The vibrant, eccentric, doggedly authentic capital of Tennessee is in the midst of a massive makeover; thankfully, the city’s many old-time charms remain very much intact
Author Joe Keohane Photography David Eustace
POPULATION (METRO AREA): 1,589,934
RECORDING STUDIOS WITHIN A 25-MILE RADIUS: 322
YEAR THE “GRAND OLE OPRY” RADIO SHOW MOVED OUT OF THE WSM STUDIOS AND INTO THE HILLSBORO THEATRE: 1934
RECORD LABELS LISTED IN THE NASHVILLE YELLOW PAGES: 66
TOP 10 AMERICAN HITS THAT CAME OUT OF NASHVILLE’S HISTORIC RCA STUDIO B: 1,000+
NIGHTS AT THE NEW ERA CLUB IT TOOK TO RECORD 1964’s ETTA JAMES ROCKS THE HOUSE, THE FIRST LIVE ALBUM BY AN R&B SINGER: 2
PRICE, IN DOLLARS, OF A BACON-INFUSED OLD-FASHIONED AT PATTERSON HOUSE: 11
TIMES THE 5 SPOT HAS BEEN FEATURED ON “NASHVILLE”: 2
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Nashville’s growing music scene is no longer just about country
Nashville’s forever-long reputation as a country music mecca has taken a turn over the last few years. The country scene is still going strong, of course, but the city is also seeing flashes of pop, rock and hip hop.
“We’re starting to get this melting pot of genres,” says Emery Dobyns (pictured), a Grammy-winning engineer, rock producer and songwriter who moved to Nashville from New York this year because he saw an opportunity for more satisfying work. “Since I got here, I’ve been running into more and more music people from other cities. And these are successful people.”
For Dobyns and others like him, the allure of Nashville’s storied musical tradition is compounded by its booming economy and all of the benefits that come with it.
“You have amazing food and culture, a great lifestyle,” he says. “You never run into someone who’s not working.”
As for Dobyns, he’s keeping busy with Lily and the Parlour Tricks, an up-and-coming pop group who followed him down from New York, and who are also in the process of laying roots here.
“New York will always be there, and L.A. is a great place to visit,” Dobyns says. “But this is the place.”
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Nashville’s quirkiest, seediest art fest bears fruit
It was 2004, and Meg MacFadyen and her husband, Bret, had an idea. Music City summers were punishing, and the pair, who own the Art & Invention Gallery in East Nashville, were looking to start an event “that would make people come outside and be miserable in the heat together.” After some discussion, they decided that the best part about summer was tomatoes. Ergo: a tomato-themed art fest. A thousand people showed up, some dressed as tomatoes. “The whole thing was an accident,” MacFadyen says. The Tomato Art Fest has since expanded to include a parade, a pageant, food, music and a 5K race. But it retains its founding oddity, which is uniquely East Nashville. “Just because we thought it was funny,” says MacFadyen.
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Nashville is, as the song goes, “a country boy’s Hollywood.” Like its big-screen counterpart to the west, it’s a place to chase your dreams, while at the same time summarily dumping your ungainly birth name. Here, courtesy of the wildly quirky Wildsam Field Guide to Nashville, are some of the more radical Nashville name changes.
Big (of Big & Rich): William Kenneth Alphin
John Denver: John Henry Deutschendorf
Wynonna Judd: Christina Ciminella
Patsy Cline: Virginia Patterson Hensley
Ira and Charlie Louvin: Ira and Charlie Loudermilk
Young Buck: David Darnell Brown
Randy Travis: Randy Traywick
Shania Twain: Eileen Regina Edwards
Tammy Wynette: Virginia Pugh
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The inside scoop from those in the know
Owner, Room & Board Studio
“Ten minutes south of Nashville is Radnor, a wildlife preserve where you can watch birds, river otters, mink, muskrat, bobcat and coyote. It’s a perfect refuge from the madness.”
Co-owner, Hello Boys
“I always suggest people check out a show at the High Watt, a club in the Gulch. It’s always a local band on the cusp of making it. I’ve never seen a bad show there.”
Owner, Katy K designs
“Go to Prince’s for Hot Chicken in North Nashville. They’re so slow: You order and you age. But it’s good. Even the medium is hot. Rub your eyes after and you’ll go blind.”
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