Batman Building, May 2007. As brilliant as Bob Dylan’s 1968 album Nashville Skyline undoubtedly is, visitors to Music City shouldn’t expect anything as grand as the skylines of say New York or Chicago. Instead, one is met by a charming collection of huddled buildings straddling the calm waters of The Cumberland River. Of these buildings, this is the most prominent and indeed the tallest. A thirty three-story office block, when this photo was taken it was officially known as the BellSouth building. Since then it’s been rechristened the AT&T Building, though none of this matters much to the locals. For them, it has always been and always will be The Batman Building, a cheeky reference to the skyscraper’s resemblance to the caped crusader’s signature mask.
RCA Studio B, May 2007. A trip to Nashville isn’t complete without popping into RCA Studio B, a legendary recording studio that over the years played host to the likes of Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley and The Strokes. During my visit, a friend and I were encouraged to do some posing at one of the old control decks. All things considered, it seemed rude not to.
Downtown Cowboy, May 2007. As a living, breathing embodiment of the Country Music vibe, Nashville felt like an authentic open-air museum custom designed for curious tourists like myself. There are recording studios and cavernous old records stores everywhere. Lower Broadway is packed with old time Honky-tonk bars full of blonde, leggy women and old grizzled men. Fittingly, every third person sports a cowboy hat and there are a few persistent buskers. This old dude looked and sounded like his best days were behind him, but he was still pretty good in a Jeff-Bridges-in-Crazy-Heart-kind-a-way.
Hatch Show Print, May 2009. I loved the vibe of this unassuming store from the moment I walked through the door, the bell tinkling gently as I caught sight of a fat ginger cat sleeping by the window. One of the oldest letterpress print shops in America, Hatch Show Print has been knocking out handmade posters since 1879. It won’t take you long to tour its cramped workspace, though with literally thousands of posters on display you might end up staying longer than you’d imagined. Picking up a print before you leave is a must. There are numerous city posters for a perfect memento, while music fans can find all the old greats represented, from Duke Ellington and Johnny Cash, to Louis Armstrong and Dolly Parton.
Ryan Auditorium, May 2009. I have always dreamed of catching a live gig at this legendary music venue. In fact, I’d pretty much saw off one of my arms for the chance to see Ryan Adams play here. Sadly, nothing came up during my visits to Music City, so I had to make do with a self-guided wander around its hallowed hall. Home to the world famous country music event The Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, this striking red brick building has welcomed the likes of Elvis, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Pixies, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and… amusingly… Erasure. An amazing sense of history hits you as you walk inside; after all it was here that Johnny Cash first met June Carter and Ringo Starr hosted his 72nd birthday concert. With its stained glass windows, church pew seating and towering ceiling, The Ryman feels like a holy place and the acoustics are truly formidable. No wonder so many artists say no other venue in the world can match it. Today The Ryman still has its own radio station, WSM, one of the most influential stations in the history of country music.