Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

Nashville's nuances 

What's the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the phrase "behind the music" ? Most likely it's VH-1's addictive sex/drugs/redemption celebrity series. But when you consider who's literally behind the music -- especially today's country and roots music -- you've got to look at singer/songwriters.

These people tend to live double lives. They get record deals of their own and subsequently show up on the stages of local bars and clubs. But they also have vital lives offstage, pouring their hearts out onto lined notebook paper, well out of the spotlight. Often they earn their living by being employed with big publishers and penning the snappy hits that are sung by groomed and choreographed stars.

Since it opened in 1982, Nashville's Bluebird Cafe has been the mecca for singer/songwriters wanting to make their mark on Music City. This spring you can get a glimpse of the remarkable performers who frequent this little, unassuming club, thanks to the Disney Institute's free Bluebird Cafe Songwriters Series, which features installments in March and April.

"The big country-music boom that started around 1987 -- basically with Garth -- was in fact brought to us by the singer/songwriter," says Amy Kurland, the Bluebird's owner and booker. "It was the most interesting thing going."

Years ago, performers and songwriters were two separate entities. Nashville in particular worked (and still does work, to some extent) on the songwriting-factory system; office buildings full of people with guitars and typewriters churned out hits for the preordained stars. The slash that combined "singer" and "songwriter" breathed life into that system. "People started performing their own material," says Kurland, "and it was a better, more emotional connection that people made with an audience."

The results? Think Lyle Lovett, Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan and Gillian Welch.

The Disney Institute series is modeled after the Bluebird's "In the Round" nights, in which several performers sit together and offer renditions of their songs. The Saturday, March 18, event features Gretchen Peters (who wrote Martina McBride's "Independence Day" ), Joe Venzer ("Then What," recorded by Clay Walker) and Gene Nelson ("Against the Grain," recorded by Garth Brooks). The Saturday, April 15, show features Jim Photoglo, Vince Melamed and Gary Burr, whose credits include Patty Loveless' "I Try to Think About Elvis."

For her part, Kurland is pleased that the Bluebird is extending its reach. "For years Nashville has appreciated the singer/songwriter, and that it's an important art form," she says. Now the rest of us have a chance to witness the craft that leads some performers to the top of the charts.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Theresa Everline


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 20, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation