Briston Maroney On The Sights, Sounds, And Eats Of Nashville, And Why You Should Visit

Since Briston Maroney was just a kid growing up in Knoxville, he’s always viewed Nashville as a sort of musical mecca, a promised land that separated casual musicians from real working rockstars. “That was the end goal. In my mind growing up, it was like when you go to the city limits, you had to play for your soul,” Maroney tells me over Zoom one autumn morning in Nasvhille, “I literally didn’t fathom that there were other professions other than musicians that kept Nashville running.”

Before Maroney brought his brand of scrappy singer-songwriter music to the world, he bounced between Knoxville, Florida, and California before finally settling in Nashville where he cut his teeth at messy and chaotic house parties, developing a style that reflects the eclectic vibes of the Nashville DIY scene. While the city is known for its influential country and blues culture, Maroney inhabits another more adventurous side of Nashville, and without the influence of the city, he’d be a very different artist.

“It kicked my ass at first and made me feel really small. I had to figure out what my identity was in such a large sea of people who all had pretty loud identities. Every time I realized I wasn’t going to fit in a certain lane in Nashville, I would come a little closer to finding the lane that I knew I could be heard in… what’s unique about Nashville is you see a lot of shows crossing genres. You’ll have a hip-hop act, a punk band, a singer-songwriter, and a jazz band all on the same bill because it’s just all kids who go to college together but end up at the same house party and go crazy together.”

That sort of cross-pollination makes Maroney’s own music hard to pinpoint. There is a level of confessional singer-songwriter earnestness in his work, but there is also a messy punk-indebted side that makes Maroney’s music feel adventurous, poppy, and a whole lot of fun. Think John Prine meets Tame Impala, which is a combination of sounds you wouldn’t know you needed until you actually heard it. This is best exemplified by Maroney’s latest single, “Oregon,” which features a visually stunning video directed by longtime collaborator Joey Brodnax.

We linked up with Maroney ahead of his upcoming Paradise Festival, a two-day festival conceived and curated by Maroney that kicks off on November 3rd. The festival is a celebration of Maroney’s favorite crop of artists, all corraled together to reflect the same sort of intimate vibe found at those early house shows that formed his sound, albeit in a much bigger room, The Brooklyn Bowl Nashville.

“Essentially I wanted to bring in bands that I knew also really valued that homey, small, intimate show feel, but do it on a slightly larger scale. My dream is that I hope it feels like one of those house shows that we all started at. Everyone including the audience is a huge part of that.”

Immediately after Paradise Fest wraps, Maroney will begin work on the follow-up to his full-length debut, Sunflower, which he promises will be his most intimate work to date. Ahead of his Paradise Fest appearance (he’ll be headlining both nights), we chatted with Maroney about everything Nashville has to offer if you should find yourself in the city and are looking for the same sort of crunchy DIY vibe that helped to form him as an artist.

What’s the best Nashville venue and why?

The East Room

It would be the East Room. I think it’s just because of how many lessons I learned in that place the hard way and how much I just would not be who I am without that place. I learned how to play shows, I learned how to settle shows, I learned how to stand up for myself when the sound guy was a jerk. I learned how to follow bands that were louder than us or follow bands that were quieter than us. I learned how to just really figure out who I was and how I wanted to go about taking this journey. Everything happened in that room and it sounds great.

For a music fan visiting Nashville who maybe isn’t so interested in the country music scene, what’s one thing people visiting absolutely have to experience?

Grimey’s

Great question. I mean, there are so many really just insane music stores that are also just full of art and appeal to literally every genre. Of course Grimey’s is a huge one. It’s the pinnacle record store, bookstore, art store that just literally caters to every need. They’re selling Jason Aldean vinyls next to Cat Stevens, next to Lana Del Rey. It’s literally anything you want to listen to or be. If you have any interest in music, you got to go there.

What’s your favorite Nashville breakfast spot, and what’s the go-to order?

Portland Brew

There’s some good breakfast there, man. I go to Portland Brew East a lot, but also Portland Brew on 12 South is somewhere I used to go a ton. It’s pretty shitty and I love it. It’s just your standard coffee spot. I’ll go in there, grab a little cold brew, splash of oat milk, little vanilla syrup and then they have a sandwich called the Arago, just plain and simple egg, cheese, avocado on some multigrain. They also have hot sauce that I think it’s just Frank’s hot sauce in their own bottle, but it’s so good.

What’s the best late-night dinner spot?

