Movie Review: It All Begins with a Song

It All Begins with a Song is a music documentary dedicated to the Nashville songwriter. The Tennessee capital is also regarded as America’s musical capital when it comes to songwriting. The city has a mystique, romanticised in much the same way that actors flock to Hollywood to make it big. Exploring the hallowed ground for songwriters, It All Begins with a Song grapples with the intricacies of the art form, interviewing the unsung heroes behind many of today’s greatest hits. We hum them, we singalong with them, we reflect on them… but we often don’t even know who wrote them.

It All Begins with a Song features the likes of Aerosmith and Garth Brooks with personal interviews with Bill Anderson, Brad Paisley, Kacey Musgraves, Luke Bryan, Claude Kelly, Brett James and Ben Folds. You probably won’t know any Nashville songwriters by name, yet their contribution to pop culture has been immense doing the behind-the-scenes work in writing some of the most inspired music and lyrics of all-time. Through a wide array of interviews with luminaries, established songwriters and rising stars, this music documentary compilation speaks to the dreamers but also conveys the tough realities of making it in their fiercely competitive world.

Commenting on every aspect of the songwriting process, attempting to capture the essence of inspiration and trying to determine what makes a hit song, it’s a strange spiritual journey. Exploring the collaborative nature of songwriting, communicating the hard knock life, searching for true inspiration and going behind-the-scenes to put a face to some of the personal stories that have been adapted into timeless classics, it’s a soulful, impassioned and informative journey.

“Jesus, take the wheel…”

It all begins with nostalgic scene setting, introducing us to the legendary and famed songwriting city of Nashville. The documentary offers interview snippets as a foretaste and glimpse into the next 80 minutes, luring us in with the devotion and starry-eyed passion of its interviewees. The film deals with the nitty-gritty but does so with an emotional edge, even taking the time to go on a behind-the-scenes quest to find a father who inspired a song about his son who was killed in action.

It All Begins with a Song is a comprehensive overview of the songwriting city which gives a sense of the impact felt around the world from country music to contemporary pop. You may think of the city as a place for cowboys and Counting Crows songs, but it’s the home of a diverse range of pop music from Elvis to Rihanna. ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, ‘Try’ by P!nk, ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ by Aerosmith and ‘Change the World’ by Eric Clapton, all of these songs originated in Nashville.

Directed by Venezuelan-born Chusy Haney-Jardine, a former executive creative director turned film director, this documentary will serve as his calling card. The documentary makes a fascinating musical tour, punctuated by real songwriting jamming sessions and passionate insights into what it takes from absolute characters and many amusing name-dropping stories about their biggest moments. While entertaining, emotive and shedding light on the earnest craft, it’s beautifully composed and edited.

Seamlessly moving between interviews against exquisite backdrops, capturing special moments and the spirit of the city, it makes for an awe-inspiring and infectious tribute to the songwriters behind the song. Armed with the same personal interest and exploratory spirit you’d encounter listening to stories behind your favourite musical artists, It All Begins with a Song captures some of this magic in a bottle.

The bottom line: Captivating

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