Listening Room Cafe expands to Pigeon Forge as it celebrates 16 years

Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 11:29:40-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After 16 years of growth, the singer-songwriter venue, The Listening Room Cafe, in downtown Nashville is growing to include other locations, starting with Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

"The more I went, you know, there's there wasn't anything like what we do there [in Pigeon Forge]. So it's a quick three-hour drive. It's not far but it's far enough away that the writers will go, it's a great retreat for them. They can go into the Smokies and write songs and then come play the Listening Room at night. And then it just it opens up to you know, to let us take a little piece of Nashville to the Smokies," explained Chris Blair, Listening Room Cafe founder and owner.

The Pigeon Forge location had its grand opening in early March, complete with a 250-seat venue, just like the Nashville location.

"Our whole concept is that you're going to have that intimate setting and hear the stories behind the songs and that's what you're gonna get at either location," said Blair. "But definitely in the Pigeon Forge area, you know, I think it's going to be more of the Bluegrass, Americana that kind of fits to that area."

Blair said the expansion of the Listening Room Cafe will continue to other states as he is in "negotiations" in other cities.

Listening Room Cafe Owner Chris Blair moved to Nashville to pursue his music dreams but ended up founding a business that helps singer-songwriters share their music while providing a unique experience to music-seekers.

Blair moved to Nashville from St. Louis, Missouri, in 2003 to pursue his own music career. He put three songs on the radio, but during his time doing writers rounds around Nashville, he dreamt up a different singer-songwriter venue that became the Listening Room Cafe.

"I'd love to say this was the goal. I think it was the goal, but no, I never expected this," stated Blair.

The first Listening Room Cafe opened in Franklin in 2006. In 2008, it moved to Cummins Station, expanded to Second Avenue in 2012 and in 2017 moved to its current location on Fourth Avenue S.

"We get about 50 emails a day about people that want to play here," explained Blair. "I am extremely picky when, you know, and when we're bringing talent in. But there's so much talent!"

Blair and a small team vet each of the musicians that play at each of the Listening Rooms which has led to helping give names like Carly Pierce, Kelsea Ballerini, Brett Young and dozens more their start.

"It's just kind of going through and listening to tons of songs and finding that talent," explained Blair. "There's a lot of diamonds in the rough when we get so many emails a day of like, wow, like this person just moved to Nashville last week knows literally nobody in town and they are so good. So that's, that's really fun."

The venue has three to four up-and-coming singer-songwriters playing almost always sold-out shows six nights a week.

The Listening Room Cafe's owner Chris Blair and a small team hand pick each musician that performs at each Listening Room location.

To celebrate the years of success, The Listening Room Cafe in Nashville is hosting a Sweet 16 party, Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free live music shows all day long.

"We have some great writers that are on the website with some special guests that will be stopping by so you never know who might jump up on stage," said Blair.

The indoor-outdoor party will also offer brunch, St.Patrick’s Day-inspired dishes and $25 bottomless drafts. The venue's regular ticketed shows will resume Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

"I have been extremely blessed to have so many people come through these doors and be on all of these must-do things in Nashville, right? So I just want it to be a big party. I want everybody to come and just hang out with us and enjoy it," said Blair. "Anyone that comes through the doors, you know, I want them to just feel like they're at home and having a private concert on their couch...That's the reason I built it."

The Listening Room Cafe first opened its doors in 2006 and expanded to a 250-seat venue that hosts singer-songwriters for sold-out shows six nights a week in downtown Nashville.