Notable Nashvillians: Jim Lauderdale Talks Americana Fest & How Nashville Has Changed

Father knows best!

That’s right Nashville – Jim Lauderdale is the father of Americana music, and he knows his stuff. The Music City veteran has been bringing us tunes since 1986, cementing his spot in the roster of legendary songwriting talents. With 23 albums under his belt and the recent debut of his very own documentary, the Grammy-award winner is always makin’ moves (he’s also written hits for everyone from George Strait to The Dixie Chicks). He’s been all over this year’s Americana Music Festival, and we were lucky enough to chat with the Father of Americana Music about all things Nashville, from big city growth to his favorite venues. Here we go!

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You’ve played Americana Fest for quite a few years, and this year you’re debuting The King of Broken Hearts. How has the festival and your participation specifically been different this year?

The DVD release of the documentary, King of Broken Hearts, was Monday. It was a good cause, and there was so much going on already that day; it was a really nice event. Here’s two things I did different: After the awards show, I cut across the alley to Roberts. Robert Ellis, who is a super talented singer/songwriter and was up for a couple of awards, was hosting a night of classic country. When I walked through the door finally after packing up, there were all the guests Robert had been having – Carl on stage, Elizabeth Cook was on earlier. After that, I went to Station Inn where The Bluegrass Situation was having a jam night with Langhorne Slim hosting. That was very neat and new for me this year. Otherwise, it’s just a very action-packed time for me and I enjoy this festival so much. There are so many visitors from out of town attending, whtether they’re musicians, writers, or music business people. Throughout my career, I’ve gone to SXSW a lot. I think I went to the first or second one back in 1986 trying to get  a record deal, and it’s changed so much over the years. I’ve heard Americana Music Festival being compared to that, like a smaller SXSW. Even though there’s so many different choices of events to go to, it’s still manageable. You can’t take in everything, unfortunately, but there is still not enough. There are still people wanting to play, and I think more venues will be available next year. It is becoming more and more popular as word spreads, and I’m really proud that Nashville hosts it.

You’ve pursued music in the major music capitals of the world. You mentioned SXSW, and you also spent time in New York and LA before making it to Nashville. What makes Nashville the right fit for you and how does it differ from other entertainment cities?

For me it works out so well because there are so many studios here. If I decided I wanted to go out and make a record tomorrow, there would be a list of excellent studios and engineers and producers that I could call, and know that somehow (by hook or crook) I’d be able to get in someplace. World class studios and musicians. That’s here. I know that even New York, LA, Austin – as great as they are, there’s a larger concentrations here of that. This is a major city, but it’s small enough. Even though traffic is getting heavier, I can still be most places within 15 minutes or so. For people like me who have come to town to try and get something going and continue their careers, it’s the hottest of hot spots.

Since you’ve been in Nashville, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the city?

Well, the music industry has changed a lot. It’s gone from musicians depending on major label support to becoming more and more independent. Because things have changed, people can own their own records. On a different level, there’s certainly a boom in building, which is kind of a double-edged sword. I hate to see so many charming old houses get torn down and have three new houses put in the lot. Sometimes I worry about the growth and I hope that it can be managed, because there will be more and more of a traffic problem – I don’t want some of the advantages of being a smaller large city getting lost. Another change I’ve seen is that there are more and more extremely talented musicians and songwriters moving here.

Definitely. Here’s our lightning round questions! First one: Favorite meal in Nashville?

That’s a tough one. There are so many! Another big change that has happened in Nashville is the amount of great restaurants that have opened. I’m still hearing about ones I haven’t gotten to try yet. Nashville is definitely going through a boom with great restaurants that run the gambit of tastes. That’s setting the city apart as well.

What’s your favorite venue to play in town?

I’m getting ready to play the Exit/In anniversary on the 27th. I’ve got a show with Nikki Lane. That’s always been one of my favorite venues. The Basement, The Station Inn; that’s a place I cherish a lot, and I love playing there with bluegrass. The Factory in Franklin where I get to host Music City Roots once a week is a great venue. And of course, The Ryman is a special place that I think inspires everyone – it’s kind of like the Carnegie Hall of Nashville. Luckily I get to play there a few times a year as well. Any time I get to play the Grand Ole Opry is huge for me! I’ll get to play there tonight and then rush to the gig at 3rd and Lindsley. Ever since Ralph Stanley had me on as a guest back in the 90s, every time I get to play there has been a dream.

If you could form a duo with another Nashvillian, who would it be and what would you be called?

Luckily I’m in one with Buddy Miller! We get to play occasionally. We’ve got a radio show on Sirius XM. Hopefully he’ll be able to sit in on my show at 3rd and Lindsley. That’s another one of my favorite venues that I used to play back in the day, but now they’ve redone it. It’s one of the best sounding places in town. Luckily Buddy and I already have something going, but he’s so busy that any chance I have I grab him so we are able to play together.

What’s your best Nashville memory?

One of them was at The Ryman. I was actually doing a play by Tammy Wynette called “Stand By Your Man”. I got to play George Jones, one of my all-time heroes. I got to open for George at The Ryman twice, two years in a row. That’s one of my best musical memories.

There you have it, folks. The Father of Americana music is a songwritin’, Nashville lovin’, guitar strummin’ gem, and we can’t wait to see him rock Americana Music Festival alongside some of Nashville’s best and brightest talents. Check out his brand-new documentary The King Of Broken Hearts, catch his shows, and stay up to date on all things Nashville with Wannado. We’ve got you covered.