The CMA Music Festival is Nashville’s premiere country music festival. It’s a four-day affair that brings endless country music to Broadway, the riverfront, and most of downtown.
Country music loves its stars and starlets. Pretty faces sing on big bright stages. Their bands stand back, in the shadows. Between songs, artists comment on how well each hit did on the Billboard charts. “Here’s another #1 single.” This preoccupation with monetary success and radio airplay is a telling sign of the focus in Nashville – the business of music.
You can feel business in the air. Production value is sky high. Gigantic tour buses turn sidewalks into shiny valleys. Throngs of young girls, all dolled up, pour in and out of stadium shows. Well-dressed bands are in and out the back, paychecks in hand.
CMA Fest is also known as the “Fan Fair.” These are fans in the traditional sense – waiting in long lines for autograph signings, buying tour t-shirts, and joining online fan clubs. Many artists acknowledge that none of this would be possible without their fans, and show them plenty of love during the shows.
I spent a lot of time at the riverfront stage, which had free music, all day, every day. Right around the corner, the Hard Rock Cafe had its own outdoor stage will free music. As you walk up Broadway, which is closed to cars and packed with vendors and tents, you hear cover song after cover song coming from the crowded honky tonks and bars. The biggest acts, on the biggest stages, require expensive tickets.
After hearing so much country music, I am beginning to appreciate the craft. It is a pure form of storytelling, a formula spiked with inspiration. Humor, love, loss, the whole human condition is creatively woven together, and told in a conversational way that even Bubba can understand. While some new Pop Country seems superficial, the old timers tell it like it is. Country music is a truly American craft, honed over generations. Nashville is its home.
American Music Project