Jen Su

CMAs, Hot Chicken, and Southern Luxury all wrapped up in one quick trip to America’s Music City.

Nashville, Tennessee is dubbed the “Music City” – and I must say, this American heartland of country, bluegrass, rock, pop, blues, and gospel sounds and rhythms had me in a perpetual state of tuneful bliss from the airport to the 57th Country Music Association Awards (CMAs).

Jen wears a hand stitched dress of silk roses by Philadelphia Fashion Incubator’s Elmira Designs at the Country Music Awards 2023. Photo: Delta Airlines.

I almost made a big mistake by not checking my itinerary – I thought an 8 am flight on the day of the CMAs was actually a 3 pm flight!  Along with Daylight Savings Time and forgetting to set my clocks at home – I was in a state of logistical discombobulation.

Earlier flights that day were fully booked, so my only choice was to get there the day before – and after three flight delays that afternoon, I’m so glad I gave myself some wiggle room for a change, or I would not have made it in time.

The first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame, where American Express held a pre-CMA reception with country music star Tyler Hubbard, who was well-known as a member of the Nashville-based duo Florida Georgia Line.

Elevated cocktails, champagne, delicious hors d’oevres and cheese, and a local country music performance were the perfect start of the evening.

Entrepreneurs Christopher Renteria and Mike Efrus were among the well-dressed guests at the event, who told me all about their fabulous Air BnB.

The opulent and eclectic Onyx Haus in Nashville.   Photo:  Air BnB.

At USD 318 (R5,935) per night for the entire mansion, the Onyx Haus features four bedrooms and four bathrooms, a mansion of opulent luxury paired with eclectic murals, a lavish marble shower, and a rooftop terrace with sweeping views of the city.

The mansion’s master suite combines an eclectic mix of colours and textures. Photo: AirBnB

“We found this amazing home on AirBnB and the interior design is just flawless,” explained Efrus, excitedly showing me photos.  “The attention to both design and comfort is phenomenal.”

The Bridgestone Arena
Kelsea Ballerini wearing Christian Siriano.

It was over to the Bridgestone Arena to watch the celebrity arrivals for the Country Music Awards.  Kelsea Ballerini, Lainey Wilson, Jelly Roll, Post Malone, and Megan Moroney were showstoppers on the red carpet.

In the arena, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman walked past me to find their seats – Keith paused briefly to say ‘hello’ and my evening was made!

Tracy Chapman made history as the first black songwriter to win a CMA in its 57 years for Song of the Year for “Fast Car”, her 1988 hit remade by country music star Luke Combs that went multi-platinum.

Chapman was bestowed with the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo award last April by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for the friendship and support she showed to South Africa and the late Nelson Mandela.

My journey to better understand country music started two years ago when I visited Vanderbilt University in Nashville with my son.  We booked tickets that day for the Grand Ole Opry and it opened my eyes to the diverse music and entertainment in the city – from country to bluegrass, gospel, and blues.

We walked through the famous “Honky-Tonk” area outside the arena with endless live music venues —   and went for Hattie B’s hot chicken, which did not disappoint!

I was up all night filing stories, and with a 6 AM flight – it was time for another coffee and off to the Nashville International Airport again.

The only time Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is empty is when it’s 4 AM in the airport.

My three takeaways from America’s Music City?

  1. People are extremely warm and friendly – and the Southern hospitality and charm is real.

2) You get great value for money in Nashville, so it might be worth moving here!

3) Music is everywhere, so soak in the sights and sounds – and enjoy the show!

And that was my 36 hours in Nashville.  Until the next adventure!