When I tell people I live in Nashville, TN, I'm inundated with the usual stereotypical assumptions, accusations and questions such as Wow, I'll bet you listen to a lot of country music (no, there are not even good country radio stations here) and Dude, country music has really gone to shit (like that's my fault somehow) and So, can you get me in touch with George Strait? I want him to sing at my wedding (no, not even close…dude.) There may be a lot of stars in Nashville, but we're not on a first name basis. Not even when I stand behind them in line at the post office or eat at the table next to them at Provence. And we all like it like that. But if you'd like to meet some, I'll vaguely detail how below.
What I do find in Nashville (besides the stars) is inspiration – and plenty of it. I arrived here for the first time for a two-week internship at Hatch Show Print from an extremely vanilla suburb in northern Kentucky where I'd been living for 2 years. I was surprised and enthralled by all the new imagery and ideas that seemed to crash-land into my head with every night that I stayed at the "famous" neon motor-court, The Drake Motel—Stay Where The Stars Stay (not.)
Jim Sherraden, the wood-type guru who runs Hatch for the Country Music Hall of Fame, had me sorting and returning type to old wooden drawers for a week before I even got to start arranging it to make the nostalgic, old-timey posters they are known for. There was a method to his madness, however, as once I began laying out the type for a poster advertising beer, I knew exactly where each typeface was that I wanted to use—whereas a week before, they seemed jammed into hundreds of incomprehensible drawers where I would never find anything.
The two week break from sitting in front of my computer with the same old electronic fonts to actually crafting something with my hands with type I could pick up and play with was probably the match that got my imagination burning with new possibilities for type design and layout.
But what to wear at night, where the honky-tonks light up Broadway brighter than a tinsel-covered sun? Well, I can always shop where the stars shop – at the Rhinestone Rembrandt's boutique, Manuel's. As rightfully touted on his site, the man is not a fashion designer; he is a costumer and an artist. His original designs have become the trademark of true American style. He was responsible for making Johnny Cash the man in black. He crafted Elvis' signature gold lamé suit. He fashioned the garments Bob Dylan wore when performing for the Pope. He has dressed all three Hank Williams. And if this is not enough to bring him a legendary status in music history, you can thank him for both The Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead's notorious insignias. But it doesn't stop here: presidents, athletes, dancers, artists and movie stars have also donned his glittering couture. He has wardrobed over 90 movies and 13 television shows. So yes, with my substantial intern's salary, I was able to purchase many Manuel pieces during my stay (and in my imagination) where they shine just as brightly today as the day I dreamt of buying them. In truth, Manuel has recently run his rhinestone paintbrush over smaller accessories such as t-shirts, purses and necklaces so now even a once-lowly intern can own a piece of the Man.
So where to eat? Well, Charlie Bob's, of course, where some stars eat, or at least some meteors. Located in deep, deep east Nashville on Dickerson Pike (where, until recently, the prostitutes stayed), it's a quirky cross between a Sonic and a diner. The cheeseburgers are cheap, the hamburgers are cheaper, and the bar hosts a cast of characters to rival that of a cheap beer Cheers.
Beyond the food (which is magically delicious) is the neighborhood bar feel tinged with 50s rockabilly ambiance that booking manager Gregg St. John has been cultivating there since he moved here 3 years ago from Cali. There's a wall of fame covered in posters and CDs from bands that have played there, filmed their videos there or created general mayhem on the premises. The new hit ABC series Nashville just filmed an episode there and returned to buy every screen print for sale on the wall by local artist/architect Josh Summerville. I love the unexpectedness of arriving for a milkshake or burger and not knowing if I'm going to be playing bar trivia, karaoking on the small stage or watching a pin-up girl contest while checking out the hot rods in the parking lot. Love. It.
So who to eat with? The closest person I know personally to a star is Nashville-based painter Myles Maillie. Myles is the personification of a true artist to me. Everything he does is tinged with style from the shiny silver suits he wears sans shirts to the way he signs his checks with a sharpie and a flourish. His house is a showcase for his life (which is a constant work of art) and the ceilings, walls and floors covered in countless coats of stark white paint set it off perfectly. I've been eating lunch with him and a revolving group of artists every Friday for almost 10 years now, and the offbeat nature of Myles's ideas and the words that come out of his mouth never fail to surprise and inspire me. He's always working on something new with a twist and I love going over to his house where he performs a 20 minute show-and-tell before I've barely gotten through the door. He recently discovered Ikea and got furniture so there's now a place to sit as he shows me one thing after another that he's either working on, just finished, or found somewhere in a ditch. He's simply the coolest and I rank him with the greats. After all, I would know—I live in Nashville—where the stars stay.
Jami Anderson is a graphic designer in Nashville, Tennessee.