Monday, May 25, 2015

A Guide to Nashville: The Music and Tours

Hi you guys!  So, Joey and I took a trip to Nashville last week to celebrate my upcoming 30th birthday.  It's always been one of my travel bucket list locations.  The kids stayed at our house with Joey's mom (thank you Carla!!!!), and we had a week to ourselves.  It was SO nice.  All you parents out there, totally worth it!  It gives you the chance to reconnect with your spouse as a couple rather than mom and dad and once you get home, you feel so refreshed and energized that your kids reap the benefits as well.  Joey and I try to do it once a year if we can.  My mind is swirling with everything I want to share with you guys about Nashville.  I want to create a couple posts, ones that I wish were out there for me to read when I was researching our trip.  So if any of you are looking for a fun vacation in the states and have been thinking about going to Music City, I hope this helps.  If you have any questions that I didn't address feel free to leave them in the comments or on my Facebook page!   So I thought I would break it into two posts.  One for the music and tours (touristy stuff) and the second will be about the shopping and food.  

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
This was our first stop of the trip, we figured it would give us a good history of the city we were about to spend a week touring.  It did not disappoint.  You see so many awesome things from country music history from the beginning of time until current.  Alan Jackson had an exhibit on display while we were there, we got to see his infamous water skiing Chattahoochee outfit and many more.  Of course I'm obsessed with Elvis (from as far back as I can remember) so I loved seeing his gold cadillac. He actually drove the car to the museum himself and donated it!  The color was made out of Japanese fish scales and ground up diamonds.  It took 14 coats of paint!  It was top of the line with a tv in the back seat and an ice maker that could freeze ice in two minutes flat!  Can you imagine?!  :)  Of course there were a lot of other really really cool exhibits at the museum.  So when you get there they take you up to the 3rd floor to see the exhibits, then the 2nd floor is the actual hall of fame.  Not one of Elvis best pictures if I do say so myself.  :)  The main level is the ticket office and the gift shops.  Connected to the Hall of Fame is Hatch Show Print which you can take a tour of, but we didn't.  They do amazing posters for all sorts of venues.  When we went to the Grand Ol Opry, they actually made one for the night we were there, that showed all the performers.  It was $10 at the Opry and we brought one back for a souvenir.   

When we booked our Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum tickets online, we added on the tour of RCA Studio B and I am SOOO happy we did.  This is about a 5 minute shuttle drive from the Museum, set back in a quaint little area, you'd never guess Elvis recorded over half of his hits in this tiny, NOT fancy little building (over 250 songs).  Elvis always got the Sunday evening recording slot and was the only person allowed to record at this time.  I could hardly talk when I was in there, I was seriously so choked up!  It's an hour long tour, and they rush you through it, if you don't take pics while the tour guide is talking, you're not going to get them.   Like I said, Studio B is actually very tiny and nothing like the high tech studios around today.  It makes you appreciate the music that was made here even more.  They cram a ton of info into this hour tour, but a few things that I wanted to share were this piano, it was Elvis favorite piano.  He actually asked if he could buy it from them and take it back to Graceland and they told him no!  Elvis was very much into 'mood lighting' when he recorded his music.  So they installed lighting that had a red, blue, green, and white light bulbs.  When he wanted to record something really upbeat, he would only have the red on.  He had only the blue light on when he recorded Blue Christmas.  The one that really hit me was when he recorded 'Lonesome Tonight' he was trying to figure out what light to use, someone suggested doing it in the dark.  That song was cut in ONE take, as they didn't want to compromise the raw emotion of that first take.  Listen to the song really close, at the end of the song, you will hear a thunk.  That was Elvis hitting his head on the mic as he was backing away from the piano after the song was finished, because he couldn't see in the pitch black.  Chills.  Also, one of his backup singers (The Jordanaire's) hit a wrong note on the final 'tonight' and it was the one and only part of that song that needed fixed.  They cut it out with an exacto knife and scotch taped in that last word after it was fixed.  How amazing is that?!  They did not have boxed in recording booths like they have now.  He actually recorded 'Heartbreak Hotel' in the stairway of the studio, which is why that song sounds so echo-y.  I'm blabbing but this fascinated me.  There were also many more AMAZING artists that recorded incredible hits here, but clearly I'm biased.  Studio B infamously shut down on August 17, 1977.  Any Elvis fan knows this was the day after he died, so many believed it was shut down because of that very reason.  Truth is, they had this date on the books for a year in advance.  Just an eerie coincidence.  

