Music arrived in the city from along the Cumberland River. The first settlers that disembarked on its shores at the end of the 18th century celebrated their arrival in the New World by playing violins and dancing. Today, Nashville continues to be ‘Music City’, a monument to a way of creating and spreading sound, the cradle of country music and the place where Elvis recorded ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.
It doesn’t matter what time it is: the locals on Broadway and its adjacent streets always offer rock, pop, jazz, blues, country and even gospel concerts. The noise pollution is welcome outside. It allows you to choose a venue or improvise a musical ‘speed date’, jumping between places as if you had a random playlist. All of these venues look very similar: open-brick walls, gloomy lighting, limited capacity (around 60 people) and a handful of vintage records, instruments and autographed photos hanging on the walls.
The musical awakening of the city happened at the end of the 1920s. As records weren’t popular, artists used to travel to radio stations and perform their songs live. The most influential show was undoubtedly the Grand Ole Opry show on the WSM station in Nashville, presented by the legendary George D. Hay. With the passing of time, it brought together so much talent that during the Second World War its caravan of artists (the Camel Caravan) did a tour of the military bases of the United States that people listened to all over the world. It caught the attention of record labels and companies, which began to do business in the city, turning it into what is now known as ‘Music City, USA’.
Nashville continues to attract musicians of all styles. Headliners such as Patrick Carney, The Black Keys, Keith Urban, Kings of Leon, Kesha, Sheryl Crow and, of course, Taylor Swift all live here. The young singer moved to the city when she was 14 years old to follow a country music career and signed her first record contract after performing in a competition at The Bluebird Cafe. Over 300 artists also visit every year, seeking inspiration for their records. However, its most popular ‘in memoriam’ inhabitant is, without doubt, Elvis Presley. And it was in the famous RCA Studio B, on the outskirts of Nashville, where ‘the King’ recorded more songs than anywhere else: over 200.
Other must-visit places for music-loving tourists are the theatre that stages the Grand Ole Opry every week, where legends from Porter Wagoner to Dolly Parton perform. Then there is the Bluebird Cafe itself, a venue with just 20 tables and an intimate atmosphere, which many artists choose as the place to present their songs for the first time. Or United Record Pressing, the largest record pressing plant in the country, open since 1949, where The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis personally chose the colour for their vinyl records.