There are three types of people in Nashville: famous musicians, people who want to become famous musicians, and a whole lot of folks who never tire of hearing live music. So when you’re in Nashville, do as the locals do and make time to hear some of Music City’s talented singers, songwriters and bands.
These intimate local venues are where you’re most likely to catch a talented act before they hit it big time.
Bluebird Cafe, 4104 Hillsboro Pike
Bluebird Cafe is an iconic, unparalleled listening room experience. Since 1981, Bluebird has played host to Nashville’s most talented songwriters. So many greats have graced the stage in this tiny strip mall that we can’t even begin to name them. Suffice it to say: you never know who’ll show up to play on any given night. Sure, you’ll hear premier up-and-coming Nashville talent, but surprise guests have included everyone from LeAnn Rimes to Kris Kristofferson. And if you’re planning to go for a Monday night open mic event, arrive early; doors open at 5:30 p.m., and seats fill up fast.
Douglas Corner Cafe, 2106 8th Ave S # A
Since 1987, Douglas Corner Cafe has played host to all sorts of local Nashville talent, including now-famous country artists Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton and Alan Jackson. On Tuesday nights, Douglas Corner Cafe holds an open mic night hosted by Donnie Winters, who formerly toured with Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels. If you want to see how your musical talents will fare in Nashville, call Winters on Tuesday between 1 and 6 p.m. to ask for a spot on the list. Or belly up to the bar and enjoy the show.
The Family Wash, 626A Main St
This former hole-in-the-wall restaurant and venue just got new life with a brand-new space in East Nashville with plenty of extra seating. Come out and enjoy a great meal (on Tuesdays you can get a shepherd’s pie and a pint of beer for just $10) while you catch a show. Plenty of local legends play residencies or one-off shows at Family Wash, so you’re guaranteed to witness something great happening.
The Basement, 1604 8th Ave S
Located in the basement (get it?) of Grimey’s New & Preloved Music — Nashville’s most popular record store — The Basement welcomes local bands and songwriters every week. Tuesday is New Faces Nite — and your best chance to catch a future star. The space is intimate with only a few tables set up in front of the stage, offering a great view from every seat in the house. Plus, the Basement has been known to welcome late-night surprise guests, including John Fogerty, Metallica, Dawes, and Mumford and Sons.
Hotel Indigo’s The District Stage, 301 Union St
This speakeasy-inspired lounge hosts reputable open mic nights and keeps the stage filled with frequent performances by locals. Most weeks, The District Stage hosts writer’s nights on Sundays with a rotating cast of local musicians playing residencies throughout the week. Check out the venue’s Facebook page for details on who’s playing during your stay so you can plan accordingly.
Plenty of other Nashville venues welcome local talent, so if you don’t see what you’re looking for on this list, check out The High Watt, The 5 Spot, Listening Room Cafe and Basement East for more options.