Well-known artists like Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift may call Nashville home, but hundreds of Christian artists also proudly reside in Music City. Francesca Battistelli, TobyMac, Matthew West and Mandisa all reside here. Point of Grace, Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith have lived here for decades. Brandon Heath is a rare Nashville native. for KING & COUNTRY left Australia to move to Music City. Kari Jobe splits her time between Nashville and Dallas. While others may not take up permanent residence here, they often come here to write and record—and for good reason. Nashville is a creative hub bursting with a community of some of the country’s most talented songwriters and musicians.
Nashville is currently one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The New York Times declared, “On a Venn diagram, the place where conservative Christians and hipsters overlap would be today’s Nashville.” The city ranked No. 3 on Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Best Cities.” While high-rises are being erected on every corner to accommodate our growing population, heated debates ensue about the possibility of a public transit system, complaints grow larger by the day about the traffic and a new farm-to-table restaurant opens every week, music is still king.
Although Nashville has always been known as the mecca of country music, the community here is incredibly welcoming to all types of music. This has especially been evident in the last few years as people like Ben Folds, Jack White, Kings of Leon and Kelly Clarkson have made Nashville home. Rumors circulated last fall that Justin Timberlake was even considering purchasing real estate here. On the Christian side, members of MercyMe recently made the move from Texas to Nashville. Music City is quickly becoming a melting pot of genres, with locals championing everything from rock, pop and alternative, to bluegrass, folk, country and gospel.
Nashville, of course, has also long been known as the Christian music capital of the world. When Word Records—the largest Christian label at the time and the original home of artists like Sandi Patty, Wayne Watson, Russ Taff, Amy Grant and Rich Mullins, among others—moved from Waco, Texas, to Nashville, Tenn., in 1995, Christian music soon established its permanent address in Music City (although Atlanta and parts of Texas are now also big hubs for Christian music). That’s why it’s easy to host award shows here, like the Dove Awards and the K-LOVE Fan Awards. Publishing houses also honor their songwriters with Christian-specific private award dinners annually. Occasionally, a label or publishing company will host a No. 1 party, although these are more prevalent in country music.
The songwriters are here, making it easy to roll out of bed and head down the street for a co-write. The major labels (Word, Capitol, Provident) are headquartered in Nashville, not to mention several of the indies, like Fair Trade Services, Centricity Music and Gotee Records, claim Nashville as home-base. The studios are here. The session players are here. The rehearsal spaces are here. And more importantly, the creative community is here—making this town an easy place to collaborate and create with ideas and melodic hooks flowing as freely as the sweet tea. Everything about Nashville is creative—from the artisan food to the plethora of coffee shops to the fashion-forward retail stores to the hipster neighborhoods. The very atmosphere pleads with you to create something.
Nashville offers Christian artists the chance to collaborate and interact with a variety of artists from an array of genres. Case in point, Ricky Skaggs performed with Matthew West at this year’s K-LOVE Fan Awards. Where else would this genre-crossing collaboration casually happen? Skaggs also made a cameo on Steven Curtis Chapman’s bluegrass record. Blake Shelton recorded Dave Barnes’ single “God Gave Me You,” which became a No. 1 hit for the country superstar. David Crowder recorded a song with Emmylou Harris on his latest, Neon Steeple. Amy Grant’s last studio record featured everyone from James Taylor to Sheryl Crow to Eric Paslay. Michael W. Smith is currently working with a host of A-list country celebrities for his upcoming Christmas record. Everyone from Carrie Underwood to Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town are recording with Smith. This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to how artists interact within this town.
For fans passing through, can artists be spotted around town? Absolutely. Stroll down Main Street of quaint downtown Franklin or head to hip East Nashville artisan coffee shop, Barista Parlor, or any of the chic 12 South eateries like Edley’s, Burger Up, Frothy Monkey or Jeni’s Ice Cream, and you’re guaranteed a celebrity sighting or two, but the unspoken Nashville rule is to protect our celebs and leave them alone. Losing an autograph or a coveted selfie is a trade off that’s well worth it to keep our artists in town and allow them to enjoy the haven our fair city provides.
While the business itself can be a competitive space, if you’re an aspiring Christian artist or even have dreams of working in the music industry, Nashville is still the most coveted place to be. While you’re not guaranteed to “make it big” or even get signed, you are guaranteed to find like-minded people who will help you grow, plenty of willing collaborators and maybe even a mentor or two. One thing’s for sure, whatever your style or talent, Nashville’s creative community will welcome you with open arms.
Plan on visiting Music City soon? Check out our list of the best music venues to hear some of your favorite artists here.