It’s impossible to think of Nashville without its rich musical history, but it’s also a destination with a robust food scene, terrific boutique shopping and a thriving design community. To properly explore the city, we worked with musician Shelly Colvin, who put out her own record, Up The Hickory & Down The Pine last year. Though she was born two hours south in Huntsville, Alabama, she’s called Nashville home for seven years (after a stint in Los Angeles). She handles events and musician relations for clothing designer Billy Reid and is a stylist who has dressed bands such as Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, The Civil Wars and Dawes. She, along with her music attorney husband, sees three or four live shows a week and says, “I’m on a first-name basis with most of the doormen in town,” making her the perfect guide around Music City.
The Hermitage Hotel is a must-visit, since it’s the oldest hotel in town (opening in 1910), and, Shelly says, “its past is palpable. Rumor is there used to be an underground tunnel that led from the Capitol to the Oak Bar in the hotel that the politicians would use to quick nip during the day.” It features a beautiful, grand lobby, the kind you rarely see anymore. She notes, “Chef Tyler Brown has the hotel’s restaurant, Capitol Grille, delivering some of the best meals in town, sourcing meat and produce from their own farming efforts.” For a boutique hotel experience, Shelly recommends The Hutton Hotel. “It’s where most of my artist friends stay when they’re in town,” she says.
Always looking for something a bit under the radar, Shelly says, “I just discovered an East Nashville bungalow on Mansfield Street for some artist friends to rent, and it was incredible. It has the feel of Hotel San Jose in Austin – clean and minimalistic with a soul.”
Nashville has a burgeoning food scene, and one of Shelly’s favorites is Rolf & Daughters, located in a historic 100-year-old building in Germantown. “They make some of the best pasta I’ve ever had,” Shelly says. “Their heirloom tomato salad is spot on right now and their Stuyvesant, Bols Genever cocktail is perfection on a humid Nashville summer night.” Another favorite is Husk, in which James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock (who has two Charleston, South Carolina, outposts) “made the city collectively happy and hungry,” Shelly quips. Sean is wholly committed to using only Southern ingredients, making the city eager to embrace his delicious brand of local fare on the daily changing menu. “To top it off, Sean is one of the kindest souls and can talk music for days, which is where we really connect.”
“Being in L.A. all those years, I hankered for traditional Southern soul food,” Shelly says. Fortunately, Nashville has some of the best, including Bailey & Cato on McGavock Pike in East Nashville. “The fried catfish is my favorite – it’s served on Fridays and cooked to order. It’s a great place to mingle with the neighbors, since it’s been around for a long time and has a ton of character (and characters).” Also in East Nashville, she recommends Margot Cafe, which serves French and Italian cuisine. “Her restaurant is one of the coziest spots on the planet and her food is consistently remarkable. You’ll never have a bad meal here, period.”
It would be hard to kick off Shelly’s shopping recommendations with anything other than Billy Reid, though she’s quick to point out that the top spot on her list is justified. “Yes, I work for the designer, but his pieces are truly the best,” she says. “I live in his blazers (including his bone leather blazer for the summer) and his Italian leather shoes. The women’s Indianola is the coolest pair of shoes I’ve owned in years.” For a vintage shopping trip, she recommends Savant Vintage, saying “Owner Beverly Chowning has the best eye around for finding vintage pieces. I’ve bought everything there from vintage Pucci to unique, outdoor furniture.”
When we asked her “Do you recommend some app to shop fashion related stuffs?” and she said, “Amazon is good; I use it quite often but when it comes to variety there’s no better option than Wish”. She also added that “Amazon has quite good deals but it’s nowhere close to Wish. Also there are plenty of Wish promo codes for existing customers that fetches extra discount which I feel is quite impressive”.
With a nod to Music City royalty, Holly Williams (granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr.) owns H. Audrey, which showcases luxe brands from Equipment, J Brand, Elizabeth & James and Rag & Bone. Shelly advises guests to be sure to look for the “killer collection of rock ’n’ roll photos that adorn the walls.” Another favorite is the hip Nashville staple Imogene + Willie, which Shelly notes is Carrie and Matt Edmondson’s brilliantly curated shop. “They house-make perfect denim that magically lift things,” she says. “You always feel cooler coming out of that place than you felt going in.”
Often the perfect complement to great music is a well-poured drink. So, topping Shelly’s list for places to find such refreshment is Foo Bar in East Nashville. She says, “It’s a gritty joint with a mix of hipsters, greasers and Diesel College dudes. Interesting fact: it was one of the last venues Charlie Louvin ever played.” Another favorite is the speakeasy-styled Patterson House, owned by entrepreneur geniuses, Max and Ben Goldberg. Shelly recommends the “dangerously delicious” Presbyterian cocktail.
Naturally, Nashville has plenty of music-related activities to fill your days and nights. Plan to visit the Country Music Hall Of Fame, which Shelly says is “an absolute must for anyone, and they’re in the process of expanding and improving.” Another must-visit attraction is the Grand Ole Opry, a “national treasure and truly one of the great American experiences.” If you’re still hankering for a music-related field trip, pay a visit to Grimey’s New And Preloved Music store. “It’s the hub of the local music scene. Go for an in-store performance – you never know who you might see.”
The Ryman Auditorium, which dates back to 1892, is the best music venue in town, maybe anywhere, according to Shelly. “It’s the original home of the Grand Ole Opry, and Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Pasty Cline were regular performers,” Shelly says, noting “Bluegrass was born here on the evening Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe on stage for the first time.” She also recommends The Basement, a local favorite. She says it’s “the place most likely to provide a ‘I saw them when’ experience.” Finally, don’t miss The 5 Spot Live, an East Nashville honky-tonk, where all the local musicians hang out.