Exclusive: Nashville’s Berry Hill Mixes Big (Music) Business With Small-Town Charm

Photo: berryhilltn.org

Photo: berryhilltn.org

Less than five miles from Nashville’s famed Music Row, clusters of modest houses line the streets of the city of Berry Hill—Metro Nashville’s smallest satellite city.

The city of Berry Hill churns out an astonishing amount of music, from rock to country to bluegrass to Americana. Numerous studios, labels and music associations have hung their shingles in Berry Hill, essentially making the tight-knit music community a sort of one-stop shop.

MusicRow spoke with IBMA’s Paul Schiminger, IEBA’s Pam Matthews, New West Records’ John Allen, and Westwood Sound Studio’s Mickey Jack Cones, about what attracts musicians, creative types, and music industry members to Berry Hill.

For the full feature on Berry Hill, see MusicRow‘s 2016 Next Big Thing issue by subscribing to MusicRow.

IBMA_570x380

IBMA

International Bluegrass Music Association [IBMA]’s Executive Director Paul Schiminger
Music City Movement: When IBMA’s Music Row lease was up for renewal, there was a desire to find a place that was more affordable. The Berry Hill area has always been another part of the music community in Nashville. Nashville is the epicenter of so many aspects of all things music. Many of the bluegrass artists live in Nashville and there are many agents and studios in Nashville, so being close to that was important to us to be an effective association.

Bluegrass Rising: The creativity of bluegrass is blossoming in a lot of different directions. The popularity is on a huge upswing now. A lot of people are rediscovering roots style music in many different forms and bluegrass certainly qualifies as a large part of that scene. You have young people looking at the jam bands that have become popular. You have bluegrass artists doing traditional music that would have been more in the realm of what country music would have ventured into years ago and no longer really does. So we have the traditional side of bluegrass, the jam band/contemporary side, and the movement into a sort of ‘countrygrass’ feel as well. With this music being so accessible, artists and fans can mingle many times. That is another unique aspect of this community.

 

IEBA

IEBA

International Entertainment Buyers Association [IEBA]’s Executive Director Pam Matthews
Long Time Coming: I’ve been coming to the Berry Hill area since the 1980s. From 1988 until 2000, I worked for The Judds. I went to County Q to listen to demos then. There is such an eclectic, creative spirit here. Berry Hill hasn’t changed that much, and this is the third Nashville “boom” I’ve seen.

Of Note: Our building was once owned by songwriter and musician Randy Scruggs [Randy Scruggs Productions].

 

New West Records

New West Records

New West Records’ president John Allen
Ease of the Deal: Things like artist approvals, or doing test pressings are easier. We were doing test-pressing listening for The Deslondes’ album. They had questions about the sound. I called up Vance Powell and said I was a few doors down. We just took the test pressing and went to Vance’s studio. There have been a lot of those instances.

Good Vibes: Berry Hill has a real creative vibe over here. I know there has been 60+ studios and probably more. Vance Powell has a studio here, and inevitably we would have artists recording at Blackbird or House of Blues. Jonathan Kane of Journey has an amazing studio here.

 

Westwood Sound Studio Tracking Room.

Westwood Sound Studio Tracking Room.

Westwood Sound Studio’s Mickey Jack Cones
Cracker Barrel Community: Many of these little houses in Berry Hill, you look at from the outside and you think, “This could never be a studio,” but you walk in and it’s a surprise. People think, “This album was done here and that album was done here?” It’s kind of a cool vibe, versus more obvious studio structures that are a little more corporate. I think this studio is comfortable. It’s a little off the beaten path, and it has kind of a Cracker Barrel vibe. But it’s still Berry Hill, and every one of these studios in the area has it’s own character.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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