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Believing, Suffering and “The Midtown Myth” – CMA Fest 2019 Part 7

So my second CMA Fest was in the book, luckily I had learnt from the absolute rookie error I made last year! Anyone taking international flights (probably applies for any American’s taking domestic flights too) after CMA Fest DO NOT AND I REPEAT, DO NOT LEAVE ON THE MONDAY! There are a couple of reasons for this: firstly you kind of need to be able to come down a little bit after the buzz of the festival, secondly BNA is absolutely heaving and most importantly Monday is the best night in town which I will obviously come on to in due course!

Me and my entourage decided to take what turned out to be the best recommendation imaginable. When I spoke to Bailey Bryan (which you can check out HERE) and the guys from LANCO (and this one is HERE) whilst they were over in the UK back in May they all told me we had to go and eat at Edley’s Bar-B-Que but they didn’t quite emphasise how amazing the food was here! Also when you have been spending most of your time on Broadway the food here is really reasonably priced and you get plenty of it. A lot of us had a Brisket Platter which comes with 2 sides and it literally was something else, also the potato salad here is absolutely to die for. There are 3 of them in town: Sylvan Park, East Nashville and the one at 2706 12th South where we all went to but seriously whenever you head to music city, eating at one of them should definitely be on your to do list! For more info and to wet your appetite, check out their WEBSITE

12th South is an awesome area, it’s really pretty with plenty of cool stores, coffee shops and places to eat. A lot of tourists will make there way right next door to Edley’s to visit one of the 2 most famous murals in the city with the other being Kelsey Montague’s What Lifts You wings in The Gulch. The I Believe in Nashville mural is pretty iconic and like eating hot chicken I suppose, something you kind of have to do in the city or have you even been to Nashville? Yes we were #basic tourists and all sat down in front of it, yes we did have to queue up for it and before you ask YES I am wearing a Little Mix t-shirt in the picture! 

As if we were not full enough already after lunch we stopped to sample heaven on earth! Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, where have you been all my life? Em doesn’t have dairy so along with her fish tacos, getting ice cream that she could eat was very high on the koala scale of priorities. I had frozen yogurt (or froyo as I believe the kids are calling it these days) and it was so…. erm I gonna go with “orgasmic” that given the choice between this and you know what: Brooke, honey you would be out of luck! They do dairy free, they do so many different exciting flavours, they have really good attention to detail for people with any allergies and they have stores across the USA (check out the WEBSITE) so wherever you are visiting make sure you try and find one! – Rainbow Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt just OMG writing this is making my mouth water! 

We headed back to the apartment to freshen up before a BIG NIGHT that was just incredible on every level. Bearing in mind this was my eleventh day in the States, I think this was the latest it had been before we had any beer (not that you should be claiming waiting until 6pm before you have a drink is an achievement in life) and it had been one of the warmer days of our trip too! CMA Fest does get a bit overwhelming with it being so centred around Broadway that if you are in town for the event you do forget the real Nashville that you have heard and dreamed of. The core of the city is all about music, that’s why they call it music city! It’s almost like a sense of El Dorado, the fabled Spanish city of gold or the story of Dick Whittington heading to London to seek his fortune because that is what people do there – they come to Nashville to try and fulfil theirs dreams as an artist. The beauty of this is everyone has incredible stories that have made them who they are and how they got to this place. The place where these stories and dreams are shared are at songwriters rounds which if you are a fan of country music you are there to appreciate these dreams and immerse yourself in the beauty of these rounds.

We headed for a round that we had all heard a lot about and yes the reason why it came to exist is absolute bullshit but it is something you need to experience as it has become one of the, if not THE most talked about nights amongst country fans in the UK! To set the scene for anyone outside of the UK: we don’t have any country charts, any mainstream charts are based on sales, downloads and streams rather than accounting for airplay, although it is starting to grow we still have very limited access to any country music on the radio (but the playlists are less restrictive and repetitive) and of the people making country or americana music the majority of them and those with the highest profile right now are predominantly FEMALE!

