This year’s CMA Fest will be especially rewarding for Blake Shelton.
Not only is Blake performing at Nissan Stadium on June 8, but his new venue, Ole Red Nashville, is officially celebrating its grand opening as more than 50 artists take the stage June 7-10, including Scotty McCreery, Midland, Cole Swindell, Lindsay Ell and more.
24 years after he attended his first CMA Fest as a fan—known as Fan Fair at the time—Blake has positioned himself as one of country music’s most recognizable faces. At the time, Blake was a 17-years-old aspiring singer/songwriter who had recently moved to Nashville after graduating high school in Oklahoma.
“The first CMA Fest I came to was in 1994, and it was at the Fairgrounds . . . back then it was Fan Fair, and I still call it Fan Fair now,” says Blake. “It was magical for me. I’d just moved to town during that week. My dreams were literally in front of me. These were my heroes. Country music singers shaking peoples’ hands and taking pictures with them and talking to them, and these people were real, and it had a huge impact on me.”
While Blake’s new venue is situated in the heart of Lower Broadway, downtown Nashville wasn’t always such a thriving metropolis. Now, however, it boasts venues backed by some of country’s biggest names, including Alan Jackson (AJ’s Good Time Bar), Dierks Bentley (Whiskey Row), Florida Georgia Line (FGL House) and John Rich (Redneck Riviera).
“What a blessing that [CMA Fest] has grown to this proportion and now it takes over downtown Nashville,” says Blake. “What that does for downtown Nashville, you can’t imagine how downtown Broadway has changed from 1994 to now . . . it’s literally unimaginable how far country music reaches around the globe and how far artists go out of their way to get here for this week. I don’t know anything else like it.”
Located at 300 Broadway, Blake’s new multi-level, 26,000-square-foot entertainment venue features a two-story bar and restaurant, retail area, performance space, dance floor and private VIP booths for small groups. The complex also includes a large, private event space and a 6,000-square-foot rooftop featuring an indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant with panoramic views of Lower Broadway.
photo by Jason Simanek