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Stars' Favorite Nashville Attractions

09/10/2010 -

Our Love Letter's issue featured Nashville personalities' favorite spots all around the city. Some of their choices might surprise you.

Reba McEntire
Country music superstar Reba McEntire has been consistently making hits for more than 30 years. Her credits also include starring in numerous films, the television comedy "Reba," and on Broadway, where she played the lead in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun.

Reba's Favorites:

  • Green Hills "to shop, eat, and go to movies"
  • West End restaurants
  • Germantown Caf�
  • Midtown Caf�
  • J. Alexander's
  • Lime

Suzanne Alexander
Suzanne Alexander is the host of the GAC (Great American Country) television network's "GAC Nights" and "On The Streets" programs. Prior to joining the network, she had an extensive background in radio broadcasting. She moved to Nashville nearly 11 years ago.


Suzanne's Favorites:


  • The Hill Center in Green Hills
  • Anthropologie
  • Nashville Cowboy
  • Basil Asian Bistro
  • Urban Flats
  • Miro District
  • Watermark
  • Sambuca
  • The Station Inn to watch The Time Jumpers
  • The Grand Ole Opry
  • The Bluebird Cafe

Melissa Peterman
Melissa Peterman is the host of CMT's popular game show "The Singing Bee" and previously starred in the sitcom "Reba." She has also appeared in numerous other television shows and films, and has hosted CMT's "Comedy Stage." Peterman recently signed a record deal with Big Machine Records and is working on her debut comedy album for the label.

Melissa's Favorites:

  • Pancake Pantry
  • The Palm
  • LongHorn Steakhouse
  • The Hermitage Hutton Hotel
  • The Mall at Green Hills
  • Losers
  • Bluebird Cafe
  • Legends
  • Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

Luke Bryan
Country artist Luke Bryan moved to Nashville from his Georgia hometown in 2001 to pursue his music career. He soon signed a record deal with Capitol Records Nashville and has released two albums, I'll Stay Me and Doin' My Thing, which have yielded the hits "All My Friends Say," "Country Man," "Do I" and "Rain Is A Good Thing." Also an accomplished songwriter, Bryan co-wrote Billy Currington's No. 1 hit "Good Directions."

  • Luke's Favorites Peter's Sushi & Thai Fly South Bass Pro Shops Percy Priest Lake? Caney Fork River Tennessee River

Josh Turner
Belmont University alum Josh Turner played the Opry before he ever signed a recording contract. Now the MCA Nashville singer/songwriter is lauded for such hits as "Long Black Train," "Your Man," "Would You Go With Me" and "Why Don't We Just Dance."

Josh's Favorites:

  • LP Field for a Tennessee Titans game
  • "Grand Ole Opry"
  • Stoney River Legendary Steaks
  • Sands Soul Food Diner

Jason Aldean
Multi-platinum country star Jason Aldean is a headlining touring artist and a consistent radio hit maker. His first three albums have spawned such hits as "She's Country," "Big Green Tractor," "The Truth," "Why?" and "Hicktown."

Jason's Favorites:

  • The Palm
  • Morton's The Steakhouse

Craig Wiseman
Hit songwriter Craig Wiseman is credited with playing a significant role in shaping country music. Various artists, including Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton, Brooks & Dunn, Toby Keith, Roy Orbison and Jason Mraz, have recorded more than 300 of his songs. A whopping 17 of those songs have gone all the way to No. 1, including Tim McGraw's smash hit "Live Like You Were Dying," for which Wiseman won a Grammy Award. He is also the owner of publishing company Big Loud Shirt Industries.

Craig's Favorites:

  • The Hill Center
  • Nashville Sounds

Amy Grant
With more than 30 years in the music business, Amy Grant is a six-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter who is credited, too, with a flock of Dove Awards, Christian music's highest honor. Grant has hosted "Three Wishes," a TV reality show, and was tapped for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She regularly volunteers her time in Nashville and around the world, and is the author of Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far.

Amy's Favorites:

  • Warner Parks
  • The Nature Center at Warner Park
  • Iroquois Steeplechase

Alice Randall
Nashville treasure Alice Randall is an award-winning novelist and author of The New York Times best seller The Wind Done Gone, as well as Pushkin and the Queen of Spades and Rebel Yell. She's a writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University, and also has a second career as a hit songwriter. She was the first black woman in history to write a No. 1 country song (Trisha Yearwood's "XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)") and has more than 20 recorded songs to her credit.

