Madison, Tenn. was once home to some of country music’s biggest stars, but it never had a home for the stars’ music.
With The Roots Barn, the latest and largest project from the minds behind Music City Roots, that’s about to change.
When completed, The Roots Barn will be a 60-foot-tall, state-of-the-art music venue, inspired in-part by The Ryman auditorium, but located in Madison (and yeah, it looks like a barn).
It will be “the forever home of Music City Roots,” the Executive Producer of the television/radio show, John Walker, said at an Aug. 6 “barn raising” event, held under the skeleton of the giant structure.
The event saw a who’s who of players in the roots music scene gather in celebration of the new venue, including Americana Music Association Executive Director Jed Hilly, songwriter Jim Lauderdale, bluegrass star Sam Bush, and gospel group The McCrary Sisters.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper, state representatives Bill Beck and Vincent Dixie, members of late country star Kitty Wells’ family, and other notable names and faces were also in attendance.
Cooper praised roots music, which he called “the most honest sound in America today,” and The Roots Barn, which he said is “the newest crown jewel in our live music industry.”
Dist. 51 Rep. Bill Beck and Dist. 54 Rep. Vincent Dixie presented Walker with a House Joint Resolution, congratulating, recognizing and commending The Roots Barn and Music City Roots for “fostering and promoting roots music.”
Nancy VanReece, Vice President of Public Affairs and Business Development for Roots Productions, spoke to the crowd, acknowledging the land as the ancestral hunting grounds of the Cherokee and Shawnee tribal nations. (VanReece is also Metro’s Dist. 8 Councilmember, representing Madison.)
“We recognize and respect indiginous people as the traditional steward of this land,” VanReece said.
VanReece also spoke of the “painful history” experienced by Nashville’s Black residents, and their “significant contributions on and around this land,” including the building of the L&N Railroad.
“We recognize the humanity of enslaved Black people, who built our city’s economy,” she said. “(We) must acknowledge the many Black soldiers who fought for our country in World War II, yet were unable to enter the front door of the (Amqui) Station.”
The Roots Barn is located next to the historic Amqui Station. Built in 1910, it was once a functional train depot. It was purchased by Johnny Cash in 1979 and relocated to his property in Hendersonville, Tenn., where it remained until his death.
Music City Roots has seen a few different homes since its start in 2009, including the Loveless Barn and The Factory at Franklin in Franklin, Tenn. The show has been on hiatus since leaving Franklin in 2017.
Madison was not only home to a long list of country stars — including June Carter, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline — but many A-list session musicians. Elvis Presley’s notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker, even lived there, and Elvis spent time there too.
“We’re right where we were supposed to be all along,” VanReece told The East Nashvillian on Tuesday.
The Roots Barn will hold up to 600 people, and will be made from reclaimed barn wood — possibly making it the largest reclaimed wood structure in North America, VanReece says.
Adjacent to the barn, a separate building will house a remote studio for partner WMOT Roots Radio, the Americana-format public radio station out of Middle Tennessee State University.
“I feel as though we’re building the next Ryman for the next 100 years,” VanReece said.
Three ongoing concert series are planned for The Roots Barn: Music City Roots (Wednesdays), Sunday Soul Brunch (hosted by The McCrary Sisters), and Music City Roots Presents (Mondays), featuring new talent and surprise guests. It will also be booked as a traditional music venue, VanReece says.
“This is a place where some amazing things will happen, new talent will be discovered, and classic veterans will have a place to play,” VanReece said.
The Roots Barn is part of a larger campus being developed in Madison, which includes Amqui Station, a park, and a new tree-lined street, Madison Station Boulevard.
(Correction: John Walker is Executive Producer of Music City Roots, not Executive Director, as first published.)