Nashville – A City of “Outsider Artists”

In Richard LLoyd’s Neo-Bohemia Art and Commerce in Postindustrial City, the purpose of Wicker Park in Chicago is displayed as a site of economic interest as well as well a scared place of deindustrialization and population decline. The artist scene and arrival of the Urbus Orbis cafe “marked a new turn in the neighborhood’s identity, and in its modest lifetime the cafe was hailed as a premier site in Chicago’s new bohemia, where artists, musicians, and young professionals could sip coffee and admire the locally produced artwork decorating Urbus Orbis’ brick walls” (Lloyd, pg. 24). But as Wicker Park is used as an example, the social changes and practices of a neighborhood will always have an impact on the structure of a city and its activity. For example, Chicago is expressed as being a production site even when considering the decline in big company employment. It is a place full of streets and communities that have a hand at thriving on the idea of large corporations or monopolies.

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But then Lloyd mentions Wesley Willis Fiasco, a musician who was able to use Wicker Park as a gateway into the creative world, in the section titled Grit as Glamour, a musician who was able to use Wicker Park as a gateway into the creative. When reading about Wesley, how he would connect with people on the streets in his own way, I can’t help but think that someone such as him may have found even quicker success in a neighborhood more like Nashville. Winter Park may have treated Wesley well, but maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have been seen as an “outsider artist” had he been able to promote his work elsewhere.

On page 93, Lloyd mentions that “Willis also engaged actual people on the sidewalks in his push to sell his drawings and CDs. In a different neighborhood, Willis might have languished as an unfortunate casualty of nationwide deinstitutionalization; in Wicker Park, he became a local and then national celebrity who would tour the country with a back up band and genuine musicians, performing his bizarre music”. But this action, this formula of communicating with folks passing by with an intent to talk about his music, this is the very lifestyle in the city of Nashville. Unlike a city like Chicago with a neighborhood like Wicker Park, Nashville is a community strictly set on creativity.

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It is a creative atmosphere with buildings, offices, and street corners dedicated to individuals that all have the same artistic passion. There are a few corporations, yes, but even these big businesses operate for the soul outcome of music. The Gibson factory, though down some blocks in Memphis, is located right near by this music city and it would be impossible to list the numerous production companies that line these streets to force out music. One stroll down Broadway in Nashville and you are welcomed by many different Wesley Willis’s and every single one of them is accepted by the other artists around them. In Nashville, there are so many different forms of the Urubus Orbis cafes, places that offer up there tiny, intimate venue space for the sake of putting a songwriter or artist in the spotlight. The Bluebird Cafe is one of the most popular names in Nashville history for one of these showcase locations. Country songwriters from all over the globe, when invited, get to sit in the center of the small cafe and share there songs and inspirations. Other songwriters as well as anyone looking for a night out is welcomed into the cafe for an evening of listening and smiling. Nashville has this common focus of maintaining this feeling of comfort, a tradition of neighbors and friends. The big office goers of Nashville, outside the instrument makers, could be pinned as companies such as the Nashville Songwriters Association International or more easily, NSAI.

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They are the heartbeat of this creative network and world. They were established in 1967 and their professional memberships span across the United States and seven other countries. The musician doesn’t even have to be set in the category of country. NSAI has the mission of providing songwriters with the ability to be heard and to spread their love of music with the help of this unifying force in the Nashville community. It is no wonder why so many wonderful artists take their lives to Nashville with the dream of seeing their creative journeys pick up some kind of momentum. It may not be a place of the big corporations, the monopolies, and it may not have the star quality of cities like L.A. or New York. However, it is the perfect place for the right person. The streets have this feeling of acceptance no matter where you might be in terms of talent, money, or professionalism. If you have a passion for music and are willing to accept the ones with the same passion around you, then it is quite easy to fit in.

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Singer Brett Eldredge in Studio

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