you do, that kind of thing.
AD: So, I guess all those emotions, and we have what we call “waves”. Me and my husband would say, “You feel the ‘wave’ comin’” and we’d cry. Then the “wave” would pass. Sometimes they come quite frequently and sometimes there would be a day where I’d just have one “wave” today. I had ten yesterday, or seven the day before, you know. It got to be where, okay, you had a “wave” today and you didn’t cry today, and we’d talk about that at night after she fell asleep, because sometimes it just got to be overwhelming when you’re watching your child going through all these changes, mentally and physically. You’re seeing what she’s doing, what they’re putting in her body, how she has to struggle to use the restroom, struggle to wash her hair and struggle to get up out of bed. It’s just those “break your heart” moments, that kind of thing. To know your other child’s here, living by himself, trying to get by because he’s got to be here and you have to be there, it’s just all kinds of emotions. Friends and family help with that a lot. I think I talked about that.
AD: She would wake up and she rated her days. What kind of a day are we gonna have today? Is Ava gonna wake up feeling good or wake up not feeling good? There were days she’d wake up and she’d feel terrible. She’d be sad and not want to do anything, and if somebody didn’t show up or not send a text, we would get a text from someone saying, “Hey, can I come by today?” and I’d text back saying, “Yeah, it’s a perfect day to come.” Then those people would come and start brightening her up and singing and we’d look over at each other and (deep breath) you could breathe again. You could be happy and you saw a kid smilin’ and singin’, and then we’d lay down at night and she’d be like, ‘Well, my day started off at a two or three and now it’s a ten,’ and if you can do that while you’re fighting cancer, if you can get a ten while you’re fighting cancer…”
NP: Yeah, that’s amazing.
AD: So, those days were good. Then a setback would happen. Like, the fungal thing would happen. There they were rushing her down and talking about how they could do this and to stay off Google, but you don’t stay off Google, and you read how that stuff could kill you and then you’re all tensed up again. Then the prayers would come in, and packages and texts and calls, and then you just kind of rely on that and your faith that it’s going to be okay, and you breathe again.
NP: It’s a constant up and down
AD: It is. I remember I broke away one weekend to watch my son play baseball. I hadn’t been to any of his games during the summer. I remember driving all the way, I don’t even remember where I drove to. I have no clue, I couldn’t even tell you, but I remember when I parked the car, we were early and I sat there and I was eating my Zaxby’s chicken dinner, I’ll never forget it, and I played a song, a mix that they sent us. A song Ava was gonna be releasing soon, “Hope Comes In” (now available on digital platforms), and I just remember being relieved and crying. It was one of those sappy, snotty cries that felt so good.
NP: One of those cleansing cries.
AD: A cleansing cry, yeah. Then I remember getting out of the car and watching my son’s ball game and feeling a little bit better. So, I guess you just have to have that. You have your good days because she’s having a good day because everybody’s helping, or you get good news or you feel good about a situation. It can be anything. You’re off your diabetic medicine or you’re off the medicine that caused the diabetes or high blood pressure, we got you off one of those now. So, day by day, you take those small victories and be happy about those. Now, she was diagnosed with a hypodiploid, which is a little bit more rare, that was kind of a shocker. We didn’t tell her. We wanted her to get through those first thirty days without having to understand what that was because we didn’t really understand it either, but it’s just a little bit harder to treat. It’s a little bit harder to get in remission, but by God, she got in remission anyway, so there you go. So, we just didn’t feel like we needed to give her all the information. We just wanted her to stay focused and fight for those thirty days. Now we’re home and I’m doing all the chemo stuff. I’m doing all that and being a nurse helps with that. I don’t feel pressured, I just kind of feel like I’m doing my thing. I don’t know, you just kind of zone in and do your thing. You just zone in and do what you have to do as a parent.
NP: Just being a parent and doing what needs to be done.
AD: Right. At night we’d just sigh a deep breath knowing she was asleep okay, but I don’t know how people do this without faith in God?
NP: You need to have someone that’s very strong looking out for you too, isn’t that right?
