Listening to the Music: Chris Blair’s Road to Success
As Chris Blair woke up for yet another dry, predictable day at the bank, the suit which he donned started to feel more like a prison. Though he held the title of Assistant Vice President of Fifth-Third Bank, managed one of the most important portfolios in the state of Tennessee, and had more money than he ever could have dreamed of, he was not satisfied.
Blair, a graduate of Southeast Missouri State University and a Lambda Chi brother, lived and breathed for music, something he was sorely missing in his corporate job.
Music has been a part of Blair’s life for as long as he can remember. He recalls fondly singing his first solo when he was six years old, later performing for President Reagan in middle school. As Blair says, “it’s always kind of been in my blood and a part of who I am.”
Though he was playing venues occasionally on the Nashville scene, he knew he was not where he wanted to be in his music career.
So with his sights set on a bright future in the music industry, Blair gave his two weeks’ notice to the bank and started his journey.
Blair had always been a big believer in local talent and “raw music” and found that while Nashville was known as “Music City”, most places did not much live up to this name.
“I really just wanted to create my own spot that felt like you were sitting at home in the family room, and it was just comfortable and intimate, built with music first and everything else second,” Blair stated.
But to find such a place, Blair had to take baby steps.
In 2006, The Listening Room was started, and Blair had been playing there regularly. Its mission perfectly aligned with what Blair aspired to do. After a rocky period, hardships with the previous owner, and a move to a new location, Blair became the sole owner of The Listening Room in 2009.
Though he was exactly where he wanted to be in his career, the failing economy had other plans. Just to keep the club afloat and his dream alive, Blair was forced to sell his house, music equipment, and many other belongings.
“Sometimes it’s hard to see the good,” stated Blair. “We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond.”
And Blair did just that: he controlled his response to the adverse situation and fought even harder for what he knew he could accomplish. And so he became the dishwasher, the cook, the bartender – a one-man show running The Listening Room.
While Blair was in the midst of his struggle, a few of his songwriter friends in the area got wind of what was happening and put together a benefit to help keep The Listening Room afloat. When things were just starting to turn around for Blair, the heavens opened above Nashville, and the rain did not stop.
Seeing the circumstances around him, Blair was adamant that he could not take any money raised from the benefit concert for himself or the club. So Blair teamed up with Hands on Nashville, an organization tasked with helping the community.
At first, Blair planned to only give a portion to the victims, but he knew he had the power to do more, and he had to.
“I just couldn’t take it, and I literally kind of broke down on stage, and said I’m going to be completely transparent and vulnerable and let you guys know what is going on,” said Blair. “We are struggling and I don’t know what is going to happen, but I know I can’t take any of this money and I said…100 percent of everything raised today has to go to you guys; we have to help get Nashville back on track.”
From that day on, not only did The Listening Room begin to flourish once more, but Sound Good, Do Good was born. A brainchild of Blair’s, The Listening Room would team up with a nonprofit once a month, every month.
Today, The Listening Room is doing better than ever. To help spread the word about the club, Blair continues a tradition which helped him in the beginning: Blair would pay a dollar to the concierge at each area hotel for every person they sent over to the club. Social media factored into this marketing plan as well, but for Blair, it is all about treating the locals right.
The Listening Room attracts new visitors every day, but for those who might be still curious, Blair describes the club as a music-first venue, above all.
“All of the songs you hear on the radio that you love, you are going to come and have an incredible dinner, and you are going to sit down, hearing those same songs that you know on the radio,” said Blair. “You are going to hear them from the perspective of the people who wrote them and how they wrote them and why they wrote them, and learn more about the story behind the song.”
In addition to the atmosphere, guests will have the opportunity to experience The Listening Room’s state-of-the-art Bose sound system and the fresh, local food.
Blair will be the first to say he has endured the lion’s share of challenges while pursuing his dream, but his message to all brothers is a simple one: follow your passion and don’t ever give up.
“There were many times…where it would have been easy for me to pack it up and move back to St. Louis or put on that suit and tie and go back to the job that was secure but wasn’t my passion,” stated Blair. “But I pushed through and took all of the things I learned from my family, my upbringing, from my brothers of a lifetime and the way we worked through conflicts and learning opportunities as a Lambda Chi, and I didn’t give up.”