As the curtains rise and the first performer comes out, I think of my Mum. I’m sitting in the chair that she has long dreamed about.
I remember speaking to her on the phone when Craig and I first came to visit Nashville 11 years ago.
“Oh, you’re in Nashville! You must go to the Opry. It’s my dream to go to the Grand Ole Opry.”
I don’t think there were any performances on at the time so we didn’t get to experience the Grand Ole Opry show.
But, we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and it was while perusing all the photos and reading all the stories there that I realized what a huge impact Nashville has had on my life without me even knowing it.
I was wowed by the story of music’s evolution in the museum, a story my parents helped me to closely follow growing up.
Old records played relentlessly in the house and Mum passionately singing at the top of her voice – much similar to my slightly off key tone.
Stories of Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins, and the Everly Brothers.
That hall represented my childhood and my parents.
I fell in love with the city and couldn’t wait to return. (A desire fuelled more intently by Deacon Claybourne in the hit Nashville TV series).
Tradition and storytelling through music
The Grand Ole Opry Show was a sign that my parent’s favorite singers were revered and honored.
And now here I am finally seeing it for myself alongside my daughters.
I hope the musical stories are being written for them today and they understand the power of music to transform, to connect you to those you love, and to inspire you to reach for greater heights.
We visited the famous Bluebird Café the evening before for open mic. We listened to the stories sung from those starting out on their journey to make their country music dreams come true. And now we’re at the Opry to see the stories told of those who have walked much further into their journey to a point where many would say they’ve made it.
They’re gracing the light colored circle where great artists before them have stood and sung – Johnny Cash and Hank Williams and current stars like Carrie Underwood and our boy Keith Urban.
The Circle can’t be unbroken
The light colored six-foot circle sits at the center of the Grand Ole Opry stage. Most artists speak of their nervousness at standing in it knowing that all the greats have stood there.
Just about anybody you can think of who has made country music has been on that stage.
To be invited as a member of the Grand Ole Opry is a great honor. Many artists sing at the Opry as guests but aren’t invited as members until years later.
On our Opry backstage tour, we learned that to become a member of the Opry the management consider career accomplishment and commitment but more important the artist’s relationship to their fans, to other country singers, and to the ideals of the Opry.
You can also get kicked out like Johnny Cash did once because he drunkenly bashed out the stage lights with a microphone stand.
I love how the Opry doesn’t tolerate bad behavior, no matter your start quality, and does what it must to protect the honor of the family.
Touring Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry
As we attended as guests of the Opry, we had the pleasure of sneaking backstage while the performances were on.
A backstage tour is something anyone can do at the Grand Ole Opry and we highly recommend it.
We began at the artist’s entrance and into the hall where the member’s plaques hang on the wall and their post office. Members receive fan mail every day and I have an inkling it might be an easy way for me to get a letter to Keith Urban!!
It was quite a thrill to follow the footsteps of the greats and visit a few of the artist’s waiting rooms – there are 18 in total, an oversized guitar pick inlaid in the floor signaling which room and unique design it is.
The Into the Circle room is where all first-time performers to the Opry anxiously wait for their call to grace the stage with their music; It Takes Two, which is the duet room; the Women in Country room celebrates the great female country talent – those who love the show Nashville will recognize as the place where the two strong female leads, Rayna and Juliette first meet in episode one.
We were invited into one of the dressing rooms by a beautiful young lady who instantly grabbed Savannah for a cuddle. She was very sweet and friendly and, we quickly found out, a successful young country singer.
You may know her from season 10 on American Idol where she finished runner-up.
I didn’t really watch that season of Idol but do remember my sister in law talking about her.
Lauren’s gone onto much success in the country world and that day had been nominated for three Country music awards and her single, Road Less Traveled, which she sang for us at the Opry, later on, has just hit number one on the country charts.
We’re now big fans!
I was blown away by how personable she was. I was so grateful for her to be that way with the girls as I love to expose them to strong, independent women who are creating their dreams!
We finished our backstage tour in the wings of the stage watching one of the performers. It was so great to look out and see the crowds staring back and feel the energy of the band and people quietly shuffling around us getting ready for the next performers.
I would have loved to stay longer, but Savannah dragged us out because she did not want to miss her girl, who she thought was Taylor Swift, aka Lauren Alaina.
It was the cutest hearing her say that. She was absolutely besotted with her and she now calls her my best friend the singer.
Click play to see more of the Grand Ole Opry backstage experience and show
The Grand Ole Opry Show Experience
As the curtain raised, the room burst into silence and then went quietly to hear the songs and stories of each musician.
The Opry started as a radio broadcast in 1925 and evolved into a live show. Each Opry show is still broadcast live on radio.
There is a radio announcer who comes on between each set to broadcast the sponsor’s messages.
