The first time I went to Nashville's legendary Bluebird Café I heard Gary Burr sing “That’s My Job,” a song about his father’s love for him and his commitment to well, being a father. My Dad had passed a way a few months before. I was a basket case. (I mentioned this in a newsletter a few weeks ago. You might have received it. I think Gary did too.)
Playing in a round at the Bluebird has been on my bucket list since that night. I wanted the chance to move someone the way he moved me. But I was an outsider. A pop writer in country territory. I finally got a chance to cross that dream off my list twenty years later—a few nights ago.
I had a meeting and a co-write before the show. I wouldn’t have time to grab a meal between activities and you don’t want to arrive to your bucket list gig hungry. So I went to EiO and the Hive (for a big breakfast) and ordered an entire rotisserie chicken—I’d have 1/4 of it and save the rest for the very end of the night when I knew I’d be starving. It was 28 degrees outside. As cold as a refrigerator. The chicken would be fine in the trunk of my rental.
Went to my meeting. Went to my co-write. And then circa 6PM, I nabbed the very last spot in the Bluebird parking lot. There was a line to get in. Ever since the TV show, Nashville, every show sells out. Tourists from all over the country want to see it. Apparently they go online at 5am the day tickets go on sale. A local Facebook follower told me she used to go to the Bluebird every week. She came that night to meet me but couldn’t get in. I’m happy for the Bluebird, and for the tourists, but I feel bad for the locals. And for my Facebook friend. :(
Anyhoo, I felt like a rockstar. For most country songsmiths this is an every day occurrence.
My fellow 'rounders' opened their arms and hearts to me. I settled into my seat and watched them joke amongst themselves. Not a nervous bone in their bodies. Totally as ease. I was anything but totally at ease. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a way to channel nervous energy into a more heightened performance.
There are however, certain things I've learned to accept: I’ll never be able to tune my guitar with my eyes closed. Or play it without looking at the frets or get through a song without fumbling in a place I never fumbled before. But that’s oK. cuz it leaves room for improvement. And the thing is, I just don't care as much about that stuff any more. I belong here. I bring value to this circle. I bring with me my story.
I surveyed the crowd. Omg, there’s Gary Burr! Stop it! Maybe in another twenty years I'll be back here watching someone perform who came to see the show tonight.
It was my turn to play.
Remember, Shelly, don't let the audience get in your head. You can't be worried about what they'll think of you. Besides, they’re on your side. Aren't you on the side of the performer when you're in the audience? Innocent until proven shitty. Immerse yourself in the song. Own it. They aren’t even there.
“I’m in my living room and you’re all naked,” is what I said. I played the song I knew best. No sense tripping myself up out the gate.
I held my own.
When I played “Bitch” everyone sang along. Men and women. This does wonders for ones confidence. And ego.
Next I sang “Notebook,” a song to my daughter about a journal next to my bed in which I’ve been documenting my love for her since the day she was born. ….kinda my answer to Gary’s ”That’s My Job.”
Then…my new original Christmas song. And then it was over. What??? I was just getting started. Wahhh!
Not to worry though, because I was asked if I'd join the late show as well. One of the gals got sick. Ummm. Yaaaaas! I certainly will! (Although by this point my mind was on that chicken in the trunk of my car.) But I was so stoked to continue playing I forgot I was hungry.
What a difference a set makes. I was more at ease. I had control of the room, instead of the other way around. I played with abandon, volume and confidence. Ready for prime time.
Driving back to my Airbnb I smiled at having crossed something big off my bucket list. It occurred to me it was a good thing this night took 2 decades to happen because I wouldn’t have been ready any sooner.
I pondered the first blog I ever wrote, “Standing on the Edge,” in which I wondered if I should stay in the music business…if I fit in anymore. I was a different girl back then. Now, I’m having the time of my life conquering my fears, fear by fear. I’m doing the things I was too afraid to do when I was younger. (I recommend this highly, by the way.)
I turned the key of my door, glad to be alone. I put my hair up, washed off my makeup, put on my pjs and fuzzy socks. Well done, me, I thought. Well done.
And then I climbed into bed and ate that chicken.
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