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They don’t call it Music City for nothing.
It’s not just country music that you’ll find in Nashville, but classy singer songwriters, honky tonk music you can let your hair down too, big charting artists, and live acoustic mellow moments.
The music in Nashville, TN sounds good and will make you feel good.
The music tradition, stories and endless live music experiences is what makes Nashville one of the most unique cities in the USA.
For all you bachelorette party ladies out there visiting Nashville, yes go on the trolley pub tour, but be sure to schedule in a night with the girls enjoying live music.
It will be a Nashville memory you won’t forget.
Live Music in Nashville, TN
1. The Grand Ole Opry
Nashville will be a city I return to again and again just to hang out, have fun and connect to music, the language of the soul.
What I love the most about the Grand Ole Opry is its tradition and family like atmosphere. I’m not sure any other musical genre is as close knit as the country music one.
I think the Opry is at the core of helping to create that atmosphere.
I love being a part of it. I particularly love going backstage for a deeper insight into the Opry history and the culture behind it.
Walking around the halls back there seeing the dressing rooms, and Keith Urban’s mailbox, listening to people like Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts warm up, and running into Lauren Alaina was thrilling.
But best of all was experiencing the warm welcoming atmosphere of the Opry family. Even if you don’t get that backstage opportunity, sitting in the audience is an absolute treat.
Where else can you listen to multiple award winning artists playing several of their tunes?
At the Opry you hear at least 8 musicians from many different styles of country, old and new sing. They sing new hits and old hits and even cover hits.
On our first trip we discovered and fell in love with Chris Janson. I was stoked to see him on the line up when I took my Mum and Dad to the Opry this past May.
Like Graceland, the Opry was a place I always heard my Mum dream about visiting.
What a thrill that I got to take her and take her backstage. (we visited as guests of the Opry)
Both Mum and Dad sat up in rapture listening to Chris Janson. As soon as he finished Mum turned to me, “I’m buying his album’.
I got them for her the next day for Mother’s Day gift. My Dad was blown away by his harmonica playing talents!
This session I discovered young female artist, Kallie Shorr and I was thrilled to see Rascal Flatts play live as they were one of the first country bands that got me appreciating the music genre a little more.
And then you have moments, where it’s not the artists standing in the famous Opry circle who steal the show, but a member of their band whose energy and enthusiasm lights up the entire stage.
I don’t know who this musician in the Rascal Flatts band was, but he was having a damn good time playing the drums and the keyboard at the same time AND then someone from off stage would throw him a guitar and he’d jam on that.
All the while dancing and jigging.
He was just incredible.
The Grand Ole Opry is accepting of any style you want to show up in – casual jeans and cowboy boots or something a little dressy.
Go with what feels right for you.
The Cascades American Cafe at the Gaylord Resort
Enhance the Opry experience with a pre-show dinner at The Cascades American Cafe in the Opryland Resort.
We dined as guests of the Opryland resort and it was sensational.
Craig insists his filet mignon is the best steak he’s ever had and Mum and Dad said the same about their salmon.
My quinoa salad was equally delicious.
It’s worth wondering around the Gaylord Resort to check out the decorated atriums, inner gardens with waterfalls and delta river boat cruises.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort is the largest non-gaming hotel in Continental US.
It’s quite a spectacular resort and restaurant. You may even want to consider staying here. Families will love it, especially considering there’s a new water park opening here soon!
2. The Bluebird Café
Those in the music industry already knew about the Bluebird’s legendary status before fans of the show did.
Many famous musicians had their first start at this intimate café located in strip mall just south of the city.
On our last visit to Nashville, we took the girls to Monday’s singer songwriter open mic evening. It was fantastic watching artists at the beginning of their careers opening their hearts and soul to the audience.
This time I took Mum and Dad to the later session on the Monday, which is a regular blues session with the Mike Henderson Band (25 years running!).
I’ve only just learned that Mike Henderson is a talented songwriter who has recorded with many big name artists.
He just won a 2018 Grammy Award for Best Country Song, “Broken Halos,” which he co-wrote with singer, Chris Stapleton. Wow. It’s one of my favorite songs at the moment. I had no idea.
Mike’s Monday night blues session is totally different to the other Bluebird café music sessions throughout the week. Those sessions demand silence during the performances to respect the artist’s singer songwriter talents.
But Mike’s session is about letting loose and slipping into a rowdy blues mood.
I was a little worried. I’m not a blues person – well I can do a couple of tunes and then I’m ready for something a little shorter and different.
Would I be able to handle 90 minutes of blues and in an venue that is small, meaning it was going to be really loud?
