Is it still stalking if you’re paying for it?

Although KG & I didn’t do a lot of pre-planning for our Nashville trip there is one attraction we actually applied forethought to: a bus tour. These outings are not cheap, but can be a great (albeit super touristy) way to see a wide variety of sites spread over a large area. And let’s be serious: you are a tourist so what’s the harm in acting like it occasionally. When weighing the pros & cons of the various tours offered throughout Nashville (there were surprisingly few tours…we had thought this place would be more tourist-centric) we decided that the ABC’s Nashville tour was best for us. We love the show and wanted an easy way to see the random filming locations without having to rent a car & do hours of research. Plus it wasn’t as uncomfortable as one of those “Houses of the Stars” tours….

It turned out that while on our show tour (read about it here at Nashville’s Nashville) we were treated to the Houses tour as well. Our occasionally jerky guide does the Stars tour during the week and decided to give us a special treat by throwing in some guided creeping while on our journey. This led us to this existential question:

Is it still stalking if you’re paying for it?

It is a question for the ages really. We decided that since we hadn’t asked for it we were not technically stalkers. More like casual observers of the compulsory view…that sounds less creepy right? I’m trying to be all high & mighty but the truth is that we snapped photos right along with everyone else. Can you blame us for wanting to see how the other half lives?

It all began when our route took us past Dierks Bentley’s house. The guide innocently pointed it out so we could ooo & ahhh over the more-than-modest size. Not overly creepy, right? The problem was that Mrs. Bentley had chosen that exact time to leave the house with their young daughter. Her eyes went wide into a classic deer-in-the-headlight’s look when she spotted our bus. Immediately she ordered her daughter to duck and looked away so we might not see her face. That’s when I obviously took a stalker shot of the car… I’m not proud of that moment. I just got caught up in the excitement of seeing someone who knew someone who was famous. Sorry for invading your privacy Mrs. Bentley.

Thus began the rerouting that allowed us to see the not-so-humble abodes of the country music big-shots.

Toby Keith lives on a non-descript city street, although the massive mansion & fancy car where a bit eye catching.
Kellie Pickler’s cute stone ‘cottage’ is tucked away in a classy neighborhood. She is apparently unfazed by the creeping. She can often be seen in a rocking chair on her front porch on Sundays with her Grandfather…not this Sunday though. We did notice her Christmas tree was still up. Don’t worry Kellie; at that point so was ours.
A Kings of Leon guy (I think one of the brothers…although that doesn’t help much as the band is made up of 3 brothers & their cousin) lives in the same area as Kellie. The band may not be country but they are from Nashville so the ritzy communities south of the city are a nature place for the now famous rockers to settle down. While honing my stalker skills I notices a scary bear head hanging on his wall.
The most expensive home we saw was Faith Hill & Tim McGraw’s hilltop mansion. Its said to be values at a mere $52 million…soooooo much money…. It sits so high up on a hill that you must zoom way in on your camera to properly capture its image. There are multiple driveways that give access to the property.
One which only Tim & Faith use. That gate will literally not open for anyone else.
One for guests. I wish I were lucky enough to get to use that blessed passage.
And one for deliveries. Perhaps if I become a Nashville based postal employee I’ll make my way up there?
Finally we were given a glimpse of Taylor Swift’s houses. Yes houses…as in plural. The starlet has both a penthouse apartment & a mansion in the Nashville city limits. The penthouse is in a central location & currently houses her brother, who is going to university here. The mansion is in Belle Meade and resembles the White House. Does anyone know a Belle Meade man I can marry? Because driving around there left me coveting some of the classic southern mansions.
We also passed Taylor’s favorite BBQ place. You can try to decipher what it is from this quality photo I snapped as we drove by.
And I think that’s enough creeping for now…good luck in all of your future staking!
Love & Luck,


Nashville’s Nashville

Have you ever watched ABC’s Nashville? It’s drama set in (you guessed it) Nashville chronicling the lives of fictional country music singers…the legend, the teen starlet, the up-and-comers, the trying-to-make-it-any-way-possible artist. I highly recommend it. The story lines are fantastical and yet realistic…probably because they are often based loosely on the lives & stories of actual music industry personnel. The music is spectacular…probably because it is written by actual Nashville songwriters; if ABC’s Nashville stars weren’t singing them you might hear these tunes on stage being belted out by current chart-topping singers. And the settings are beautiful & meaningful…probably because the show is actually shot right here in Nashville. That’s right, the whole show is shot in Music City. Today we hopped on a Greyline Tours bus and saw the sights of Nashville while seeing the sites of Nashville.