The Nashville music community is so powerful and especially amongst the girls with how they are there for each other, support each other, fight for each other and most importantly want to see each other winning which is the key message behind Song Suffragettes as a showcase.

If you read any of my earlier diary posts from the trip (like THIS ONE in particular) you may have seen that I find Kalie Shorr hilarious, think she has a really sweet voice, is very witty as a songwriter, a trend setter for things I really should have put more thought into before I did them (yes her brand really is thriving that much) and someone that is an incredibly strong young woman who you just have to admire for the way she is so optimistic and doesn’t take life too seriously.

Kalie hosted the round which also featured the highly excitable enigma that is the lovely Savannah Keyes, the absolutely hilarious badass Candi Carpenter who had the entire listening room is stitches along with the beautiful voices of Tasji Bachman who we came across for the first time and the incredible Emily Earle (who on a side note I also get her cousin Justin live for the first time this weekend at Black Deer Festival over here in Kent) which complimented such a great first songwriters show for many of us. If you haven’t worked out Song Suffragettes is female only songwriters round with 5 girls playing 3 songs each and then a group cover to finish that takes place every Monday night at The Listening Room Cafe between 6 and 8 that really is a fun night. Just a heads up for anyone know that hasn’t been to a show at The Listening Room before, they have a minimum $15 per person table spend so for us was $90 for 6 of us which was easily covered by a few bowls of nachos, hummus and “fries” (not chips as we would say back home) to share along with 3 or 4 drinks each so between us so it basically was $30 each including gratuity, tax and our cover (which we booked before online that proved awesome as we had a table up on the balcony) so fantastic value especially considering the calibre of what we got to see on stage. Make sure you do go to one of these shows  if you are in town so check out their website HERE

The whole elephant in the room / issue / problem / complete and utter BS or however else you want to term the fact of how hard things are for the girls in Nashville is something you could go on for so long about because it is an issue and unfortunately still a really big one. We hear about it a lot in the UK but being over there it does baffle you even more as all through CMA we saw a lot of female artists playing to healthy crowds and you see this writers round selling out regularly that I really struggle to find these mythical beings that I doubt actually exist outside of radio exec offices who DON’T actually want to Let The Girls Play.  A large amount of what we saw during the festival on the daytime stages were independent, fairly newly signed or artists without the substantial mass exposure (as the majority of them haven’t yet been over to the UK YET) that were predominantly girls and I think what has happened as a result of how things are in Nashville is that they are so badass, so creative and just exploring the freedom to take music to such amazing new levels and directions which is simply making the best music they can and that their fans want to hear. But (I know it’s terrible grammar to start a sentence with “but” however I did it anyway) I hope things do begin to change, Kelsea Ballerini had the number one whilst we were out there and you could instantly see how big a deal that was to everyone and more importantly how pleased for her people were! The key message behind Song Suffragettes is that these girls in Nashville are supporting each other and NOT competing against each other which just reflects the whole community aspect of Nashville, Tennessee.