AD: I just believe our faith keeps things in check and keeps us at peace. There’s multiple times that things would get emotional or things were happening that were stressful, especially with the fungus thing, that was a big stressor all the time, every time she went down to surgery. There were so many times that you were just overwhelmed and you felt like, “whoa” and you’d start getting texts that people were praying, and you could just feel it. You could feel hundreds of people, you could feel there were people praying for you and your child. My husband was raised Catholic and I was raised Baptist, so there’s two different sides and you know how that goes, but no matter what, we look at each other now and we just go, “Ooh, that was a God thing.” So, you just feel like everybody’s in the right places and so many things happen at the right time and the right place. It was just unreal. It was very comforting.
NP: It must be comforting for you to know that you have that number of people and that immense power of prayer working for you, or if you’re having a bad moment, you have such a strong faith you know you always have the ability to ask God for help right now.
AD: Yes, and sometimes it would just be the simple stuff. You know, just please let us have a good day, or let us not be so freaked out about this situation right now. So, many things came in. She still has so much to go through. We get voice mails all the time, even this week. A grown woman crying sent my daughter a text saying, “I was having a bad day today. Nothing’s happening in my singing career, in my writing career. I’m done. Then I go online and I watch you sing and I’ve been following you for a couple of years now and you’re not giving up. You’ve been through all this and you’re not giving up. Why can’t I be as strong as you are?” She’s crying! A girl we never even met.
NP: You didn’t even know her?
AD: No. We didn’t even know her, and that happened all the time. You know, a card with the sweetest prayer in it with twenty bucks in it from people we didn’t even know, or a letter from people we didn’t even know. A package that said, “I’m sending you this because you were on my mind,” stuff like that happens all the time. I’m talking prayers from Germany, Hawaii, you name it, Philippines, France, wherever. Or, “I’ve got a prayer group here,” or there or all over.
NP: You know, you can’t buy that stuff.
NP: You can’t beg for that. That’s stuff that people want to do and that’s something that when you think about it, from July until now (October), really isn’t that long of a time.
AD: That’s another one. We think about that. Just three months. It feels like it’s been forever.
NP: To you, it must feel like an eternity.
AD: It does. It feels like it’s been a long time. July 1st was the diagnosis.
NP: It’s really not very long at all.
AD: No, it’s not. Just the amount, the cards, we’ve got a whole thing in there full of cards. It’s amazing.
NP: I think what’s really important to say is none of these people expect you to personally thank them. They know that you can’t.
AD: Some people bought us thank you cards to help us get on top of it. I’m like, “There’s no way.”
NP: You can’t.
AD: There’s no way I could feasibly write out individual thank you cards. We tried on social media and that was kind of the decision at first. That’s where they could hear her story. At first I kind of did it because she does have a following and people wanted to know about her, but I could not do texts and phone calls. It was too much for me to do all that, so my way of thinking was I could put it all in one place, they could see it updated and I wouldn’t have to answer everybody because the emotions of wanting to be there for your daughter and what you’re feeling, I just couldn’t. Like, I didn’t call my dad for two days. I couldn’t even talk to him on the phone. I got in the car and called him and I just lost it. It was the first time I had ever talked to somebody about it. It was just the talking part was hard. Texting was kind of easy. So, if I could do the posts, you know, but then it got to the point where people were commenting and answering us back, “Thank you and we want to be on this journey with you,” or “What can we do?” and the cards kept coming in.
NP: All you can do is just say thank you to everybody at one time, and I think most people understand that the sheer volume would make it impossible for you to individually thank everyone for everything that was done for you.
AD: I couldn’t even keep up with who was giving what presents.
NP: You couldn’t. How could you?
AD: I tried to do my best with posting, but I just couldn’t keep up.
NP: I know the sheer volume of gifts, cards, prayers, letters, texts, calls, emails, visits, benefits and the list goes on and on, it would have been totally impossible to keep up. It was an avalanche, it really was. Given that you had to put Ava first, and your priority was spending time with her and making sure you understood what was going on with her health, everything else, no matter how well-intended, had to fall by the wayside for the time being. As a parent, I can’t even imagine how draining all of that must be. Your child and their physical, mental and emotional needs, as well as your own, had to be number one. People that truly care don’t worry about being thanked. They’re only concerned that Ava gets better. That’s it. I believe that the vast majority think that way, so don’t even give any of that a thought. All of those gifts and prayers and things are to help distract all of you and make things easier and better while you get through this. The end goal is for Ava to be well again. That’s what matters.
