Got a minute? Well, that’s all you get in a Bluebird Cafe audition.

An empty Bluebird Cafe before a writer’s night. PHOTO COURTESY OF VISUALJOURNALISM22OO.WORDPRESS.COM

An empty Bluebird Cafe before a writer’s night.
PHOTO COURTESY OF VISUALJOURNALISM22OO.WORDPRESS.COM

A performing songwriter has only one minute to impress a Bluebird’s selection committee.  A single mistake and it’s over, but perform flawlessly and you could have your own show at this world-renowned venue.  It may not be quite that serious, but the rules are very strict. This audition could be considered one of the toughest job interviews you’ll ever have.  Some people travel from all over America to participate—many have been in Nashville only a day or two, taking time from their regular jobs with the hope of being scheduled for the Bluebird Cafe’s Sunday Night Writer’s Round.

Throughout the year, the Bluebird Cafe offers auditions for potential songwriter showcases. Tryouts take place at the Bluebird Cafe, and the audition process differs from that of many other venues in that it involves passing the difficult test of a musical performance, according to Erika Wollam Nichols, president of the Bluebird Cafe’.  “It doesn’t matter which genre of music you select. These auditions are used to test the ability as a singer/songwriter by a performance in your own chosen style of music and has been for 30 years. Our goal is to provide opportunities for writers to grow through networking and performance,” Nichols expresses.  ” I urge aspiring songwriters to perform their songs for strangers. to see how they respond. Your family and friends will tell you that the songs are great when sometimes they need work.”

Songwriter Stacy Stone auditioned for one of the treasured spots at the Bluebird. PHOTO COURTESY OF STACY STONE

Songwriter Stacy Stone auditioned for one of the treasured spots at the Bluebird.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STACY STONE

Aspiring songwriter Stacy Stone, who auditioned earlier this year, thinks of the Bluebird as a place to perform where her heroes have performed. ” When I found out I could audition to play an actual writer’s night there, I was ecstatic. A few times I played at the Monday Night Open Mic, and that’s how I learned that the Bluebird is one of the few places I get legitimately nervous when I’m performing.  I am happy to say on my third audition I made it through, so I’m very proud of myself for consistently going back and auditioning.”

The auditions are performed before a panel of judges from the Bluebird staff and NSAI staff members. Their roles are very difficult, because they have to be objective and, more times than not, they have to sit through some auditions that are simply unpleasant.  The songwriters, on the other hand, are chancing criticism. In this town, however, if you’re afraid of that you might as well pack it up and go back home.  “The Bluebird Cafe’ auditions are just a simple songwriters’ night audition,” a very successful songwriter friend of mine told me once. “ Most people in the music industry are hired to say ‘No.’ It doesn’t mean your songs are not good if you get rejected. It probably means the songs you played for them are not what they’re looking for at that time.”

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Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Larry Gatlin and Bart Herbison at The Bluebird Café, February 2013 PHOTO COURTESY OF BART HERBISON

Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, Larry Gatlin and Bart Herbison at The Bluebird Café, February 2013
PHOTO COURTESY OF BART HERBISON

ongwriters like Deno Marquee are eager to take that chance.  Marquee also auditioned earlier this year for the Bluebird. Like Stone, he played the Bluebird’s Open Mic earlier in the year and got the urge to audition for a Sunday Night slot.  According to Marquee, the best part was meeting so many interesting and talented new people to share stories, songs and possibly co-write with.  So many songwriting relationships start at events like the Bluebird auditions—some even develop careers.  It enables your song to be heard by a lot more people when you co-write.  Collaborative writing is a common practice in the Nashville songwriting community. It is a unique experience that involves a great amount of trust and can display your verbal description of your emotional feelings to the world.  This kind of writing can forge friendships and sometimes romantic relationships that last a lifetime.  I have always been told that you should never underestimate the power of a song.

Songwriter Justin Buttrey also tried out for the Bluebird. “It was a last minute thing for me. I had decided to audition in August, but when I saw on Facebook they had extra spots open last minute, I decided to go for it and put my name in the hat.  I got the reply that I made the audition a few days after sending my email submission.  I botched the lyric in my first verse while performing, but overall it turned out good.”

I heard Justin audition, and I thought he did great. Keep one thing in mind when you perform in a high-pressure situation like singing your own songs for a crowd of your own peers, especially when you’re being judged. Conventional wisdom suggests you should keep calm, but some people perform better when they don’t try to relax. Instead, you might try to take simple steps to get excited about the challenge at hand. There is one thing you should remember: According to the Bluebird Cafe, this will not make or break your career, so make it fun.  You might not get it right the first time, but that’s okay. You can always try again.

Michael Braunfeld was one of the lucky performers who earned a spot after his one-minute audition at the Bluebird. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL BRAUNFELD

Michael Braunfeld was one of the lucky performers who earned a spot after his one-minute audition at the Bluebird.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL BRAUNFELD

Songwriter Michael Braunfeld flew in from from Pennsylvania to audition and stated he was very humbled that he got to even be a part of this event. “I couldn’t believe I was flying down to Nashville with no time to arrange any other meetings or business, just to play one verse and one chorus of one song, around one minute.  I decided to play a song that I had written my last trip down to Nashville. It seemed I got a good response from a few other writers in the room, but you never know.  I bought a t-shirt for my wife and some stickers for my children, and I headed to the airport.  Six weeks later, I found out that I was awarded a slot in a round at The Bluebird on Sunday Night Writers Slot.  I am so excited.”

NSAI’s Executive Director Bart Herbison, whose non-profit organization is the owner of the famed Bluebird Cafe, has this advice to give.  “If you want to audition for the Bluebird Cafe, you must go online to apply. There is always a set time, and there is a one minute window to fill out the form and press ‘send’ before the auditions fill up.  Once you receive an email confirmation that your email got through, it means you will be auditioning on that particular date.  The rules are strict. The Bluebird Cafe’ audition rules state, ‘You must be in line outside The Bluebird no later than 10:30 am to check in. You will perform in the order you arrive. However, absolutely no one will audition if they arrive after 10:30.  You should plan to play one verse and one chorus of an original song that you wrote or co-wrote.’ This is something that should be fun. Good Luck… Keep writing! And remember, this will not make or break your career.”