James Otto: Nashville Is a ‘Source of Pride’ After Flood
James Otto is one of thousands of people still recovering from the devastating floods that hit Music City almost a month ago. But in spite of the profound damage, he is still proud to call the city his home.
"Nashville means everything to me," he tells the Nashville Country Club. "I've lived everywhere. I've been all over the world and lived in several States, but I've actually lived in Nashville longer than I've lived in any one place, ever. So I consider myself a Nashvillian in heart and soul ... I identify with this place more than anywhere."
The singer, who was out of town when the waters started to rise, was unprepared for how widespread the damage was until he saw it for himself. "I was playing on the East coast and, the day before, my biggest worry was that we had just closed on this new house. I thought, 'Well, do we have flood insurance?' and luckily we did. Your first thoughts are about yourself and then you start seeing it on the news and you go, 'Wow, what an incredible disaster is going on.' I got back, and a couple days later after the rain had stopped, I went and saw the damage. It's all my neighbors that are affected. It's literally house to house on my street."
The personal losses, James says, is what tugs at his heart the most. "I talked to Vince Gill, and he said he lost 50 guitars. That's a lot. That's a lifetime of a collection," James reveals. "Seeing these guys who have great success, I know they have insurance. I know they're protected and they're going to be okay, but the things they lost are literally irreplaceable. There were only so many made and some of them were in the '50s and '60s, and stuff that hopefully was going to pay for some of the musician's retirement. It's not just the Vince Gill's of the world that lost money. It's not just the Kenny Chesney's. It's a lot of studio musicians counting on vintage instruments that were literally going to be their retirement. They were saving these things and now they're lost. It's incredibly hard to see them lose their livelihood."
James also mourns the damage inflicted on some of Nashville's greatest landmarks. "I saw pictures of the flooding at the Opry house, and the devastation at the Ryman, the [Country Music] Hall of Fame, the Schermerhorn [symphony center] ... The Opryland Hotel was my first job when I got to town. I think every other artist I've ever met probably worked at the Opryland Hotel. So you look at it, and you can't really comprehend the devastation that's here. But again, I'm really proud of how everyone has handled it and is chipping in to help people who lost their whole lives here."
Largely ignored by the national media, James says it's a testament to the strength of the city that the recovery has gone so well. "I think Nashville has handled all of this disaster with such class and dignity, and I guess that doesn't make for the best headlines, which is maybe why we didn't get the national news headlines, but it's a source of pride for me as a Nashvillian to see Nashville react that way."