OFFSTAGE: How Do You Get From Two Old Hippies to the Arena?

(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)

I was in Nashville this weekend. Big deal, right? I go all the time. So I won’t bore you with my play-by-play of those three days. But I will give you my 17-year-old’s perspective.

My daughter, Maddy, was with me so we could take a look at a local university. But while we were there, we had to take in at least a little music between campus tours and cell biology class. And there were two shows that bookended our trip that kind of summed up why Nashville is one of those places that just has no equal.

First up was the Jason Aldean concert at the Bridgestone Arena on Friday (Feb. 24) . For a girl who claims to not be a diehard country fan, Maddy was singing along to every word. And not just on the new stuff. “Why,” “The Truth” and “Amarillo Sky” were her favorites. Luke Bryan blew her away, too, with his own songs and his mini-cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” To hear a man who can sing about wrestling hogs and gators sing the Grammy winner’s song showed my daughter how deep the talent is in Nashville. Then when Bryan and Aldean joined forces on a couple oldies, Shenandoah’s “Sunday in the South” and Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On,” I saw her downloading those classics right there on her iPhone. And, if Maddy’s screams were any indication, Kelly Clarkson’s surprise appearance at the show didn’t suck, either.

Then on Sunday, right before we had to head home, we stumbled into a store in the Gulch neighborhood called Two Old Hippies. (Think Anthropologie meets massive guitar warehouse.) And at one side of the store, there was a stage for open mic performances. And on that stage was a little girl named Gracie, with a guitar almost as big as she was, belting out Taylor Swift’s “Ours.” She wasn’t just good because she was cute. She was good because she was putting her talent on the line, getting her start on a small stage like so many of the big talents before her. Which led to my own little girl’s perspective on the ultimate how-do-you-get-from-here-to-there question. “I wonder how long it will take Gracie to get from Two Old Hippies to the Bridgestone?” she asked.

I told her the story about Aldean being discovered at a little Atlanta nightclub in 1998 by his current producer, Michael Knox. So, it took Aldean roughly 14 years to get from there to here. And while I know everyone’s journey to country fame takes a different path, I think Nashville itself is the ultimate stage to end up on.