10 Reasons Why Nashville Is Cooler than You Think

Nashville Music

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A lot of people sneer at Twang Town—until they get here.

Nashville MusicNashville’s music pros are accustomed to The Attitude. We understand that people from other places think we’re a bunch of barefoot, tobacco-spittin’ rednecks with camo-painted pickup trucks and surgically implanted Telecasters. And frankly, country records and music videos over the past several years haven’t done a lot to dispel that image. So we get it.

Fortunately, we also know that The Attitude tends to melt away when our more-sophisticated brethren hang around long enough see what the city is all about—which is music, and I mean music of all kinds. The famed honky-tonks on Broadway are just a few blocks from the Symphony Center; trust me, it’s not all chicken pickin’. So while I’m not the Chamber of Commerce, I’d like to help the skeptics out there understand why Nashville, in addition to being the greatest place for guitar players, is cooler than you think it is.

1. It’s a music-centric culture.
Not everyone in Nashville plays music. But everybody knows somebody who either plays, sings, writes, publishes, engineers, manages, runs a label, practices music law or is otherwise associated with the music business. As a result, even the stodgiest bluebloods have an appreciation for musicians and their financial impact on the local economy. Which means that creatives aren’t pitied or simply tolerated—we actually belong.

2. Guitar players here are really good.
An old friend of mine often says, “I thought I was a guitar player until I moved to Nashville.” This is a Mecca for great pickers and they excel in a variety of styles. With ample opportunities to hone their craft on both sessions and live gigs, these guys work with stars in every genre and they make it appear deceptively easy. They don’t just know how to play, they also know what to play. Let’s just say the bar is pretty high. Plus, pickers here tend to be very appreciative and supportive of each other (see #3).

3. People here are so damn nice!
Southern hospitality is legendary. Whether it’s the Bible Belt influence or because Southern children typically have manners drilled into them from birth, people with drawls tend to be more genteel. And so it is with Nashvillians. It isn’t a music business thing—but it extends into it. So even when you get shot down here, it’s not as brutal as it is other places. And hospitality—being nice—is infectious. After a short time here, you start wondering why the rest of the world can’t be this pleasant.

4. We have cool music stores.
In many places, Guitar Center is the hub of the retail music biz. Here, it’s where the amateurs go. The pros go to Corner Music, near Music Row, to get their day-to-day amps, guitars, strings, straps and pedals; to Gruhn Guitars or Carter Vintage Guitars to drool over the world’s finest vintage and custom guitars, mandolins and banjos; to Two Old Hippies, Cotten Music and Artisan Guitars for newer boutique acoustics (Collings, Santa Cruz, Breedlove, Bouergeois, etc.); and World Music for Taylor and Martins, and Fano and Nash electrics, among others. There are more, but these are a great start—and plenty to help you avoid the beginners trying to impress each other at Guitar Center.

5. No, it’s not all country … not by a long shot.
Jack WhiteJack White, Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Kid Rock, and Sheryl Crow aren’t here to trade their leather pants for overalls. They’re here to rock, write and record with other great writers and musicians who love the vibe here. It’s music, 24/7, if you want it (home studios are everywhere). They also love the fact that they can raise a family here. They can skip the paparazzi. They can go to a park, a store or a restaurant without getting hassled. They can be locals (as long as they learn to say “Thanks, y’all.”).

6. But if you want country, we got it.
Those Telecasters we mentioned … yeah, of course they’re here. Check out Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart or Keith Urban if you want to hear what great country guitar sounds like. Or catch a show at the Station Inn for some break-neck bluegrass licks. There’s also a little thing here called the Grand Ole Opry, which has been broadcasting continuously since 1925. And being a writer’s town, just about every night is writers’ night somewhere. But if you really wanna get rocked (in a country-ish way), you need to catch the Time Jumpers (see #7). Unbelievable.

