Best Places to Live

Nashville, TN

Population: 634,512

Name, age, occupation: Sarah Hays Coomer, 42, author, health coach, and personal trainer 

How long did you live in LA? I lived in LA for seven blissful years. 

Where did you move? Nashville, Tennessee 

Why did you leave LA?

I was a musician at the time. I came to Nashville to make a record and fell in love with a drummer, who eventually became my husband. Twelve years ago, I moved to be closer to him and to have greater access to the incredible musical talent here in Nashville. But it was more than that. The city had all the benefits of a big city (restaurants, the arts, vintage shops, etc.), and it also had the feel of a smaller town. Before I moved, I came to visit him for a weekend, and we sat on his porch swing while a big thunderstorm blew through. I remember looking at the green of the leaves on the trees and just feeling like I could rest easier here. I could do my thing and chill out at the same time. I had a great little apartment in LA, but the grind of trying to build my training business and commuting all over town was wearing on me.

What's the difference in your rent/mortgage payment in LA vs. your new city? 

Living in Nashville has allowed me to own a home in an awesome neighborhood that I never could have afforded in LA. Granted, I got in before the latest real estate boom, but there are still pockets where you can get a great place with a yard for a decent price, whether renting or buying.

How did leaving LA affect your career/creative life? 

I loved LA, but moving to Nashville has been nothing but good. I came here as a musician but pretty quickly discovered that the singer/songwriters here were much better than me! My interests were shifting anyway, so I decided to pursue writing instead of music. Living in Nashville allowed me to switch gears. There is a creative spirit here. People are always exploring. I didn't feel like I needed to be defined by my past. 

What's something creative you've been able to pursue in your new city that may not have happened in LA? 

Moving to Nashville offered two major advantages creatively. The first is that I was able to get published by submitting to small local magazines and papers. Those first few professional credits gave me confidence and built my platform so I could start submitting successfully to national publications and land a literary agent in NYC. It also allowed me to sharpen my skills without being in the spotlight of media markets like New York and LA.

The second advantage was space. I was able to build three different work spaces in my home. I have an office where I write my books, a gym where I train my fitness clients, and a comfy sitting area where I coach my wellness folks, both in-person and online. It's awesome to have room to breathe and spaces to help separate the different parts of my brain.

What do you miss about LA? 

Many of my best girlfriends are still there. I miss them the most, but I make it back to visit frequently. I also used to go hiking every day at Griffith Park which was therapeutic and, honestly, life-changing. I also miss the melting pot of cultures in East LA. Nashville has huge immigrant and refugee communities and lots of diversity, but it's more segregated than LA.

Tell us something surprising about Nashville that people may not realize. 

Nashville is not all about country music! You can hear indie rock, Americana, and soul music all over the city, literally emanating from back porches in every neighborhood. But beyond that, the best thing about the city is the vibrant and supportive literary community held together by the Nashville Public Library, Parnassus Books and The Bookshop. In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to hear countless authors speak including: Roxane Gay, Melinda Gates, Gloria Steinem, Annie Leibovitz, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Cecile Richards, Daniel Pink, John Meacham, Elizabeth Gilbert, Chelsea Clinton, Jill Biden, and, of course, our hometown hero, Ann Patchett. My bookcase is a treasure trove of signed copies. This town is as much for writers as it is for musicians, and I'm so grateful to be part of that community.