OK soap box gone and seeing as Monday’s are the new Friday’s, we headed back to Midtown where we decided to go pretty hard. I say pretty hard but Mich Ultra is similar to how Scottish people define a session ale in that as long as you aren’t going like a freight train you can drink quite a lot of it before it starts having consequences until you chuck a couple of vodka’s in the mixer too – However here at Think Country we should not be immoral and be promoting irresponsible levels of alcoholic consumption so know your limits kids (however me and Shannon were very late home and may have locked ourselves in the bathroom when we got back then sat on the floor eating bread and uncontrollably giggling for no reason) and drink in moderation. Following another heads up from when I spoke to LANCO we went to Winners for our first taste of Whiskey Jam which is like the perfect mix of cool and laid back enough for the locals whilst still being welcoming enough for us out of towners! It’s sort of a booked open mike (similar to nights at The Bedford in Balham) with more live band focus than acoustic I guess is the way to describe it where you have people who are potentially the stars of tomorrow playing on stage where you may even get surprise guests turn up an play where it is a really casual hang for execs, students, artists and tourists alike. We had a lot of fun, quite a few other Brits we knew turned up with us and were also in the mood to party then we all rolled over to Losers next door after. I don’t need to put any pictures of what went down but if you really want to know more about the “Midtown Myth” which isn’t actually as exciting as it may sound just a hilarious moment with someone being randomly overexcited about a Taylor Swift story (sorry Gary, just had to get the phrase in print before it becomes a song title so I can claim the co-write) you can probably find evidence to use against me in posts I am tagged in on my Instagram. From here we moved on to Red Door Saloon and stayed until kick out time. An interesting bar with the lighting which I kinda liked as it is a kind of ready made Insta filter but really odd having a fully smoking bar (you can smoke inside at the bar) which we are so not used to back at home that even as a smoker doesn’t quite feel right. I liked having my vodka in a glass rather than a plastic cup plus it seemed to be cheaper than most bars, it’s different that there is no live music in there compared to other bars in Nashville but there is a jukebox that we hit on a bit which is cool unlike the toilet which is not dirty just downright weird with the bog and the urinal in the same area with no stall. I will definitely be drinking here way more on any future trips to Nashville. 

More people were starting to head home on the Tuesday so we ended up having quite a chilled day really. About 10 of us had breakfast at Frothy Monkey on 5th North which biscuits and gravy was firstly needed and secondly greatly received even though the portion was too big and I didn’t even get through half of it. Then we all sort of tidied our apartment and did our packing really almost as if we were ready to go home. That sounds awful but I think we all were ready for getting back rather than being done with Nashville if that makes sense. We said goodbye to some of our other friends at Barlines at the bottom of the Omni where they were staying as Em would be heading back to Australia and none of us were still sure on what our plans would be for next year (next post etc. etc.) then the 5 of us left decided to be classy for our final meal and headed to Pinewood Social (33 Peabody) which is just beyond Ascend Amphitheatre. This is an absolute gem in Nashville, there is a bowling alley in the back but it has a proper London upmarket yet still trendy vibe to it. Again another cool place you can head to for getting off Broadway (may have noticed a theme for what could be a big staple in my final post) and the food here like at Adele’s is clean, fresh and absolutely amazing! Yes it is quite pricey but well and truly worth it! We tried a few drinks after at Whiskey Row (Dierks Bentley’s) on Broadway which was the first and only time we went in on the trip surprisingly as I think it is one of the classier bars on the strip but by about 10:30 we all sort of tapped out and went back as my entourage would dwindle further early doors due to a few people with early flights to Texas.

Due to the direct flight back to London being in the evening and Emma having earlier connections to LAX and beyond, we had some time after we left our apartment to have coffee and to say goodbye. At this point last year we were already making plans for our return trip for this years festival but we had all kind of agreed that we weren’t having the same anticipation but that will come to light more in my final piece. I used my last couple of hours in town to catch up with Glen Mitchell one last time then grabbed a final helping of fried chicken at another new part of town for me which I again wish we could have spent some more time there up by First Tennessee Park (genuinely did not know there was a baseball team in Nashville let alone a stadium) with my pal Kenny Foster then this years adventure was over as I headed to BNA for the flight home. Rather than just ending it here I have already written the final instalment for this years trip, it is a more reflective piece about what I learnt about the city and even myself that I will drop tomorrow but all in all we had an incredible time in all of Nashville before, during & after the festival plus my trip trough Mississippi, Alabama and Eastern Tennessee was truly unforgettable which I would seriously recommend if you have the opportunity to do so!



Annette Gibbons
Hi, I’m Annette, I have been a huge country music fan since the early 90s those were the days we were lucky enough to have CMT in the UK. I enjoy nothing more than listening to country music whilst having a cold beer (or a moonshine) with friends. I try to as many gigs as I can here in the UK and in the USA; I think of Nashville as my second home and I am lucky to have made some amazing friends in Tennessee. Think Country is something I am very proud of, I just want to share my love and passion of all things country music related with you all.
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