Live Music

There’s a Reason We’re Called Music City

Chances are, your perspective of Nashville’s music is too narrow–especially if all you know is your grandma’s records or the gaudy neon-lit sounds of Broadway’s honky tonks. We’re home to all kinds of music–rock, pop, gospel, r’n’b, jazz, soul, classical, opera and musical theater.

Fun fact: the origin of our nickname has nothing to do with country music. When the Fisk Jubilee Singers performed before Queen Victoria in 1873 during a tour of Europe, she marveled at their artistry and exclaimed (well, I’m not sure if queens are allowed to exclaim), “You must be from a city of music.” Boom, the moniker stuck.

So now allow me to introduce you to expand your viewpoint. And don’t miss the Outdoor Music Series listing at the bottom of the page.

Honky tonk heroes

I’ll admit that all those neon lights are photogenic. And honky tonks may be the first thing you think of when you when you think of Nashville. Well, here’s the scoop: you won’t find a bad musician anywhere because the competition for stage time is intense.

If you go to Robert’s Western World, you’re going to hear honest-to-goodness country. At some honky tonks–especially the newer ones–you might hear Bob Seger and Bon Jovi along with Garth Brooks. Go enjoy yourself but know this–there’s a lot more to our music scene than honky tonks.


Nashville loves to celebrate songwriters and often showcases them where the craft of writing takes the spotlight. The Bluebird Cafe is our most famous venue but you’ll find respectful audiences lending an ear at The Commodore Grille, The Listening Room Cafe’and other venues. A number of clubs have regular songwriter’s nights including the in-house venues of larger hotels. The styles vary so you might be surprised that hits from many genres of music were birthed in Nashville. We’re talking hits for Eric Clapton, Beyonce, Bonnie Raitt, Lady Gaga, Nelly, and many more.

Rock/alternative/other names you want to use

The Kings of Leon and Paramore are just two of the locally based bands that launched from Nashville. Today Jack White keeps things interesting with his Third Man Records, a combination retail operation/live music venue. The Shows blogpost has a list of places you’re likely to find music with an edge and the subhead will take you to a grab-bag I’ve labeled “Not Country.”

Jazz and blues

Nashville’s jazz scene may be overshadowed by country but it still shines. In addition to Nashville Jazz Workshop and Rudy’s Jazz Room, clubs hosts special jazz performances around town. In Printer’s Alley, live jazz kicks in at Skull’s Rainbow Room at 7:30pm. Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar keeps things hopping all afternoon and into the wee hours. City Winery also frequently hosts jazz artists in its lounge and on its main stage. On occasion, you’ll also see jazz offerings at Schermerhorn Symphony Hall. Villager Tavern in Hillsboro Village hosts a jazz jam Mondays, 11pm-2am.

Nashville Symphony Orchestra

Classical and opera

Our Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra covers the bases from the masters to film soundtracks to pop hitmakers. With its aggressive schedule, there’s a good chance the symphony will be performing while you’re in town.

Nashville Opera Company performs the classics as well as contemporary and experimental works.

The little publicized Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University presents student and faculty performances throughout the year.

The Candlelight Concert Series, performed by a string quartet at The Parthenon in Centennial Park, takes patrons on diverse musical pilgrimages. One concert might feature Vivaldi or Mozart; the next might be the music of Coldplay or Queen.

Ballet and musical theatre

Nashville Ballet has a stellar history of storytelling that combines music and dance. Their February 2023 production “Anthropology” was a riveting example of how the company makes ballet accessible.

We also have a rich history in musical theatre with a number of companies including Nashville Repertory Theatre in Nashville and Studio Tenn in Franklin.

Our people have even taken on Broadway. Local songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick was one of the masterminds behind the hit “Something Rotten” and the writing duo Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark penned the music for “Shucked.”

Outdoor music series

There’s a lot to love about these events. Most involve food and drink options; some include activities for the kiddos. Click the links for details.

  • Jazz on the Cumberland @Cumberland Park (FREE) Oct. 15
  • Cheekwood hosts Thursday music series embracing a variety of styles with occasional events on other evenings.

Check out my Nashville Calendar post for additional  limited-run offerings.