CREATIVE HUBS: NASHVILLE
With its epithet as The Music City, Nashville has a long history of welcoming creative spirits to its streets. The city’s concoction of southern hospitality and electric energy makes the place a haven for musical mavericks who march to the beat of their own drum.
We’re talking about the birthplace of Miley Cyrus, after all. But if Wrecking Ball doesn’t pass your creative litmus test, then rest assured there are a number of prolific cultural figures blazing a trail in their respective industries in the southern city, while clearing the path for others to follow. The White Stripes frontman Jack White relocated to Nashville to run Third Man Records from a converted downtown warehouse; the celebrated writer Ann Pratchett staffs an independent bookstore in town; and actor Nicole Kidman has confessed she feels she “was meant” to live in Music City.
And why not? A recent Forbes study, which considered the number of projects cities hosted on Kickstarter and Indigogo, found Nashville to be the third most creative in the United States. And many of the city’s new enterprises set the world to rights in creative co-working spaces. Deavour is home to a coffee and tea bar as well as locally handmade tables, and welcomes photographers, cinematographers and digital designers to collaborate. Meanwhile the four-block complex of marathon village seemed to be comprised almost entirely of artist, photographer and design studios.
While the music industry remains a bulwark in the attraction of young talent, Nashville has also seen also seen developments in tech (Google Fiber set up shot here at the end of last year). And as ever, hotels serve as prominent markers of a city’s cultural health, notwithstanding East Nashville’s Urban Cowboy. Founded by Lyon Porter (who almost always looks like he’s just stepped off the ranch), the B&B has a sister property based in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, and is achingly cool.
Perhaps fittingly, Nashville was recently named America’s eighth-best city for hipsters by Travel + Leisure magazine. Reductive labels aside, there is an artisan culture at play here, with a number of local coffee shops, organic groceries and food trucks proliferating across the neighbourhoods of East Nashville, Hillsboro, Germantown and 12 South. To paraphrase Miley Cyrus, it definitely is a Nashville party.
WHERE TO STAY
Urban Cowboy B&B
The original outpost of the now legendary Brooklyn B&B, Urban Cowboy is set within a Victoria mansion in the city’s East Side. All eight suites are ranch themed, with Captain and Midnight Rider being just two. Kick off your boots and sip on a whiskey in the bar, which is housed in a former barn.
This Nashville hotspot was the city’s first true boutique hotel and is a firm favourite of stars across the music and film industries. The lobby displays local artwork (and happens to smell amazing too) while the hotel at large is committed to a green programme, evident in design details including bamboo flooring. We can’t wait to see the result of The Hutton’s renovation later this year.
Kimpton Aertson Hotel
Opening in spring of 2017, The Kimpton Aertson is set to shake up Nashville’s hotel scene while celebrating the city’s creative spirit. Visitors can expect an industrial chic design making use of steel and stone, complemented by local artwork. Oh, and a rooftop pool.
WHAT TO SEE
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
The orchid-hued Tootsie’s is a true Nashville institution. Located just behind the Ryman Auditorium, this world-famous honky-tonk bar has three stages that host foot-stomping renditions of country music talent. It’s a favourite of Hollywood’s ultimate southern belle, Reese Witherspoon.
This enclave of East Nashville is home to over 20 creative enterprises including indie shops, studios and wellbeing centres. Don’t miss The Modern East Gallery, which is home to an impressive collection of photography and local art. Refuel on gluten-free treats from the AMOT eatery afterwards.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Soul Fuel BBQ
Soul food reigns supreme across The South, and Nashville has managed put a modern spin on southern comfort, serving up authentic barbecue out of food trucks. Soul Fuel BBQ is the most impressive of the bunch, serving treats including a 14-hour smoked brisket from refurbished fire engine.
The Catbird Seat
Named after an American-English phrase used to describe an enviable position, Catbird well and truly has the upper hand. A must visit for foodies, this 22-seat restaurant serves an elegant tasting menu on an open-kitchen counter. Get up close and personal with Executive Chef Ryan Poli, who is Noma alumni.
Rolf and Daughters
Located in the hip district of Germantown, this rustic eatery has exposed brick walls and communal tables, perfect for pouring over Mediterranean-style sharing plates. Rolf’s specialty is undoubtedly homemade pasta (think sweet potato anglotitto and squid ink campanelle). Though the cocktails aren’t half-bad either.