Nashville has been dubbed the “Country Music Capital,” and it’s not hard to see why. Not only is it home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, but the city has always been a prime destination for aspiring country singers, both in the past and present. And the city has been the primary host for the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards since its inception in 1967, which was held at Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
Now, on September 16, Nashville will play host to the 55th Academy of Country Music Awards, which will be hosted by Keith Urban and feature an array of country music’s finest: Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, and Florida Georgia Line are just some of the performers this year, the latter having formed in Nashville.
But if you think Nashville is just the home of country music, you would be wrong. In fact, the city is home to a bursting music scene, filled with a diverse group of musicians and songwriters making diverse kinds of music. From hard rock to pop to R&B, you’ll find it all in the aptly nicknamed Music City. The following artists represent an alternative to the large country scene.
Jeffrey James brings melodic pop music to the Country Music Capital. You might recognize the modern day crooner from one of your favorite TV shows or movies: his music has been featured in All-American, Jack Ryan, iZombie, Criminal Minds, Good Trouble and Shameless. James takes inspiration from a variety of artists, including classic acts like Bill Withers or the Talking Heads and mainstream contemporaries like Janelle Monae and John Legend. Jeffrey James premiered his latest track and video, “Like Love,” over the summer.
Infectious hooks and interesting wordplay is what Nashville transplant Brooke Alexx has become known for. Ballads, fun beats, and everything in between, the singer-songwriter can do it all, and her hard work is paying off: her debut EP “Me” has nearly one million streams. Not only does she sing and write her own music, but this triple threat has even taken to directing her music videos, such as “Drunk” and “Stole My Heart.”
Thoughtful lyrics? Check. Melodic tunes? Check. Nashville-based Maddy Newton has everything you want in a modern pop song. Born in Boca Raton, Florida, Newton first performed for the public at just eight years old when she won a singing competition. Creating ‘80s-inspired pop music with a 21st-century twist, Maddy Newton puts strong emotions into every song, such “Say Sorry.”
Tennessee born and bred, Ria Marie made her way to Nashville in 2017 to follow her music dreams. It was there that she began creating something very different from the typical Nashville sound, working with renowned jazz pianist and composer Jeff Franzel. A distant relative of the famous Carter family, Ria takes inspiration from pop powerhouses like Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera. Those influences are easily heard in her sharp yet smooth vocals in songs such as “Better.”
Singer-songwriter/producer CJ-0 (formerly known as MOLLĒ) splits her time between two very music-central places, Los Angeles and Nashville. The Grammy-nominated writer and musician went solo in 2018, and the result is a unique mix of ethereal alt-pop and R&B. Setting CJ-0 apart is her desire to have her hand in every aspect of her music: not only does she write and perform her own songs, but she is heavily involved in the production as well. In 2019, she released “W U,” a dance hit for the ages.
Lauren McClinton might be a Los Angeles native, but her decision to make music full-time came while she was in Nashville working on her Master’s degree at Lipscomb University in 2017. Since then, she has been creating her own brand of R&B, such as her EP Dawn, which she has described as “a robust neo-R&B project.” Prior to its 2019 release, she was a sought-after background vocalist and toured with artists such as Lennon Stella and Jessy Wilson.
Artist. Songwriter. Multi-instrumentalist. Nashville native Bryant Taylorr does it all. As the urban music scene grows in country music’s hometown, Taylorr is at the forefront. Less twang and more croon, his talent has already been noticed by some major players: not only has he opened for CeeLo Green, but he has also partnered with Red Bull and producer Tay Keith for a sold-out industry showcase in his hometown. His latest, “Pretty Women,” is just one example of his artistry.
Sarah West isn’t your typical Nashville artist. Born in Denmark, the pop singer had her first national hit in Europe back in 2010, which helped put her on the map, and even former American Idol judge Randy Jackson took notice, leading to collaborations between the two. Her first big release in the States came in 2015 when her duet with OMI, “Me 4 U,” was released. Now in Nashville, it’s songs like “Feelings” that are introducing her to new audiences.