When Beyondish visited Nashville last month, we were in search of some good dishes and we were not disappointed. (Damn, that chicken is hot!) What we did NOT expect was to stumble upon a local music scene far from the Ryman Auditorium that upon previous visits had remained darned near hidden. Of course we knew Nashville is all about music, but we did not know that there is a vibrant singer/songwriter community providing incredible performances all over town. That was, until we stumbled upon Judy Paster holding forth on a stool with her guitar to a packed crowd at The Listening Room.
Paster, a Pennsylvania transplant to Nashville, has been called a troubador who blends the musical genres of country, Americana, bluegrass and folk. Words like “soulful “and “luminescent” are spoken about this 2021 Josie Music Award Artist of the Year, who has a captivating new song (“Chop Wood, Carry Water”) and is hard at work at her latest album, due out in spring of 2023.
Add to her list of accolades, incredibly gracious, because Beyondish approached her after her Listening Room set and she agreed to share a few thoughts about music, food and life in the Music City.
Must-know breakfast spot in Nashville? And what is your fav dish there?
Noshville is my favorite breakfast spot and I think it’s the only authentic Jewish deli in town. It’s simply perfect for a music meeting, eating with a friend or just having breakfast! Favorite dish? Eggs with avocado and tomato.
Local venues to hear Nashville music that no one from out-of-town has ever heard of?
3rd and Lindsley for local music and touring bands. The sound is always perfect, with a great stage, staff and cozy atmosphere. (Bonus: my husband manages the venue!) Another favorite spot is The Listening Room Cafe which is a larger space and features singer/songwriters – both hit writers and up-and-coming songwriters in Nashville-style writer rounds. I have had the privilege of playing there many times over the last few years. It’s the best sound with attentive audiences made up of tourists, visitors, family and friends!
Gotta try”hot chicken!” Where, and how hot?
Hattie B’s has been around a good long while. I like it medium or medium hot. However, I generally stay away from fried foods, being pretty health conscious – although I do like my sweets now and again.
Your top favorite town to perform in? And your go-to place to eat?
I love performing in my now-hometown of Nashville, and I also really enjoy playing in the Philadelphia area, where I’m originally from. In Nashville, we frequent the Mexican restaurant Cinco De Mayo. It’s a perfect midweek meal in a casual, fun atmosphere. Our staples are the chicken fajita salad, and chicken and beef tacos.
In Philadelphia, we have had a lot of house parties/concerts where my Mom bakes goodies and also brings in catered food from local establishments such as Carlinos, an Italian grocery store about 20 minutes from where I grew up just outside of Philadelphia with gourmet Italian eats!
What part of America most influences your music?
Nashville has definitely been and continues to be a huge influence. The local music scene is absolutely bursting with great songwriters, musicians, producers and music industry professionals, many of whom I call friends and “family.” There are so many passionate and creative people who possess musical talent in all its expressions. Being open to and finding those you are comfortable co-writing and working with plays a major role. Each co-writing session brings something new to the table and each collaborator’s talent and dedication to their particular skill cause me to take a harder look and draw deeper from the musical well inside of me, ultimately helping me to grow as an artist, musician and writer.
Best part of being a songwriter/artist?
I love words! The best part of being a songwriter/artist is the freedom and ability to express myself and touch others with that expression, through my songs, my voice and my guitar. Writing for film and TV also gives me a sense of helping to shape culture through media.
Hardest part that a non-artist would never know?
The intense pressure of being “great.” There is fierce competition in Nashville and in the music industry in general.
Where do you feel most inspired to write?
In my living room doing a co-write, in someone else’s music space at their house, or at a publishing company’s office space. It’s not as much about the writing space for me, as the co-writer who inspires me, our combined ideas.
Was there one person who had a big influence on your career?
There was a musician in Sedona, Arizona where I used to live who taught me “timing” – how to keep perfect rhythm. His name is Joe Dolan. I have lost touch with him but he explained to me that keeping time was the key to becoming a great musician. He also said that I needed to practice every day with a metronome. I took his advice and it changed my guitar playing 100%!!
I’ve also been influenced by my rock roots growing up in the northeast with older siblings. Bands like Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd were popular in my house, as well as Tom Petty and Sheryl Crow. Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young were staples and influenced me early in life as a singer and songwriter. Being exposed to Eric Clapton gave me a taste for Blues guitar riffs. Joni Mitchell and the California music scene helped shape some of my music and artistry. Texas music like outlaw country and bluegrass from Kentucky also made a mark on my music today.
One drink, one icon: Elvis, Dolly or Garth?
I think having a drink with Dolly would be like having a drink with an old friend. I’d imagine her to be so comfortable and down to earth. We do actually have mutual friends and I know for a fact that she is just as warm and wonderful in person as she appears on TV and in concert.
And where might that drink take place?
Merridee’s Breadbasket in Franklin (just South of Nashville) is a great rustic spot for tea, coffee, food and conversation. I love a Chai tea and maybe their fresh- baked pumpkin muffin!
How about a local spot when you’re on the road?
We like Jim Oliver’s Smoke House in Monteagle, TN. It’s the main establishment in a small mountain town in southeastern Tennessee and it draws a lot of travelers passing through with its charm and hospitality. It sits on Monteagle mountain, with an outdoor patio and fire pits, as well as a rustic, cozy environment inside and real southern barbecue. I perform there maybe twice a year and we always eat after the show. My husband likes the BBQ and I defer to grilled chicken and occasionally their yummy brisket.
And a few go-to’s in your adopted hometown?
For a more upscale treat, we love the modern and delicious restaurant Etch in downtown Nashville. Definitely a favorite for a delicious beautifully-plated meal. Our favorite dishes there are the grilled filet, fried Brussel sprouts with chili sauce (my exception to fried) and crispy potato salad. Urban Grub on 12 South has a stylish atmosphere with wood-fired dishes that make the restaurant smell so good when you walk in the door. I love their kale blackened salmon caesar salad. Also, The Pharmacy in East Nashville is a super-fun, bustling environment (with a huge outside back patio that is great in warmer weather) and known for its tasty burgers, tater tots (my husband’s favorite), and sweet potato fries (my favorite)! Each is perfect in its own way for a celebration, or to spend time with your sweetheart or friends.
Visit Judy Paster’s website for information on upcoming performance dates and information on her new single and album.
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