The 200-acre Park at Harlinsdale Farm is a far cry from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But if you’re in Franklin, Tennessee on September 24 and 25, you’re likely to experience some flashbacks from the 2022 GRAMMY Awards — think Album of the Year winner Jon Batiste, Best Country Song of the Year artist Chris Stapleton, and multi-nominee Brandi Carlile on the main stages at the seventh edition of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.
Launched in 2015 by Better than Ezra frontman and Franklin resident Kevin Griffin and partners — another local by the name of Justin Timberlake joined the team a year later — Pilgrimage quickly developed a national reputation as a daytime event unlike anything else across the land. Rolling Stone called the first edition the “best curated festival in the country,” and over the years, headliners have included Sheryl Crow, Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, Eddie Vedder, Jack White, and Justin Timberlake.
Because crowds are limited by the venue, the experience is akin to seeing these arena headliners playing in your friend’s big backyard, and all of it is wrapped around a showcase of local food, drink, artisan crafts, and musicians on world-class sound stages, set against the pastoral backdrop of a historic horse farm turned passive park (complete with the spectacular sunsets).
This year’s event has taken a notable turn toward the roots of American music, both in the lineup (The Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive, Marty Stuart, Elle King, Trampled by Turtles, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, and many more) and in immersive activations like the Americana Music Triangle Experience, which showcases the routes from blues to country and gospel connecting Nashville to Muscle Shoals and New Orleans.
Griffin says Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival was “inspired by friendship, history, experience and the desire to create an authentic music festival,” and the event has matured into a true celebration of all that makes Middle Tennessee—and by natural extension, American music—meaningful to the world. Among the five stages, you’re just as likely to connect with an emerging artist as a superstar. And, it’s worth noting that a number of today’s chart toppers were not too long ago being featured as the emerging artists on those same Pilgrimage stages.
Back in 2007, Chris Stapleton was the front man for the Steeldrivers, playing bars in and around Williamson County. By 2015, the same year he swept the CMA Awards with his solo debut album Traveller, he was part of the inaugural lineup at Pilgrimage, supporting his hometown festival. In 2017, he made an appearance during Justin Timberlake’s set, for their hit rendition of “Tennessee Whiskey.” And he was set to headline the festival in 2018, the year a deluge washed out the whole weekend, cancelling the event.
Carlile was on the bill that year, as well, for the performance that never happened. Since then, she’s won four GRAMMYs of her own, along with a host of other accolades as she’s helped lead the resurgence of roots music in popular culture.
This year, in addition to his return to the stage, Stapleton and his wife Morgane are partnering with Pilgrimage producers on a fundraising sweepstakes for their foundation, Outlaw State of Kind. The benefit offers one lucky winner and a guest to an all-expense-paid VIP Pilgrimage experience, plus a signed Gibson ES-335 vintage burst guitar. For any donation of $10 or above between now and September 7, participants are entered to win two two-day VIP passes, including express entry to the festival; stage-front viewing areas; access to the VIP Village Pavilion; round trip travel to Franklin plus a three-night hotel stay for two; ground transportation stipend to and from the festival; a tour of the Gibson Garage and Exclusive Backstage Vault; and a Pilgrimage Music Festival merch package. Click here to enter!
And through Visit Franklin, book any Pilgrimage stay that occurs between September 21 – 27 and receive a free Pilgrimage swag pack from the Visitor Center. The entire week will be filled with pre-festival events around town, including live music at celebrated venues Gray’s on Main, The Franklin Theatre, Puckett’s, Americana Taphouse, and more.
To learn more about the best places to stay, dine, and explore in Franklin during Pilgrimage weekend, check out the free digital Pilgrimage 2022 Guide!
If you haven’t already gotten your Pilgrimage tickets, don’t wait until it’s too late…get them here today, and we’ll see you in September.