Nashville calling: Supermodel Karen Elson wakes up at our new House

Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House

The fashion muse and singer takes us on a tour of Music City, and tells us about life as a local

Tuesday February 22 2022 By Osman Can Yerebakan Photography by Emily Dorio Video by Mika Matinazad Styling by Leslie Stephens Makeup by Colleen Runne Hair by Giovanni Delgado

Last year, a group of residents in Brentwood, Nashville, carried signs that welcomed a neighbour back to their block after a three-week COVID-19 hospitalisation. Model, musician, and Nashville local, Karen Elson, was among the greeters. ‘I realised people really rally for each other here,’ she says. 

Fifteen years is long enough to fall in and out of love – with people, objects, or places – but for Elson, Nashville proves the opposite. Just like many storied connections, hers with the city was accidental, beginning during a cross-country road trip with her ex-husband, the rock musician Jack White, while carrying their first child. ‘On a whim,’ she recalls, they bought a house in what presented itself as ‘a charming and lovely place to raise a child’. Two children, many songs, and countless magazine covers later, Elson still resides here. ‘It’s just one step removed from the metropolitan rat race, but with everything I need,’ she says. 
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
T-shirt, Duke's Bar; jeans, Savas; jewellery, Uncommon James

'Anyone who assumes that we wear plaid shirts and sit on haystacks is wrong – not that there is anything wrong with that'

Establishing herself in the city prior to its ongoing influx of creatives had initially allowed Elson to experience a quieter Nashville; however, the burgeoning population excites the former Londoner – and an old friend coming to town is the cherry on top. ‘I can’t wait to make Soho House my hub for work meetings and lunch dates,’ she says. The city has always been unassuming and humble about its offerings, ‘but now, it’s hard not to notice the creativity here’. Elson thinks Nashville is the next ‘cultural oasis’ after Austin’s resurgence, but for her, the city’s essence lies in a balance between the joy of the moment and taking the time to decompress – a synthesis that she calls ‘a nice counterbalance’.     

The Tennesseean capital and a British supermodel-musician may sound like an odd pairing, but Elson is ready to prove the eyebrow-raisers wrong. ‘Anyone who assumes that we wear plaid shirts and sit on haystacks is wrong – not that there is anything wrong with that,’ she says, recommending Robert’s Western World for that true tumbleweed-blown and lasso-tossing Western experience. Walking the runway for Chanel, Versace, Dior, Balmain, Gucci, or Alexander McQueen in her 25-year career has taken the modelling veteran across the globe. Here, in the American south, she finds the freedom to claim many other roles, including a mum, a neighbour, and a friend – or even ‘a dorky British woman, sitting here on my bed with a cup of tea, my big tom cat Fergus on my lap,’ Elson said in an interview last year. In fact, Nashville reminds her of her hometown of Lancashire, and her life before she was discovered at age 16 by a modelling agent. ‘Being from the north of England always created the impression in the fashion world that I was not sophisticated,’ she remembers. Similarly, the Nashvillian is ready to challenge the similar provincial tropes of her new home. 
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
After her skyrocketing success in the fashion industry in the early 2000s and being photographed by the likes of Peter Lindbergh, Steven Klein, Ellen von Unwerth or Steven Meisel, competition had soon become a reality to grapple with. Around her today, however, Elson experiences an amicable version of productivity. ‘I’ve found an incredible amount of creativity here, and unlike larger cities,’ the 43 year old adds, ‘there is a beautiful lack of competitiveness while everyone does their thing and has each other’s backs’.

With her explosive red hair and Victorian features, Elson could be mistaken for a living Viktor & Rolf mannequin, and when she clutches her guitar, she could have been born and raised within a 10-mile radius. She does not hesitate to blend her two worlds and be a spokesperson for the city: Harper’s Bazaar UK and Russian Vogue have come down here to shoot her for their covers. (Sean Brock’s restaurant The Continental provided the backdrop for this feature.)
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House

Cardigan, Proenza Schouler at Modiste; trousers, Modiste

‘You have to be open to all types of music here besides country: there’s rock, indie, folk, Americana, and poetry,’ she says. The Blue Room at Third Man Records, the iconic Ryman Auditorium, and the dive bar, Duke’s, are her regular go-tos for a night out, although she admits her rhythm is mainly synced with her teenage children’s. For a bite with friends, she chooses between FOLK, Bastion, or Locust, and enjoys sipping a cocktail at Midtown’s sleek bar, The Patterson House.  

To recharge, Elson heads to Radnor Lake for its hiking trails and vistas. ‘My friends have amazing niche boutiques here, too,’ she adds. Brooke Baxter’s vintage jewellery at Arrow and Anchor, Alyssa Spyridon’s rugs at Relic Home, and Salt Ceramics run by Jess Cheatham are her favourites, as well as the local boutique, Modiste, for its curated range of established international brands and young designers.    
Karen Elson's Nashville | Soho House

Dress, Gucci

‘You might have a hangover, but you will be entertained here,’ says Elson, describing a typical few days in Nashville. Professionally, she has concocted a balance between creating locally (‘I write and record so many songs here,’) and hopping on a plane to New York or Los Angeles when the work calls. ‘But,’ she adds, ‘my day always includes driving my kids to school.’




Karen’s new record, Green, is out 28 April; it is her third full-length album (after The Ghost Who Walks and Double Roses – she also released her first EP Radio Redhead Vol. 1 in 2020). It was co-written and produced alongside the award-winning musical duo of Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk and ushers in a new musical era for her, in both direction and sound.


For more information on Soho House Nashville, click here. To become a member, click here.


Read more: 

Hot damn! Why food in Nashville ain’t all about chicken

Maren Morris is Tennessee’s finest country-pop export

Country music's next wave is loud and queer


Interested in becoming a member?