Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., scholars are required to complete a mobile media reporting module, which includes producing videos and reporting and writing stories. Their work is displayed here.
Smushed between the saloons behind him and the recent college graduates on the sidewalk in front of him, Donavon Cline played as loud as he could, trying to beat out the dozens of country bands performing live in downtown Nashville, Tenn.
About a dozen people parked their cowboy boots on the sidewalk to watch the guitarist and singer perform.
Cline played in the heart of Honky Tonk Central territory, outside Tatyana Boutique near the corner of Broadway and 4th Avenue North. Spectators stuck around for a song or two, including Cline’s renditions of classics like Peggy Lee’s “Why Don’t You Do Right.”
He seemed to give his blues and jazz renditions his all. He even rocked a two-minute guitar solo at the end of a song. But the crowd appeared to be looking for some old-fashioned country tunes, and people made their way back into nearby bars.
“It’s a slow day,” said the 34-year-old musician, who sported a black fedora, matching dress shirt, vest and a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars. “But I’m not playing any country here,” he added.
Some spectators dropped the change they received from buying the average $4.50 beer into Cline’s guitar case, where, to their surprise, they found a Boston terrier neatly contoured in the case.
Boston, the name of the 5-year-old dog, was napping, taking a break from the spotlight. Originally from Beckley, W. Va., Cline and Boston have traveled the last few years to more than 32 states in a 1999 Dodge Conversion.
Cline blames his ex-girlfriend for his being a traveling musician. She was a musician herself and taught Cline how to play and travel. She thought Cline was a horrible musician.
“So I learned how to play out of spite.” Cline said. “I’m pretty good at it now.”
Cline originally traveled from city to city in an older Toyota Corolla, but he totaled the car when he lost control while driving around a curve one rainy night.
“I thought I killed my dog for a second,” Cline said. Luckily, a large dog-food bag absorbed the shock.
Cline has been living out of his car for the last two months and is ready to head to the next state. He’s undecided about where to go next but said it will be somewhere adventurous.
“I get to do what I want, when I want. The best moments are the nature and scenery of traveling,” Cline said.
“I also get to meet like-minded musicians,” he added.
Cline faces daily challenges performing on the streets. He carries a 4-inch blade on his belt holster as protection.
“I encounter homeless drunks all the time that harass me,” he said. “There’s also so many obnoxious people out there.”
Cline said the challenges are just part of everyday life, and he doesn’t plan on stopping soon. He will continue to save money and live frugally for the next few weeks, he said.
Cline averaged $10 an hour on a weekday in May, but said he makes about $200 to $400 on Friday and weekends.
“When the money starts running low, I’ll play again and go somewhere else,” Cline said. “I’m not going to be a star, but this is fun.”
Video: Music City Blues