AD: Another thing was looking at things from my husband’s perspective. He never really got to go to all of Ava’s gigs because he was always working so she was able to do this. You know, “She sings.” He loved when we would walk into gigs it was like, “Hi Ava!”, “Hi Ava!”, “Hey Ava!” or walking downtown we’d hear, “Hey Ava!” and he’d think that was kind of cool, but until this happened, he had no idea. Now, he’s just like, “I get it now. I get the music craziness. I get that the music business is family.” My dad came down and he and his wife were staying in a hotel, but every time they would come to visit (at the hospital) there were so many people there with the music and singing, he would step out and then come back in or whatever. After a few days he said, “She has her musical family. I don’t think she needs us right now. We’re gonna go back home.” So, they went back to East Tennessee, because he just knew that’s what she needed, but he didn’t get that it was that big.
NP: Did Ava even realize it was that big?
AD: Probably not. I mean, I think she knew, like at gigs people would walk in and say “hi”, or people would recognize her, and that was kind of cool. They recognized her because they followed her or that kind of thing, but I don’t think she thought that people would do what they’re doing, that they would take time out of their schedules. Lance Carpenter, the very first day she was in, like the very next day, she had a write with Lance Carpenter, and he shows up. He says, “I’ve had people cancel writes before, but I had to check this one out for myself.” Instead of writing with her, he just came to visit for three hours.
Photo of Lance Carpenter and Ava Paige (at a later date) courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: Lance is one of the really good ones. He really is.
AD: They would all just do stuff like that. It was just amazing.
NP: It just continues to be.
AD: Yeah. We were complaining about the hospital toilet paper. My dad went and got Charmin toilet paper because the toilet paper was so terrible. One of her friends brought fake flower arrangements and all the flowers had Charmin toilet paper and tags that said, “Friends don’t let friends use half-ply,” and she bought a big, enormous thing of good toilet paper. One day she was needing some juice that was tasting good to put her medicine in, and somebody walks in with Welch’s grape juice.
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: Amazing. See? I mean, that’s the sort of thing that, no matter how bad it gets, that will push you to keep on pushing through.
AD: They knew what they did. That’s why I remember trying to get that point across, that all of you guys, and you were there too, you stopped by, it didn’t matter what it was, no matter how small, and I don’t mean to say small because I don’t mean to discredit it at all. A text, a call, a note, a visit, a gift, a card, ice cream, a blanket, just coming by, all of those, everything, I mean, every little thing that happened meant so much. I mean, it was just like, there were days where it was so awful, and that made it better. That made it such a better day. She had a PICC line put in about a week or so before being discharged, and the way she would lay on the bed, it would hurt. I swear, the same day, we got a package. It was heart-shaped pillow. Not that they knew she got a PICC in, they had already prayed over it and sent this heart-shaped pillow. Guess what? It fit right there, and that’s where it stayed the rest of the week. That’s where it needed to be. It’s like, those things happened all the time.
NP: Exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.
AD: Like I said, no matter if it was a call, a text, a visit, coming up to sing a song, they all had their purposes. There were days when there weren’t a whole lot of people and it was a good day for her to rest, and those happened too. It just all seemed to fall into place. I don’t know if everybody realizes, but some people are like, “Oh, I just sent a card,” or “I just sent ice cream,” (suggesting they didn’t do enough) or Ben Fuller shows up with a bottle of water and peppermint patties, it was amazing that day. Ralston Wells would show up with veggie chips and a thing of water every couple of days. The lady down at reception said, “I am going to have to meet this Ava Paige. She gets more visitors than I’ve ever seen in my life.” Now, looking back, as a mom, as a person, as a friend, as a Christian, as whatever, it’s helped us think about doing that for somebody else. You know, “Oh my gosh, a lady at the club was sick or had surgery and I forgot to send a card. I’ll send a card tomorrow. Oh, I forgot.” “Oh, so and so’s kid is sick…” It doesn’t take that much time to send a card or pack a lunch or something, because you never know how one little act of anything could make or break a day. If my child can say her day turned from a two or three into a ten, you know?
