The Stage

The Rise of Cookeville’s Music Scene

Do you hear that? No? Lean in a little closer. That’s the sound of music in Cookeville. I’ll never forget the moment I stepped out of Photo Art Gallery on Spring St. one Friday night after an event. I heard a thump, thump, thump. The rhythm drew me in, so I wandered over to Hix Farm Brewery and discovered, to my delight, an upright bass keeping a steady beat for an accompanying guitar, banjo, and lead singer.  People were tapping their feet, sipping on local craft brews. A few folks wandered across the street to Ralph’s to get a donut. Beer and donuts. Who would have thought? It’s strange, but it works.

In the same way music brings beer and donuts together, music brings people together. It is at the heart of Cookeville’s tight-knit community. In 2016, we proudly rallied around Judah & the Lion when Cookeville native Judah Akers’ song, “Take It All Back” reached #1 on the Alternative Songs chart. And in 2019, we celebrated Jake Hoot’s win on Season 17 of The Voice.

Artists like Judah and Jake are built-in advocates for Cookeville to the artist community in Nashville. But it’s not just local artists that are planting Cookeville seeds in Nashville. 

People like our own Philip Gibbons landed a spot in the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019 and has served as a guest announcer for the Grand Ole Opry for 10 years. And from neighboring town Sparta, TN., Gator Harrison went from the high-rated, award-winning “Gator & The Styckman” morning show at WGSQ/Cookeville to Senior VP of Programming at iHeartMedia Nashville.

Cookeville is taking root in Nashville, resulting in the proverbial tree branching out to Cookeville. Hundreds of Music City’s new artists come to our charming Westside each year,  inviting us to walk and wander from one stage to the next, all to the heartbeat of Cookeville – music.

In the Spotlight


This quarter, we’re putting the spotlight on 37 Cedar Restaurant and Bar! They recently doubled their Westside footprint with a new space devoted to music. With an in-house sound system and a stage with plenty of room for full bands, they are attracting singers and songwriters from all over Tennessee, putting Cookeville on the map in the artist community.  

When I sat down with owner Kevin Maxwell, my question was the question I ask every business owner – Why? Starting a business and seeing it through is not easy. Kevin said he and business partner Chris Batty have wanted to open a restaurant since they were teens. A few decades and successful careers later, they did it. Restaurant owners know that starting out, cost is high and margins are slim. So why do it? Kevin didn’t hesitate: the people. He said his day job enables him to live anywhere he wants yet he came home to Cookeville because of the people. He wanted to invest in the community he loves, and that includes artists. Kevin and Chris clearly have a love for music. Artists who play at their venue feel welcome, valued, and celebrated! 37 Cedar’s investment in the singer/songwriter community is an asset to Cookeville residents and is a huge part of the quality of life that continues to attract visitors and new residents to Cookeville. 

-by Jill Stalnaker

-photos by Ron Baker


%d bloggers like this: