Keith Urban Makes Plea for Historic Preservation

Newspaper Commentary Ponders Future of Nashville's Music Row

Keith Urban has written an editorial advocating the historic preservation of country music landmarks.

With the headline “Keep Music Row’s Past for the Future,” his 368-word plea appeared Friday (Aug. 1) in the opinion section of The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper.

It sounds like Urban is who he is because of the Nashville neighborhood that houses so many of the record labels, recording studios and publishing houses.

“I made my first trip to Nashville from Australia in the summer of 1989,” Urban wrote. “I checked into the Shoney’s Inn on Demonbreun, then headed straight into the legendary Music Row.

“It was instantly magical being among rows of the most charming cottages and simple buildings that were housing the global center of country music. I knew instantly that this was where I belonged, and I became a Nashville resident in 1992. From that moment on, I would drive to the Row almost daily in my rented crap car to write, record demos and generally hang around, meeting all kinds of people. … Music Row became my center because Music Row IS a center.”

The area near downtown Nashville is currently under threat from developers, explains Urban. And while he’s obviously smart enough to understand that they may want to take that part of town to some kind of next level, he’s hoping there can be a balance between the rich history and whatever tomorrow will bring.

“Evolution is a constant part of music and life, but for me what’s always been at the heart of country music is simplicity and community,” he wrote. “Music Row is where the past, present and future meet, and that’s a vital part of keeping balance. You can feel it as you drive along 16th and 17th avenues and see so many original buildings, including RCA’s Studios A and B; the house where Warner Brothers first opened their doors; Quad Studios, where Neil Young recorded “Harvest”; and Hillbilly Central, where Waylon Jennings and the boys transformed the status quo by revolutionizing the way artists could take creative control. … Not to mention the countless publishing houses where classic songs were and are written, pitched and demoed.”

Urban doesn’t mention where he wrote his own 2000 debut hit as a solo artist, “But for the Grace of God,” but my gut instinct is that it was somewhere on or near the Row.

“Nashville has exploded as a music town, and not just country music,” he said. “Musicians from all genres, all over the world are making the pilgrimage here to immerse themselves in the kind of creative center that so many other cities have lost but that Nashville still maintains.”

That is all the good news. But then Urban gets to the bad news of what he’s afraid will happen if that explosion turns Music Row into something it isn’t.

“Nashville’s growth is exciting, but not at the risk of losing the creative epicenter that is Music Row and that truly makes Nashville Music City,” Urban write. “I sincerely hope that those who have made Nashville their home over the years, and those who have recently discovered our fair city, will come together as a united front and continue to be vocal about preserving and fortifying our beloved Music Row.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She's based in Chicago, but she's always leaving her heart in Nashville.