You say you don’t like country music? Yup, been there, I understand. Even though I grew up listening to Southern rock and went to a few bluegrass shows, I didn’t think country was for me.
But, about a year ago while working, I got bored with what I was listening to, turned on the radio, hit Seek and ended up on a country station. By the end of the week I was singing along. I now have two country presets on my car radio. So, yeah, I’m a little bit country and still a little bit rock and roll.
I don’t love it all – there’s crap country like there’s crap in any genre. But I really love the rootedness of country music. It’s all about the simple pleasures of life: hanging out and drinking with your pals, nostalgia for home and rural life, pining for the one who got away, and crying about the guy who did you wrong. It’s not pretentious or gloomy — even the revenge songs are celebratory in a way. It makes me happy and revs me up for the weekend.
Give country a chance. Don’t be an urban snob like I was. Start by listening to Music City Radio while you read the rest of this – enjoy the background music of Nashville.
And download the Nashville Live Music Guide app – also from the folks at Visit Music City. The app is pretty cool. You can see who’s playing where tonight (or tomorrow or in the next few days), find out where live music is happening near you right now, and listen to and buy the music you grow to love.
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. (aka Visit Music City) has a whole section on their website dedicated to music. If you really want to get your musical bearings before arriving, check out For the Love of Music: The Story of Nashville. I also think it’s beyond cool that the CVC’s font is reminiscent of the font used by Gibson.
Another way to get a taste of Nashville’s music scene is to take the ASAE tour on Saturday, August 9 from 1:00–5:00 p.m., Where the Music is Made: Studio Tour of Music City. The tour visits a Music Row songwriting session, recording studio, broadcast studio and more.
Music Row has been in the news lately because of growing development that threatens to displace country music landmarks. Country star and Nashville resident Keith Urban wrote recently in The Tennessean newspaper, “Nashville’s growth is exciting, but not at the risk of losing the creative epicenter that is Music Row and that truly makes Nashville Music City.”
Before they made it big, many country stars started out at “writers nights” where they played their songs accompanied only by a microphone and guitar. The most famous of these clubs is the Bluebird Cafe at 4104 Hillsboro Rd., 14.2 miles/21 minute drive from the MCC.
Another is The Listening Room downtown with nightly shows. They serve brunch on Sundays with music from noon to 1:00 p.m. – 217 2nd Ave S., .3 miles/6 minute walk from the MCC.
“Ground zero for me is the Station Inn,” says country star Dierks Bentley. “It’s literally where I got my start— a little divey cinder block bar that serves popcorn and pizza. You’ll hear the best music of your life. People kill it on banjos.” That’s really all you need to know, right? On Sunday nights starting at 7:00 p.m., they host a bluegrass jam. (402 12th Ave S., .7 miles/14 minute walk from the MCC)
You’ve got to hit up the honky tonk bars on Broadway while you’re in town. They’re jamming all day and night. The Nashville CVC hosted an after-party at Honky Tonk Central at 329 Broadway for the digitalNow crowd back in May. Tim Bridges and his band were rocking, especially when Marketing General Incorporated’s Erik Schonher took over on bass. Make your way upstairs to one of the balconies overlooking the action on Broadway.
Broadway’s a crazy scene at night – take your pick of one of these other popular bars.
- Paradise Park – 411 Broadway
- The Stage – 412 Broadway
- Robert’s Western World – 416 Broadway – Cowboy boot store by day, honky tonk by night with fried bologna sandwiches on the menu – even Tom Petty’s a fan!
- Layla’s Bluegrass Inn – 418 Broadway – More than just bluegrass
- Nashville Crossroads – 419 Broadway
- Second Fiddle – 420 Broadway
- Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – 422 Broadway – There’s one in the airport too!
- Full Moon Saloon – 423 Broadway
- Legends Corner – 428 Broadway
My friend Ben Martin (Online Community Results) who lives in Nashville likes Benchmark, a half a block off Broadway at 117 2nd Ave. He says, “It’s a great place to catch music in a spot that’s less crazy than the Broadway clubs.”
He also likes Exit/In at 2208 Elliston Place in Midtown (about a 9 minute drive), “a famous rock & roll club where lots of up and coming bands play in Nashville.”
If you’re staying at the Omni, Barlines on the lobby level has music starting at 9:00 p.m.
On your way to Barlines, you’ll pass by displays of country memorabilia, including stage costumes by Nudie Cohn. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is full of Nudies. Another famous designer is Manuel – that’s it, one name – the “Rhinestone Rembrandt” whose showroom is at 800 Broadway.
Nashville isn’t all about country, just ask the Nashville band, Kings of Leon. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is one of the city’s pride and joys. It hosts classical, jazz and pop concerts. If you want to get away from ASAE craziness on Sunday night, Boz Scaggs plays there. I loved its distinctive architecture and design, but what’s really cool is what our tour guide told us about their “floor flip.” In 90 minutes, they can make all the seats on the theater floor disappear so they can open up the space for events. Seriously, check out this video of a meeting planner’s fantasy room change.
See you in the Music City!
This is the sixth in a series of posts about Nashville for ASAE Annual Meeting attendees. Thanks to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, I received complimentary registration and accommodations during the 2014 digitalNow conference – giving me an excuse to spend more of my money on Southern food and craft cocktails.