The neon-lit guitars and honky tonks of Music City have already lured Nicole Kidman and Jack White. Now Ed Sheeran has swopped Suffolk for a Ford pick-up and ten-gallon hat after becoming the latest star to move to Nashville.
The “A Team” singer, who revealed that he has relocated to a rural area nestled in country music’s capital, has followed a pilgrimage increasingly pursued by stars of stage and screen.
Upping sticks to Tennessee will bring Sheeran closer to Taylor Swift, the country-pop starlet with whom he has formed a musical alliance. But the acoustic performer also hopes to enjoy the anonymity which even Hollywood stars find in Nashville.
“I don’t think people really care in Nashville,” Sheeran said. “Even if they knew who you were, I don't think they'd care. They'd just be like, ‘Eh?’.”
Sheeran is the latest arrival in a resurgent city which is enjoying an influx of A-list stars who prefer Nashville’s laid-back Southern charms to LA and New York.
Jack White established his Third Man Records - a combination of record label, performance venue and record store - in the city in 2009. Radiohead soon booked in for a recording session.
Kings of Leon, whose emergence from Nashville demonstrated that country did not have a monopoly over the city’s musical output, remain based there.
“We got looked down on for being rock bands and, now, it’s like every band that you hear that is hot right now is based out in Nashville,” said drummer Nathan Followill. Retro-rock duo The Black Keys are among the recent arrivals.
Nicole Kidman and her country rock star husband Keith Urban chose to bring up their two daughters in Leiper’s Fork, on Nashville’s outskirts. Their gated community also houses Swift’s 5,600-square-foot Greek Revival mansion and equestrian farm. Actress Mary Steenburgen and her husband Ted Danson live nearby.
Kidman praised her adopted home as “a totally musical city. We see members of the Black Keys walking by when we’re in our favourite restaurant, and we’ll go over to Jack White’s and listen to music. And it’s a great place to raise kids.”
Whilst piracy has decimated much of the record industry, the country genre has never been more popular, with new stars like Swift, Carrie Underwood and Kacey Lee Musgraves, appealing to a teenage, female audience.
Bob Harris, the Radio 2 DJ who makes regular trips to Nashville, said: “Nashville is enjoying an incredible resurgence. Musicians want to live there because you still have a thriving infrastructure of record labels and studios – you can call over a top fiddle player inside 20 minutes - mixed with that lovely, warm Southern hospitality.”
Sheeran will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. “Where we stay there is a local diner where you will see Vince Gill or Emmylou Harris having breakfast without being bothered,” said Harris. “There isn’t any paparazzi and people have a freedom to live the life they want.”
A hit musical drama television series, Nashville, portraying the bitter rivalry between two country music queens, has boosted tourism. Hollywood’s talent management agencies, including the giant CAA, have opened Nashville offices to capitalise on the city’s central role in creating new entertainment stars.
When Cerys Matthews left the band Catatonia she headed to Nashville to invent herself as a roots musician. Her fellow Welsh siren, Eurovision entrant Bonnie Tyler, has recorded her new album in the city.
Nashville still bulges at the seams with guitar-toting hopefuls, carrying a song in their heart, looking for their big break. This week the famous Bluebird Café plays host to London singer/songwriter James McCartney. It is rumoured that his father, Sir Paul, could lend a hand before he headlines Tennessee’s Bonnaroo festival on Friday night.