HANNAH PATTERSON TRAVELLED TO TENNESSEE AND FELL IN LOVE WITH ITS SOUNDS, SOUL AND SPIRITS…
1) MUSIC IS EVERYTHING
Nashville isn’t referred to as Music City for nothing. You can’t swing a guitar without hitting a checked-shirt-clad musician, and the city is pulse-poundingly electric because of it. If there’s a bar, there’s a stage, and if there’s a stage, there are young hopeful talents or seasoned professionals gracing it. You come to Nashville for the music, and there’s no better place to find it than on the Honky Tonk Highway. This small stretch of road is packed with bars hosting live music acts from 11am to 3am. I settled down for many a night (and day) in the Second Fiddle, Robert’s, and Legend’s Corner in particular. I may have not seen too much daylight during my time in Nashville, but it was certainly worth it.
2) KNOW YOUR HISTORY
In 2005, I watched Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Twelve years later, I was convinced I knew everything there was to know about country music because of it. Unsurprisingly, it turned out I knew nothing. Music is history here – it’s the pain, the joy, the struggle and the victory of the South, and it’s worth clueing yourself up.
The Johnny Cash Museum is definitely worth a visit. It’s filled with childhood handwritten notes, costumes worn by the man himself, his guitars, his music, personal photographs and trophies…by the time I’d reached the chair he sat on for his final music video for the cover of the Nine Inch Nails’ song Hurt, my eyes
were filled with tears.
It’s also impossible to visit this city without the obligatory visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame, one of the crown jewels of Nashville’s tourism industry. Their mission is to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music, and they’ve invested in it heavily. The museum itself is huge, and packed to the rafters with genuine treasures from Country and Rock ‘n’ Roll’s greatest legends, including Elvis’ own car. If you were a teenage girl in the 90s like myself, you’re going to squeal in delight when you see Shania Twain’s original leopard-print catsuit from her That Don’t Impress Me video. But one mustn’t forget the Ryman Theatre, a significant slice of country music history. The stage has been a home to all the legends, and you’re treated to a fantastically high-tech presentation on the history before getting to tread the boards yourself with an acoustic guitar. Let your inner music star run riot! There’s even a recording studio onsite if you’re feeling particularly hopeful.
3) IT’S BEST NOT TO THINK ABOUT CALORIES
Nashville isn’t really a place for the clean-eaters of the world. Forget the diet as it’s just not worth depriving yourself here. Everything is deep fried; the chicken, the onions, the cheese. I’d go out on a limb and say that even the salads are dipped in a pot of boiling oil before being served. But all is not lost, because it tastes incredible – no one fries quite like the South. Anyone who leaves this city with comfortably-fitting jeans has almost certainly done something terribly wrong. All the bars that I holed myself up in served classics like fries, onion rings and breaded cheese, but it’s worth venturing away from the Honky Tonk Highway (although not too far) towards Printer’s Alley. Cheekily tucked away there is 417 Union, a real southern diner with great beer, cocktails, décor and a menu that would make even Kate Moss break her diet.
4) DRINK UP THE CULTURE
I had caught a late flight from New York, and arrived in Nashville at around 8pm. After a power nap, and a quick freshen up, I headed out into town. All the bars were blasting music, so when I got inside and asked for a vodka coke, I assumed the bar tender had misheard me when he leant over the bar and shouted ‘whiskey?’
The whiskey here is good, really good in fact, and it’s produced by the barrel load within the state. There are multiple options and the bartenders are always happy to recommend favourites, including Jack Daniels (the obvious classic) and Widow Jane’s bourbons. Even though I usually dislike the drink, I drank it for the remainder of my stay.
5) YOU CAN FALL IN LOVE MULTIPLE TIMES IN ONE DAY
“Now m’aam, I wouldn’t be much of a gentleman if I didn’t give up for my seat for a lady.” Having grown up in south east London, I wasn’t used to hearing words of this nature being uttered in any kind of establishment,
but the people of Nashville are of a different breed. They love to dance, they love to smile, they love to sing, and they love to give up a seat for you in the middle of a packed bar. As is the case with any travelling adventure, speak to the locals. Near everyone I met was an artist, who had big dreams, big thoughts and big things they wanted to say. If you want to experience Nashville, experience the people.
RYMAN THEATRE: www.ryman.com
COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM: www.countrymusichalloffame.org
JOHNNY CASH MUSEUM: www.johnnycashmuseum.com
417 UNION: www.417union.com
LEGEND’S CORNER: www.legendscorner.com
SECOND FIDDLE: www.thesecondfiddle.com
ROBERT’S WESTERN WORLD: www.robertswesternworld.com
NASHVILLE VISITOR AND TOURIST INFORMATION: www.visitmusiccity.com