Alice's Favorites:

  • Sitting at the feet of Athena in the Parthenon
  • Watching the artists set type at Hatch Show Print
  • Turning up for family night at Dyer Observatory or for Bluebird on the Mountain
  • Meditating in the Japanese Garden at Cheekwood
  • Savoring a frozen treat from Las Paletas in the shadow of the Polar Bear on 12th Ave.
  • Gazing at the Aaron Douglass murals outside the President's office at Fisk
  • Going to Percy downtown to get my shoes shined
  • Salad only dinner at The Palm in the bar, then strolling down to Tootsies for a dance
  • Commissioning a family painting by Herb Williams
  • Gazing at the bride table at Corzine & Co
  • Reading in the grand reading room of the downtown library
  • Softly singing a sorrow song in front of the Jubilee Singer portrait commissioned by Queen Victoria in the Appleton room
  • Worshiping as a visitor in the shelter of the Egyptian Revival architecture of The Downtown Presbyterian Church
  • Chilling with the ice balls in the cocktails at Patterson House
  • Talking fiction at the Southern Festival of Books
  • Wearing a hat that matches my husband's bright tie at the Iroquois Steeplechase
  • Eating a chicken sandwich at Burger Up
  • Nibbling or gifting Olive and Sinclair Chocolate
  • Going over last week's events at Sunday brunch at Margot Caf� & Bar
  • Launching into the next week's events over Sunday dinner at City Caf�

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Dolly's Story

09/07/2010 -

"I love absolutely everything about Nashville," says Dolly Parton, who calls the city "the home of my heart because it was where my music was to live.

This particular year her first music for Broadway theatre is living on the stage of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for the launch of the national tour of 9 to 5: The Musical. The Tony Award and Grammy-nominated score features the original hit song, "9 to 5" from the 1980 film, among 16 musical numbers. After the Nashville opening, the musical will tour across America for the next two years.

"I couldn't have asked for a better experience on my first Broadway show," said Parton. "I've had the privilege of working with an amazing group of people who have become like family to me. I can't wait for this show to hit the road so people across the country can see why I'm so proud of everyone involved. And I'm so pleased that we'll be opening the tour in Nashville. Great things happen in Nashville."

Growing up in East Tennessee, Parton started traveling back and forth to Nashville with an uncle to perform when she was a young girl. She moved here in 1964—the day after her high school graduation— and met her husband, Nashville-area native Carl Dean, on her first day in town. They've been married for 44 years.

It's not lost on Parton that her husband shares the same name as the city's Mayor, Karl Dean. She also admits to having "a crush" on Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, with whom she's long collaborated on her Imagination Library children's book program which has been a great gift to Tennesseans and beyond. "I always say the Mayor is my husband and the Governor is my sweetheart," Parton quips with a laugh.

Parton's heart is near and dear to Nashville and her home state. She says that the way people came together to help each other after the May flood "made me feel so proud of all the people, not just about Nashville, but the whole state of Tennessee and knowing why we are called the Volunteer State."

"In Nashville, the music stars have always been so wonderful to help out," she says, noting that many of them are as grateful as she is for the careers Nashville provided. "All the stars that come to Nashville have the same dream that I have," she continues. "We're all very partial to it, and most of them are so grateful that they have seen their dreams come true because of Nashville, so they're more than willing to help.

"I was just so very, very proud of how everybody pitched in," adds Dolly. "It was a sad, sorry thing that happened to us. What an unusual, weird, crazy, awful thing. But thank God [for] good people and good help and all the money donated, and just all the hard work where everybody pitched in. It could have been much worse for much longer."

Parton cites the "Grand Ole Opry" as one of the most special things about Nashville, calling it "sacred ground to all of us." "Nashville also has wonderful places to shop, wonderful places to eat [and] great recreation," she says. "So it's more than just music, but certainly music is the heart of it all."

In the words of Jeff Calhoun, director and choreographer of 9 to 5: The Musical, "Dolly has written a very impressive score, and I think we should do everything we can to encourage her to continue to write for the theater. In my opinion, she is a much-needed musical voice for the stage." Calhoun first met the talented Tennessee artist when he was in the chorus of the film Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. "I remember how impressed we all were that a star like Dolly would be so friendly and accessible to the boys in the chorus," said Calhoun. "Aren't I lucky to go from a chorus boy dancing in a movie with Dolly Parton to directing the first national tour of her Broadway show? Directing and choreographing 9 to 5 is definitely not just another job. Not only do I love the material, but I get to work with Dolly again! Who says that dreams don't come true?" "9 to 5: The Musical" will be at TPAC Sept. 21-26. For tickets and fun, interesting "Q & As" with Dolly Parton and Jeff Calhoun, go to

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John McBride: Music Industry

09/21/2010 -

Sitting in John McBride’s Blackbird Studio in Berry Hill listening to him talk about his passion for music, it’s hard not to come away feeling inspired. “Any day I can wake up and make a living in the music business is a blessing,” he says.

