New Book Shows Music City’s Creative Underbelly

The just-published Nashville: The Pilgrims of Guitar Town shows faces and sides of Music City that are rarely seen in fan magazines and documentaries. With color and black-and-white photos by French photographer Michel Arnaud and written commentary by Nashvillian Robert Hicks, the hardbound book presents a vivid cross-section of the pickers, songwriters, singers and record producers who stream daily into Nashville with the aim of getting their music heard.

While many of the people and locales are familiar to ardent followers of country music, much of the material features little known songwriters, street musicians, sidemen and assorted other dreamers and schemers. A couple of the photo spreads — notably those of various Nashville society bluebloods and of author Jay McInerney and his wife — are thematically gratuitous. But for the most part, the authors fix their attention on the creative types who have left — or will leave — their marks on country music.

Hicks, who is a music publisher with Universal Music and the frequent host of “guitar pulls,” dates his fascination with country music back to the days when the Grand Ole Opry was still housed at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Arnaud became interested in the genre more recently when he came to Nashville to photograph Hicks’ home for a magazine spread.

Nashville: The Pilgrims of Guitar Town contains 148 pages and is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang.