For East Tennessee musicians, the desired natural flow is to the west, to Nashville or Memphis.
Of course, an artist can develop in Bristol or Knoxville or Chattanooga. They can gig around Pigeon Forge, play the shows in Gatlinburg and make a name for themselves locally.
Still, the gravitational pull of Middle and West Tennessee is strong.
Some of that has begun to change as Nashville venues have looked to the Smokies as a place where they can expand their brand, get more exposure for artists and rake in tourist dollars that aren’t making the three-and-a-half-hour drive to the Music City.
Is The Listening Room Cafe in Pigeon Forge open?
The new location of The Listening Room Cafe opened over the summer on Teaster Lane on Pigeon Forge’s Mountain Mile. It is bringing the best of the Nashville music industry to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Mountain Mile is home to other popular shops including REI, Cinnaholic and Downtown Flavortown (coming soon), near the Riverwalk Greenway.
The Listening Room Cafe isn’t some wild Honky Tonk.
As the name suggests, it’s a place to come hang out with friends. A place to have some good food and drinks while listening to live music from songwriters who perform their original, iconic music.
The idea in Nashville – and it carries to Pigeon Forge – is to showcase local talent.
But Chris Blair, singer and songwriter and member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International and The Recording Academy, has developed relationships in Nashville.
This allows him to bring popular songwriters to town to perform the songs they wrote for big-time country artists.
These aren’t covers.
These are the original songwriters – or co-songwriters – performing their own songs.
For example, Keesy Timmer and Jason Duke, booked for two shows in late October, have written with country star Kelsea Ballerini.
The owners encourage a light, friendly and respectful atmosphere.
They don’t have a no-talking policy but encourage whispering during the show. Many shows are acoustic.
Who owns The Listening Room Cafe?
Chris Blair is the owner and founder.
The Listening Room Cafe was established by Blair in 2006 in Franklin, Tenn.
After something of an odyssey, the venue settled down in the Historic National Harvester Building in Nashville in 2017.
The Listening Room in Nashville is listed as a must-see spot and has been voted Best Singer/Songwriter venue.
Blair, who had been hoping to expand to other locations, fell in love with the Sevier County area and opened Pigeon Forge as a second location in July 2021 in the vibrant Mountain Mile area, a venue that has plenty of parking.
Designed to be a convergence of the Nashville singer/songwriter and foodie scenes, The Listening Room operates in a new community for local artists. In other words, it’s a different fashion from any other bar, restaurant or music venue in the area.
For clarity’s sake, it’s helpful to treat the bar/restaurant and the music venue as two separate ideas.
Is there a cover charge at the Listening Room Cafe?
Most shows have a $5-15 cover charge to pay for the talent in addition to the $15 per person food and drink minimum to take up a seat while you enjoy the performance.
A reasonable cost to hear some of the nation’s best songwriters perform.
However, there is no cover, ticket or minimum purchase required for the bar or restaurant, located separately from the stage area.
The facility is family-friendly and smoke-free, but you must be 21 or over to sit at the bar.
How long are the shows at The Listening Room Cafe?
The music venue hosts one or two rounds of live music each night, one at 6 pm and another at 8:30 pm. Tickets are available online prior to the show to reserve a table inside The Listening Room.
The venue is usually open until 11 pm.
Because the facility is located on Teaster Lane, you have some alternative routes to reach the show.
Management does strongly encourage ticket holders to factor heavy traffic into the planning process.
Reservations are held for 15 minutes after showtime. Tickets are non-refundable.
What type of food is served on The Listening Room Cafe menu?
“We would classify ourselves as a polished casual contemporary restaurant with a southern edge,” The Listening Room website explains.
The full-service kitchen offers a full menu of American cuisine.
Currently, that means burgers, fries, chicken tenders and wings. There’s a salad, a couple of apps and a turkey sandwich that sounds pretty good.
The brunch menu adds fried chicken and biscuits and gravy to the mix.
They also offer a robust cocktail list with two full-service bars.
Also, large parties are welcome. However, tables will not be pushed together.
Ultimately, The Listening Room is an interesting bridge between two worlds.
Indeed, it brings the best, most interesting parts of the Nashville scene to the Smokies.
In fact, this experiment makes it easier for visitors to the area to connect with the artists as well as the music with its less heavy-handed feel.
Visit the website for a show calendar and to see current artists and upcoming shows.
What do you think? Have you been to The Listening Room Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.