In building Blackbird—which opened with two rooms in 2002 and has since evolved into a three building, eight-studio complex—McBride and his team have tried to anticipate the needs of any artist, producer or musician who might record there. As a result, Blackbird has become a world-class recording facility that attracts stars from every genre of music, most of whom would otherwise be recording in New York or Los Angeles. Among the notables who have recorded there are Black Eyed Peas, Miley Cyrus, The White Stripes, Buddy Guy, Kings of Leon, Death Cab For Cutie, Maroon 5, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dolly Parton, Tim McGraw and dozens of others. On any given day, artists as diverse as Mariah Carey, Megadeth and Keith Urban might all be recording there at the same time.

“Anybody who loves audio is going to find this place,” McBride says.

“I look at the producer, the artist and the engineer as painters, and I want to give them every color on the palette,” McBride says of the studio’s impressive array of available equipment. “I don’t want them to ever be limited by the studio. So if they’re looking for a certain sound that might have been created with an Ursa Major Space Station, or some weird piece of gear, we have it. And if we don’t have it, I’m hunting for it. We rarely lose at ‘stump the studio.’” John jokes that his addiction to audio gear is “worse than heroin.”

“When a piece of music is created, if our involvement in it might have been just the fact that we gave them the right mixing board and the right room in which to record, and they made a 5 percent better record than they would have because everything was right, the studio has served its purpose,” he says. “I feel like we can help inspire the musicians. [And] an inspired player will be the difference between double platinum and gold, or between a hit or not a hit.”

In building the facilities, McBride says, “We really went over the top.” He even went as far as purchasing the transformers from the nearby electric poles from the city so the studio wouldn’t share power with any nearby homes. “I don’t want somebody’s Korean hair dryer creating a buzz in my monitor rig,” he says. “We don’t mess around.”

So when McBride looks around his studio and declares, “I don’t even know how to turn on half this crap,” it’s clear he’s being more modest than truthful.

Married to country star Martina McBride for 22 years and the father of their three daughters, McBride has a keen ear for audio and a talent for sound mixing that have shaped his career, first as the owner of a live sound company and now as the proprietor of Blackbird Studio and its related music publishing and instrument rental businesses. He started his audio company with a $75,000 loan that his parents had to back using their home as collateral. Fortunately, it became so successful that he eventually was bought out by industry giant Clair Brothers in 1996. McBride remains head of Clair’s Nashville office, which handles about 40 artist tours a year.

The newly married McBrides moved from Kansas to Nashville in 1989 so they each could purse their careers. Within a year of moving here, Martina had a record deal with RCA and John had landed the plum gig as production manager for Garth Brooks. “I thought only in the movies does this happen, but in real life it happened to us,” McBride says. “It really was unbelievable.”

Blackbird started as a vocal booth in their garage before becoming a fully realized dream almost nine years ago. The studio’s name came from McBride’s borderline-obsessive love of The Beatles. The first verse of their song “Blackbird” is sandblasted into the granite floor of one of the studios.

McBride, who still listens to Beatles music every day, has amassed an impressive collection of 30,000 vinyl Beatles records from all over the world, including Japan, Russia and South America. His prized possession is the original mono master of the Meet The Beatles from the Scranton, Pa., pressing plant, complete with engineering notes.

While he’s never met any of the band members, McBride says, “My ultimate goal is to get [Paul] McCartney into this studio someday.” Meanwhile, his obsession has become widely known, even among his celebrity friends. Close pal Faith Hill, who shares a publicist with McCartney, once got McBride four signed photos as a Christmas present. He jokes that his gift for her that year—a Sonic gift card—“sucked” by comparison.

The McBride children and their friends are also up to speed on their father’s hobby. When each of the girls was in fourth grade, McBride took a turn at their school’s parent reading day. But instead of reading a book to the kids, he brought in a turntable, speakers, and a stack of Beatles records, and proceeded to demonstrate the “Paul is dead” theory for the children by playing the music backwards. “It freaked them out,” McBride confesses with a laugh. “Half of them had nightmares.”

In recent years, the studio business has become something of a nightmare itself as home recording has put a hurt on professional facilities. Despite its stellar reputation and A-list client base, Blackbird has not been spared.

“The studio business… is a terrible investment,” McBride says candidly. His modest financial goal for this year is to break even. “It’s a black hole of time and money.” Despite that, he loves every minute of it. “We built the studio of our dreams, Martina’s and mine,” he says. “It’ll never be a good investment, but it’s the greatest place in the whole world to me.”

