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TV's 'Nashville' A Boon For The Tennessee City
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TV's 'Nashville' A Boon For The Tennessee City

Pop Culture

TV's 'Nashville' A Boon For The Tennessee City

TV's 'Nashville' A Boon For The Tennessee City
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The TV show Nashville is about the lives of fictional country music stars and aspiring stars — and its popularity is drawing visitors to the real city from around the world.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Glamorous country music queens, tempestuous young divas, struggling up-and-comers - these are the fictional characters in the TV drama "Nashville."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NASHVILLE")

HAYDEN PANETTIERE: (As Juliette Barnes) There's nothing left for me here. I got to start someplace else.

ERIC CLOSE: (As Teddy Conrad) Maddie is never going to stop watching.

BLOCK: The show was filmed in Nashville, which is enjoying a boom from the show's popularity here and abroad. From Nashville Public Radio, Emily Siner reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARRY BALTHROP: My name's Barry. I'm going to be your tour guide today for the ABC "Nashville" tour. Just so we're all clear, everybody does watch the TV show, right?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yes.

BALTHROP: OK. So anybody that doesn't, let me know so you can get off right now.

(LAUGHTER)

EMILY SINER, BYLINE: Barry Balthrop is driving around the city in a bus filled with tourists. They're all here because they adore the TV show "Nashville" and want to see where the action happens. He drives past houses and bars that are shown in the series and plays the original music featured on the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IF I WAS WILLING?")

CHRIS CARMACK: (As Will Lexington) (Singing) What if you wanted to feel alive? Make something of the time you're killing.

SINER: The people on the bus come from Louisiana, California, even as far as Bulgaria, like 24-year-old Mira Andreeva.

MIRA ANDREEVA: I'm extremely fond of American culture. Like, that's not very typical for Bulgarian people but I like country music. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash.

SINER: The bus passes by obscure places and sites of more dramatic moments, like the marriage proposal between two main characters at the end of season two.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NASHVILLE")

WILL CHASE: (As Luke Wheeler) And I was hoping that you would do me the great honor of allowing me to become your ball and chain.

BALTHROP: And it was right up there on that field that Luke proposed to Rayna, out there on that field. Now, is everybody happy with her decision?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: No.

SINER: Herb and Jana Cassidy, from Ohio, are also on the bus.

HERB CASSIDY: I started talking about this because of the show about a year or so ago.

JANA CASSIDY: It piqued my curiosity about the city 'cause I love country music. And then the, you know, you starting the drama and everything unfold. So it was really cool.

DEANA IVEY: It's like a national commercial - an actually international commercial - every week.

SINER: That Deana Ivey with the Nashville Convention and Visitors' Corporation. Ivey says about half the tourists the CVC surveyed had seen the series and those who did tended to stay a little longer and spend a little more. One of the key places in the series is the Bluebird Cafe. It's a music venue where famous singers have been discovered, both on the TV show and in real life. Manager Elliott Duke says popularity has skyrocketed since the show began.

ELLIOTT DUKE: Oh, yeah, it's like being in a fishbowl when you're working in here. You know, people are, like, tapping on the window or knocking, wanting to buy a T-shirt or just trying to peek in. So, you know, it's funny.

SINER: The relationship between the city and the show isn't always so dewy eyed. At the end of seasons one and two, show executives reportedly threatened to take production elsewhere. For season three, the city and state ended up giving the show $8 million in cash to keep it in Nashville. And there's another threat - TV shows end. Viewership has gone down with each season premiere. Kate Kleinrock with Gray Line of Tennessee, the company behind the bus tours, says that would hurt.

KATE KLEINROCK: It would dramatically impact tourism here in Nashville and in Tennessee, truly, because a lot of our tourists are drive-in tourists and so they drive across state.

SINER: Bus driver Barry Balthrop gets nervous just thinking about the show ending.

BALTHROP: Oh, I would hate that (laughter). I tell people on the bus they can't do that 'cause I can't afford the therapy that I'd have to go through if they did that, 'cause I've gotten caught up in the show too (laughter).

SINER: Deana Ivey, with the Convention and Visitors' Corporation, is hoping for syndications so the series continues to air, even if it's canceled. And Disney just created a vacation package in Nashville, inspired by the TV drama. Weekends in September 2015 are already almost sold out, which means that tourists will be in Nashville next fall, even if the show isn't. For NPR News, I'm Emily Siner in Nashville.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IF I WAS WILLING?")

CARMACK: (As Will Lexington) (Singing) What if you wanted somebody to love you right? What if I was willing? What if you wanted to ride with the windows down? Bare feet banging on the dash to Dylan. What if you wanted somebody to love you right? What if I was willing?

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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