call it a rite of passage, call it the big shot, call it ” if i can make it there i’ll make it anywhere “, call it auditioning for the bluebird. for songwriter’s it is the mecca, the pinnacle, the historical place for every songwriter who has ever poured out his soul with a rhyme and a guitar. i’d been in nashville five years, so i figured it was time to get off the shore and swim with the big fish.
carve a nick in the history of music,tell the songwriting world that “i am somebody.” first, you have to call in and get a number on the appointed day. then, they send you a one sheet application. you will have exactly one minute to perform your song. that boils down to a verse and a chorus. not a whole lot of time. one minute. but i guess there’s a certain zen-ness to it. you can picture someone listening to their car radio and going “this s%#ks” and switching channels. most of my songs take about a half hour to get to the chorus so my song selection was limited. i practiced my song choice, timing it by my watch so i didn’t go over. the night before the audition my girlfriend (now ex) says “what happens if you don’t get in, are you finally going to get a real job then?” ah, the support. so wonderful. i am a nervous wreck come morning.
being slightly anal retentive, i arrive at the club two and a half hours before the appointed time. i am fifth in line. a huge coup for me since first come, first play. everybody is hanging out, playing guitars and talking songwriting. these are my people.i have arrived.i belong. i was buzzing on nervous energy,making jokes,teasing perfect strangers and being my usual obnoxious self. when it was show time, all hundred of us piled into the club,which holds about 85. we were all shaking in our boots now,our guitar cases banging into chairs and shins. the host came out and told us again that we have one minute on stage. she also told us that if you do pass, the bluebird will keep an eye on you.help your career, perform there again,drop your name to certain people,etc. i said to myself perfect, that’s what i need, a little push in the right direction. my heart was beating like a damn sledgehammer. the first guy up plays his folk song for well over a minute. they turned off the p.a. system! the first guy gets the hook! i knew i was in for a great afternoon. a young guy from kentucky was up next he sang like a cross between keith whitley and george strait. simply a great country voice.that only added to my nervousness. but, his song kinda sucked. sorry. so, the next guy up plays a pretty ballad which i can barely concentrate on because of the blood pressure pounding in my ears. i hear my name. thankfully, i don’t trip getting on stage. i adjust the mic stand, because i always have to. too tall. a friend of mine who’d heard me perform before told me i should look at the audience more. so, i used what little shred of strength i had left to look out there and see all those songwriters who think, in my mind, that i suck. i began to sing and aside from almost playing a wrong chord i think i did pretty well.my voice didn’t squeak,i didn’t pee in my pants and my bowels held, a wave of relief passes over me as i sit down. i think i’m in like flint. one of the girls i met in line performed after me. she’s from new jersey and has been here two months. i felt like i needed a walker. her name’s lisa viggiano,and she was fantastic. her music was ( i hate to compare music) fleetwood mac- like mellow pop. she sang great, looked great in a liz phair sort of way. golden. the rest of the afternoon was a smorgasbord of entertainers. one guy in chaps,cowboy hat and the always stylish handlebar moustache, sang a song about john denver. of course,he had to say that “he’d never met him but he got him high.” one guy started his song about how he’s always messing up but sang the wrong verse and had to start over. i told the guy next to me that if that was done on purpose, it was brilliant. i was impressed with the curve of talent. most people were pretty good singers and mediocre writers (i’m picky as hell, by the way) so i thought my song was definitely in the top twenty percent. they tell you that if you pass the audition you will hear from the club in a few weeks. long wait. i was heading back to rochester for my vacation(?) and i figured i would be gone when i got the news,huey lewis. the day i left i find a letter from the blue bird. i was thinking as i opened it, “gee, i shouldn’t have heard so soon…” i didn’t pass. got the form rejection letter. what?! but i’m good, dammit! so, i cried on the shoulder of my friend terri who is an awesome Appalachian singer. she told me they never pass anybody on the first time.just like getting your driver’s license.she didn’t pass on her first audition and that is completely wanted “uptempo positive hit love songs” they should’ve told somebody! or they’re picking young cute females who may wind up being big stars and telling people they got their first break at the bluebird.free advertising. so, i advise all budding songwriters: keep writing and by all means get your ass down here and audition at the bluebird. it was about the most fun i’ve had with my clothes on in a long time. failure is a state of mind: don’t live there.