Warning: There will be show spoilers in here for those of you that are not up-to-date…but don’t worry too much about it, I’m still a couple of episodes behind too.

The first filming locations we drove by were this field & this parking lot. Ooooooo! Ahhhhhhh! They don’t look like much but in the Season 2 mid-season finale each was set up as a concert location. Juliette rocked out at a festival in the middle of the chain link fenced-in field while Deacon put on a rival show across the street in a car-less version of the parking lot. We had to go back for the photos because the bus didn’t actually stop here, but it was only 2 blocks from our hostel (just south of 1st & Broadway if you’re trying to find them) so it was didn’t take too much effort to return.
And while we’re on the topic of places that look like nothing but are totally something check out this ditch. Here, at the intersection of Granny White Park & Battlefield Drive, is the site of Rayna & Deacon car crash from the Season 1 finale. The pleasantly sunny day makes it look like a far less menacing spot.
A few other outdoor locations were:
– The Courthouse: where Teddy & Deacon had a tussle on the front lawn.
– The Stairs in this Park: Rayna & Deacon talked here once.
– The Pedestrian Bridge: They talked here too.
– The Corner outside Two Old Hippies: Teddy & Deacon also fought here.

We also circled the Musica statue. It sits in the center of the traffic circle at the top of Music Row and is meant to symbolize the freedom of expression brought on through song & dance. You can imagine the controversy it caused when unveiled…it’s a statue of dancing naked people in a place consider the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” In Nashville you might remember it as the backdrop of Juliette’s Telescope music video, which was also slightly scandalous.
Juliette also sang in front of the Partheon at one point. You can see our Partheon pictures over on KG’s blog post “Instant Friends” which talks about our day other than this tour.

We took a break from the bus at the Ryman Auditorium. We were given 30 minutes and free admission to explore the “First Church of Country Music.” The Ryman was originally a church, but is now used as a concert hall. For a few decades it was the home of Grand Ole Opry and still plays host to the radio show a few months a year. We were able to check out the sound booth, recording studio and various display cases full of artifacts from country music greats. One of my favorite things to see were the signed concert posters for various acts (mainly, but not entirely, country singers) that had performed in these hallowed halls. They would probably have frowned on me swiping a few, right? Finally we hoped on stage for a photo. On the actual Ryman stage! Where Eric Church stood just the night before!
And where Rayna & Juliette premiered their forced collaboration Wrong Song. Apparently the Ryman will also be featured in a future episode when Juliette gets inducted into the Opry family…which by the way is totally unrealistic. It takes years for them to invite you to actually be an Opry member & and not just a “guest performer.” Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift aren’t members. Keith Urban only got invited last year!

The houses featured on the show have all been recreated in a studio in west Nashville, but they are all replicas of actual Nashville homes. They pilot and part of the first season were filmed entirely on location in these actual buildings. We swung by Scarlett & Avery / Scarlett & Gunner / Scarlett & Gunner & Will / Gunner & Will’s house first. That house might as well have a revolving door people move in and out so much. Unfortunately no one hopped on the bus to visit us. The bus driver told us that when his tour pulled up 2 weeks before Sam Palladio (Gunner) and Chloe Bennet (Hailey) were waiting to talk to them! We thought it was just cruel to mock us with what we couldn’t have, but he seemed to find it enjoyable. He also kept bragging about how he’d been on a studio tour the day before. “We don’t go to the studio because there’s no way you’ll be able to get in…however I got to take a guided tour of all of huge sets yesterday.” I admit that he should be excited and tell us about it, but did he have to bring it up every 39 seconds? Anyway, I digress… We then made the long drive to Deacon (& now Scarlett)’s house. Just kidding, it’s actually right next door. I’m going to have to go back and analyze the camera angle of the exterior house shots now.
The characters who are established stars on the show have houses out in the ritzy part of Nashville. Rayna’s house can be found in Belle Meade (where I want to live) and Juliette’s 2nd house (because she seems to move every third episode) is in Oak Hill. It was fun to drive around these fancy neighborhoods and lust after the old-money mansions. And the new money ones too…
Fun Fact: Both Nashville houses are currently on the market! If you have a spare $19.5 million (Rayna’s) or $2.2 million (Juliette’s) lying around they could be yours!
Fun Housing Market Fact: “Rayna’s” house was first appraised at $9.5 million but after being featured on the show doubled in value.

