Axios Nashville

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November 15, 2021

Happy Monday and cheers to a healthy and productive week ahead.

Today's newsletter is 887 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Ryman bets big on live music

Block 21 in Austin.
Block 21 in Austin. Image courtesy of Ryman Hospitality

Ryman Hospitality has returned to a pre-pandemic strategy of aggressively expanding its entertainment division - a clear indication the company sees a light at the end of the tunnel for live music.

  • Ryman announced a deal on Oct. 26 to buy Block 21 in Austin for $260 million. The acquisition includes the Moody Theater, home to Austin City Limits, as well as a smaller venue and the W Austin Hotel.
  • The company announced plans last week to build a new Ole Red entertainment venue in Las Vegas with an estimated price tag of $30 million. Ole Red venues are collaborations with country artist Blake Shelton.

Why it matters: Chairman and CEO Colin Reed acknowledges to Axios that Ryman Hospitality could be looking to add more iconic venues to its arsenal.

  • While most of its investments in live music have centered around country music, the Moody Theater is similar to the company's most famous venue, the Ryman Auditorium, since it books artists across all genres of music.
  • "These venues like the Moody Theater are awfully important in the long-term psychology of the music listener," Reed says.

Flashback: In Nashville, Ryman went on a multi-year spending spree investing in what Reed calls the "country lifestyle customer." Most notably, the company helped produce the TV show "Nashville," which drove visitors to Music City.

  • From 2016 through 2019, Ryman spent a combined $54 million renovating and expanding its existing venues, plus launching the first Ole Red honky tonk on Lower Broadway.
  • Those moves coincided with opening Ole Red locations in Gatlinburg, Orlando, Florida, and Oklahoma.

What he's saying: The pandemic changed all that, even delaying the purchase of Block 21, initially announced in December 2019.

  • "Our entertainment business is an absolute gem," Reed says. "If you eliminate the businesses that we didn't have in 2019 like Ole Red Orlando ... our business is running at or about the same level as it did in 2019, which is remarkable."

2. Alice Chapman remembered as "brave, funny, incisive"

Alice Pearson Chapman
Photo courtesy of MP&F Strategic Communications.

Remembrances have continued to pour in for public relations executive Alice Pearson Chapman, who died suddenly last week of a brain aneurysm at age 49.

  • Chapman was managing partner at public relations firm MP&F Strategic Communications and one of Nashville's most influential executives in the world of media, publicity, and politics.
  • "Alice leaves a legacy of community service, hard work, friendship, and love," Nashville Judge Ana Escobar tweeted last week.
  • Services will be held at St. George's Episcopal Church tomorrow at 1:30pm, with visitation from noon to 1pm.

The latest: For a tribute from one of Chapman's best friends, visit Laura Braam's blog post titled, "I See You."

  • "Alice lived life big and in the world," Braam wrote. "She was brave, and funny, and incisive. She was enormously generous with her whole self. You could entirely count on her for a completely authentic reaction to whatever fresh hell you were going through. I can hear her now — ARE YOU OKAY??"

💭 Nate's thoughts: I don't have a specific anecdote that stands out when I think about the times my paths crossed with Alice. Instead, I remember her consistency as a direct, honest, and kind consummate professional.

3. The Setlist: Lee signs COVID bill

Illustration of a neon sign in the shape of an arrow reading "THE SETLIST."
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏈 The Titans have now won six straight games after a 23-21 nail-biter over the Saints. (The Tennessean)

Gov. Bill Lee signed the sweeping COVID-related omnibus legislation from the recent special session on Friday. (NewsChannel 5)

❤️ Taylor Swift performed her new, extended version of "All Too Well" on Saturday Night Live. (Pitchfork)

4. Music Monday: Taylor's version

It's Music Monday! Please don't forget to check out and follow our Spotify playlist, updated weekly.

  • This week's playlist features Adam's favorite songs from Taylor Swift's "Red (Taylor's Version)."
  • To cleanse his palate from last week's playlist of our favorite all-time country songs, Nate added a healthy dose of his favorite indie rock songs from 2021, including Animal Collective's triumphant return from several meh albums with the single "Prester John."

📫 Please reply to this email with recommendations for our playlist next week. Thanks to readers Judd, Ann, Brad, Casey, James, Skye and Michael for their suggestions this week.

5. An authentic TN BBQ road trip

Jacks Creek BBQ
Jacks Creek BBQ. Photo: Nate Rau/Axios Nashville

After we profiled the Joelton barbecue joint Wise Guy's last month, Axios Nashville reader James emailed us with a recommendation: "The best Q on Earth is at Jacks Creek BBQ."

  • So Nate packed up his family and made the two-hour drive west to the tiny unincorporated town of Jacks Creek.
  • An unassuming white building had just one table of customers when we first arrived but filled up as the noon rush hour hit. All the parking spots were taken by the time we left.

Details: Jacks Creek BBQ is a standard-bearer in the proud west Tennessee whole hog tradition. Everything we ordered — pork sandwiches, ribs and BBQ nachos — was perfect.

  • Nate's kids played with runaway cats behind the smokehouse with pitmaster Ricky, who, after finding out we were from Nashville, jokingly asked, "Are my ribs better than Martin's?"

If you go: If driving two hours is a bit much just for BBQ, you can easily add on to your trip. About half an hour away is the Battle of Shiloh, among the best-preserved battlefields of the entire Civil War.

Our picks:

🧀 Nate is back to rooting for the equivalent of a comic book villain in Aaron Rodgers. Go Pack Go!

✈️ Adam is on vacation.