7. The Time Jumpers are THAT good.
You may not be aware how much you love Western swing. We can fix that. Every Monday night, a ten-piece band called The Time Jumpers takes the stage at 3rd & Lindsley and plays the hottest blend of country, jazz and swing you’ll ever hear. Start with the amazing three-fiddle, full-frontal attack, then get ready: Andy Reiss and Vince Gill on guitars, and Paul Franklin on steel, will leave you gasping and grinning. Ranger Doug Green plays killer rhythm on his old Stromberg, too. Be sure to pick your jaw up off the floor on your way out.

8. Schools here offer real-world music degrees.
Belmont University sits on a hill at one end of Music Row. Their commercial music students can study contemporary songwriting, engineering, performance and publishing with industry pros who’ve actually been there and done that. Student interns work at major labels and publishing companies and make serious contacts before they graduate. Alums include current music execs, country stars Brad Paisley and Trisha Yearwood, and American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle. Or if you don’t mind a drive, 30 miles away in Murfreesboro, Middle Tennessee State University offers a similar—many say superior—program, in addition to one of the top multimedia journalism schools in the South.

9. There’s hallowed ground here.
Giants walked here. If you want to feel the vibe, stand on the center-stage circle at the Opry House, where Hank Williams, Chet Atkins and every other country legend has stood at one time or another. See a show (or tour backstage) at the Ryman Auditorium—then go across the alley and have a beer at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where so many headliners loosened their pipes between shows. And if you stay long enough, you might bump into music veterans who worked with Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash or dozens of other icons during their primes. Those are my favorite ghost stories, ever.

10. Everything else
We’re all about music, but Nashville isn’t some quaint little colony of bumpkin bohemians. It’s a surprisingly diverse hub of businesses and cultures. It’s home to 13 universities and colleges. There are pro sports, great restaurants and brewpubs (near and dear to my heart). Healthcare, insurance, financial and publishing industries are huge; tech jobs, auto manufacture, conventions and tourism are big players. Real estate has remained stable and reasonable, and there are several revitalized, trendy in-town neighborhoods, plus the usual uppity suburbs. Even the weather is cooperative, most of the time.

And then there are all these guitar players. As for other people’s attitudes toward us: No problem. We’re having too much fun to worry about it.

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Ronnie Brooks

Ronnie Brooks can be found lurking around Nashville, TN, where he writes magazine articles, Web content, songs, ad copy, jingles (little songs), and the occasional thank-you note. His songs have been recorded by Kid Rock, Joe Perry and Molly Hatchet; he’s played bass for Chuck Berry, produced Dolly Parton, performed on several Super Bowl ads, and seen the Beatles play live.

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Troy Castellano
8 years ago

Working on moving to Nashville to hone my songwriting craft! House is for sale and waiting for a buyer to come along!

Ricky Tibbs
8 years ago

To much fun to worry about it, exactly.

Todd Seales
8 years ago

COMPLETELY agree with #3! Huge part of the reason why I moved my family here!

Marc Barr
8 years ago

The Recording industry program at MTSU is a superior program to the one at Belmont. It is in the College of Mass Communication along with the School of Journalism and the department of Electronic Media Communication, which has programs and facilities like no other in the region and much of the rest of the US.

Tammy Bradley Love
8 years ago

Loved this article. Ronnie, growing up in the ‘burbs of Nashville, it is easy to forget how special all of this can be to others. I guess being a life long resident sort of has me taking her for granted at times. Thanks for reminding me of her coolness and renewing my appreciation once again to my beautiful city.

Leslie Beeson-Wall
8 years ago

I moved here 2 yrs ago and though I’m not a musician I do love the fact that they are everywhere! I live across the street from the Station Inn and have heard some amazing stuff there.
Met Jack Pearson in Midtown a while back….. nicest guy ever! And one very talented guy. You never know who you’ll be sitting on a patio with or when you’ll get stopped in your tracks by a voice or song coming from just about anywhere.
I lived my whole life in CA but Nashville feels like home….. when you’re here you really are family! Great article.