Being that live music is the heart & soul of the city you’d expect this to be prevalent on the show. Therefor Nashville‘s favorite on-location shooting locations seem to be popular Nashville restaurants and bars. Here’s a list of ones we drove by (and in some cases, have visited):

– Sky Blue: Juliette & that football player she married then divorced had their first date here. They sat at the table in the corner by the window.
– Watermark: Scarlett, Gunner & Avery go here for a nice dinner to celebrate Scarlett & Gunner getting signed. Avery is a big grump (this is when him and Scarlett are attempting to ‘just be friends’) and he says he’ll walk home. We did the drive between your house and this restaurant Avery…that’s a really far walk. Although distances seem to be skewed…Remeber the non-neighboring houses being next door to each other?
– Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop: Rayna goes for coffee here…I don’t remember when.

– The 5 Spot: This is where Avery has his first big solo gig. If you recall, he gets picked up by an agent…both musically and physically 😉
– The Stage: Will did his first big gig here, sang one of Gunner’s songs and got an Edgehill record deal. This totally screwed Rayna over as she was supposed to sign him.
– Layla’s: This is where Scarlett (& Gunner) go out after her & Avery break up. Scarlett goes a little crazy, hooking up with a guy upstairs and jumping on stage to sing Ring of Fire with the band.
– Rippy’s: This is where Will is trying to teach Gunner about getting women’s phone numbers. He also sings a song 🙂
– Two Old Hippies: This was where Juliette did the small concert that Maddie snuck out to go to. It was supposed to be a reputation booster but turned into a riot type situation. Maddie ended up in the hospital. Also, more recently, Maddie & Deacon performed together here. That’s what lead to the Deacon vs. Teddy throw down outside.
– Robert’s Western World: We can’t remember whether anything was filmed here, but we do know that Charles Esten (who plays Deacon) loves this bar and often hangs out here. Do t you just love fun stalker tips? If you do check out this bonus post: “Is it still stalking if you’re paying for it?

All of these locations were really cool to see, but my favorite part of the tour was stopping at the Bluebird Café. Grayline’s ABC’s Nashville tour only runs on Sundays so they can have an exclusive stop off at the Bluebird. The General Manager gave us a private tour of the little café and it’s rich history. Even ignoring all of the other sites we would have missed without having a guide, this private visit was worth the price of the tour.
For fans of Nashville, you will recognize the Bluebird Café as one of the main backdrops to the show (especially in the early episodes). Scarlett & Gunner both work at the café in the pilot. Deacon takes part in the songwriters circle. And the various cast members perform numerous musical numbers here. But even non-fans might recognize the name. It is considered a haven for songwriters and the starting point of countless stars. Here’s a few fun facts & history tidbits:
In 1982 Amy Kurland opened The Bluebird Cafe as a small fancy restaurant. But after the dinner crowd had left she started opening up the small stage she’d installed to her songwriter boyfriend & his pals. It wasn’t long before this took over the business. Soon the cafe was hosting nights dedicated entirely to the songwriters, who were chosen by an audition process. Each songwriter gets one minute and one minute only to do their thing & impress the judges. Eventually songwriter nights developed into the famous round format they now hold. Four writers sit facing each other with the audience surrounding them. It’s somehow both intimate and totally public. The writers take turns playing songs, strumming along on their guitars and harmonizing when they are able.
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Some artists who have passed the nerve-wracking Bluebird audition process are: Deana Carter (in 1990), Kenny Chesney (1991), Keith Urban (1993), Carolyn Dawn Johnson (1996) & Dierks Bentley (2000). The Bluebird is also where John Rich & Kenny Alphin first performed together as Big and Rich (in 2002).
In 2004 Scott Borchetta spotted the first artist for his new label Big Machine Records at the Bluebird. She was only 14 but already had a publishing deal (aka was a paid songwriter) and was playing Spotlight performances at The Bluebird Cafe. I am, of course, talking about Taylor Swift who a few short years later had become and international superstar and helped make Big machine pretty much the most sought after record label in Nashville.
But that’s not even The Bluebird Cafés biggest success story! “Who is bigger than Taylor Swift”? you ask. Not many people, but remember she was already somewhat on people’s radar when she was signed. This fellow was plucked out of obscurity & failure to become one of huge biggest names ever in country music: Garth Brooks. He is the only person to ever receive a standing ovation in his songwriter audition (after performing only one minute!) and was a regular in the songwriter circle. One night he was pulled aside into the Bluebird’s kitchen and offered a record deal. History in the making people!
Basically it was unreal to be in such influential place in tour try music and we will definitely be coming for a show when we return to Nashville!