We saw six performers in total. I loved how each performer told a story or two, many of them quite funny. We were lucky to see three performers who have had number one hits in the charts.
I loved the final performance of Chris Janson, an Opry favorite and someone I have never heard of before. He is a hugely energetic performer and killed the harmonica.
Lauren Alaina was just like she was backstage, bright, warm, sweet and funny. It was the first time I had heard any of her songs and I really liked them especially her hit single.
Savannah leaped on my lap and craned her neck out like an emu looking for a snack, eyes fixed on Lauren with a huge grin. Her face lit up in the morning when we showed her the signed poster Lauren Alaina snuck out to her in the audience when she was asleep.
It’s hiding in a safe place to go on her walls when she gets her own bedroom. I hope that this experience is helping to develop in her a deep love for music in the way my parents did.
Although both of the girls did fall asleep towards the end of the show, they loved it. It really is a wonderful musical experience for families and we highly recommend it.
Not like the Bluebird Cafe where the kids have to be super quiet, and for some children that may just not be an option, at the Grand Ole Opry, because it’s a loud show, they can get away with quiet talking, and a bit of fidgeting.
Some artists encourage you to get up and dance and sway and clap your hands. And if it all gets too much, you can easily walk up the aisle to the back of the room or even outside in the hallway for a leg stretch and a break.
We loved the Grand Ole Opry experience so much that we returned a week later on a Saturday night.
Chris Carmack, who you might know as Will Lexington on the show Nashville was playing and we were keen to experience some Nashville in Nashville! (We did sit only a couple of seats away from Lennon Stella, aka Maddie in a local coffee shop!)
This Opry performance was good if not better.
There were more performers on this evening, although they only played two songs each. I would have loved to hear just one more from them. Especially the stand out performers of the decade, the duet Striking Matches.
From the first beat of their guitar, they owned the music. I’ve never seen a woman play guitar like her before, possibly a man either.
Their songs so fresh, modern and high energy. Their sound was so familiar to me and I knew why as soon as they announced that 9 of their songs had starred on Nashville. Their sound was very similar, at to Scarlett and Gunnar.
That’s what makes the Opry so magical.
You get to see a wide variety of talented musicians and famous artists – new and old in one evening.
Even though some of the artists here are Grammy award winning and number one sellers – some multiple times – there’s a sense of humbleness, grace, and service to the family when they take the stage.
I had quite a few people tell me, who’ have experienced the country music scene and the rock scene, that Country singers are so family orientated, warm, humble and lovely to work with, yet the rock stars are a total nightmare.
While rock is at the core of my life for music, I’ve fully embraced the Country way thanks to the spirit of their songs, tradition, and togetherness.
You can tell they love the storytelling and love to welcome and help raise up other storytellers in the fold because the storytelling and the movement of people is what it is about.
I chose right. I’m not sure how my parents did it, but I’m sitting at this performance because of them.
Somehow they inspired in me a joy and a passion for living, for embracing the stories behind the music, for singing like no one is watching and to relentlessly pursue your dreams.
Even though they are probably wishing they could be sitting in the halls of the Opry taking in the performances I know they are delighted I am and can vicariously share and live their dream with me.
The Grand Ole Opry Experience for you
Prices start from $38.
It’s a known fact that there is not a bad seat in the house at the Opry. So if budget is tight, you can get the lower end tickets and be confident in knowing you’ll still see a good show.
Our tickets were at the back the second time we visited and although the views weren’t s good as being down the bottom, we still could see fine. They also have big screens you can look at as well. And the sound is incredible no matter where you sit.
You can’t bring your own snacks or drink, so be aware of that before arriving at the venue. There are plenty of restaurants nearby you can eat at before the show. Our girls loved eating and spraying the popcorn all over the seats during the show!
Keep an eye out a few weeks before you arrive so you can pick a day with artists you may be interested in seeing in perform.
We were devastated we missed Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne) play at the Opry by two days AND by a few days at the Bluebird Café too!!
The Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour
The Backstage Tour is available daily at various times for $22 adults, $17 kids (ages 4 – 11)
There’s also an exclusive Behind the Opry Curtain VIP Tour that takes place a half hour prior to an Opry performance and lets you stand on the back side of the stage to experience the curtain rising from the artist’s perspective and stay there during the first performance.
This tour is for ages 12 and older only, and you must have an Opry ticket ($32 – $72.50) in order to purchase the $98 VIP tour.
The Ryman Auditorium
As you are on this musical journey in Nashville, don’t forget to also visit the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman housed the Grand Ole Opry for 35 years.
There is a lot of history in this building and it has been recognized for 8 years running as being the best arena in the country for its acoustics. It’s an honor for any artist to play – Passenger recently played there and cried as it was the fulfillment of his dream.
I’d so love to see Ed Sheeran play there! (He has)
You can also do a backstage tour of the Ryman. Really worth it!