Chris Pietrangelo may be a singer-songwriter from Memphis, TN, but his single “Hard to be Sad in Nashville” is, as its title spells out, all Nashville. In short, this is a regional-centric breakup song.
Pietrangelo sure sounds the part of a brokenhearted country singer while singing “Hard to be Sad in Nashville,” but his career trajectory has included a few road stops that were anything but country-related. He fronted Led Zeppin’, for instance, which is a Led Zeppelin tribute band. It’s a whole lotta love, but not a whole lotta country. He also toured with the aptly named Medieval Steel, a – you guessed it – heavy metal band.
“Hard to be Sad in Nashville” is taken from Pietrangelo’s roots-y album Young on the Run. It begins with a twangy electric guitar intro, before Pietrangelo’s equally twangy vocal kicks in. On its opening verse, Pietrangelo sings about how he arrived in Nashville “to get drunk and play guitar.” He also entered these city limits to – hopefully – forget about a girl that broke his heart.
Saying it’s hard to be sad is an unusual way to describe a broken heart. However, Pietrangelo sings about the visual distractions he finds in Music City, which push away his blues. For one thing, the girls in Nashville are super pretty. Secondly, these same girls give him a whole lot of attention whenever he plays and sings there. The kicker, though, is that the “green-eyed girl” he left behind is not in Nashville. So, it’s not what the city has that troubles him, but what it has not that haunts his mind.
Pietrangelo also admits to leaving his heart in Memphis, which is likely where his Ex still resides. John Hiatt memorably wrote about the contrast between Memphis and Nashville with his song “Memphis in the Meantime,” where Memphis and its blues/soul is praised as a welcome relief from Nashville’s country music and all that genre’s stylistic trappings.
When Pietrangelo gets to the chorus with “Hard to be Sad in Nashville,” he’s joined by some beautiful harmony backing vocals that sound almost exactly as the ones found on Eagles classic recordings from the 70s. This suggests this classic rock tribute band front man is likely more influenced by Southern California’s country-rock, than he is by traditional Nashville country music.
Although he dances around the point, what Pietrangelo is actually saying with this song is that it’s hard not to be sad – anywhere. We all like to think we can escape our pain by relocating to another town or country. Maybe if we’re discreet, our troubles won’t notice we’re gone. However, Pietrangelo knows full well we’re only fooling ourselves. And unlike the small child that covers his/her eyes so that adults can no longer see him/her, Pietrangelo is being willfully naïve.
“Hard to be Sad in Nashville” may have come from an unlikely source, but the country music this half-classic rocker creates is far more country sounding than a lot of what tries to pass itself off as country music these days. Therefore, it’s not hard to be happy about Chris Pietrangelo’s country music.