A Music Lover's Guide to Nashville
Almost 95 years ago, Nashville gained the nickname Music City as it holds its ground as the place to be for live music. Over the years, it has grown to a community with a strong love for anything musical. The Music City offers all kinds of new experiences to any music lover with a taste for musical knowledge and memories.
Nashville is drenched with music, from country and Americana to pop and rock, to classical and blues, you will most definitely find your favorite genre in the mix. But with the eclectic bunch of music options in the city, there’s almost too much. Seeing and hearing everything is nearly impossible on a short visit.
No matter how much you love music, you may feel overwhelmed trying to cram everything in a few days. Here’s a brief rundown of the must-sees in the Nashville music scene to ensure you’ll be able to appreciate the music and its deeply rooted history throughout the city.
Experience the Honky Tonk Highway
The heart of Nashville’s Live Music Scene is in the downtown area holding most of the city’s famous live music venues. Most notable as “Honky Tonk Highway” located on Broadway between 1st and 5th Avenue, which is lined up with bars and music venues that feature live bands from the early afternoon well into the night every day.
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There’s no need for a ticket to see live music here, nor is there any cover charge. It gives you a chance to bar hop, listen to different groups, and try out various venues all night long. While the music playing is free, the tips you deposit on your way out would be used to pay the performer. In Nashville, they named this pilgrimage as Honky Tonking.
You could enjoy more than 10 honky-tonks on Lower Broadway. Feast on the music and the atmosphere. Honky Tonk is a must experience whether you like or dislike country music as it’s the staple of Nashville and a necessary cultural experience while in town.
Grand Ole Opry
A trip to Nashville wouldn’t be complete without seeing a Grand Ole Opry show. The Opry is not actually a venue but the name of a live radio show that began airing in 1925 which has helped build and launched the careers of hundreds of musicians for more than 90 years on the air. It’s the longest-running radio broadcast in the U.S.
The Grand Ole Opry is a Nashville institution that honors the history of the Opry. This draws visitors from all over the globe. Every year, thousands of country music fans and non-fans alike make pilgrimages across town or around the world to see the show live as well as the sheer allure of the place.
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There will be a handful of performers taking the stage each night. You’ll hear a wide assortment of music that throughout a two-hour concert, becomes more of a variety show than a country music concert.
You can also book a behind-the-scenes tour backstage to see where the careers of many country music favorites were launched. The museum is packed full of unique artifacts, exhibits, and displays from the early days of the Opry.
It features the history of legends such as Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dickens, and Tex Ritter. It’s the perfect way to spend an hour or so before the show starts.
Take in a Songwriters-in-the-Round Show
A songwriters’ show is a unique way to hear music in Nashville. In a city filled with songwriters, plenty of music venues in the city would host a writers’ night where several singers and songwriters will perform their original piece in an intimate, “in the round,” setting every night.
As they sit on the stage accompanied only by a microphone, a guitar, and their immense talent, this would put them in the spotlight which would bring them out of their shell.
Image Source: Nashville Guru
These shows can be found in small and intimate clubs all over town, including the most famous The Bluebird Café in Green Hills, where some of the most famous singers and songwriters like Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks got their start.
It’s not uncommon to rub shoulders with singers and writers of classic tunes while you’re there. Chances are you’ll witness an artist that will be famous one day.
Other great places to check out are downtown’s the Listening Room, Douglas Corner, and the Commodore Grille.
Dive Deep into Nashville’s Music History
Immerse yourself in decades of history of music in the Music City itself. The Country Music Hall of Fame is a great spot to spend a few hours of your schedule. Any fan of music would enjoy walking through and enjoying the exhibits which showcase guitars, outfits, and even original handwritten lyrics from stars.
The RCA Studio B which departed from the Country Music Hall of Fame, is another must in the itinerary. As the oldest surviving recording studio in Nashville, plenty of artists have recorded there including Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, and the Everly Brothers. It was also the favorite place for Elvis Presley to record. You can learn more about the Nashville Sound” that this historic studio popularized.
Image Source: Country Music Hall of Fame
Learn more about the hard work that goes into creating a hit song and record, along with the backstory, history, and musicians that made American music amazing in the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum’s galleries and artifacts honor the talented musicians from all genres of music.
Give yourself an hour or two to be able to look at all the displays including the instruments played on the original recordings of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hank Williams, Sr., George Harrison, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Chicago and more. You can even see the original stage where the young Jimi Hendrix played.
Shop for Music
Pick up some unique Nashville music souvenirs in places such as Third Man Records. This record label houses its own record store, performance venue and novelties lounge, where you can find one of the most unique souvenir pieces in all of Music City.
The refurbished 1974 Voice-o-Graph machine in the Third Man Record Booth allows you to record up to two minutes of any audio of your choosing. You can try to test out your musical talents or just record a voice memo for a loved one. For an additional fee, the Third Man will even music your disc anywhere you’d like it to go.
Image Source: Third Man Records
Grimey’s Records is Nashville’s premier indie record shop that has been filling music fans’ orders since 1999! They stock new & preloved CDs, LPs, and DVDs. This is the place where you can find albums from today’s top artists as well as those hard-to-find indie bands.
Music souvenirs in Nashville don’t have to be limited in vinyl and albums, Music City Suds sells soaps with fun, country music names such as “I Walk the Lime” which is an ode to Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line.” Their products have appeared in celebrity gift bags at the CMT and CMA Awards. They’ve also created custom soaps for country music stars Lady Antebellum, Trace Adkins and Barbara Mandrell.
In addition to bar soaps, the company sells candles, room sprays, and beard oil. No artificial colors, scents, or additives are used, and all fragrances are from pure essential oils. You can find the Music City Suds products in Nordstrom, TJ Maxx, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and The Opry.
Pick up some uniquely Nashville musical souvenirs at Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest working letterpress poster shops in America. The print shop had a front show seat to the music business and created original posters featuring a host of musical performers which you can purchase in the shop.
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Besides a concert poster, you can also get plenty of pre-printed posters which are perfect for framing or choose from postcards, stationery, glassware, hats, bumper stickers and so much more.
Don’t leave Nashville empty-handed. From Nashville t-shirts to musical instruments that showcases how the Music City lives up to its name, take home a piece of the city with you or bring back unique and special pieces as a gift for your loved ones.
Get out and explore these experiences unique to the Music City to make your trip memorable years from now. Together with the short sleeve t-shirt and keepsake illustration of geotees, you’ll be ensured that your adventures in Nashville will remain for years to come.
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