State Capitol Building
Our next stop was the Ryman Auditorium 'The Mother Church of Country Music'. This is where it all started.  This is the original Grand Ol Opry House.  Just like at the Grand Ol Opry, this is a live broadcast radio show, the longest running radio show ever in fact.  You should hear the announcer that does the commercials, his voice is AMAZING.  He has got to have the luckiest grandkids ever hearing him read them stories.  We saw Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Larry was the host and he was really funny.  Gene Watson, Holly Williams (the granddaughter of Hank Williams and daughter of Hank Williams Jr.) she sang two of her grandpa's songs and sang beautifully.  Mo Pitney, who is an up and coming singer, remember that name.  I bet we'll be seeing it very soon.  The final act was the Oakridge Boys.  How can you beat that?!  We may have been the youngest ones there, but if you have a love for country music old and new, this is a must see.  (I even helped an older couple who were struggling with their selfie LOL). 

The next evening we went to the Grand Ol Opry, when we booked our tickets here we also booked a backstage tour.  This was really cool.  We got to go onto the stage, stand at the infamous circle that will be unbroken.  You see, when the Opry moved from the Ryman to the new Opry house they took up a piece of the floor from the Ryman and put it center stage at the Opry house as to keep the circle intact and so the history can continue, the singers now can stand where the legends once stood.  Pretty cool.  We got to see the plaques of all the members of the Opry, all the dressing rooms, each decorated with different themes.  There were some interesting facts about the different dressing rooms and such, but to keep this blog less long :) I will spare you the details.  The show is broken into segments with a different 'host' each segment, and the same radio broadcaster as at the Ryman, I took a video just so I could remember his amazing voice.  The Opry radio show actually airs on Sirius/XM if you're ever interested!  Did I mention the TV show Nashville has recorded here several times?  Also many other places we went to throughout our week.  So we saw: John Conlee, Terri Clark (she was hilarious), Mike Snider, Connie Smith, Ashley Clark (don't forget his name, he's going to make it big, mark my words.  He was SOO good! In fact, I bought 'Greyhound' on iTunes after I heard him.  He also does a mean Vince Gill Liza Jane), Aaron Tippin, Riders in the Sky, Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press, Charles Esten (he goes by Chip by the way :) Any Nashville fans out there?  He's actually a REALLY great musician), Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Jan Howard, and Jeannie Seely  So yes, they cram a lot into the radio show, I think it was around 2ish hours long.  There isn't a bad seat in the house, they also have big TVs too.  The acoustics, a music lovers dream.  You guys have to go here.  The week after we were there, Vince Gill was to perform.  They feature a lot of  up and coming artists, older artists, current artists, musicians that only play musical instruments (they'll actually blow your mind how good they are) even the people we had never heard of were so good.  

Tip: why pay the $20 they want to charge you for the picture they take when you can nicely offer to take someone else' picture in return for them taking yours.  People this goes a long way, offer to take people's pictures!  It is such a nice thing to do and it will benefit you too, so you don't have only selfies the whole trip.  

This is the private entrance where the stars walk to get backstage before they preform.  On the left you can see a fountain  with a child statue, this was Minnie Pearl's and when she passed on, her family gifted it to the Opry, so when the stars make their way in to do their show, they toss a coin into Minnie's fountain.  
The infamous Circle that will never be broken. A piece of flooring from the original Opry, the Ryman.  It even survived the big flood that devastated the Opry in 2010.
A few of the other museums we went to were the Johnny Cash Museum and the brand new George Jones Museum.  Tip: don't go on a weekend, save it for a week day, it will be far less crowded.  Wear comfortable shoes if you are going to be doing a bunch of tours and walking in one day.  :)  If you are a lover of Johnny Cash and George Jones, by all means take these tours.  They have a lot of history and artifacts (can you call them that?  They're not really that old!)  They are fairly pricey to get in, I think it was $40 for Joey and I to go to the George Jone's museum.  We are lovers of music, especially country and we both especially have a love for that era of country music, so it was worth it to us.  Shout out to all my George Jones night regulars at the Fort Peck Hotel, some of my fondest memories!!

This was quite entertaining to me....and unlike George, I kind of felt like I could use a rocking chair after all the walking we had been doing.  Joey and I don't really sit back during our vacations.  Too much to see and do!!!
The nightlife!  Here's the deal you guys...the bars are SMALL.  So much smaller than we expected.  The music is amazing.  It makes you want to dance, but like I said the bars are small...haha!  There were a few times we were able to do a little dancing but mostly if we found a spot to sit we took it and stuck with it the rest of the night.  You go to any bar any time of the day or night and hear beyond amazing music.  We loved every single bar we went in, there's not one I would say not to go to, but I would say our 3 favorite places to go were Tootsie's Orchid Lounge there is a bar in the front and back plus a whole other rooftop level, here is where we saw my favorite band of the vacation, Anthony Orio.  I know I keep saying this, but look him up, he is SO good.  He was an awesome performer and everyone had a blast listening to him.  Robert's Western World home of Brazilbilly.  We saw Sarah Gayle Meech perform here a couple nights and she was really good.  She sang a lot of the old time classics, with her own style, she also has her own original music with is funky and very unique.  Honkey Tonk Central was our third favorite place, they had three stories with bands on each level.  They also had great nachos, I was sold at nachos.  All bars had band playing in 4 or so hour segments, so if it there was no music coming from a bar, that was more than likely the best time to find a seat, as we knew there would be an amazing band setting up and ready to jam in no time.  

