The long-running live series “Music City Roots” has been without a home for nearly two years, but a new project promises to both revive the show and help with the renaissance of a Nashville neighborhood.
The show was suspended last year after a downtown deal fell through, but organizers expect it to be up and running again after an ambitious new venue is finished in Madison.
“Music City Roots” began as a weekly radio show in 2009 at the Loveless Barn. It grew to include a public TV version and was famous for shining a spotlight on both heritage artists and newcomers, like when St. Paul and the Broken Bones debuted in 2012.
Co-founder John Walker says after leaving an extended run at the Factory in Franklin in late 2017 they expected to continue the show at a new venue in downtown Nashville but that fell through. The space where it would have gone, called 6th & Peabody, opened this spring and features a giant moonshine shop.
“It’s an awesome facility,” says Walker, “but the plans changed dramatically from what we’d originally envisioned with the integration of the radio studio and creating a venue for ‘Music City Roots,’ which is a very different animal than a bar, of any kind.”
Walker says after that, they suspended the show and looked into what the Middle Tennessee music market needed. Their research pointed away from downtown. He sees Madison as a “new Bohemia,” where artists and musicians are moving after getting priced out of East Nashville.
The new venue is part of a revitalization effort called Madison Station that includes an old rail stop preserved by Johnny Cash. Plans for the building show a big, modern barn which can hold up to 1,000 people.
Walker says there will be nothing to distract fans from what’s happening onstage.
“When you walk into the performance area, there is nothing going on but music,” Walker says. “You’ll have to walk outside of the performance space to go to the restroom or go to the bar or get food. So it’s very much, I guess, it would be a Ryman-like experience at maybe half the size.”
Walker says state and local officials and even Congressman Jim Cooper were all “instrumental” in creating the Madison opportunity, but there are no economic incentives currently tied to it. A $50,000 check Music City Roots received from Nashville’s event marketing fund was returned, as it was tied to the downtown space. The new Madison venue is slated to open in late 2020.