Ann Soyars
8 years ago

Station Inn

Doug Knight
8 years ago

Great article, Ronnie! I loved Nashville when we were there. Seems like a great place to live.

Ed Gamble III
8 years ago

I love the Time Jumpers. Some of them are the best you never heard of, but have heard on thousands of records. I have never figured out why Dawn Sears isn’t a household name amongst country music fans.

Dana Rombach Hoffman
8 years ago

We went to Nashville for the first time this past June. OMG! I want to move here so bad!! There’s so much to see, so much to do, and the people are SO NICE! We walked down Broadway and there was sooooo much to see and do! I loved watching and listening to the knew musicians play in the little bars along the street! I was lucky enough to get to go back in August (a beautiful 8 hour drive from Ohio) and that’s when I got to go to 3rd & Linsley to see the Time Jumpers. My husband and I went to PA to see them in April, and they were phenomenal!! It actually turned my hubby into a country music listener from then on! The music they play is beyond good! The fun they have on stage playing their instruments is a site to see! They clearly love to entertain their audience! I just can’t say enough about them!! 3rd & Linsley itself is such a cool place to eat and listen to the Time Jumpers play! Everyone seemed like family, and they welcomed us like family as well! Just an awesome experience all around! Thank you for the article Ronnie!

Amy Ridings
8 years ago

Just want to add in all the parks around here – Shelby Bottoms, Edwin Warner, Percy Priest, etc. – not to mention all the amazing restaurants that have been popping up too. You can wake up in Nashville, go grab an amazing coffee at a locally-owned coffee shop, go for a hike, have lunch at a friendly restaurant (think: Mas Tacos or Silly Goose), do some shopping at quirky, locally owned stores, grab dinner somewhere delicious and innovative (think: Husk, Margot, etc) and then go catch an unbelievable live show. And you could ride your bike to all of these if you live in East Nashville 🙂

Kent Burnside
8 years ago

Great article, Ronnie!

Alexa Follas
8 years ago

Awesome article! I am new to this area and although the move has been tough, every day I learn something new about this city! My husband and I have a wellness center in Hendersonville, http://www.livingwellchiro.net, and we’re just hoping to bring some health and healing to this area as well!

Lucas Moomaw
8 years ago

Very much agree with number 3. Experienced country drummers, especially, are under-rated in a star-studded picker town. They are my greatest influences in this city and I never have trouble accessing them to ask questions. Very nice folks!

Kathy Shaff
8 years ago

That all sounds real nice. Now if all the little blonde girls who sound exactly the same would take a quietus hiatus, Nashville would be just the ticket.

Bree Gibson
8 years ago

Love this! And, YES, the Time Jumpers are great!

Bree Gibson
8 years ago

Love this! And, YES, the Time Jumpers are great!

Steve McMahan
8 years ago

Thanks for the great article! It is a wonderful place with something for everyone!

Kyle Smitchens
8 years ago

My dad lives in Nashville, so I’ve had a number of opportunities to travel south and see the sights. Much like many others, I enjoyed reading this article. It really is an exciting and diverse city. I’d love to be able to make it down there more often. It’s filled with life, culture, and damn good music. What more do you need? Very nice article, Ronnie.

Lynne Douglas Miller
8 years ago

#11: Beautiful Middle Tennessee scenery

Don Fisher
8 years ago

Carter Vintage Guitars is an amazing vintage guitar experience. Different, relaxed, friendly, fun.

Carter Vintage Guitars
8 years ago

Great article Mr. Brooks! Thanks for the nice mention of Carter Vintage Guitars.

Sharpe Jill
8 years ago

I really liked that. And thank God, cause I just moved here from LA, bought a house and I’m here to stay!! ps. Can’t wait to see the Time Jumpers!!!!!! Thanks for this, cause this LA girl needed to hear all of it.

Sherri Simmons
8 years ago

….and the food, art, antiques, and distilleries are also great!

Martha Evett York Mangrum
8 years ago

Love it!

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