Origin stories really draw you in. Whether it is about the beginnings of a popular live music venue or world renowned musicians, we all have this desire to find out where things or people came from. The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville is an iconic live music venue which came from humble beginnings to be the place it is today. Fans of music think of it as a place one must see/experience at least once in their lives. The Brian A. Loschiavo documentary really allows you to dive into the place.
Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, Faith Hill, and Garth Brooks are some of the biggest names in country music today. What do they all have in common, you ask? Well, they all had their beginnings at a place in Nashville, Tennessee called the Bluebird Cafe. You get a taste of how a bunch of musician came there to chase their dreams and many found them.
Like many of the best live music venues, the Bluebird Cafe is rather an unlikely place in an obscure location. Located in a suburban strip mall, it is the type of place which even though you are looking for it you might drive by it without even realizing.
It used to be called the Green House Game Room and featured pool tables, a kitchen and the like. Then in 1982 Amy Kurland bought it and they built a bar into it and wanted to have an antique look to the decor. Women would come over to the restaurant after they had their hair done next door (including Minnie Pearl). Someone suggested they have live music there.
They did that and in the beginning it was loud and smokey and packed. The music would be turned up louder and louder to get rid of diners. Steve Earle and the Talking Heads played there during that time. Kurland’s place then evolved into a place where songwriters would go to showcase their songs. Soon moved performers to the middle of the room. People went there to really listen to music.
There are 90 odd seats in the place and with the performers in the round, you are sitting right next to them listening. It is an experience you cannot get very often. Interesting to hear famous songs sung by the people who wrote them. Often brings a different twist to it. A small handful of people in Nashville who write songs for the likes of Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers, and Keith Urban perform there.
The Bluebird is also famous for its audition process which has been going on since the 80s. It happens usually on Sundays. Songwriters and aspiring singers line up to audition. They are allowed to play one minute of a song and are judged upon that.
More recently with the beginning of the network television program Nashville, the Bluebird became an even more popular place as some of the show was filmed there. People came out of the curiousity factor and stayed because of the music.
It is a small business. They could make more money somewhere else. Those who work there are passionate about music and the staff is like family.
Artists you know like Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Maren Morris, Sam Hunt, Taylor Swift, Kathy Matthea, Kelsea Ballerini, Steve Earle, Hunter Hayes, Pam Tillis, and Brandy Clark either perform or talk about the influence that the Bluebird has on the music industry or on their own careers.
There is a cool balancing act going on between talking about the multi-platinum acts which began there and showcasing some up and comers trying to break in the music industry there.
As an aside, because of all that has happened recently, it was odd watching Taylor Swift perform there a song she had written for Little Big Town called “Better Man” in front of Scott Borchetta.