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Dec 3, 2021

Axios Nashville

Happy Friday and cheers to a safe and relaxing weekend.

☀️ Today's weather: 72 and sunny before a cooler and rainy weekend.

Today's newsletter is 926 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Brittney Spencer breaks big

Brittney Spencer. Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

When Brittney Spencer came to Nashville in 2013, she sang for tips next to a hot dog stand in Printers Alley.

Why it matters: After eight years of fighting to make it in the country music industry, Spencer is getting the kind of exposure that could catapult her to a new level of fame and success.

  • In a genre still grappling with its lack of diversity, Spencer is part of a growing group of Black artists getting mainstream buzz.
  • "As of right now, I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be. And I feel like I belong right where I am," Spencer tells Axios. "I'm truly living in the moment as best as I can, and I'm having fun."

Flashback: About a year after she moved to town, Spencer enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University's recording industry program.

  • She graduated in December 2017 and began writing and performing with several collaborators.

Driving the news: The last few months of Spencer's career have been a whirlwind.

Between the lines: Spencer says she is drawn to country music because of its intricate story songs. Her own work is an intimate reflection on relationships, faith, and heartache.

  • "It's not the only place where you can tell a story, but country music feels like a really beautiful place for me to tell mine," she says.

What she's saying: Spencer says she's entering the genre during a "breakthrough moment" for Black artists.

  • "There is a certain weight and a certain responsibility, but also a certain joy, that comes with being a minority in this space and getting to both excel and to know that you're also probably breaking down a barrier and holding a door for another artist that looks just like you to do the same one day."

What's next: Spencer's headlining tour takes her to The Basement East on Thursday.

2. Gov. Lee grants clemency

Gov. Bill Lee. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday he would grant clemency to 17 people, including exonerating a man wrongfully convicted in a 2006 killing.

  • Lee also said his administration would establish a process to fast-track consideration for people sentenced under a harsh drug-free school zone law the legislature scaled back in 2020.

Why it matters: Criminal justice reforms were central to Lee's campaign for governor. His decision to make clemency announcements before the end of his term is a break from the previous administration.

By the numbers: Lee granted the exoneration, 13 pardons for those who had already served their sentences, and three commutations that reduced sentences.

Go deeper for more on Tennessee's school zone drug law.

3. Blood shortage hits Nashville

Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University Medical Center

A blood shortage in the Nashville area reached such a crisis level that Vanderbilt University Medical Center deputy CEO Wright Pinson told employees their help was "urgently needed" in upcoming blood drives by the American Red Cross.

Why it matters: A shortfall will occur in the coming weeks, affecting the Red Cross' ability to "adequately replenish supplies of blood and blood products," Pinson said.

Driving the news: The Red Cross reports the anticipated shortfall is due to the holidays and recent COVID-19 spikes.

  • At VUMC, Middle Tennessee's largest hospital, blood conservation tactics have been deployed.

What he's saying: Pinson underscored the urgency of the situation by closing his letter with, "I am asking you to please take this opportunity to help our patients by giving the gift of life through scheduling time to donate during this holiday season."

4. The Setlist

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

💻 MNPS is working to fix its classroom technology problems. (The Tennessean)

🍽 A new Mexican restaurant Maiz de la Vida is scheduled to open in the Pie Town neighborhood next year. (Nashville Post, subscription needed)

🚁 The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into a recent flyover before a Titans game. (NewsChannel 5)

5. Axios readers 💚 McCabe Pub

McCabe Pub. Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

As McCabe Pub approaches its 40th anniversary, the Sylvan Park bar and restaurant represents one of the last of a dying Nashville breed: a beloved, locally owned neighborhood joint that's stood the test of time.

  • Earlier this week, Axios Nashville profiled the trend of mom and pop bars and restaurants struggling to survive. Rotier's, Sunset Grill, and Hermitage Cafe are among the local restaurants that have recently closed.
  • We asked readers for their favorite long-running restaurants, which ones they especially miss, and which places they're afraid of losing.

What you're saying: McCabe topped the list of favorite long-running Nashville restaurants. Other frequent answers were the Smiling Elephant, Germantown Café, and the Donut Den.

  • Among the dearly departed dives, the Alleycat, which closed on the east side in 2009, was frequently singled out.
  • "Been missing Alleycat for almost 15 years now 😭," reader Jane wrote. "That chicken sandwich! Those nachos!"

💭 Nate's thought bubble: When I think about the uniquely Nashville institutions that have closed, one of the key common denominators is the desirability of the real estate around them.

  • With that in mind, the two iconic establishments I'm most worried about are Station Inn in the Gulch and Brown's Diner in Hillsboro Village.

🚸 Nate is flying solo on the parenting front with his better half out of town. Any fun ideas for something to do this weekend with an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old?

♥️ Adam is not surprised Taylor Swift dominated his 2021 Spotify report card.