Whenever I tell someone in the UK that I am a country music fan, people are shocked, sometimes pleasantly so, but more often than not, i am bombarded with the stereotypes that seem to be embedded in people’s views of country music. To put this in perspective, I am English, but spent three years living in Oklahoma, between the ages of ten and thirteen, where I fell in love with country music. Since that point, I started to play and write my own music, and write about the music that I love. I go out to Nashville as often as I can, generally about once a year, and I can promise you that the small country scene here, often looked down on, is nothing compared to Nashville.
The first tour I ever went on in Nashville explained that 40% of music produced in America was produced in Nashville, and only 60% of music produced in Nashville is country. So it truly is music city- country or not. Country music is also a community. Look at the Grand
Ole Opry- every week legends of country, and up and coming artists perform at the Opry house, and there is never a bad show. Opry wages are notoriously low, but it’s seen as an honour to be asked to become a part of this country family.
Even Nashville itself is dedicated to country music. It is not only the home of the Grand ole Opry, we’ve also got the Country Music Hall Of Fame and Museum, Tootsies and countless other honky tonks, and it is the home to the majority of country stars. What other genre of music has its own city, the way that country has Nashville. I should also mention that there is far more to Nashville than just country music, but you couldn’t go to Nashville without seeing a musical influence.
I think that having this epicentre of country music benefits the overall standard of music produced there. Nashville is a small town, so the competition is fierce, and the fans end up with the best of the best. My own experience of Nashville was that of a friendly, and relatively open community. Granted, this is a group of the elite, but I always felt taken care of. I was treated with nothing but respect by musicians that I had looked up to for many years. I spent hours sharing stories with these people, no judgement at all for the new girl from England. I even commiserated with on of my favourite writers over a beer after a decidedly mediocre meeting on 16th avenue.
Nashville has been an integral part of country music history. It has been preserved over the years by the small businesses that have become legendary, and the musicians that keep country music alive. When we hear country music, we feel like we know the people who write and sing these songs, and I think that this is more important to country fans then it is to fans of other music genres. And that’s why Nashville is so important. Country music is a community, it is much more to people than just music. It’s a home away from home, and gives country a legacy that is unmatched by any other genre.