Sophia Shi and the Nashville Teen Music Scene

What does Music City’s history mean to those who grew up around it?

Sophia Shi and the Nashville Teen Music Scene (Courtesy of Sophia Shi)

Nashville, Tennessee has been making musical history for over a century. Its legacy is very alive and certainly well in its youth, where students across Nashville, also called “Music City” regularly write, perform, and produce music.

Sophia Shi, a junior in high school in the city, is living the Music City dream. Though she doesn’t perform country music, which is what Nashville is primarily famous for, she perfectly embodies the teen music scene. She writes music, performs in venues (she told YR she is performing in five different shows in May), and has even released a 6 song EP called, “Where They Fall, I Follow.”

Nashville’s streets drip with music, with its main tourist street of Broadway (which holds its famous Honky Tonks) constantly playing live music from artists across genres. The National Museum of African American Music is also located on this thoroughfare.

Shi told YR Media how important Nashville’s influence has been. “Being in a city where music is so celebrated and everyone around you is so invested in it has encouraged me to put more time and effort in,” she said. Though she grew up in a family that didn’t put a big emphasis on music, Nashville’s influence helped Shi to indulge her passion for singing. She elaborated on that, saying she loves singing in general but especially performing.

“Being up on stage, you just lose yourself, and you think oh, this is amazing I want to do this forever,” she said. “I get to play and listen to really talented people, and collaborate with them. I’ve been writing music on my own, but I started writing with other people. Playing in a band is so much fun. You get to see the music you write become something else. It’s a really rewarding experience.”

Though music is undoubtedly a positive experience, it certainly comes with challenges, especially self-validation. “The hardest parts are feeling like your music is worthy of being shared with other people,” Shi said. “I definitely struggle a lot with finding confidence in my abilities. It’s hard to tell myself it’s something I should be doing.”

Nashville has musicians and tourists coming to the music capital in droves. Though its hot temperatures are consistent with its southern location, it (and its tourism industry) has grown exponentially in size and its tourism industry. Between 2022 and 2023, Nashville grew by some 30,000 people. That’s 82 people moving to the Southern city each day. Some people move for the weather, the nightlife, or the jobs. Others move for the music.

“There’s so much variety in Nashville with the bands you see. There’s obviously a lot of country, but the people I hang around and the media I consume have had a big impact on me,” Shi said. “Being here has exposed me to a lot more people that’s affected my music a lot.”

This variety in music is what has exposed so many other young people and created a love for music within Nashville’s youth. Years fly by along Nashville’s music scene, and many things change, but music is not one of them. Nashville’s history of music is rich, but it’s not just its history — it’s its present. Nashville was and is a city of music, and that manifests in its teenage musicians.

Finally, she told other young musicians to never be discouraged by what they feel the quality of their music is. She said that, even compared to what she was doing a year ago, her musical skills had grown exponentially. “It’s amazing how much you grow when you do the things you love,” Shi said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the terrible songs I wrote when I was 13.”

Stream Sophia Shi’s “Overalls” is out now on all platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

Emmie Wolf-Dubin (she/her) is a high school student in Nashville who covers anything from entertainment to politics. Follow her on Instagram: @redheadwd07. 

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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