Have you ever been to a place and fell completely in love with the dreamers and their dreams? Heard music played by musicians who live and die by the thing they love most? Have you ever been inspired by those trying to ‘make it’ so much that you felt like packing in your job and becoming a full time busker, even though you can’t sing?
I hope you have. I hope I’m not the only one.
Nashville, Tennessee is that place for me, that place that made me see there is a home for the romantics, the daydreamers and the believers. It is a place that is like no other and if you are a singer, a musician, a writer, a traveller or just a plain nomad trying to see the world, then Nashville should definitely be on your bucket list of places to visit.
Last year I made a trip back to Nashville for the second time, once really wasn’t enough! This time we stayed in the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel, which was about 10 minutes from Downtown. It wasn’t the best hotel but if you go to a place like Nashville you will spend more time on Broadway than in your room!
Downtown is the place to be! It is very touristy and you won’t find a local within a mile of the main street but do you know what? I’m a tourist and when I become a local I’ll go where the locals drink!
Broadway starts at 2nd Avenue and goes up to 5th, it has over 50 bars and each bar has three floors. On each floor a live band plays a 4-hour set and there are 4 sets a day. So if you do the math… that’s an awful lot of singers, guitarists, drummers, fiddle players and tambourine shakers!
On our first day we stopped for a drink in Whiskey Bent Saloon, a place with an unbelievable selection of whiskey if you’re a whiskey drinker. I’m not really a scotch or bourbon kind of girl so I ordered a Bud light and pulled up a barstool. As I watched the band play I got this overwhelming feeling that I was where I was meant to be. I thought to myself, “I feel like I’ve come home”. It was unlike anything I’ve felt anywhere I’ve travelled. I do believe that’s what music can do to you.
Nashville is all about the music; from the traditional country and western sound of Roberts Western World to the loud rock of Honky Tonk Central, Broadway has it all. There were a few hung-over mornings spent in Valentines, this was my favourite daytime bar for easy listening. The regular set over the lunch period was a singer called Casey Weston; she didn’t need a guitar or a mic to sound amazing! I even added her CD to my collection!
When you’re somewhere for a week you make friends with the bands, the barmaids and the doormen, these guys truly knew how to make you feel welcome. I made a collection of cowboy selfies on the way…. I’m not sure where I found a lot of them but they were all happy to have a selfie taken…
I met an army veteran, an MMA fighter and a rock star who went by the nickname ‘Hot Mess’…. He really was a hot mess and he was named after my all time favourite human – Johnny Cash.
Speaking of Mr Cash, the museum dedicated to this legend was somewhere I spent 2 hours walking around in awe. It had walls upon walls of vinyl and photographs; it had sound booths to listen to his music through the decades and it even had a cinema room to take you back in time to his acting days.
If you’re not a Johnny Cash fan I would recommend watching at least one music video; the one that personifies him at the end of his life and career; the video he recorded just months before he died. It’s a song called Hurt – a Nine Inch Nails cover (you’ll recognise it from the Logan soundtrack). This video was in the final room of the museum and in it he tells the story of his broken, battered and rebuilt life. The words, “I wear this crown of thorns upon my liars chair, full of broken thoughts I cannot repair,’ are so moving and true to the life he once had, it was better than the original heavy metal cover, in my opinion anyway.
My Favourite thing about Nashville, apart from the music of course, was the culture. It is very different to the UK, in Nashville people dance! Every bar I went into everyone was up on their feet stamping their cowboy boots and twirling their partner. Young couples, old couples, couples that weren’t even couples, they all danced. Whilst in The Second Fiddle one night, a 70-year old Texan man asked me to dance and boy he knew how to move. Another night a young Marine asked for my hand and spun me around so much I almost fell over. After the song finished he sat me back on my barstool, tipped his hat and said, ‘Thank you Ma’am.”
I do believe I learnt how to do the two-step like a Tennessean by the end of the trip.
Nashville is a place where people say ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’, where men still open doors for you, because it’s the polite and chivalrous thing to do and where waiters and barmaids actually give good service. Nashville is where music was born and legends were made, it is a place that makes you believe that being a dreamer is ok. It is a city to fall in love with and one that makes you feel homesick when you leave.
As far as favourite places go, it’s top of the list for me. I brought back a case full of cowboy boots, a camera roll full of photos and a lifetime of memories but I definitely left my heart somewhere in Downtown Nashville.
Thanks for reading and if you get a chance to go to Nashville – take me back!