When you’re a young business like Hoodzpah is, trying its best to make a ripple in the world, sometimes it’s hard to take a break. But breaks are such a crucial part of the creative process! Whether it’s a 10 minute break to stretch after sitting in front of your computer all day, stepping away from a design to re-attack it with clear eyes, or taking a week off to travel and rest your grey matter, breaks are necessary. They give you perspective. After all, it’s not just our tools that make us great designers and creators, it’s our life experiences. Because those are what make us well rounded individuals who are able to connect and empathize with all kinds of people. Jen and I say it all the time, the human element trumps everything (until the robots take over). And taking breaks to travel is a great way to learn, grow, and see how other people live. We recently took a week off to head home and visit our family and friends in Kentucky and Tennessee. We split our time between Bowling Green, KY – where our mother’s family still lives and where we spent much of our adolescent years – and Nashville, TN – the big city 45 minutes away that we would escape to every weekend with friends to get lost in the music scene. I often catch myself saying that Nashville was our home. Our mom had an apartment there that we would stay at while her construction company worked on the HUD housing projects in town, but we never fully lived in Nashville. I think I often claim Nashville because so many of my clearest and happiest memories from adolescence took place there. Having the chance to go back to some of our old haunts and to discover the new scene that’s developing there was so inspiring. There’s so much pride in the roots of the city and the history of the country music scene, but there’s also so many new and exciting businesses investing in the future. Here are some of the spots we hit on our trip back home: (Put this playlist on while you read: My Classic Country Western Spotify playlist)
1. The 5-Spot: This was hands down the best part of our trip. Our buddy Danny is a regular at this East End bar. He told us about Country Western night – held every 2nd Wednesday of the month. We showed up early, just as Kenny Vaughan was closing out his set with Sam Lewis. Kenny is a legend in town with a regular gig in Marty Stuart’s band. Sam Lewis is a rising local talent with a voice smooth and slow, and a sense of humor drier than the Santa Ana Riverbed. But the real party began when Country Western night officially kicked off. To say it was a star studded cast is an understatement. Patrick Carney sat sipping a Pabst tall boy in the corner of the bar while members of Old Crow Medicine Show, Langhorne Slim and more filled in and took turns taking the stage together. There were no fewer than 10 artists crammed on stage at any given time, covering everything from Tom T. Hall to Jerry Reed to their own original songs. Past 5 Spot visitors include Nikki Lane, John McCauley, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and more. Just do it. If you still aren’t sold, watch the promo video on their website. 2. The Pharmacy: After 4 hours on what my designer friend and frequent flier James White so aptly calls the fart tube (or an airplane), we were in need of fresh air and some savory food to purge the airplane smell from our mouths and nostrils. We hopped in our rental car and left downtown Nashville for East End to hit the Pharmacy, lovingly named Nashville’s “Wurst Burger” joint. Cold beer, delicious German-style wurst, and the nicest people ever. We quickly made friends with our neighboring diners at the bar, two well dressed East coast 30-somethings who filled us in on just how cool East Nashville has gotten since we lived there. I DARE you to find more genuine people than those in Nashville. Watch out for parking. No corner is safe in East Nashville, it seems, and we picked up a ticket.
3. Robert’s Western World: We couldn’t do Nashville without spending at least half a day in downtown. We hit Broadway, trolled for records at a now all-cd Ernest Tubbs, walked along the riverfront, went by the old apartment, and ended our tourist stroll with a stop into Robert’s Western World, one of the oldest and most authentic honky tonks left on Broadway. This place has live music on stage every hour that it’s open. We caught two awesome acts made up of some talented current contenders and some still-amazing has-beens, all playing the traditional country that Nashville was built on. 4. Hot Chicken: It’s a Nashville staple. Prince’s Hot Chicken is probably the most famous and authentic option. Others have hopped on the bandwagon since, and now there are tons of options in Music City. If the line’s too long at Prince’s hit up Hattie B’s. It’s a bit cleaner and still dang good.
5. The Ryman: It’s the “Carnegie Hall of the South” for heaven’s sake. Harry Houdini, Neil Young, Charlie Chaplin, Teddy Roosevelt, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and so many other legends have graced its stage, not to mention the throngs of country legends that played there for the Grand Ole Opry show. You can still catch the Opry Country Classics shows they hold frequently, or a slew of other great shows from Hozier to Dave Chappelle.