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The Bluebird Café
Address 4104 Hillsboro Pike
Location Nashville, Tennessee
Coordinates 36°6′7.3″N 86°49′0.6″W / 36.102028°N 86.816833°W / 36.102028; -86.816833
Owner Nashville Songwriters Association International
Type Music venue
Genre(s) Country
Capacity 90
Opened June 1982; 40 years ago (1982-06)

The Bluebird Café is a 90-seat music club in Nashville, Tennessee that opened in 1982. The club features acoustic music performed by its composers. Some performers are established singer/songwriters, and others perform songs written by other artists. The Bluebird receives over 70,000 visitors annually. The restaurant has been featured as a location on ABC's drama Nashville.


Founder Amy Kurland opened the doors of The Bluebird Café in June 1982 at 4104 Hillsboro Pike in Nashville, Tennessee. The location had already been home to a game room, a bar, a pizza parlor, a sewing machine store, a pharmacy, and Manookian Brothers Oriental Rugs. Kurland intended it to be a gourmet restaurant in which patrons would have the opportunity to occasionally listen to live music. Somewhat of an afterthought, Kurland added a stage. The occasional live music became a regular occurrence.

By March 1983, Kathy Mattea had landed a record deal; she had only been playing The Bluebird Café regularly for a few months. After that, the venue became known among musicians as the place to play. Other regular songwriters from The Bluebird also began to land record deals.

On July 1, 1984, the first Writer's Night (an evening in which up-and-coming songwriters have the opportunity to play some of their original material with a special guest who has had some songwriting success) was held, and Don Schlitz was the first special guest. Schlitz had already won a Grammy for writing the Kenny Rogers song "The Gambler". In 1985, Sunday Writer's Nights were officially added to The Bluebird's weekly schedule.

On March 29, 1985, the first "In The Round" show was held with Thom Schuyler (16th Avenue and Old Yellow Car), J. Fred Knobloch (Used to Blue and Meanwhile), Don Schlitz (he would collect his second Grammy a few years later for Forever and Ever, Amen), and Paul Overstreet (future co-writer of Forever and Ever, Amen as well as other hit songs). The "In The Round" format, which means that writers sit in the center of The Bluebird playing, taking turns, and telling stories, was suggested by Knobloch and Schlitz.

The show and its format were so popular that shows continued to be held "In The Round" and most of the shows at The Bluebird Café (and other clubs in Nashville and elsewhere) are still held "In The Round." At least once a month Knobloch, Schlitz and Schuyler still play together "In The Round" at The Bluebird Café with harmonica player Jelly Roll Johnson.

Writers had to (and still have to) audition to play its small stage, which was used when shows were not "In The Round." On June 6, 1987, Garth Brooks auditioned, and was booked one month later for a Writer's Night. Shortly thereafter, he was booked for a showcase. It was during this showcase, in which Brooks was filling in for another songwriter who missed the gig, that Lynn Shults, the A&R representative at Capitol Records, saw Brooks. Brooks was signed to Capitol the next day.

Brooks began to frequent The Bluebird's Writer's Nights looking for songs to record. Bluebird regulars Kent Blazy ("Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes"), Tony Arata ("The Dance") and Pat Alger ("Unanswered Prayers") supplied Brooks with some of his biggest hits.

Also in 1987, dinner shows and Open Mic Nights were added to The Bluebird's schedule. The Bluebird has two shows a night, dinner being made available at both shows. During the week shows times are generally at 6:00pm and 9:00pm and at 6:30pm and 9:30pm on the weekends, though there are exceptions. Monday nights are Open Mic Night. It begins at 6:00pm and runs until approximately 9:00pm. Anyone can play these Open Mic Nights as long as they play original material and abide by The Bluebird's other policies.

"Women In The Round" night was first held in November 1988. The line-up consisted of Ashley Cleveland, Tricia Walker (she would go on to have multiple cuts by Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, Taylor Swift and more), Pam Tillis and Karen Staley (she would go on to have many cuts, including multiple Faith Hill hits).

During the 1990s, the Bluebird toured such venues as The Bottom Line in New York City. Such shows are still given outside of Nashville. Bluebird regulars can be seen every summer at Robert Redford's Sundance Resort in Utah.

In 1992 a movie script began circulating about a group of young songwriters living in Nashville who worked at and frequented The Bluebird Café. The Bluebird was so central to the plot of the film that Kurland was flown out to LA as the technical advisor on the film. That film was the Peter Bogdanovich directed The Thing Called Love, starring River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock. Some scenes were shot on location in Nashville. The Thing Called Love was Phoenix's last complete film.

Around 2000, a Turner South program aired, called "Live from the Bluebird Café". It featured songwriters performing many well-known original works and spent five years on the air before the Fox buyout of Turner South.

The Bluebird Café Scrapbook was published in 2002. It is a history of the club, its famous writers, events, and employees, as told by the writers, employees and other witnesses. In 2002 The Bluebird Café received an Academy of Country Music Award for Night Club of the Year.

At fourteen years old, young singer-songwriter Taylor Swift was discovered at the Bluebird Café by music executive Scott Borchetta.

The Bluebird Café was acquired by the Nashville Songwriters Association International on January 1, 2008.

"Bluebird," a documentary about the club, was released in November 2019.

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