McBride jokes that when the May floods that devastated much of Nashville missed Blackbird, “I thought, ‘There goes my chance to ever make money in the studio business.’” But he then admits, “I would have been heartbroken, actually, if anything happened to this place.

“The music business is tough and its ugly and it’s upside down right now,” McBride says. “People that should be passionate about music are more worried about losing their jobs or hanging on for dear life, so the passion disappears a little bit. I’m looking forward to the day when passion re-enters the business and people make records for the right reason—because they have to and they love to.

“I don’t know if there’s a future for a studio like this,” he says, “but as long as we can keep this place going, we will keep it going—forever if we can, because it’s just Nirvana for people that love audio.

“We’ll adjust to the times and, hopefully, we’ll continue to have great albums come out of this place because that’s why we’re here. That’s what we care about.”

—Phyllis Stark

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Country's Reluctant King and Queen

09/14/2009 -

By Robert K. Oermann

Don't polish any crowns. Neither country music's Male nor Female Vocalist of the Year is prepared to wear one.

In response to the question, "Do you ever look in the mirror and think, 'I'm country's king/queen?'" both Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood just chuckle. "I never think that," Paisley says. "Maybe I'd look in the mirror and go, 'Look, it's the Clown of Country Music.' It's more like, 'How did this happen? '" Underwood responds much the same way.

"I might look in the mirror and go, 'Oh, I've got a pimple.' Or, 'I need some new makeup,'" she says. "In everyday life, my mind is the furthest away from those thoughts as it could possibly be."

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Exclusive Interview with Trace Adkins

07/28/2008 -

By Sherry Stinson

The appeal is the easy part. A towering 6’6” of muscle, baby blues, cowboy hat and trademarked crooked smile all an accompaniment to the velvety baritone and very marketable swiveling hips — Trace Adkins really does have his Game On in this self-described “really good year.” By now everyone knows his runner up status on The Celebrity Apprentice translated to winner in the court of viewer appeal (even The Donald liked him best) and the 2008 CMT award for best video was one more Swing and homerun. After listening to copious amounts of his musical one-liners like “hate to see her go but love to watch her leave…” (Honky Tonk Badonkadonk), watching one-too-many scantily clad women in his music videos (One Hot Mama) and reading his book Trace Adkins A Personal Stand Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck I can’t help but marvel at the way he puts it out there.

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Tim Dubois

07/28/2008 -

By Larry Nager

A soft-spoken country gentleman, Oklahoma native Tim DuBois has been one of Nashville’s Renaissance men for more than a quarter century. He’s co-written five No. 1 songs, including Jerry Reed’s crossover hit, “She Got the Goldmine (And I Got the Shaft)” And Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name.” In 1989, handpicked by legendary record exec Clive Davis, DuBois founded Arista Nashville, discovering Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley, among others. From 2002 to 2006 he headed the innovative Universal South label. Today, he takes an academic overview of the industry as a clinical professor in the MBA program of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, teaching and developing educational programs and events. 

How have the internet, digital music files and other new media affected the way artists  start, develop and sustain careers?

TIM DUBOIS It allows an artist to establish a fanbase, and maybe more importantly to stay in touch with the fanbase in ways that didn’t exist 5, 6 years ago, with all the social networking sites. How people discover and view music has changed and it’s never going to go back to the way it was before. One of the parts of that is artists’ ability to be able to very inexpensively reach out and establish a fanbase. You tour and couple that with an  internet presence and gather your fans together and give them what they want while you build a career that’s not dependent upon radio and not dependent upon physical distribution.

That was the stranglehold. There were two huge barriers to entry that the record industry enjoyed. One was that they were the only people with deep enough pockets to finance the recording and then the promotion of media driven hits. 
The internet has not completely taken away that barrier, but it’s brought it down to where now people have ways to cost effectively market their stuff and cost effective ways to distribute it which just didn’t exist before and the cost of actual recording has also come way down as a result of technology.
The second barrier that is very obvious is that always before it really didn’t matter how good your music was. If you couldn’t get it into Wal-Mart if you couldn’t get it into the visible goods distribution system then you weren’t going to be able to sell very much of it. You were limited to what you could sell on the road. And now with digital distribution that barrier is pretty well gone. 

The power in the new (business) model goes back to the artists and the managers and I think we have some great managers and artists here in town that are at the point that as their careers transition they’re going to look at the world where it is right now and realize that they have the ability in this new world to do a lot of things that the record label has done for them in the past.


TO READ MORE about the Smartest People On Music Row, you can pick up your copy at finer Nashville Bookstores.

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