This tour just cemented in my mind what I was already starting to suspect: Nashville has really embraced Nashville, and I think Nashville has embraced Nashville in return. The stars are living in the city, shooting at actual city landmarks and experiencing everything the city has to offer. And the city is gathering positive notice from not only America, but the world (we had an Irish family on our tour that was psyched about the show even though Season 2 has yet to start airing over there). Yay tourism!

Love & Luck,

Fangirling – Nashville Edition

This morning I had the very difficult task of loiter about the Opryland Hotel. It was a hard job and took all of my tenacity to complete 😉 KG’s conference ran until the afternoon so I was left waiting until she was ready to move on. I would think I had the easy morning considering I just lounged in bed, wandered around the gorgeous lush greenery scattered about the hotel and drank Starbucks in the Garden Conservatory Cafe but if you’ve read her post about her morning (The Hot List) you’ll see she was having a pretty fun time too.

When the conference was concluded, our bags were packed and we had checked out it was time to head downtown. We looked a little odd loading our suitcases onto the Wildhorse Shuttle but it was the most economical way to proceed. We didn’t care that it was normally just Opryland guests going on a day trip to the main part of the city, we were using it to get us from our high class resort to our next residence. I am, of course, speaking of the Nashville Downtown Hostel. If you had expected anything else you (a) overestimate our level of class, (b) under estimate our adventurous natures and (c) obviously don’t regularity read our blogs. It was only a few blocks walk from the drop off point (being the famous Ryman Auditorium) and was hardly as hilly as the trek we made with our suitcases in San Fran. We are now settled into a 4-person mixed dorm, although from the look of their stuff we believe both of our roommates are girls, and are prepared for four nights of hostel life. To prep for such a life we hit up a grocery store for snacks & easy lunch/supper food and a convenience store for liquor. This is after the hostel employees looked at us like crazy people for asking where the nearest liquor store was. “Um…there’s a specialty wine store up the street…if you need more selection.” “More selection than what?” “Than what you can get across the street at the convenience store.” It was like light bulbs went off above our heads…oh yeah, you can just buy beer absolutely anywhere in this country, not just from its own special store.

