The following story is meant as more of a community piece. This would ideally be published on a local Nashville website, or a community section of the Tennessean’s website. I envision it to be accessed online and read in a conversational tone, hoping to elicit comments from readers. It’s more community journalism than hard news.
New TV Show ‘Nashville’ Spotlights Local Businesses–Does It Make the City Shine?
When word broke about a new television show centered around country music in Music City, there was a collective sigh heard throughout Nashville, TN.
The show, aptly titled ‘Nashville,’ is beginning its sixth week, pushing forward through mixed reviews and lower-than-anticipated ratings. The new ABC drama stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as rival country music stars–one with a successful past looking to move forward, and the other just beginning. Write in a love triangle, some cute outfits, singing, and TV execs have the recipe for success.
TV viewers are used to seeing shows in cities throughout the US: New York, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami. Now we can add Nashville to that list. The city now laying a claim to fame over a TV show is already famous for:
Residents seem to have mixed feelings. There’s no argument that the show is bringing publicity and jobs to the area, but how is the city portrayed?
“We don’t all walk around with guitars on our backs and sheet music folded up in our pockets,” says Kelley Carpenter, a marketing director at Thomas Nelson Publishers. “Anytime someone from the outside looks in, they expect to see aspiring country music stars wearing cowboy boots and ready to break into song at a moment’s notice.”
While it is true that musicians can be found throughout the city (especially at local bars and karaoke venues downtown), there’s much more to Nashville than country music.
- The Parthenon brings in out of town (and country) visitors annually.
- The Country Music Marathon is famous for its participation and after party.
- The new Nashville Convention Center offers space for conferences and group gatherings.
- The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is renowned for its acoustics and guest musicians.
Sure, there are musicians. Artists like Ben Folds call Nashville home, and a host of others are short-term residents while working in the studios.
How do Nashville residents feel about the way the city is portrayed in the new show? “There’s a tiny part of what Nashville actually is, and that’s what people are seeing on TV,” says Christine Shields, a long-time resident of the city. “I grew up here, I have seen buildings renovated, the Gulch spring to life, and lots of musicians signed to major record deals. But that’s not the majority. Go down on Broadway–singers are a dime a dozen. And they are all good. But you know what, they don’t all get signed. There aren’t record executives just sitting around waiting to hear raw talent–we have tons of that!”
“It’s so misrepresented,” Nathalie West adds, “I saw in one episode [of ‘Nashville’] where someone was going to walk from the Gulch to East Nashville. Really? I mean, you can do it, sure, but no one would. And in the show, they did it in like 5 minutes. That would get you to Broadway!”
It’s not as if the producers are just guessing the geography of downtown. After all, they’ve been here shooting the show, even going so far as to build a duplicate the Bluebird Cafe for filming.
“It’s an iconic place,” says Shields. “Not only do they have amazing singers and songwriters who perform daily, but artists have been discovered there. Garth Brooks was discovered there, of course they have to include it in any show about country music and Nashville. But when they include it in the shots, they should get the geography right. People who live here know where the Bluebird is, and what’s around it. That’s not what you see in the show. It’s a small detail, but it’s almost like false advertising, painting a picture of a real city that isn’t accurate.”
Carpenter agrees. “Everyone knows that Nashville is known for country music, it’s a no-brainer. There’s so many other great things here for people to know about,” she says. “Just because the show centers around country music doesn’t mean that everything has to be all country all the time. That’s what annoys me. Anytime I meet someone new, in Nashville or while travelling, people always assume that since I live here my wardrobe is always country-themed. It’s not. I don’t even own cowboy boots.”
Have you watched the show? Is there something missing that you’d like to see? Let us know what you think about Nashville’s portrayal in the comments!
Kelley Carpenter, in-person and via email
Christine Shields, in-person and via email
Nathalie West, in-person and via email
Nashville Visitor’s Bureau, via phone
Bluebird Cafe, attempted via phone, wasn’t able to speak with manager, found info on website
Also referenced: links used in the story.
Facts checked: references from in-person and email conversations with the ladies I interviewed. I checked on celebrity residences, downtown attractions, jobs coming to Nashville with the filming of the show, and businesses used and highlighted in the show.
Questions asked of interviewees:
- Have you seen ‘Nashville’?
- Does anything from the show bother you? Is is portrayed accurately?
- How long have you lived in Nashville?
- What else is there in Nashville besides country music?
- How do you want people to see Nashville as a city?
- Do you think people who see the show would be disappointed if they came to visit?
- Do you own cowboy boots?
This story could be strengthened by more photos of filming in Nashville, more interviews of residents, maybe some video or audio. I’d also like to include a map of Nashville outlining different areas (like the Gulch vs. East Nashville), but have been unable to locate such a map. This could be easily created by a news agency. I also think it would be a good idea to include a poll, and of course a ‘comments’ section.