NP: You saying it that way really makes me think. How many times do you mean to send a card to someone in the hospital and you forget?
AD: Or meal train? “Oh yeah, I’ll do that.” Nope. Doesn’t happen. We get caught up in our lives sometimes to where all those people that did things for Ava could have got caught up in their lives, but they didn’t. They came to see my girl. All the time. To me, wow. It means a lot. It helped me.
NP: That’s important. I guess people think of the person that’s sick, but they forget that there are people that are doing the thing, like you, your husband and your son.
AD: I have a good group of girlfriends too, though. They came and picked me up one night. I came downstairs to the hospital lobby and jumped into a car with five giggling girls. They took me out for dinner and dropped me right back off at the hospital so I didn’t have to worry about driving.
NP: A little bit of a respite. If you don’t get that break, you won’t be any good to anyone either.
NP: If you could magically snap your fingers on one of Ava’s bad days and do your own “Mom-Make-a-Wish” thing and turn her whole day around, what would you do? What do you think would really make her smile? Aside from taking it all away, which I’m sure would be the best choice.
AD: It would probably have to be music-related because that’s what makes her happiest. To make it all go away, it would probably have to be one of her biggest inspirations, because when Carly came by, or Ashley came by or Brandy came by, those were the days she was just beyond happy. Those days were just awesome. Someone like Chris Stapleton, that’s her Make-A-Wish anyway, but yeah, have him come hang out and sing. Not be formal, just hang out. Not be in a hurry.
Photo courtesy of Ava Paige
NP: Just bring his guitar and spend some time.
AD: Yeah, that would probably do the trick.
NP: When Ava becomes a superstar songwriter how do you think your life will change? Or will it pretty much stay the same, except that you’ll finally see your daughter’s dreams come true?
AD: We might be in a condo over by the marina instead of here in the big house, but other than that, it would be the same. I’d still be going to her shows.
NP: You might be going to one of her shows in someplace like Melbourne rather than downtown Nashville, just for a change of pace.
AD: Yeah, I can see that happening, but everything else would stay the same, we’re pretty laid back people.
NP: Nothing too drastic then?
AD: No, I have everything I need right here.
NP: Give me a quote about Nashville.
AD: We’ve always told Ava and Preston that you do unto others as you would have others do unto you, but help others out. It comes back around. Everything you give, you give out a light, and you’ll get that light back. If you give to others and you’re nice to others it comes back around. Support your other artists. We try our best to support our friends’ new singles because in return they’re going to support you. It doesn’t take away an opportunity for you to do something for somebody else. I don’t know how to quote that, I’d have to think on that.
NP: Finally, because we are NASHVILLE PEOPLE, when you “Think Nashville People”, what do you think?
AD: Community, family. This is a great town. Blessed. Just good people.
NP: You’ve experienced the best. You really have.
Just to quickly tie my interview with Angie Davis up, I wanted to repeat something that she asked me to try and convey to our readers. That was how much the family of Ava Paige truly appreciates everything everyone has given them, in every single form, as they help Ava in her battle with leukemia. Angie was so adamant that nothing was ever considered too small or too insignificant. She believes in her heart that every act of kindness has the same value. Just knowing people are thinking of Ava is important to her. I promised I would pass that message on.
The Nashville music community certainly stepped up in a big way with several fundraising benefits on Ava’s behalf. Artists took time out of their busy schedules to visit Ava. Others gave of their time to perform at benefits or donated merchandise to be auctioned. The family genuinely appreciates all of the extraordinary generosity that’s been shown to Ava and their family.
Photo courtesy of Angie Davis
NASHVILLE PEOPLE would like to thank all of our followers who have taken the time to support Ava Paige, an artist we have believed in since we first learned about her. Music unites people. It brings happiness where it’s needed most. We’ve been witnessing just how powerful the music community in Nashville is and how it comes together to help one of its own. We are proud to be a part of Music City, USA.
Photo courtesy of Angie Davis
*Featured image courtesy of Angie Davis