Another “Nashville”-Nashville collaboration.
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Another “Nashville”-Nashville collaboration.
Before piling into Callie’s SUV, we squeezed into a table at Southern Steak & Oyster, on the ground floor of the Pinnacle at Symphony Place (the office building was a “Nashville” filming site). The table struggled for open space as the waiter delivered plates of oysters (Long Island, Japan, Canada) and steak and biscuit Benedict, hold the eggs.
Between bites and sips, Callie explained her ties to Nashville. Family: Her mother, sister and cousin live in the area, in addition to assorted friends. Husband: Burnett, a multiple Grammy-winner who often works with local artists and is executive music producer on “Nashville.” Personal history: From 1979 to 1982, she resided in Nashville, waitressing around town and interning at the Advent Theatre, now Ocean Way recording studio. TV show: The series films on location.
Callie divides her time between her residence in Los Angeles and her hotel room at the Hermitage in Nashville. Yet she says, “If I say I’m going home, I’m going to Nashville.”
Though she grew up in Paducah, Ky., she talks like a local — meaning with the insider’s confidence of place. At lunch, for example, she debated such potentially divisive issues as dessert: “You’re damn right this is a pie town,” she said, throwing out such tasty candidates as the Loving Pie Co. and the Loveless Cafe. She also opened her heart, explaining how Nashville makes it flutter.
“If I have to say what causes this good feeling, it’s hearing live music every night. I’m not exaggerating,” she said. “It’s just jaw-dropping how good the musicians are. The bench is 20 deep.”
One of the creative centers in the show — and in the real Nashville — is the Bluebird Cafe, a greenhouse of songwriting talent. The Green Hills venue typically holds two shows a night, featuring artists up and down the ladder of success. On a recent Saturday evening, for instance, a quartet of songwriters sat in the round and belted out original tunes associated with such big names as Keith Urban, the Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flatts, and, yes, the “Flashdance” soundtrack. For the finale, Dennis Matkosky pounded out “Maniac” on his keyboard, prefacing the song with a story about his inspiration: It was not a blue-collar woman pursuing her passion to dance but an imaginary serial killer living next door to him.
Calories and blue jeans
But Nashville can’t subsist on music alone. It needs to eat, a lot.
“The restaurant scene is exploding,” said Callie.
Brace yourself for the ka-boom: Catbird Seat, Lockeland Table, Rolf and Daughters, Silo, Watermark (which appears in the show), City House, Margot Cafe and Marche. During our driving tour, we also picked up Urban Grub on 12th Avenue South, Virago in the Gulch and the Mad Platter in historic Germantown, where you “can seriously, seriously hurt yourself” on the Southern cuisine, she said.
Callie’s family’s tradition is to stuff themselves with country ham and cheese grits at Loveless Cafe, a former motel, then wobble it off at Radnor Lake State Park. You might need to do several laps around the lake.
For this afternoon, however, our calorie burn was minimal. I practiced the art of the head swivel as Callie provided commentary on the passing attractions. I rotated my neck for the darling Craftsman bungalows in historic Edgefield and Lockeland Springs, and for Marathon Motor Works, a repurposed factory that houses retail shops such as Bang Candy (Callie recommends the marshmallows). We drove up Music Row, shouting out the names of studios and publishing houses like roll call: Ben Folds’s Ben’s Studio, Reba McEntire’s Starstruck, Garth Brooks’s Allentown Studios.
With so many neighborhoods to cover (nine, including Broadway), we stopped the car only twice. Taylor Swift’s house did not make the cut, but Peter Nappi and Imogene & Willie’s shop did.
At the tiny denim store on 12th Avenue South, rows of empty sewing machines dominated one half of the room. In the warmer months, bands perform in the back yard and food trucks line up out front. Depending on the tightness of your jeans, which should be second skin, you might not be eating or dancing much.
“They are so freakin’ skinny,” said Callie, who was wearing a baggier pair, despite instructions to wear them super-fitted and to not wash them for a few months.
We ended the tour at our starting point, the Ryman. Before going our separate ways, I asked Callie for suggestions for evening activities. She recommended the Grand Ole Opry show (“Nashville” star sighting: Jonathan Jackson, who plays Avery on the show), followed by speakeasy cocktails and sliders at the Patterson House (I couldn’t find it). I drew the night’s curtain at Bluebird Cafe.
Callie, meanwhile, had tickets to the Nashville Predators hockey game (against “I don’t know who”) and had received an invitation for drinks and dinner at Rolf and Daughters and Silo.
“You can tell I love Nashville, can’t you?” she said in the parking lot. “I couldn’t do a show about a place that I didn’t have a connection to.”