Nashvillians On Broadway | Sharon Henry
Broadway in downtown Nashville is what Bourbon Street is to New Orleans; a party and entertainment hotspot. Although in contrast to the blues and jazz of NOLA, visitors to Music City Nashville are spurred on (pun intended) by country music, steel guitars and cowboy boots.
Tonight Broadway is teeming with people out for a good time. Music is everywhere; on the street, booming from car stereos and from each honky-tonk (bar that provides country music entertainment) lining the boulevard.
‘Girl Crush,’ by country group, Little Big Town is definitely song of the moment. It’s always on the radio, in shops, restaurants and now spilling out of a bar with a live band’s cover of the latest hit. Initially the song sounds like a raunchy love triangle, but when you listen, the lyrics are sad, about an ex girlfriend wishing she wasn’t. This clever, poetic use of words and melody and is exactly the kind of country music we love.
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To
It’s pretty much what Freight Train Eddie (Eddie Campbell) was talking about earlier; he’s a busker we met on Broadway. “I like people that can sing songs and make you believe it’s part of their life,” he said. “Songs that’s got believability, substance and authority to ’em.”
Freight Train Eddie, however, who said he has 37 years in the music business, is none too impressed with today’s country stars. “You know you get a pretty face, good personality and a pretty tune…” and with that he promptly belted out a mock song.
“…Going down the road,
got my pickup truck,
gonna pick my baby up,
we goin’ drink Crown from a cup,
the moons gonna be out tonight,
we goin’ make love ’til we git it right,
you know what I mean,
Jerry Bean, la, la, la, la, la!”
We were in stitches. “See, there’s no substance, there’s no heart, no believability to it,” he repeats to emphasise the point.
Freight Train Eddie’s a fan of old school country music from the likes of Hank Williams (Snr), “You don’t hear artists like that anymore,” he told us. “In my personal opinion, if I can’t sing a song or write a song that makes you believe it’s part of my life, I haven’t done anything. That’s important to me.” Eddie’s had a number one hit in Las Vegas called ‘Living On Easy Street’.
The Broadway Picture
Musicians aren’t the only artists trying to get noticed on Broadway, in Nashville. We stop to talk to James who’s set out a few of his paintings, hoping to tempt someone passing who might appreciate his art.
Propped next to his artwork is a small stereo system playing hard rock, “I do like country music, but I’m an all-kinds-of-music fan,” he smiles.
James is “pretty much self-taught” and studies at a local art campus. “That’s where I get my material from, that’s pretty much how I’m able to come out here every night and work. I don’t try to make a living from it. I sell my pictures for $5, just something for the time.
“I’ve been here since 6 o’clock and I made $20 but I’m cool with that because it’s really just about meeting people, new experiences and keeping me out of trouble.”
Fairytale Ride Reserved For Christina Aguilera
Adding to the buzz and soundtrack of Broadway is the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages offering a romantic spin around the scenic downtown spots. Like Charlotte and her horse, Pearl.
“What’s so great about Nashville?” she ponders. “It’s the home of Music City of course! My favourite artist who I absolutely love is Alan Jackson. We get all sorts of people on the carriage but I haven’t had a celebrity yet, but we have one reserved for Christina Aguilera. It was all ready and set up for when she last came into town but it rained her out so when she’s back, the carriage will be waiting for her.”
Guess Who’s Meeting Taylor Swift?
Music City sits on the banks of the Cumberland River and we discover a lovely spot to get a nightscape view is from the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. This is where we meet Katie and Jeff, college students studying criminal justice and medicine respectively here in Nashville. “We just went to Pinewood Social and it was so much fun,” says Katie explaining what they’re doing tonight, “now we’re going to Comic Club and then we’re probably gonna go downtown.”
“If you’re a tourist you gotta go to Broadway, downtown,” says Jeff.
“I didn’t like country music until I moved here,” laughs Katie. “I still don’t!” admits Jeff.
“I more like pop country, I’m actually meeting Taylor Swift at the end of this month,” she reveals. “My roommate won a sweepstake so I’m going to Boston to meet Taylor Swift. I’m so excited! She has a good head on her shoulders, that’s why I like her so much.”
There’s No Place Like The South
Back on Broadway we realise the street is also a popular destination for hen and stag parties (some looking a little worse for wear) and also wedding receptions. We meet Ron, Sam, Jessica and Dillon who were homeward bound from a wedding reception held at one of the bars. Born and raised in Nashville they told us what they like about their hometown.
“Probably the sense of community, every part of Nashville I go to I always feel a sense of welcoming. It’s very homely here, there’s no place like the south,” said Ron.
“It has a great sense of culture too, it’s so diverse it’s great,” added Jessica.
“Yeah in my neighbourhood alone I can pick out so many different races and we all live well together,” said Dillon.
“There’s Broadway but also the smaller parts that tourists wouldn’t really know about. Like Love Circle, beautiful spot you can see the downtown skyline. We have Opryland too, it’s pretty cool.”
But they were all agreed, “The best place to visit is here, Broadway, it’s like the claim to fame.”
And there you have it, unlike NOLA’s Bourbon Street, the locals here in Music City endorse their party hotspot – it’s not just for tourists, Nashvillians also come here for a good time.