Nashville is most famously known for its musical prowess; dozens of singer/songwriters flock to the city daily to turn abstract dreams into tangible record deals. Coined "Music City," it's no surprise that Nashville is teeming with melodies that expand beyond the perceptible country twang. Currently, the reputation of a songwriting community puts Nashville on the map and artists on stage.
Bridgestone and Nissan host stadium tours to the stars, but scattered throughout Nashville you’ll find smaller venues that pulsate music every night of the week, teaming together to provide the beat to Nashville’s catchy rhythm. Check out the following locations to discover talented local artists. A visit to these venues, and years from now you’ll be able to brag to your friends, “I knew that artist way back when..”
The Bluebird Café
The Bluebird Café is a fundamental setting in Nashville. Don’t let its unassuming location in a stripmall down on Hillsboro fool you. Known as a critically acclaimed listening room, this intimate yet revered café is where several hot shot artists performed before getting recognition. Rightfully so, the Bluebird has earned the reputation as being the place where legends play. Most famous for its open mic nights, check out the Bluebird Café to attend a songwriters night.
Every Monday and Thursday night, Winners hosts Whiskey Jam. Whiskey Jam embraces up-and-coming artists by putting them in the spotlight. Artists play three songs each to show Nashville what they’ve got, and you’ll even hear hits from the radio. Whiskey Jam sometimes features the songwriters behind the big names, and you can hear how the famous singles got their start.
3rd and Lindsley
If you were a big fan of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” then 3rd and Lindsley is your spot. In addition to regular shows, 3rd and Lindsley offers the “Backstage Nashville” series. Successful songwriters that have cut singles perform their hits and offer you a behind the scenes take on their inspiration.
The Station Inn
Every Sunday, the Station Inn hosts a bluegrass jam that will have you irresistibly tapping your feet. Not only is the music great, it’s free!
Nashville isn’t all country music. The city attracts artists of all genres, and the Basement sets the stage for many indie artists. In addition to it’s 8th Ave South location, there’s also The Basement East location on Woodland.
Mercy Lounge/Cannery Ballroom/High Watt
Despite the intimate locations, the Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom, and High Watt have hosted some big names, from Chris Stapleton to Adele. These venues, situated in historic Cannery Row, bring in a diverse community of artists to Nashville.
Who doesn’t love sipping wine at a show? The City Winery features live shows, dinner, and wine. There isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Home to music “outsiders,” Exit/In provides a stage for artists that prefer electric guitars to cowboy boots. Walking in the doors, you’ll hear many genres: rap, punk, rock, metal, synth-pop, etc. Established in 1971, the venue keeps a list of performers on a blackboard that’s sure to impress.
Rudy’s Jazz Room
Rudy’s Jazz Room promotes jazz acts that rival Chicago and New Orleans. Built with acoustic architecture, the venue was designed to emanate jazz tunes and envelope listeners.
The Listening Room
The Listening Room encourages visitors to do exactly that: listen. The venue was founded by a singer/songwriter who wanted to create an environment respectful to artists pouring their hearts out each night. The Listening Room is specifically designed to be a quiet listening space for artists to be heard.
Nashville’s prestigious reputation encompasses not only country music, but roots that feed into all genres of music and sound. Be sure to visit these venues to hear for yourself.
Heather Brown, a Nashville Guide writer
Hailing from the Old Dominion, I've easily adapted my "Virginia is for Lovers" slogan to the "Nashville is for Music Lovers" lifestyle. After moving to Music City from Oklahoma City, I've explored middle Tennessee through the lens of artists' paintbrushes and urban canvasses. I've enjoyed eating, sipping, and dancing my way through Tennessee's capital while pausing periodically to strike a pose throughout the journey.