The Art of the Nashville Artist Residency

Charlie Worsham, Little Big Town and More Welcome the World for Limited Music City Engagements

It’s incredible how far a $5 cover charge will go in Nashville.

On Monday (July 31), Charlie Worsham wrapped his Every Damn Monday summer residency at the Basement East with a night of live music indigenous to his home state of Mississippi. For $5 a ticket, the sold-out crowd enjoyed several surprise appearances by fellow Magnolia State natives and fans.

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 31:  Singer/Songwriter Charlie Worsham is joined by Singer/Songwriter Randy Houser onstage during Every Damn Monday With Charlie Worsham benifiting Follow Your Heart Arts Program at The Basement East on July 31, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images) Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Worsham, who is originally from Grenada, has hosted the five-week residency in town annually since 2015 to raise money for his Follow Your Heart Scholarship, a program that supports performing arts students in Mississippi who exhibit uncommon talents and ambition to pursue their crafts professionally. Other 2017 Every Damn Monday concerts have covered bluegrass, John Mayer, classic country and the best of the local underground songwriting scene.

Over the course of Monday’s Mississippi set, Worsham covered Faith Hill, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Jimmie Rodgers, the Staple Singers, Marty Stuart and then some. He welcomed Michigander Frankie Ballard onstage for Presley’s “Trying to Get to You” and Magic Slim’s “Back to Mississippi.” Craig Campbell joined in for Pride’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” and Lake native Randy Houser played a mean bottleneck blues guitar on Elmore James’ “It Hurts Me Too.” Musician Jay Kott channeled Mavis Staples on “I’ll Take You There,” and Travis Meadows, a Jackson native, delivered his original “Mississippi” from 2013’s Old Ghosts & Unfinished Business.

NASHVILLE, TN - JULY 31:  Singer/Songwriter Charlie Worsham is joined onstage by Singer/Songwriter Frankie Ballard during Every Damn Monday With Charlie Worsham benifiting Follow Your Heart Arts Program at The Basement East on July 31, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images) Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Artist residencies have long been a part of Nashville’s music tradition and they, along with the city’s many songwriter rounds, have always been a place where members of the local music community can experience true fellowship with regular fans from around the world. Residencies have also lead to the discoveries of many of the genre’s popular performers.

Before making the Grammy-winning A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, a yet undiscovered Sturgill Simpson could be found headlining Sunday nights at the Basement on 8th Avenue. Lee Roy Parnell was discovered through his engagements at the nearby Douglas Corner, and Country Music Hall of Famer Ronnie Milsap spent the latter days of 1972 playing regular shows at Roger Miller’s former King of the Road Hotel on North First Street.

Since most of today’s residency shows happen between Sunday and Wednesday, which are considered off days for music’s touring acts, they offer world class players the opportunity to sit in at their leisure.

To promote his latest album Lowdown & Lonesome, hit-maker Kendell Marvel (Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way” and Blake Shelton’s “Never Lovin’ You”) has offered an affordable night out for music fans every month. Tickets for his Honky-Tonk Experience shows at the Exit/In cost $7 and they have hosted several all-star guests including Gary Allan, Brothers Osborne, Jamey Johnson, Alison Krauss, Jake Owen, Jon Pardi, Angaleena Presley and Aubrie Sellers. His backing band has also featured an impressive list of players including Willie Nelson’s harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, guitarist Audley Freed and hit-maker Keith Gattis.

“I wanted to create a gathering for lovers of music where we’d play songs off my record mixed in with all the classics from Waylon Jennings to Willie,” Marvel told CMT.com. “It provides an opportunity once a month to get some of Nashville’s most talented musicians in a room together, play some real country music and have a hell of a time on a Tuesday night. That and it’s just one more reason to drink a cold beer.”

Guthrie Trapp’s Trapped Above Ground concerts on Wednesday nights at ACME Feed & Seed are among the most affordable performances on Lower Broadway. Admission is free from 8-10 p.m. and Trapp has hosted several legendary musicians like guitarist Steve Cropper onstage.

The Time Jumpers’ $20 shows on Monday nights at Third and Lindsley almost always sell out in advance. Through the years, they have picked and grinned alongside several stars including the ukulele-playing phenomenon Jake Shimabukuro, Martina McBride and Eagle Joe Walsh.

For the first time in their careers, Little Big Town‘s Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimmy Westbrook decided not to stage a major tour to support a new album. While their concert calendar has included major festival appearances, fans from around the world have come to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to see them perform selections from The Breaker live. This past weekend, they welcomed surprise performers Worsham, Miranda Lambert, Brothers Osborne and Maren Morris.

Girl power. #respect @mirandalambert

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One major perk for all these Nashville residencies is the opportunity for the Music Row community to be close to home (local fans and artists onstage get to sleep in their own beds after gigs). And when compared to headlining national tours, there is hardly any travel drama involved — no lost passports, no missed connections and no flight attendants giving musicians hell over where they can store their beloved instruments.

Little Big Town continue their residency at the Mother Church on Sept. 15, and Marvel’s next Honky-Tonk Experience at the Exit/In is Aug. 22.

Lauren Tingle is a Tennessean and storyteller who eats music for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When she’s not writing or rocking out, she enjoys yoga and getting lost in the great outdoors.