Nashville is home to the Country Music Awards, the Grand Ole Opry®, and has a live music scene that is nearly impossible to sum up. Nashville has some of the most unique bars in the nation, and almost all of them have live music. Rolling Stone declared Nashville "The Best Music Scene" in their May 2011 article.
The reasons cited by Rolling Stone include clothes, bars, restaurants, and venues. According to Rolling Stone, "Nashville boasts some of the best and oldest honky-tonk bars in the world."
But while Nashville is the place to go for great honky-tonk, entertainment publicist and local music advocate Jess Rice says Nashville is finally getting the recognition it deserves for the other music in town.
"We have received a lot of media attention from huge news sources like Rolling Stone, GQ, Travel & Leisure Magazine, The Guardian UK, and SPIN Magazine to name a few," Jess tells us, "all boasting our great rock scene. I think Nashville truly deserves this attention. It's a mistake to think only of country music and singer/songwriters when you think of Nashville."
While R&B, rock, soul and blues are the predominant sounds to be heard in the more well known clubs, the scene is less than boring. Part of what makes Nashville so vibrant is the diversity. "We have booming pop, indie, hip hop, DJ, and rock 'n roll scenes here and they often overlap," says Jess, "which is nice and keeps things fresh. Nashville is a very nurturing community for musicians and music business professionals."
Etta Britt, a Wrinkled Records who has been making the rounds in Nashville for over twenty years. "A lot of musicians have moved here from Los Angeles and New York because they came for a visit and realized just how cool the music scene is here. It's not just country, although the biggest country hits came out of Nashville. We have some of the best blues music around. We have amazing soul singers, as well as jazz and R&B. You can go out to a club to see an act and before you know it there are artists like Vince Gill, Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie, Robert Plant, John Prine, Sheryl Crow, Delbert McClinton and many others guest-joining the band for a song or two.""We have a very diverse group of musicians living here," agrees
Nashville is home to some amazing venues that routinely have incredible acts. A touring musician with Dave & Sugar, and a session musician with greats like Waylon Jennings (to name a few), Etta Britt's finger is on the pulse of the vibrant Nashville music scene. "My personal favorite [venue] is 3rd and Lindsley," says Etta. "Ron Brice opened it a little over 15 years ago and it was a very small club with an intimate setting. Over those years, there have been so many artists wanting to play there, he has now doubled in size and bringing in national acts like Wynonna, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Jimmy Vaughn, Joan Osborne, Paul Thorn, just to name a few. Ron has a great sound system, great food and the best servers in town. He treats the artists with respect and takes care of us."
Jess says people can really find whatever they're looking for musically in Nashville. For hip-hop Jess likes Nashville-local Chancellor Warhol. "Chancellor Warhol is one of my personal favorites in town. I was working with one of my bands, The Kingston Springs, at Austin City Limits this year and we shared the BMI stage with Chancellor Warhol, who is also from Nashville. He's smart, catchy and has fantastic stage presence."
Nashville is also home to a high number of reoccurring music events including 8 off 8th, which boasts a high number of local and diverse bands. "8 Off 8th happens every Monday at Mercy Lounge (1 Cannery Row). You can see 8 Nashville bands showcase 3 of their songs each every week." You can experience anything from hip hop or electro to country music at an 8 Off 8th. It's a great opportunity to visit Mercy Lounge (one of my favorite venues in town) and get a taste of 8 different bands."
Part of the beauty of 8 Off 8th is that it's totally manageable. "It's not a huge commitment if you don't like what you're hearing either - each band only plays three songs. If you like them, you can jot their name down and go see a full set sometime. If you're not into it, you can go out on Mercy's balcony or go into the back room to shoot some pool, then come back in when the next band starts. They also host BMI's "Road to Bonnaroo" Edition when festival time is around the corner. Some of my favorite bands in town have played 8 Off 8th, including The Kingston Springs, Kyle Andrews, Space Capone, Harrison Hudson, Courtney Jaye, The Gills, Heypenny and more."
It's only natural that a city with so many musicians is also replete with writers. With songwriters in mind, Hotel Indigo and the Bluebird both host popular songwriter nights. "We have songwriters living here that have penned some of the greatest songs ever written, so it's not uncommon to be at a writers night and someone like Gordon Kennedy is singing his hit 'Change the World,' which was recorded by Eric Clapton. Or you might hear Dan Penn doing 'Do Right Woman' made famous by Aretha Franklin," Etta explained.
Every neighborhood in Nashville is musical, according to Jess Rice. "You can't walk 5 paces without running into someone who plays music or works in the business in one way or another. It's true. However, my favorite part of the city is East Nashville. 5 Points is great and there are fun bars, good restaurants and friends everywhere. I tell people if they hang out at 3 Crow Bar on a 2-4-1 night (every week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, 3 Crow offers 2-4-1 beers and doubles instead of singles when you order a well cocktail) you will make 100 friends without trying. East Nashville has a great community atmosphere that is really supportive of the music scene."
Etta likes to head to downtown Nashville to take in the sounds. "3rd and Lindsley and The Rutledge are both downtown as well as Hard Rock and B. B. King's. [There are] many clubs up and down Broadway. How about Tootsies? And then of course there is the mother church of them all... The Ryman," says Etta.
Located near the corner of 5th and Broadway, Ryman Auditorium has been "historically cool since 1892" and is the former home to the Grand Ole Opry®. Opry's live radio shows included performances by Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Patsy Cline to name a few.
If you're a musician looking to relocate to Nashville, it may all sound great, but Etta warns that musicians generally "play for 'the door'."
"There are a few exceptions but not enough to make our living in the Nashville clubs," Etta explained. "Session work is a big part of most musicians' livelihood here, as well as road work either with their band or playing and singing for the star artists. We love coming home though and doing a show for our Nashville fans!"
For the newcomers, Jess has a word of advice: "I recommend visitors pick up a copy of The Nashville Scene or peruse The Deli Nashville online to see what's going on in town. They are both fantastic resources for both national and local music events in town."
Love for music, love for the scene, and love for the fans is probably why (as Etta says), "There is never a bad night of music being performed in Nashville."