Ryman Music Genres

Is Nashville Just Country Music?

Is Nashville Only for Country Music Lovers? Absolutely Not!

There’s a lot to love about Nashville: the honky-tonks, the food, the hospitality, and of course, the music. But while some may think of only country music when they think of Nashville, the city is bursting with a thriving music scene that spans genres, including rock, R&B, jazz, and gospel. With such a variety of artists performing, recording, and living here, it’s no wonder Nashville is a musical mecca for music fans from around the world.

Musical Genres You’ll Find in Nashville

Harry Styles at the Ryman
Harry Styles at the Ryman.

You name a musical genre, and you’ll find it in Nashville. After all, Nashville’s not “Country Music City,” it’s Music City, a home for all tempos and sounds. This is thanks in part to venues like Ryman Auditorium who carefully diversify their concert schedules to make sure there are shows for all types of music lovers. The music scene is incredibly diverse with a bustling community of rock, indie, R&B, gospel, and yes, country artists.

Country

Nashville is recognized worldwide as the capital of country music, and the Grand Ole Opry played a big part in this. First broadcast on WSM’s Barn Dance in 1925, the Grand Ole Opry aired live from Ryman Auditorium for over 30 years before finding its permanent home at the Opry House in 1974. The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running radio show in the US today over 95 years running. Nashville has seen thousands of country music stars launched to fame from its stages, including legends like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, and modern-day stars like Keith Urban and Maren Morris.

Bluegrass

Bluegrass was birthed in Nashville on Ryman Auditorium’s very stage. Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys joined the Grand Ole Opry one fateful night to perform their new sound, and the genre was born. The blend of banjo, standing bass, and other stringed instruments conveys American roots and is still performed in Nashville today at favorite venues like the Ryman and The Station Inn, or at pickin’ parties around town, like the one at Cornelia Fort on the city’s east side.

Jazz

Some may be surprised to learn that Nashville has a thriving jazz scene. Many jazz artists call Music City home. Popular jazz band The Time Jumpers has a residency every Monday night at locally loved music venue 3rd & Lindsley, and other jazz bands can be found on stages around the city regularly. 

Classical

Nashville has its own symphony for fans of classical music. Located downtown in Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville Symphony offers performances of classics by Mozart and Beethoven. Their FirstBank Pops Series pairs popular artists, like Leslie Odom, Jr. and Ben Folds, in concert with the symphony, and the Symphony Movie Series shows popular movies, like Back to the Future, with the soundtrack performed live by the symphony for a unique viewing experience.

Blues

Blues rose in popularity in the 1960s in Nashville’s Jefferson Street district which saw performances by regulars like Etta James and Jimi Hendrix. These legendary artists built an R&B scene in Nashville that still pulses through the city today. Reserve a seat at Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Printer’s Alley to enjoy blues music with a packed crowd any night of the week.

Southern Gospel

Southern Gospel has long roots in the state of Tennessee, starting with most notably Nashville’s own Fisk Jubilee Singers. Originating in 1871 as the nine-student musical ensemble of Fisk University, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are credited for introducing the Negro spiritual as an art form to the world. Many popular southern gospel artists, like CeCe Winans, reside in Nashville today.

Rock

The rock scene has always thrived in Nashville. Bob Dylan recorded his 1966 smash hit Blonde on Blonde in the city and The Byrds recorded their country-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo in East Nashville’s Woodland Studios in 1968. Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen also recorded in Nashville. Today, well-known and indie rock bands alike can be seen in venues around town like EXIT/IN and Ryman Auditorium. Nashville is home to Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records, and rock legends like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler call Nashville home.

Contemporary Christian

Nashville is a hot spot for contemporary Christian artists because of its unique mix of city amenities and Christian roots. Singers from popular Christian groups TobyMac, Jars of Clay, and DC Talk reside in Music City, as do solo artists like Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, and Michael W. Smith. Visit a church on any Sunday morning, and you might recognize some familiar faces, like Amy Grant, sitting in the pew next to you.

Non-Musical Things to Do in Music City

Nashville may be nicknamed Music City, but there are plenty of other things to see when you’re in town. With an array of delicious restaurants, unique events, cultural attractions, and a variety of sports teams, there’s never a shortage of fun things to do in Nashville. Visit for a girls’ trip, a family vacation, or a romantic getaway. No matter the occasion, there are memories to be made in Music City.

Art & Culture

Celebrate visual arts at one of Nashville’s unique cultural attractions, like Frist Art Museum, as renowned for its marble and granite Art Deco architecture as the art exhibits inside. Discover local artists at favorite festivals, like East Nashville’s Tomato Art Fest or Porter Flea, which takes place twice a year in summer and winter. Another unique Nashville activity? A mural tour. Take photos in front of the city’s most well-known murals, and discover some hidden favorites.

Sightseeing

Explore the history of the city through its architecture, like the revered Ryman Auditorium. Constructed in 1892 as a church, today’s concert-goers still watch performances from church pews illuminated by the famous stained-glass windows. Book one of the Ryman’s daily tours to get a behind-the-scenes look at its beauty and role in music history. Or, get to understand why Nashville is known as the Athens of the South by visiting the Parthenon, a replica of the ancient Greek structure located in Centennial Park.

Culinary Travel

Another thing Nashville is known for? Delicious food. Try signature dishes, like Nashville hot chicken or meat and three, and local favorites like fruit tea. If fine dining is your thing, visit City House with James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson, Yolan, home to Michelin-starred chef Tony Mantuano, or The Catbird Seat, ranked fifth in GQ magazine’s “Top 10 New Restaurants” list when it opened in 2012.

Sports Events

There’s plenty to cheer for in Nashville, with three professional sports teams, a minor league baseball team, and car racing. The NHL team, the Nashville Predators, and the NFL team,  Tennessee Titans, both play in downtown venues. MLS team Nashville SC arrived in Nashville in 2020 and plays at Nissan Stadium. Enjoy a night at First Horizon Park watching minor league baseball team the Nashville Sounds. Racing fans will enjoy several events throughout the year, like the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Nashville Superspeedway or the Music City Grand Prix, an INDYCAR race through the streets of downtown Nashville.

Family Activities

There’s a lot for kids to love about Music City, too. Nashville offers a variety of family-friendly activities, like the Nashville Zoo and the Adventure Science Center and planetarium. To add some adrenaline to your visit, spend a day at Nashville Shores, offering water slides and a Treetop Adventure Park on the shores of Percy Priest Lake. Climb a dragon at Dragon Park, or go for a stroll and snacks at Nashville’s Farmers Market.

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