It started as a habit. Every night, after a long day of writing songs for Meghan Trainor, Frankie Ballard, and CMT’s Nashville, Big Yellow Dog staff writer Chris Gelbuda would lay in bed with his girlfriend texting her memes. It was just a way to de-stress, to laugh together. But one night, after Gelbuda had gotten his fill, he made a few from what he knew best—the ins and outs of Nashville’s most exclusive studios and writers rooms—and texted them to a coworker. That friend sent a few back. Music City Memes, the burgeoning Instagram page started less than two weeks ago, was born.
“I knew that, in my own circle, I could at least get a few hundred people,” Gelbuda tells Whiskey Riff. “That was my goal.”
But what began as a series of inside jokes from the writers that are creating country music’s past, current, and future hits has quickly surpassed Gelbuda’s wildest expectations, and by the time you’re reading this, twelve days after its launch, the account will have broken 4,000 followers. Irreverent and unconcerned with throwing out the odd swear word, the page is at its heart a hilarious look at the missteps, pitfalls, and clichés of the songwriting life, which itself embodies the spirit of the city around it.
“When you were the best singer in your hometown and you got to Nashville and found out everybody else was too,” reads one, which was liked by America’s Got Talent runner-up Emily West, BMG vice president Chris Oglesby, and Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay, along with about 800 other people.
Even in the short time the account has been active, submissions are flooding in from as far away as South Korea and Europe, and in Nashville, some of the biggest names in the industry are coming up to Gelbuda to gush about how much they love the page.
“It’s just total catharsis, because these are the things we talk about behind closed doors,” says Busbee, co-writer of Lady Antebellum’s “You Look Good” and Carly Pearce’s “Every Little Thing” and a fan of the page. “We’re constantly rejected, we’re constantly feeling beat down. To have this is like a candy or a pill you can take to feel better. To feel like you’re not alone.”
Gelbuda agrees. “I think it’s not as bad when you can laugh about it as it is when you’re sitting around a table complaining about it, which has been the way people have dealt with these things most of the time,” he says.
But even with as many artists and songwriters as there are in Nashville, the page’s popularity shows that plenty of non-musicians are finding it worth the follow for its insiders view of how the Nashville sausage gets made.
“I’m sure people are intrigued with understanding what goes on in the writers room a little bit,” Gelbuda says.
With as fast as the page has grown, Gelbuda opened up submissions from friends in the industry—“[Their ideas] crush all mine,” he says—and now acts as a curator of the page. According to him, plenty of Nashville vets have submitted ideas with the request that their names be kept off, and if you scan the posts, you may even find a few memes from his labelmate Maren Morris.
“I don’t want people to think I’m some kind of bitter songwriter, because it can come across if you read a bunch of them in a row that it’s written by a bunch of jaded writers,” he says. “I truly do love my job and I love this town, and I think this meme account shows really the teamwork and the true collaborative nature of Nashville.”
Do you have an idea for Music City Memes? Gelbuda is actively accepting submissions through direct-messaging the official account. Format your concept like the already-published memes and, if selected, you’ll get credit, plus the notoriety that comes from understanding at least a small part of the real Nashville.