There's no place in the world quite like Nashville. A city so steeped in music that its very name calls up images of singer/songwriters, honky-tonks, steel guitar, the devil in a bottle and a night at the Opry. Nashville is country. To the bone.
And yet, as we keep reminding ourselves here at Mix, Nashville is so much more. There's rock, Christian, Americana, blues, gospel, jazz and even a recent dalliance with hip-hop and dance. For nearly 100 years, the town has rolled with the fortunes of the music industry, sometimes leading and sometimes following. And it hasn't always been easy.
When we went searching for a topic for our annual special issue, we kept coming back to Nashville — the music, the town, the industry. The sense of community that permeates the local studio life feels almost out of place in this age of personal isolation and long-distance file exchange. And yet, on any given day, you'll find top studio owners and managers sharing gear with each other, or with smaller facilities, or producers and engineers visiting each other's sessions around town. It's a town where people raise each other up rather than tear each other down. A city where artists, producers, engineers and studio owners root for each other.
That's the spirit we found when we started on this issue, and that's the spirit we look to convey with this month's cover. Years ago, when we first got wind of what was going on at Blackbird Studio, the hottest facility in the country, we asked owner John McBride for a cover shot. He politely declined and kept adding more rooms. We were persistent; he relented, but only if “we could do something different.”
Together, we came up with the idea of a bunch of clients and friends in a room, just how they like it in Nashville. We could easily fill a dozen more covers with the hundreds of other prominent and talented engineers, producers, artists and other fine studios in Nashville. What you see is simply a small sampling, without playing favorites, of who was in and around that day.
We're fully aware that not all is sunshine and light in Music City. Times are challenging for studio owners, as evidenced by the closure of Emerald, the uncertainty dogging Sound Kitchen and the rumors surrounding others. So Nashville editor Peter Cooper's “State of the City” feature portrays a suitably wary recording community. But projects like Emmylou Harris' All I Intended to Be and hot trio Lady Antebellum's debut (see “Recording Notes,” page 105) remind us that great music always finds a way, and Blair Jackson's “Recording Bluegrass Instruments” feature illustrates the ways Nashville engineers have adapted new technologies to traditional music. On the live side, the industry is thriving on every level, from the city's revered performance venues to some of the biggest tours in the world. Music City has seen rough times before, and history tells us that the town, and its talent, will survive. In fact, they will lead. You can count on it.