How would Mum and Dad handle this? They’re not blues people either.
And it wouldn’t be finishing until 11pm, way past our bedtime!!
Well, the three of us loved it!
It was such a fun atmosphere and the music was incredible. We were all mesmerized by the pianist, Kevin McKendree.
None of us had ever seen anyone play a piano like that before. As my Dad said, he had the strength and power, yet was also so gentle in how he hit the keys.
He was phenomenal.
We couldn’t believe it after the performance when we saw him sitting at the bar with his arm in a sling. How did he play like that with an injured arm?
A night at the Bluebird is a music experience you do not want to miss in Nashville.
Hopefully you can get tickets online beforehand, otherwise the queue can be up to four hours long – for the total diehards at least.
My parents said our night at the Bluebird Cafe was one of their favorite things to do in Nashville, actually on our entire Dallas to Boston road trip.
3. Ryman Auditorium
High on my bucket list is to experience a live music event at the Ryman auditorium.
One thing you learn in Nashville pretty quickly is that this revered concert hall has one of the best acoustic sounds in the entire world.
Many many artists claim that it is their favorite place to play a concert.
Some artists like Passenger have even broken down in tears playing there, as they dreamed that playing at the Ryman was a sign they had made it.
Imagine finally living that dream on this stage that was home to the Opry for 35 years and had artists like Johnny Cash grace the stage.
Nowadays you’ll find artists like Foo Fighters, and Ed Sheeran. You’ll see how many there are when you visit the Ryman Auditorium on a tour, which I recommend you do even if you can’t see a concert.
It hasn’t lined up for us yet, but as I am always looking for an excuse to visit Nashville, I just might fly in for a concert experience at the Ryman.
Backstage tours of the Ryman will guide you through the auditorium and into the dressing rooms and even onto the stage so you can feel what it looks like to look out into the tiered audience who still sits on pews as it was designed in its beginnings when it was a tabernacle.
4. Honky Tonk Bars on Broadway
You don’t want to visit Nashville and miss the raw live musical experience of the Honky Tonk bars.
You can easily fit it into your Nashville itinerary as there is a band playing from morning until night. And you have endless bars to choose from.
Every bar on Broadway has live music and you can see some incredible artists at the beginning of their careers.
This is where inspiring artists come to be heard and catch their big break. You just never know when you might hear the next Keith Urban who used to be a Honky Tonk performer.
And you never know when the Keith Urban who is Keith Urban today may pop up in one for an impromptu play like he and Steve Tyler did one evening at Tootsies, the most famous Honky Tonk bar of all!
We did not visit that one as I wouldn’t say it’s a family-friendly venue with young kids like ours!
There are however plenty of family friendly honky tonk bars.
Make sure you visit in the day time though. Robert’s Western World is one. You’ll also find more sedate restaurant type bars that are very family-friendly.
George Jones Museum has a great rooftop bar that has live music at different times of the day.
The Wildhorse Saloon is also a family-friendly place to see live music and do some line dancing if you are keen.
I was all set to take my Mum as she used to take line dancing lessons but they were closed on the evening we went for a private event! Boo hoo.
We did find Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) in the store next door and had to have a family picture with him.
This photo is one of my favorite memories from our Dallas to Boston road trip. It shows each of our personalities so perfectly.
5. Puckett’s Grocery Leiper’s Fork
Leiper’s Fork is where many famous country music artists, producers and songwriters escape to live a normal life.
They have homes out here and can often be seen on the tiny one road that makes up the town.
On this street is Puckett’s Grocery, which has similar legendary status to the Blue Bird Café.
Thursday nights is the open mic night. Anyone, can get up and sing.
Sadly for us, we ended up on a table in the corner behind the bar so couldn’t see anything very well as the bar was crowded. It really distracted from our experience.
The artists started to get really good too before we decided to go home. I was disappointed as it looked like a fun night and it had a lively atmosphere.
If you can get a good table, you’ll enjoy it.
Patrons spill out the front hanging around the petrol bowsers listening to the tunes. It’s a very local experience and who wouldn’t want to soak up that vibe?
The food here is going to be simple and old style country. It didn’t serve us too well having gluten free dietary issues, but we made do.
If you love that southern style of pulled pork, and deep fried everything you’ll love it.
Puckett’s Grocery does have that old school local charm.
Nashville is full of music events and festivals each year, like the CMA Music Festival and Bonnaroo, both of which are on my Nashville and music bucket list.
I’m so happy and grateful Raleigh is my home as I can get to Nashville pretty easily to satisfy my thirst for amazing live musical experiences.
Nashville you are the best for it in the USA for sure!