It’s been 7 years since last time I visited Nashville. The Gibson Guitars display still greeted me at baggage claim but almost immediately I sensed a change. The city is a little less country, more “hip,” a little more diverse; there’s a slightly different beat. There was no Uber 7 years ago but now nowhere is more than a 5 minute wait. Uber fuels Nashville with military precision by way of musician drivers, cops earning extra pay and two-income married couples, like Paulette who with her husband bought two mini-vans so they could reap maximum income benefit when party after downtown party calls for someone else driving you home.
I’m here for the 2018 Americana Music Fest and can’t tell you how many times an Uber driver, barista, waitress or even fellow musician has asked, “so what’s Americana anyway?” Over the 4 days of the festival I honed my answer to, “it’s any roots music genre — like blues, bluegrass, gospel, folk, zydeco or soul and it’s derivatives that still rely, in part on traditional instruments such as acoustic guitar, banjo, standup bass, accordion, mandolin.” Frankly I don’t know if that’s a good definition but it works enough to move most conversations to the next topic.
Though many hotels dot downtown Nashville and a new one seems to open nearly every day, I decided to AirBnB it — cheaper and East Nashville (far more gentrified than I remember) is close enough to downtown but far enough to feel like I’m away when I want to be.
Today was amazing starting w/breakfast at The Post coffee shop made famous by the Nashville tv show and right around the corner from my flat. Afterwords, despite navigating temperatures 30 degrees hotter than my hometown and way more humidity, I walked through the amazing urban Shelby Park only 0.3 miles away — shaded in parts, I encountered a few intrepid runners along with fellow walkers. All friendly, making me feel very much at home.
The day crescendoed as I hit the Americana Music Fest meeting a fellow Seattle musician at a workshop discovering we have a boatload of common friends, heading to Concord Records’ “wine and cheese” fretting I knew no one only to hear “Paula Boggs?”...it was my AirBnB landlord (who I’d never met in person) and his first cousin...his husband works for Rounder Records and he happened to see my name tag.
Topped off the evening with 4 off-the-hook performances at 3 different storied venues— if you ever get a chance to see any of these folks...DO IT: Yola Carter (Nashville Palace), Kaia Kater (The Local) and Israel Rush followed by Courtney Marie Andrews (The High Watt).
As I head back to overcast Seattle reflecting on the 4 days spent halfway across the country meeting fellow artists, others in the music business and hearing great music, I feel good. Mission accomplished and I’ll be back. Stay friendly Nashville.