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Bluebird Cafe

April 6, 2014



B is for the famous Bluebird Cafe. It’s fitting for it to be the subject my first post on places to go and things to do in Nashville. If Tim had a bucket list, going to the Bluebird Cafe would be on it. It might even be at the top. Back in his songwriting days, the dream would be more specific. Maybe it still is. The real dream for Tim is to sing at the Bluebird Cafe. If that is the only thing we did on our upcoming vacation, Tim would  still consider it our best vacation ever.

The Bluebird Cafe is a place for songwriters to perform their original songs. It is well known as a listening room, and has a strict “Shhh” policy. That means you be quiet while the artists are performing. The Bluebird’s signature style is acoustic. No back up music or drums are allowed—only the artists and their guitars.

This isn’t a place we can just pop into when we happen to fit it in. Besides the long lines to get in, it has a specific performing schedule. Sunday nights are reserved for writers who have auditioned and passed a screening process. Auditions are only open to Nashville residents, people residing within a 100 mile radius of Nashville, and active members of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. Those who make it through the screening perform on Sunday Writers Nights.

Early Shows are held Tuesdays through Saturdays and feature up-and-coming artists chosen from the Sunday Writer Nights. They must have performed at least four times on the Sunday format and have high scores from the judges. The Early Shows are typically held in the Bluebird’s “In the Round” format, in which the artists sit in a circle in the middle of the room, or in an “In a Row” format on the stage. It’s got an intimate concert feel.

Later in the evening on those days, there are performances by artists whose music is regularly on the charts. The music isn’t limited to country music. It includes pop, rock, and Contemporary Christian music as well.

The best way for an out-of-towner to get a chance to sing at the Bluebird is to go to an Open Mic night, which they hold on Monday nights. This would also be the path to take for anyone who has never performed at the Bluebird. Open Mic night might be a little tough to get a spot in. There is a whopping fifteen-minute time frame in which to sign up. They allow you to start lining up an hour ahead of time, but you have to be signed up within the fifteen-minute time frame. They draw names from the people that sign up and announce who the performers for the night will be. If your name isn’t drawn, you get a “Play Next Time” ticket. That ticket puts you at the top of the list the next time you are there for Open Mic night.

This tiny, hole-in-the-wall type of bar seats around ninety people. With its enormous popularity and limited seating, reservations are probably the only way to be sure we will get in. This might be tough since we usually have to take trips on nearly last-minute notice.  We never know when Tim is going to be off work far enough in advance to actually book anything in advance. The good thing is the Bluebird only takes reservations a week in advance, so maybe we’ll at least have that much notice.

I don’t know if Tim will have a couple of original songs ready in time for Open Mic night, but I plan to nag him about it. Maybe we can do an Open Mic night and also go during the week for an Early Show and then stay for the big show afterwards. I’m looking forward to sharing this dream with him and I’m looking forward to having pictures to share with all of you.

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  1. Kensi Kempf permalink


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