A helpful tip I learned: take your purse and big camera during the day for any photo ops you might have (although I found Nashville a very hard city to photograph.  It's more of an 'experience' city.  Not as photogenic as I thought.) Then between shopping and going out at night, go back to your motel, unload your bags, rest your feet, get freshened up, and leave your purse, camera, and anything else bulky you might have in the room.  Oh yes before I forget, DON'T WEAR SANDALS.  Your feet will take a beating if you do.  Also, chances are at some point in the night someone will drop a drink, or a glass shot glass and it will shatter and spill all over your feet.  Wear boots, booties, tennis shoes, anything but sandals!  That's my insider tip!  I wore sandals during the day and cowboy boots at night.  Take your ID (they card everywhere at the door), your cell phone, and your credit card.  Also, very important, take enough small bill cash to tip the band.  Each and every band throughout the day and night will come around once an hour for tips.  They don't get payed to play at the bars (there isn't a cover charge anywhere you go), they work for tips.  Also, if you want to blow $20 your song request will go to the top of their list.  :)  They never played a bad song, so we saved our $20s !  Oh yes, another 'Nashville' thing we learned while we were there: 'A holler and a swaller!!'  and it is just as it sounds let out a big ol holler with the band, and then take a swaller of whatever you're drinking.  Needless to say we did our fair share of hollering and swallering haha!!!

Sarah Gayle Meech at Robert's Western World 
Took a pic for a group of girls, got one in return.  Win win.  :)
Anthony Orio, in a George Jones shirt mind you, who wouldn't love that?!  Look. Him. Up! 
People kept asking us if we were locals, compliment?  I say yes!  :)  haha! 
A shot from BB King's bar, we were in Nashville when he passed away.   
A little bathroom graffiti, notice it has Dallas crossed out and Montana filled in?!  (I did not do this, but do agree haha!)
Another band at RWW, I can't remember their name, but the guitar player had amazing hair.   

Notice the sand man statue to the left, he is real, and he will try to scare you.  Fool me once buddy, fool me once!  haha! 

I hope this lengthy Nashville blog post was helpful for somebody out there!  I tried to keep it as concise as possible, but I didn't want to leave details out either!!  It is also the scrapbook of our trip (since I do not scrapbook ha!), a trip I LOVED and will cherish forever.  Happy 30th bday to me!  Thanks to my hubs. This trip was a dream.  I can't stop smiling thinking about it :)  

I will post a part two for shopping and food soon, stay tuned!  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Marisa and Keylo

I had so much fun taking pictures of my beautiful friend and her sweet baby last weekend.  He smiled the entire time and she is seriously flawless!  Here's a little sneak peek of a few of my favorites.  Happy Mother's Day!!  :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Colter is 5!

Just a quick post to recap Colter's 5th birthday.  HOW IS HE 5?!  He had a great birthday party with family and a super fun little party with a couple of friends from school on his actual birthday.  It was dreary on his birthday party weekend, as it is every year...but this year on his actual birthday, it was beautiful out!!  There were 3 very worn out little preschool boys after jumping on the trampoline and doing 'boy stuff.'  :)  

The concept of five has been a tough one for me, seems so crazy that my little 2 pound 6 ounce, 14.5 inch long baby born at 33&5 weeks with growth restriction could possibly be a 'big', smart FIVE year old!  When I really think about it though, he is still very much my baby.  He comes into bed with us nearly every night the past few months, because he just misses me so much.  He wants me to play along with every game he dreams up, jump on his new birthday trampoline with him, etc...which I am soaking up because I know it won't always be that way.  

He dresses himself everyday (multiple outfits most days), loves to play characters (often inspired by things he sees in real life), is loving learning letters and numbers and asks many questions about things swirling in his mind and normally answers them himself , he is so very thoughtful asking his daddy how his day was at work every evening.  I just love this little boy more than humanly possible!!  

I need to do an official 5 year old photoshoot soon.  For now here are just a few pictures from his birthday celebrations.  

White may not have been the right choice in shirt color :)  

Mama C outdid herself this year!   
The thumbs up is a trait inherited by my side of the family, I have vivid memories of my brothers doing this same exact thing.  :)

I week after Colter blew the NICU coop, we did his 'newborn' pictures with the always lovely Tina Stinson.  The only time he peed the entire shoot was in his daddy's boot.  

Wouldn't this make a great shot for their senior slideshow?! haha!