Cook Out

Ooh, I don’t know if I’m legally allowed to say Cook Out because it’s not Nashville specific, but the number of times I’ve ended up at Cook Out and said it was the last time I was going to do that and then ended up there three days later. It’s pretty hard to beat, but also Beehive in East stays open pretty late. It’s like a vegan junk food place that they do hot chicken and chicken wings and chicken tenders and fries and tater tots and stuff. It’s like, it’s really just horribly, perfectly gross and greasy and really good.

Is there a fancy dinner spot or is it just the grimier or the better?

Barcelona

I typically end up in grimy situations whether or not I’m trying to, but there’s definitely some really nice restaurants as well. There’s a place called Barcelona that I used to work at when I first moved to town that’s like a tapas place. It’s like a wine bar too. Pretty bougie, really yummy. It’s like giant menu, you just order a ton of small plates and it’s super good.

What’s the best time of year to visit Nashville and why?

Fall

Right now truthfully. All of Tennessee is just beautiful right now. This time of year for us feels a little bit more like West coasty. It starts to get pretty chilly and the leaves start changing colors and it’s just like, I’m actually in Knoxville right now and everything is super orange and just looks an autumn calendar, just the air this time of year is enough to come out here and experience. It’s just really beautiful.

Are the summers there pretty brutal? What do you do at that time of year in the city? Just stay in, bunker down?

Oh, they’re horrendous and it’ll be like 102 until 3:00 PM and then it’ll thunderstorm and rains miserable until 6:00 and then your day is just toast. It’s impossible to work around it, so it’s definitely tough.

You’ve really only got two options. You stay in, try to just not go crazy until the evening when it cools off or you just have to do all the Southern shit and go jump in a lake or go find a swimming hole. There’s a bunch of places within an hour of Nashville that you can drive to that are natural swimming holes and stuff where the water’s just cold on its own. We go to the lake all the time and you have to be in the water the entire time or you fry to a crisp.

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, where in Nashville do you need to go? Where’s the best nature spot?

Bell’s Bend

Bells Bend is my favorite spot, probably maybe 20 minutes outside of Nashville towards Ashland City. It’s not paved, but it’s just a trail cut through this giant field essentially. It’s a six or seven mile loop that all the courses intersect each other and it runs along this river that’s really beautiful. I’d take my dog out there all the time and just let her off of her leash and it’s a maze system so she just goes and runs crazy, but can’t ever get out to the road or get out to the river. She has a blast.

Do you have a favorite Nashville bar and what makes it special?

Dino’s

That’s a great question. Everyone in Nashville would tease me for this because it’s just what everybody says, but there’s a place called Dino’s in East that’s really awesome. I don’t drink and I still love going there. The food is great and it’s totally a place for people who don’t drink or people who do drink, there’s just plenty of options. They have a lot of great non-alcoholic drinks too, and they just have a huge patio area outside where you don’t have to go in near the bar if you don’t want to. It’s just super open and I love that.

I definitely rip an insane amount of coffee and then if I’m at a bar I’ll go for if they have a kombucha, I’m not afraid to admit it.

What’s the best way to experience Nashville in a single day?

Morning walk, drink coffee, chill, grab dinner, hit the theater

Yeah, I mean, my dream day there is this time of year wake up, try to wake up relatively early, 8:00 or 9:00, which I say that because I want to sound good in this interview, but that’s probably bullshit. I probably wake up at 11:00. Go grab some coffee somewhere in East. There’s a lot of spots around where we live. Take my dog out, we’ll go to there’s a place called Shelby Park that’s super close to our house and there’s a greenway out there. Take the dog for a walk, hang out, drink some coffee, go grab some Acai back in East and then go over to somebody’s house. There’s just so many friends that live in our little neighborhood and everybody’s got a porch or a fire pit or something and it’s always just you end up at somebody’s house, just like five or six people and then 10 more people show up throughout the night and it’s a lot of hanging out.

Grab some dinner at Beehive. There’s something else I was going to say. Oh, there’s a spot called Fanny’s that’s a guitar shop. That my favorite place to swing through if I’m feeling like real good and I’m not going to feel bad if I accidentally buy a guitar I can’t afford or something. Yeah, swing through there and then just hang with the people. Oh, there’s a place called the Belcourt Theater as well, which is a little independent movie theater that they play. Just crazy stuff. This time of year they always are playing old school horror movies and stuff. That’s a super fun experience. It’s really beautiful and all the people that work there are really funny and really nice and it’s just a very immersive thing. Yeah, maybe go catch a flick and then if you want to go see a sunset, there’s a place called Love Circle that’s quintessential very, very 18-year-old cringey vibes. I love it. Sunset Spot where everybody goes out and hangs out. It’s just this big hill that looks over in Nashville.

Briston Maroney is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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