Ron Brice Jumps Through Time at 3rd and Lindsley
Almost every Monday night, The Time Jumpers fill the hall to overflowing at Nashville's 3rd and Lindsley, but the next night you're just as likely to find Gary Clark, Jr., electrifying the crowd with his stinging blues guitar or the McCrary Sisters raising the roof with their energetic call-and-response gospel shouts or Miranda Lambert woodshedding songs in preparation for her upcoming tour.
A little over twenty-five years ago, though, this now-iconic Nashville music venue was a Mexican restaurant that owner Ron Brice and his buddy frequented for lunch. "We ate there almost every day, and one day we get there and the place is padlocked," he laughs. "We started thinking about it and talking about it and decided to buy it." The rest, of course, is Music City history.
Brice is no stranger to buying and selling property. His family had holdings in several little shopping strips, and he learned a lot from managing some of those. And, he's also no stranger to the challenges of running a music venue. "I used to have a country and western venue, The Stagecoach Lounge, out on Murfreesboro Road in the Garth era. All that kind of went south when country and western took a dive, and we closed. With 3rd and Lindsley I just fell right into perfect timing of this wave of cool artists looking for a place to play post-Garth Brooks."
Over the past 25 years, 3rd and Lindsley has steadily evolved into the place local musicians love to go. "We're primarily a locals place," says Brice, "For example, we also have this showcase called Nashville Country Club that features a number of like-minded country artists who are on the cusp of making it big that support each other. Friends of Lola is a local band that's been a staple of the show; they just opened for Trace Adkins; everybody comes out to see them." For Brice and his talent buyer Santo Pullella—who's been with him since 2011—"there's this kind of organic generative structure to the Country Club; it's kind of a way of looking at new talent."
As the popularity of 3rd and Lindsley has grown, so has the venue; "the original cap was 200," recalls Brice, "but we soon renovated the place so it would hold 300-350; in 2010 we expanded once more so now, depending on the configuration of the show, we hold 600-700."
If the venue has continued to grow, the relationships on which the success of 3rd and Lindsley was founded have remained very constant. Brice praises his staff for their hard work and their dedication to the operation. Doorman and former hockey player Nelson "Nelly" LeClair and kitchen manager Willie Henry have been with Brice since 3rd and Lindsley opened, and Kathy Mac has been production manager for 15 years. "Everybody here works hard," he says, "but we have fun."
3rd and Lindsley has also partnered with WRLT—Lightning 100 from the very beginning to produce live shows. "We share the same philosophy," according to Brice. "We're each independently owned and can play whatever we want. We do Nashville Sunday Night with WRLT; it's a live radio show streamed internationally; we also co-produce a lot of shows for Americana radio and also some rock."
In addition to Nashville Sunday Night and Nashville Country Club, 3rd and Lindsley also presents "Nashville Young" for budding musicians, 16-19 years old, that have a connection to music; "we'll do a show with these artists; it's way of plucking out new talent," Brice says.
Of course, one of the biggest draws to 3rd and Lindsley these days is The Time Jumpers, a group of local musicians—Vince Gill, "Ranger Doug" Green, Paul Franklin, Brad Albin, Larry Franklin, Andy Reiss, Kenny Sears, Joe Spivey, Jeff Taylor, Billy Thomas—who started getting together several years ago on Monday nights at the Station Inn just for fun on their "night off." A couple of years ago, the group moved over to 3rd and Lindsley: "I knew they'd been playing the Station Inn and had outgrown it," says Brice. "The show sells out almost every Monday. You can count on it since they don't miss many Monday nights. In my opinion it's their boy's night out; they capture the audience. Each kind of goes to the top of their game and shows off every Monday. Because of that show, it's like half of my job is done," laughs Brice.
Part of the challenge of running 3rd and Lindsley is the diversity of the venue. "We're kind of like a blank slate every night," Brice chuckles. "The challenge is doing a rock show one night and a Time Jumpers show the next night and then a rock show the next night." Brice's first Nashville Sunday was Junior Brown. "We did the first Train show here and had 50 people," he chuckles. Lucinda Williams played there in her early days. "We might get a show when artists are practicing to go out on tour—we had Sheryl Crow, Winona; Miranda Lambert was just here recently. Lady Antebellum shopped that bag of songs that became their first album in town for about a year. Lady Antebellum is kind of like family to us. We've had Gary Clark, Jr., and Andra Day—she was a killer; I still enjoy seeing that killer show and then I think 'okay, what's next'."
What's on tap as 3rd and Lindsley enters its next 25 years? "Over the next few months, we're going to do a series of shows with WRLT—we just co-billed Margo Price with them—and we've got about a dozen shows with NASH-FM called 'Nash Live.' I'd also like to get some of the first bands and artists who played here in the early years to do a show."
The biggest news is that 3rd and Lindsley will soon expand across the river to East Nashville, just four miles from the city on what is the highest elevation in the city. "My partner Richard King and I bought 35 acres in East Nashville," says Brice. Over time more and more artists and music types have made East Nashville their home. We're trying to create an artistic community on this land. We're going to build cottage-style houses with a neighborhood community feel to it on the base of the land. We'll be creating greenways throughout, and on top 10 acres we're putting a venue and an event space. The music venue will be a cool laid back place where people can come out and play. We plan to break ground in October."
Most important, Brice "just wants to do cool good shows; we're doing very well and let's keep doing what we're doing and keep products and promotion at a high end."