CMT BLOG: Soundland Helps Music City Earn Its Nickname

Soundland , the four-day music festival of more than 100 artists, finished up over the weekend (Sept. 21-24), and I came to the conclusion that it might be one of Nashville’s best-kept secrets.

Formerly known as Next Big Nashville, it’s a patchwork of concerts around the city. Along with artists like Justin Townes Earle, Foster the People, M. Ward and JEFF the Brotherhood, it’s the show-hopping itself that makes this such a special four days. And I should know. I spent Wednesday through Saturday night bouncing all around the city, talking music with friends and complete strangers and being overwhelmed with music from country, folk, rock, punk, hip-hop and dance artists.

Some favorites included Johnny Corndawg, a rare country songwriter whose novelty-type tunes stand up on their own (kind of like Roger Miller with a beard); Hans Condor, a hardcore punk group that absolutely tore down Jack White’s Third Man Records; Jason Isbell, the swamp-rocking former Drive-By Trucker; and Earle, the much-buzzed-about folkie and son of Steve Earle. On Friday, I saw five different kinds of music at three different venues in just under five hours. And after the first set, I walked to all the other shows. And they were all awesome.

Other musicians that made the low price of an all-access wristband an even better deal: Madi Diaz, a poppy folk singer with a voice that could sell BMW’s to beatniks; Foster the People, the dance rockers whose “Pumped Up Kicks” is rising on the charts; JEFF the Brotherhood, Nashville’s own psychedelic rock duo that’s starting to see a swell of national recognition; and Caitlin Rose, a local favorite whose Own Side Now is one of my go-to albums from this year.

The old saying goes that it’s the journey that counts, not the destination, but with Soundland, I think you get to enjoy both. Living in Music City has always been an advantage for concertgoers — especially if you like independent and up-and-coming music — but there’s an added degree of camaraderie with this festival between the artists, venues and fans. You feel like you’re part of the music scene, not just a ticketholder. This was the sixth year of the festival, and it looks like the organizers are in for the long haul. I’m thankful for that, since I’m already wondering how next year will be even better.

Writer/producer for and CMT Edge. He's been to Georgia on a fast train. He wasn't born no yesterday.