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Late Night at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

I had a choice while on a media tour sponsored by Visit Music City: Go back to my room at Hotel Indigo and transcribe my many pages of handwritten notes or take in the late show at the Bluebird Café. I was tired. This was my first trip to Nashville, I’m not a country music fan, and I’d never seen the TV show “Nashville.”

My fellow journalists assured me I didn’t want to miss out on the Bluebird Cafe.

I’m very glad I went. Listening to the songwriters perform their own works and hearing the stories behind them was insightful and intimate. I felt, for a couple of hours, I was peering into their inner circle as they made music magic.

Waiting for the doors to open to the 9 p.m. show.


We arrived at a drab strip mall, where the venue is marked by a green canvas awning and striped barber pole. An orderly mob had gathered, awaiting entrance to the 9 p.m. show. The doors opened, and we quickly were ushered to a vinyl-clad table. The walls bore posters of music legends and cascades of white icicle lights. A friendly but efficient server took our drink order.

One of the most unique ways to hear music in Nashville is at a songwriters show. They perform their own songs, many of which have been made famous by someone else singing them, in small spaces called listening rooms. The Bluebird Café is a 90-seat listening room established in 1982. Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and a 15-year-old Taylor Swift performed here before they became famous. The room gained worldwide recognition a few years ago as a key location in the “Nashville” storyline.

The songwriters perform “in the round” at the center of the audience.


The musicians sit in the center of the room, where they are spotlighted and surrounded by two rows of tables. The night I was in the audience, the lineup included Kate York, Gabe Dixon and Leigh Nash. Their performance was a benefit for Musicians Corner, a free summer concert series in the city’s Centennial Park.

Kate York has written more than a dozen songs that have been performed on “Nashville,” including the Season One finale with Sarah Buxton, “Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again.” She performed that one and also “I Will Never Let You Know.”

Gabe Dixon, whose work also has been featured on the show, sang “Can’t Say No to Love.” Leigh Nash and hubby Stephen Wilson dueted her “Somebody’s Yesterday,” an ode to lost romance.

Kate York
“Nashville” songwriter Kate York with microphone.


Emily West made an unexpected appearance. I thought she seemed familiar but couldn’t place her. I looked her up online and found out she came in second to magician Mat Franco in the 2014 season of “America’s Got Talent.” It’s a show I never miss, from auditions to finale. Of course, I remember Emily.

Emily West delighted the audience with her song, “Puppy Dog,” a naughty ditty rich in double entendre. “You ain’t nothing but a puppy dog,” she sang. “Just want a place to bury your bone.”

Gabe Dixon and Emily West; Leigh Nash in pink
Gabe Dixon and Emily West. Leigh Nash in pink.


The night was so enjoyable, I now have my TV set to record “Nashville.” You can bet I’ll be watching the credits as they roll!

Getting into the Bluebird Café is tricky. One Nashville native I talked to said the worst outcome of the TV show is the large number of tourists who flock to the Bluebird. Locals, who have supported the place for decades, now have a hard time getting reservations.

There are two shows nightly. Lesser-known songwriters are featured at the early shows, and established songwriters at the late shows.

All reservations go through the website. No reservations are taken for Sunday or Monday, which is open mic night. Reservations for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday come available one week in advance. Reservations for Friday and Saturday come available on the Monday prior. Get online early, and don’t try to book a large party. The Bluebird Cafe has only 20 tables.

(Many thanks to Visit Music City for hosting my visit to Nashville and the Bluebird Cafe!)


7 thoughts on “Late Night at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville

  1. I always enjoy live music, even if it’s not a style I would normally listen to. Sounds as if you were glad that you were persuaded to forego that early night!

  2. We’d always ridiculed country music (except for Willie Nelson of course) until we moved to Texas for a few years and a friend introduced us to the music of singer-songwriter, Robert Earl Keen. It’s not all about a dog, a truck and a cheatin’ woman! 🙂 It sounds like your night at the Bluebird Cafe was an eye-opener for you as well. I think it would be fun to learn some of the stories behind the songs as well as listen to the singer/songwriters perform. And I guess we’ll have to look out for Nashville on Netflix! Anita

  3. I was there that night (and I’m in the pic you took of the 9pm line), it was an absolute joy and most memorable writers round I’ve attended. Thanks for memorializing it here.

    1. Wow! I’m so impressed that you found my post and took time to respond. Like I said or implied, I didn’t think it was my thing, but it certainly turned out to be! I had a fantastic evening. And I started watching the television show “Nashville” because of it. So said it’s over, but loved the ending. Thank you.

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