10 Of The Best Songs About Nashville: Music City Playlist

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Nashville, Tennessee, also known as Music City, enjoys many musical tributes to its people, culture, and natural surroundings. It contributes important innovations to the healthcare, banking, publishing, and technology industries and in higher education. 

This city holds many universities, earning it another grand nickname: the Athens of the South. Nashville lives up to that nickname with its statue of The Parthenon

But of course, Nashville is best known for its contributions to country-western music. The Country Music Hall of Fame is in Nashville, as well as the world-famous performance hall, the Grand Ole Opry. Tim McGraw, Vince Gill, and the Allman Brothers started in Nashville.

In this post, we’ll celebrate all things Music City with our list of the 10 best songs about Nashville. Let’s get started.

1. “Down On Music Row” By Dolly Parton

This classic Dolly Parton song, “Down On Music Row,” captures the feelings of every hopeful musician who travels to Nashville. Parton, originally from nearby Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, understands the journey to make it to the top.

Parton started her quest for country stardom in 1960s Nashville. Fifty years and an icon status later, it seems her words about creative bravery should be heeded!

“Down On Music Row” showcases Parton’s signature trilling voice in this mid-tempo, toe-tapping country song. This number is not only a poignant reminder of Parton’s success but also still a relatable and inspiring storytelling song. 

2. “Nashville” By The Indigo Girls

This folk-indie duo sings a harmonica-heavy love song about starting over. While Parton’s song is upbeat, the Indigo Girls’ ode to Nashville feels more melancholy. If Nashville hasn’t been as kind to you, this song may resonate.

The singer talks of failing in whatever she was doing in Nashville despite giving it her all. In the end, disheartened, she decides to leave, complaining that the city has “forgot[ten] the human race.”

“Nashville” delivers classic Indigo Girls style. This duo is known for straightforward songs sung with authority by the lead singer’s low alto voice. Her Bob Dylan-esque quality combines with sweet soprano harmonies for a nostalgic sound.

3. “Nashville Skyline Rag” By Bob Dylan

This 1969 song delivers on the “rag” style of the title. This banjo-picking tune is an instrumental, which is a perfect ode to Music City. Some of the most famous Nashville session musicians contributed to this song, like guitarist Charlie Daniels. This famous tune and the album Nashville Skyline are frequently called art that transformed country music.

“Nashville Skyline Rag” represents a sharp turn into genuine country and ragtime music from Bob Dylan, which was completely unexpected at the time.

Dylan achieved fame with folk-rock music and protest songs earlier in the decade. This deviation from his well-known style earned him a Grammy nomination. 

4. “West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown” By Jimmy Buffett

This famous songwriting jokester delivers this sincere ballad about the sad stories about people fleeing the inauthenticity of Nashville. Jimmy Buffett depicts a girl escaping the high society, mean girls of Nashville, and being better off for it.

This is kind of an anti-Nashville song, which is rare to find. The reason why Buffett penned this strange song was that he harbored hard feelings for Music City.

While Buffett thought Nashville was the key to fame, he experienced major bad luck while living in the city. This beach rock musician made it big only after leaving the Nashville scene.

5. “Nashville Without You” By Tim McGraw

Nashville’s own Tim McGraw sings an ode to the city and the person he loves with this sweet ballad, “Nashville Without You.” McGraw explains that without his favorite person, Nashville’s famous and unorthodox icons would disappear.

This song is perfect for Nashville lovers trying to express their love for their beloved people and places. McGraw always delivers sentimental songs that make you want to sing along.

Listen to the end to identify all of the Nashville Easter eggs within the lyrics. Like many country music artists, McGraw’s lyrics are clever, sweet, and heartwarming.

6. “I Love This Town” By Bon Jovi

While Bon Jovi and New Jersey are synonymous, this rocker shouted out another favorite place: Nashville. Bon Jovi released “I Love This Town” on his 2007 album Lost Highway.

This later album shows a shift to country-inspired music. If you feel like you can feel the city’s music under your feet, you will resonate with this country-rock song.

Bon Jovi never explicitly refers to Nashville by name in the lyrics but instead relies on an “if you know, you know” mentality. This insider feeling makes “I Love This Town” even more successful. Take a break from country music with this head-banging ode to Nashville.

7. “Nashville Bum” By Waylon Jennings

This old-school country song laments the hard-luck life of making it big in Nashville. Waylon Jennings gives a voice to those who feel like they’re at the bottom of the ladder, eating things like ketchup soup.

Even when he gets his foot in the door, he can’t seem to break through. This toe-tapping storytelling song takes a page from the musical Annie, promising that tomorrow he will become a star.

While the message is melancholy, the upbeat honky-tonk style helps anyone cope with the feelings of their art being ignored. Put this song on repeat if you feel misunderstood.

8. “Nashville Cats” By The Lovin’ Spoonful 

Fans of the songs “Do You Believe In Magic” and “Daydream” will surely know The Lovin’ Spoonful. These happy, psychedelic 1960s songs provided an iconic soundtrack to a memorable decade. With “Nashville Cats,” this music group released a single as they were on the brink of change.

This quirky song bounces between repetitive, seemingly nonsensical phrases. The banjo and other instrumentation lean this song heavily into country territory, but the lyrics and singing style are The Lovin’ Spoonful. Give this song a listen for its silliness and happy vibes.

9. “Murder On Music Row” By Alan Jackson and George Strait

Another great example of classic country storytelling is “Murder On Music Row.” George Strait and Alan Jackson join forces for this thrilling song.

These two musicians are signature voices of 1990s country-western music, making this song a must-listen for all country music fans. 

Jackson and Strait join forces to lament the loss of innocence in Nashville. “Murder On Music Row” offers a slow, two-step beat for a great dance song for couples.

This song is even more poignant now as Nashville swells to one of the fastest-growing cities in America.

10. “Grand Ole Opry Song” By Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band deliver a compact review of Nashville’s history with their “Grand Ole Opry Song.” If you are new to Nashville, take notes while listening to this song! The lyrics name-drop artists like Earl Scruggs, Hank Williams, and Jimmy Dickens. The Grand Ole Opry still welcomes country music legends and up-and-comers to its Nashville stage.

This group is well-known for its tight bluegrass harmonies. Enjoy their instrumentation, precise singing, and a history lesson with this classic toe-tapping tune from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

Summing Up Our List Of Nashville Songs

That’s it for our list of songs written about Nashville. We hope you enjoyed reading (and listening).

The legends of Music City make it fertile ground for storytelling ballads, upbeat and motivational tunes, and even psychedelic odes.

Nashville beckoned rock stars to cross over to country music, including the songs by Bob Dylan, The Lovin’ Spoonful, and Bon Jovi on this list.

Today, Nashville continues its legacy with numerous honky-tonks and live music venues located everywhere.

Even if you can’t visit the Songwriting Capital of the World, get a sense of this distinct city through these songs.

Have we missed any off this list? Let us know which song you think should be on here, and we’ll add it!

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Written by Laura Macmillan
Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.