‘Looking past the Pandemic’ with Tami from Nashville, Tennessee

Keeping travel dreams alive and setting goals has never felt more important. We can all agree that 2020 has been an unfortunate year so far, and almost every facet of daily life has been wrought by this ongoing global pandemic, the start of which now feels like forever ago. The arts has been one of the hardest hit areas, so The AU Review has kickstarted a Q&A series “looking past the pandemic”, encouraging creatives from around the world to share their travel hopes, dreams, and the thoughts or things that are getting them through 2020, while also highlighting essential experiences in their own country.

Tami (Nashville, Tennessee)

Tami splits most of her year between Nashville and Thailand, straddling two completely different settings, which makes her absolutely perfect for a Q&A series like this. And just as she balances different worlds, Tami also courts many styles, often cobbling jazz and blues into her classic Nashville country sound. That is most evident on new EP Together Apart, a dynamic and soulful collection listing earthy covers of songs by Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, and more.

When travel opens up completely, the first place I’m going is…

The first place internationally will be Thailand! We always love to go in the winter months. It’s really warm over there. They call it ‘high season’ during that time. Many, many people from all over the world go. I always schedule recording, shows and photo shoots when we go. And I get to sing and play with so many people that I love. We stay busy!

Bangkok is an essential stop for anyone looking to explore Thailand.

Three spots in Thailand I think everyone should visit at least once in their life…

Firstly, Bangkok. Mostly everyone flies into Bangkok first. There they will enjoy the ultra- excitement of a bustling, fashionable, alive, vibrant, Exotic SE Asian city. So many things to do. You’ll be absolutely overwhelmed with the pulse of the city and the food.

Secondly, Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. You will experience the mountains and beautiful scenery of Lanna Culture and early Thai customs. There are fabulous artists there and artistry you can watch. Also, elephants that are living in peaceful surroundings and natural habitats. Home to the art of Thai Massage. The very first thing we do when we arrive in Thailand is go for massage. We dream about Thai massages all year long. They are that good. 

Thirdly, the islands! Thailand has the most gorgeous islands and ocean life. That’s when you really can relax and experience island life and perfect living in combination. It completely renews my soul. Our very favourite island is Koh Chang. It’s our second home. You shouldn’t miss visiting the world-renowned blues club called Oodie’s Place on Koh Chang. I can’t say enough about the Thai people. Just a beautiful, beautiful culture. 

Whenever I have a visitor in my city (Nashville) and I want to show them a good night out, the first place I take them is…

I have to take visitors first and foremost to lower Broadway and the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum so they can get the iconic feel of how permeating country music is to this city. Hundreds of live music venues, 365 days a year, starting early and continuing into the wee hours.
The next day I would take them on a beautiful sightseeing adventure of historic places and rolling hills that surround metropolitan Nashville and get them to experience great southern comfort food. Monell’s and Nashville Hot Chicken. Loveless fruit jam and biscuits all intertwining the music scene, which isn’t all country. Amazing musicianship here. 

We’d end the night at Hermitage Hotel for a cocktail, possibly. Then out to our farm 45 minutes west for peace and serenity.

Head to Tianjin was an immersive experience for Tami

The most memorable thing I’ve eaten on the road…

Hmm … for the western palate, the Asian diet is beyond fascination. And there is a lot to learn. I never want to be the type of person to say “our way is the best way.” If you ever had a glimpse of Anthony Bourdain‘s travel culinary shows you get the idea.  We have been so lucky to have been immersed in Chinese SE Asian culture for the last 10 years.

And food is definitely one of those cultural experiences that reformats your food brain. When we first started traveling, we would do what I call tourist travel. That in itself can give a wonderful experience in a quick way to different cultures.

The extreme for us was when we fully immersed into a Chinese, non-western speaking neighbourhood in Tianjin China. The signage was all in Chinese pinyin (symbols) I didn’t have the ease of western romanization of words first of all to understand what was in each store, so I physically would go in to see, feel and smell the environment and discover the day to day life of Chinese living. In our neighbourhood and most all of China, food shopping is an every day event versus shopping and storing like we do in the US. 
There are extremely fresh vegetables and fruit. When you are feeding 1.2 billion people in the country, the quantity of produce is unfathomable compared to tiny boutique stores. There are truckloads of produce delivered daily to roadside stores and independent wet markets (a wet market basically means vegetables and fruit because the floor sometimes is wet to rinse everything.)
There is also the ideology of herbs and medicinal qualities to the food for every type of ailment or health. I tested as many things as I possibly could but still, there were things I never did eat because I was not feeling it at that moment to do so, but I do recognize the pragmatic sense of eating an animal where every part would be used as not to waste. For example, chicken feet and fish eyeball are the delicacy. Stinky tofu is a specially prepared tofu that really gets your sense of smell going, but as the locals would say, if you can get it past your nose, it’s good! They were right! 

Thailand is the land of exotic spicy food. It’s the best prepared street food in the world

READ: Here’s everything you should do for your first time in Bangkok
The one international venue I’ve always wanted to play…

My business partners own and operate the most spectacular music theatre in Bavaria Germany called Festspielhaus Füssen. It is right next door to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle of King Ludwig. I’ve seen footage of the extraordinary shows, and we are planning to go!  I want to go to Australia, of course, and play one of the many Blues and Jazz festivals and Blue Note Tokyo is on my list to play.

The one international destination I’ve yet to visit but have always dreamed of…

Every single one! Australia, Tonga! I did a DNA test and in my top 5 of nationalities, Tonga is in my bloodline, so I have to check out that island. Northern Lights, Egypt, Africa, Austria, Prague, Switzerland, Sweden. I’m meeting people from all over the world and can’t wait to visit them all.

The three things or thoughts that are getting me through this pandemic…

That it won’t be forever. It’s a time of enlightenment, and the world will be even better someday because of empathy and love. It’s time.

For more on Tami head on over to her Facebook here.

Photo by Randee St. Nicholas.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.