Music…I Mean…Condo Row

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A few months ago, I got lost on the way to the office. I’ve been driving through the same tree-lined entrance to Music Row for over 15 years now, along the shaded street of hundred-year-old brick buildings filled with studios and publishing companies. But I found myself sitting at a red light at the corner of Division and 17th Avenue, completely disoriented and at a loss for which direction to turn.

The row of mature oak trees and the line of brick houses were gone. In their place was a blank space…a massive hole in the ground walled off by a temporary barricade…with a shockingly bare view of the buildings a few blocks away.

One of the brick buildings that met with the wrecking ball was South Street Studio. I must have sat on the couch in the living room of that little old house dozens of times, holding the talk-back button in my hand and coaching demo singers on how to deliver the vocals on my songs. Those walls must have absorbed hours of my music while Eric Legg painstakingly EQ’ed instrument levels and tweaked mixes. I cried tears in that room listening to Pam Tillis add her voice to my “City of Dreams” flood relief song…and again when Eric played me his final mix of the 100+ tracks recorded by musicians and artists donating their time to the cause to help Music City get back on its feet again.

Today the Tennessean newspaper published a drawing of the 16-storey, twin glass peaked hotel that is going to be built in the spot where that building once stood. And you can call me old-fashioned, but as one of the working musicians that creates the music that brings tourism to Music City, I can’t help but feel sad; overlooked and underappreciated by the powers-that-be here in Nashville that would allow a development like this to happen.

Music Row is low-key for a reason, and that’s exactly what makes it special. It requires a level of privacy and quiet to create and record music. Sure, there’s the odd bus tour that runs up and down the streets…there are cars that ride the brake lights while their passengers point out the few recognizably important buildings among the humble, nondescript ones where the magic really happens…but overall, there’s really not that much to see. There are some fancy new 4- and 5-story buildings mixed in with the old ones along 16th & 17th Avenues, but they contain record labels, radio stations, and royalty-collection agencies…they are each a part of what makes the wheels go around for the people that work here. Putting a 16-story hotel right smack in the middle of Music Row is basically tantamount to putting a hotel in the middle of the Titans’ practice field so fans can see what goes on behind the scenes.

I know you can’t stop progress. In fact, I think it’s exciting that Nashville has become an “it” city. I just wish that everyone could feel the reverence that I feel when I walk along 17th Avenue. I wish there was a little more sensitivity to the history that made this town the kind of place that visitors want to come and see in the first place.

Ah well…life will go on…we’ll keep making music…and when Music Row loses its charm, a new place will become the creative haven for people like me. I’m just really going to miss the Music Row that I know and love.

 

{The entrance to Music Row…before:}

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{The demolishing of the 100-year old Victorian on the corner, and its surrounding brick buildings and trees:}

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{Today’s view from the corner of 17th and Division:}

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{The new Virgin hotel scheduled to be built on the site by 2016:}

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*****

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