We needed an afternoon snack (also know as lunch if you believe in such a thing) so we headed out in search of live music, beer and bar food. We ended up at The Stage. This is a pretty iconic Nashville bar where many a country music legend has played. We had a drink, some jalapeños poppers & an order of spring rolls. It was serious deep fried goodness. While we ate we enjoyed the song stylings of a man and his band. I call them that because I don’t think I ever knew who they were…sometimes these performers don’t do a very good job of informing an ever-changing crowd of their name. It was an entertaining set though. The lead singer pulled off a wide variety of covers, from classics to current outlaw country hits. He created a stellar party atmosphere, especially when you consider it was the middle of the afternoon and no one in the bar was attempting to party.
Otherwise we spent most of our day relaxing. We got our belongings organized in our rooms. We sat in the common area & blogged. We intensely listed out everything we still wanted to do in Nashville and systematically scheduled each thing in for the next 4 days. We made a light supper of cold meat & cheese sandwiches and salad. It was pretty chill. Spending time at this hostel is pleasant. We are pretty sure it is a converted office building. Our room has 2 bunk beds pushed against the walls of what would have been an office. It’s not a lot of space, but it’s clean and well laid out. Plus the fourth floor where we are bunking has beautiful hardwood flooring. There are small common spaces on the dorm floors, but they are designated quiet areas for just hanging out in to read, etc. (I use etc because I’m not entirely sure what else you’d use them for) the main common area is on the main floor and has an open concept. The check in desk, tv area, dining tables and kitchen are all in the same large room, which seems hectic but due to superior planning actually flows quite well. Everything is nice quality and has a new & classy look to it. Basically it’s still up there with San Francisco as a beautiful place to stay. It doesn’t appear to be as lively though. We’ll see how the weekend progresses, but so far people seem a little lethargic when out lounging and not eager to organize a big hostel-group drinking party.
It was after nine before we even considered moving. KG looked at me and said “We should probably go do something, shouldn’t we?” “I guess so…although it feels like it’s already 4 in the morning.” Ironic…just a little foreshadowing being thrown in here… We decided that the night life is a huge part of the Nashville experience and we could suck it up and go out. Just because we felt sluggish now didn’t mean we wouldn’t perk up with some fresh air and alcohol. Not to mention the music. Instant Party: Just add Beer & Country Music.

After walking 2nd Ave and Broadway we settled on Tootsies Orchid Lounge. The bouncer had done the “Ladies come in here” non-sell that seems to work on us so well. Tootsies is a Nashville institution that we intended on visiting at some point so this was as good of a time as any. The cramped but lively bar is wallpapered with signed photos of all the classic country music greats. When the Grand Ole Opry was situated in the Ryman Auditorium the artists used to finish their set, walk out the back door of the theater and into the back door of Tootsies.
We were luck enough to snag 2 seats at the bar. The place was already squished standing room only but we’d entered as the on stage talent was changing so we also hit the changing of bar patrons. We came in for the new act as the previous owners of our stools left with the last singer. Once on our thrones we kind of just held court while the people around us changed. We made all sorts of random friends as they drifted past, some just for a few minutes but many who kept coming be to pay us a visit as the night progressed. One fellow thought KG should dance with him even though she repeatedly insisted she was good. Multiple old men (and we mean 50+…sorry dad but I’m counting that as old) stopped to tell me how pretty I was. A group of studio musicians alternated between kinda fun, kinda creepy and kinda fun, depending on the time they’d stop by. A super drunk but totally harmless business man kept awkwardly flail-dancing in our vicinity, much to our entertainment. Basically we had a steady stream of randoms to keep us amused.
But the real entertainment of the evening was that evenings entertainment. The band that played from minutes after we entered the bar until close was spectacular! This group of gentlemen had everyone singing, dancing and having a kick ass time. Orio and the Goodfellers are born entertainers who ran through the best party-playlist of requests and inspired fangirl reactions from this prone-to-fangirling duo. We made our request when we tipped the band: something Canadian. Anthony Orio, the lead singer, promised us he’d choose something good. We ended up getting a 2-for-1 deal when he first proudly stood on the stage and belted out Man I feel like A Woman by Shania Twain, then had the whole bar rocking to Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69. After that we got a kick from his random Canadian shout-outs.
As we were now the bands biggest fans we ended up staying right till close…which came a bit sooner than expected when there was a fight upstairs and the police helped the bouncers clear the bar. Staying was aided by the acquisition of 2 new friends, Hostel Friends! When we’d been relax earlier two young men had been playing pool across the common area. Now they spotted us across the bar. Staying at the same hostel always equals instant friends. We tried to educate this Australian & Argentinian pair as to what were the best country songs and enjoyed the company of some other excited travelers.

When we left the bar it was pouring rain. We ran back the hostel trying to duck under store front canopies and into covered doorways…well the others did at least. I, on the other hand, tried to jump in as many puddles as possible and make the most epic splashes my rain-soaked companions had ever seen.
Once back at the hostel we played pool while we dried off. Everyone bonded over travel adventures, stories from home and cross-continental shared interests. Time flies by when your having fun and we finally crawled into bed at 4am. What can I say? We’re party animals 😉

Love & Luck,