As a singer-songwriter, going to Nashville has always been an aspiration of mine and before I went, I sought advice from some amazing mentors, however, after being there, I have also picked up a few tips of my own!
Here are 5 things, I think, you need to know about Nashville, to give you a little taster into the world of Music City.
**DISCLAIMER** I am not claiming to be an expert on the best places to go in Nashville or the best things to bring with you as a singer-songwriter, but, simply putting forward the experience of my first time out there and the little things I think fellow artists may find helpful.
- BROADWAY *A MUST VISIT*
Simply put, Broadway is the ‘bar strip’ in Nashville.
However, unlike any other city in the world I have been to, the live music in this particular strip…DOES NOT STOP (until 3am!) No matter what time of day it is, there is always a live band playing in every bar/restaurant on the strip. I went for brunch at ‘The Valentine’ on broadway one morning and there was a full 5 piece band performing; drums, keys, bass, guitar and vocals – at 10am! Crazy!
From what I noticed, not many locals spent their time on the strip, unless they were playing music. It was mostly filled with tourists and country music lovers during the day and hen parties/stag dos took to the streets at night…Fridays and Saturdays were busiest of course, with most places having about a 20-30 minute wait time to get in, but, with no cover charge and an amazing band on at each place, I was happy!
Broadway is where the majority of famous country music artists find their feet in Nashville and as no establishment on the strip pays the bands they hire, it’s the generous pub-goers that fund the tip jar! (Make sure you bring plenty of singles, fives, tens and twenties as you will feel the desire to tip the band…and rightly so!)
Some bands offered CDs and other merch as a thank you for tips/donations, so be prepared to pay for the great entertainment you are receiving. A lot of places did $20 – $100 request songs, with the highest donator’s request going straight to the top of the list…this really got the crowd going & in the entire 10 days that I was there, approx. 95% of requests were played to perfection – these guys & gals really know their music.
Once you’ve got your feel of Broadway, make sure to venture to the cool, fast developing area of East Nashville, or The Gulch. Broadway isn’t the only area in town worth a visit.
Music City INFO LINK BELOW!
2. THE LOCALS
Although seeing a ‘born and bred Nashville local’ is like seeing a unicorn, everyone who moved to the south to pursue music feels like a local in Music City. This really is a unique place in that everyone makes you feel like family here.
Everyone I met wanted to know my story & hear my inspiration for making the journey over from Ireland. Make sure when you go, you have a rough idea of the area you want to pursue, because not only will people ask you within minutes of meeting you, but, they will do whatever they can to help you, or even just give you a few friendly words of advice; genuinely.
Also, I hate to state the obvious, but, remember people’s names, who they are and what they do…this leads me on to my next point.
3. BUISNESS CARDS & SOCIAL MEDIA
An invaluable investment! I took 200 business cards out with me and came back with about 60. Almost everyone who I exchanged cards with, I contacted less than 48 hours later to touch base with and thank them for the advice they gave me. I got some great responses with some kind words about meeting, or to tell me that they listened to my CD & were happy to offer constructive criticism or to tell me which their favourite song was. Really cool that people took the time to listen to my music.
I also brought small download cards with me…these were cards with my album cover on one side and a QR Code on the other. Anyone who scanned would be taken directly to my iTunes. Again, another wise investment. You can get a QR Code for your iTunes, Spotify, website etc. easily online. Keep the cards and contact info in a safe place, you may need it one day!
If I had a pound for every person who asked me did I have a Facebook page, I could have paid for my flights home! This is so easy (and FREE!) to set up and with a little maintenance, is a great platform for connecting with other musicians as well as build a fan base…YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are all invaluable too.
I already have offers from some people I met to do co-writes and meet up again next time I’m in town, all through connecting on Facebook and through using my business cards.
4. WRITERS NIGHTS
I managed to get myself to 2 different writers nights and was not disappointed. I went to ‘The Douglas Corner Cafe’ Writer’s night on Tuesday and then the ‘Commodore Grill’ Writer’s night on Wednesday and also Saturday. Being prepared to call early and get a spot as well as being happy to sit and wait until the wee hours of the morning until you are up is a must; especially as a new artist in town. These are great ways of showcasing your talent. You never know who could be in the audience and most of these night’s have a featured writer attend who not only plays a few songs, but, also offers a few words of advice and sticks around afterwards too.
I was lucky enough to attend The Commodore Grill on the night Jerry Foster was featured. We spoke only for a few minutes after his set and I bought his book: ‘An Old Rebel Still Rockin’ and I am about half way through already…a fantastic read! One of the most enthusiastic, passionate and wonderfully wild people I have ever met!
Do as much research into open mics and writers nights as you can before you go and try and book in advance…this is one thing I would have done differently and I also would have prepared a much wider repertoire of original music, as well as book more nights in advance.
Try and go to Nashville with some sort of music available online, bring CDs with you or make people aware where they can access your music. After all, the whole reason you are going is to get your music in front of people…make it as easily accessible for them as possible.
The chances for showcasing your original stuff are endless in Nashville and you do not want to be underprepared! Whiskey Jam & Whiskey Jam East are 2 nights that were recommended to me, but, I was unable to attend this time. A *MUST ATTEND* for next time. LINKS BELOW!
5. MUSIC ROW
As most musicians are probably aware, Music Row is the area of the city where all the radio stations, labels and publishers are located. This area of town is pretty quiet, but, definitely worth a visit if not for the chance to make some contacts, but, for inspiration.
I went down on my last Friday and approached some companies about the possibilities of working with them and although most companies do not accept un-solicitied material, some did and most places gave me great advice or gave me a heads up about radio stations I should contact and associations I should be part of. NSAI (Nashville Songwriter’s Association International) was one that many recommended. LINK BELOW!
MUSIC CITY INFO: http://www.visitmusiccity.com
OPEN MIC/WRITERS NIGHT INFO (LIMITED): http://nashvilleguru.com/30574/nashvilles-best-open-mic-songwriters-nights
WHISKEY JAM: https://www.facebook.com/WhiskeyJam/timeline
NSAI INFO: https://www.nashvillesongwriters.com