You think Nashville’s not a tropical paradise? Think again. This week, we asked local singer/songwriter Courtney Jaye to share her top tropical experiences in Nashville – after all, she’s known for her unique sound and style that fuses the South Pacific with the American South. And when you listen to The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye, you’ll see that such a combination, in her hands, works as well as a Mai Tai on a Hawaiian beach. Listen to her music here and read on to do Nashville, Courtney Jaye-style:
Anyone that knows me or has listened to my music in the last 10 years knows that even though I have lived in Nashville since 2007 and plan to remain in this fine city for many years to come, there is and always will be a part of my heart tucked away on a tiny island in the South Pacific, better known as Kauai, Hawaii. I moved to Kauai in my early 20’s and lived there long enough to develop a deep love and appreciation for its people, its culture/history, the lifestyle, natural beauty and, most importantly, ts indigenous and traditional music.
It affected me so much that I have spent a better part of a decade trying to develop a musical sound that fuses my love for authentic Hawaiian music, alongside my other musical loves of traditional country music and classic pop. Weird, right?
Why I have this connection to the South Pacific, I may never know or fully understand. But what I’m talking about is an almost daily, seemingly never-ending physical and emotional desire to be connected to that part of the world in some way, shape, or form…no matter where I am living or traveling. And while I have come to peace with the fact that my job requires me to live on the mainland full-time, I still do everything in my power to incorporate the South Pacific lifestyle into my day-to-day Nashville existence. So needless to say, compiling this list was a complete joy for me. I hope you enjoy…
Top 5 Tropical Nashville Experiences:
1. The Nashville Zoo – The Nashville Zoo speaks for itself. Any place that greets it’s guests with a Hyacinth Macaw exhibit is alright by me. Exotic animals and birds galore.
2. The Omni Hut – Located a bit south of Nashville in Smyrna, The Omni Hut is the oldest Japanese restaurant in the state of Tennessee. This place is channeling Hawaii, circa 1963. I filmed a video at the Omni Hut years ago, and I remember the owner’s daughter Polly telling me that most of the furniture was shipped over from Hawaii in the early 1960’s by her father, retired Air Force Major James Walls. Apparently, he collected everything over the course of his time being stationed in the South Pacific. And the decor IS authentic vintage-exotic. Ancient Goddess masks, fishing nets, and other tropical art/trinkets adorn the tapa-lined walls (and ceiling)…not to mention that faux waterfall in the entry of one of the dining rooms. The recipes have been gathered from the all over the world as well: Hong Kong to Panama, Hawaii to Alaska, Tahiti, Samoa, etc. Though in all honesty, you don’t go to the Omni Hut for the food. You go for the experience. It’s the perfect destination for a group date night, or just going with a bunch of friends. And I highly recommend bringing a bottle of good rum (it’s allowed), and mixing it with the Omni Hut’s own tropical punch.
3. Tropical Cocktails – I spent a night recently doing “research” for this piece at the Patterson House, where our lovely bartendress (and local singer/songwriter) Flinn Pomeroy made an impressive array of tropical cocktails. My favorite was (no shock here), the Mai Tai. It has a slightly almond/nutty flavor from the Orgeat, but it’s not too fruity or sweet. A very balanced and classic tropical cocktail. Mai Tai: Brugal Anejo, lime, House Made Orgeat, Orange Flower Water. (pictured on the right in the cocktail photo in the slideshow below). Other notable tropical drinks: The Nacional (pictured on the left in photo): Barbancourt 3 star 4 year (Rum), lime, Rothman, Winter Apricot Liquer, Pineapple. Crow’s Nest : Sailor Jerry, Orange, Demerara Syrup, Blood Orange Bitters
4. Canoeing The Piney River – I spent an afternoon in May canoeing down the Piney River with a bunch of friends. To me, the Piney is much better (and cleaner!) than the Harpeth. On this day in particular, we were witness to quite a number of water moccasins, who seemed ready to claim their first (possibly mildly intoxicated) victim. It felt about as tropical/Amazonia as one could possibly get, for being on the outskirts of Music City. It certainly reminded me of my days on Kauai…water, friends, canoes, cliff-jumping, campfires. Oh, and it was all caught on film:
5. Thunderstorms & Old Records – Some of my favorite tropical experiences here in Nashville have occurred right in my own home during or after a mild Spring/Summer thunderstorm. I usually choose to put on 60’s Hawaiian music, open up my windows and doors, and let the sounds of the lap steels and rain transport me back to the jungles of Haena, HI (which is home to the rainiest spot on planet Earth). Then the rain stops, the sun begins to peer out from the clouds, and sometimes (as captured in a photo last week), if we’re really lucky…there’s a rainbow.
P.S.-You can find records like these at Grimey’s and The Groove.
Much Aloha, xxx.
Click through for a tropical slideshow compiled by Courtney (we recommend you listen to her music whist doing so):
Photos of Courtney by Heidi Ross