What Would You like to Know about Nashville? Part Two: Your Questions and My Answers

In my blog yesterday I asked for your questions about Nashville, and received several good ones in the comments section and on my Facebook page. So I decided to put them all together with my answers in today’s blog. Here’s what I know about what y’all wanted to know.

Who do I need to meet and where to hang out to get exposure as a musician?

This is one of the biggest questions people ask. There is no short easy answer either. That question and the answers to it are essentially what my book project is all about. Here are the short answers:

“Who do I need to meet to gain exposure as a musician?”

Everyone in the music community that you possibly can! With each musician or music entrepreneur you meet comes a whole new set of possibilities. You never know where each new road might lead. Keep in mind that the identity of many musicians and industry professionals won’t always be obvious either. You could be standing in line at the supermarket next to a record producer and not even know it. Somebody that looks like a homeless person in a bar could be a hit songwriter. And of course, just meeting these people is only a first step. Most people that become successful in this business do so by slowly nurturing relationships over a long period of time.

“Where do you need to hang out to gain exposure as a musician?”

In Nashville, the face-to-face meeting of musicians in nightclubs and music venues around the city still works best. You can’t go wrong by making the rounds at the clubs on Broadway, Music Row, the Fiddle and Steel, the Bluebird Café and the Commodore Lounge for songwriters, etc.

In this day and age a lot can be accomplished via the Internet as well. I have made some amazing contacts for my book project just by sending e-mails to industry people I found on websites or Google searches. With this approach I have had correspondence with Derek Sivers (founder of CD baby), a music business professor at the University of Miami, etc. The Internet can enhance your visibility as a musician or performer but should not replace face-to-face encounters in public.

Where are the Nice Southern Gentlemen?

I’m not sure what you’re looking for exactly. But I would say that most men that live in the South are somewhat ‘gentlemanlike’ (you know that whole Southern hospitality thing). It even wears off on some of us northern transplants eventually!

I’m wondering if it would be a good place to put some of my uncle’s shows. They’re all cabaret style shows. Most music based.

Nashville might be a good place for that kind of show, but then again it might not be. It all depends on whether or not he has a draw here. There are many decent music venues in Nashville, so if he has built a big enough fan base, via touring and/or the Internet, he might do okay. But if he’s not known in this region he will have a hard time drawing a crowd, and the local Nashville venues won’t pay much to an unknown act.  He might want to consider trying Branson, Missouri, as that city is more known for these types of shows. Of course, they will expect him to draw as well.

Favorite Restaurant?

Generally speaking, I make it a point to never eat in restaurants, as restaurant food is generally unhealthy. But there are plenty of popular restaurants here for those who do enjoy them. This 2009 article from the Nashville scene ‘Best of Nashville 2009: Food and Drink’ outlines some of the city’s most popular places.

Personally, I would recommend buying some good healthy ingredients at Whole Foods (either at Green Hills, or in Franklin), and cooking a great meal at home. You can find some great recipes on a site called Do It the Hard Way.

What songs do you need to know if you want to jam at Fiddle and Steel?

To be prepared to sit in at the Fiddle and Steel, or any other similar bar in Nashville for that matter, knowing what I call ‘The Nashville 100’ is essential. The Nashville 100 is a list I have comprised of what I have found to be the most commonly covered standards played in Nashville. The list is posted on the Survival Guide site, follow this link to view it http://nashvillemusicianssurvivalmanual.com/list.html. While these aren’t the only songs that might be played, knowing these songs will give you a lot of common ground with most players in town.

Best places to live? I hear a lot about east Nashville, so that must mean its over-crowded with wanna-be hipsters. Any other cool neighborhoods off the radar and reasonably priced?

The neighborhoods in east Nashville can vary greatly. There are some decent areas and some rough spots as well, but apartment rentals in that area are generally affordable. The same thing could be said about many parts of the city. Reasonably priced apartments ($600 – $750 for a single bedroom) can be found in Belmont, Bellevue, Donelson, Gallatin, and many other outlying communities.

The desirability of an area could also be determined by whether or not you will have children living with you (ie quality of school systems, crime rates, etc.), and if you will be commuting in and out of the city during daytime hours (East and North of the city generally have the worst traffic backups).

What kind of gear should a guitar player have for studio gigs vs touring gigs?

Many of the successful Nashville based session guitarists have rigs consisting of multiple guitars; Teles, Strats, Gibsons, PRS etc., multiple heads; Class A style head (Matchless, Dr. Z, etc.), Marshall style head, and maybe a Fender style head, and a refrigerator rack full of effects with some type of pedal board set up as well. This kind of setup would be more typical for a full time A list session player. There are plenty of players who work in the studio on much simpler rigs but still have the ability to deliver a wide range of tones. Of course there are some ‘niche’ studio players that only have one basic sound and get calls to do that one thing they do best.

As far as touring rigs go it depends on the gig. But for most country/pop/rock gigs, a Tele style guitar, Class A combo, and a pedal board with the essentials (a clean boost or compressor, overdrive, delay, and tuner) will suffice (amp and pedals in Anvil style cases). A backup guitar is always a good idea too.

How are you liking it? Bartlett St. to “oprayland”

I’m loving it! Bartlett Street in Kingston New Hampshire was a great place to grow up, but Nashville has definitely become the home of my second life. There was a bit of culture shock over the first couple of years, but I am now well adjusted. I still do miss a lot about New England – friends, family, having the ocean in my backyard, autumn foliage, summers where it’s not 100° every day for four months. But the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the skills I’ve gained, I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Thanks again everybody for your participation in my informal survey, it definitely gave me a lot of perspective. Many of these questions are answered in much greater detail in my book project which is still in the works, but some of them are bringing up points I wasn’t already thinking of. Ultimately, some of these new points will also be addressed in the book.

For those of you that haven’t yet fully explored this site, you will find that some of these questions are addressed in more detail within it. I’m thrilled with the response I got to my query and urge you to ask more questions if you have them, preferably in the comments section of these blogs. Thanks again and happy reading!

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