They say that the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, is the Mother Church of Country Music. That may be the case, but the Mother Church of Songwriting is Nashville’s Bluebird Café.
Much like the songwriters who frequent the Bluebird, the café is understated. It’s not glamorous. It hides away in a little strip mall in the outskirts of town. But for decades, the best songwriters in the world have performed there.
For years, I have visited the Bluebird Café, sitting in the “cheap seats” – the old wooden pews in the corner of the room. I sat there with my heart busting open on my first visit to Nashville, listening to my heroes perform the songs I grew up on. I sat there through my years as a struggling, unknown writer, soaking in the magic and hoping it would rub off on me. I sat there through love and loss and heartache in my personal life, when it was all I could do to drag myself off my tearstained pillow to get there. Through it all, I always found comfort and strength and inspiration in the songs I heard there. If the Bluebird isn’t a church, I don’t know what is.
Last night, I got to perform my own songs at the Bluebird, for my “Never Be the Same” CD release party. The audience was full of familiar faces. There were fans there who have followed my career for years, from my early days as a struggling songwriter. There were co-writers there who have shared those struggles with me, and there were friends there who have given me a hand to hold when I needed it most. As a performing songwriter, your life is an open book, and I was surrounded by people who have been there in one way or another every step of the way through some of the darkest times in my life. A lot of the songs on my record are about those tough times, the healing process that follows, and the journey to finding strength and love again. To sing those songs together with my dear friends was an experience I’ll always remember.
Just to have a night like that would have been enough. But I had no idea how amazing the night would turn out to be.
As I was wrapping up the show, my sweetheart announced that he had a surprise for me. He walked on stage, sat at the keyboard, and played a beautiful song that he had written for me. And then he got down on one knee and proposed to me.
Last night I got engaged to the love of my life, with his grandfather’s diamond and a song sung from the heart, surrounded by my dearest friends, in my church, the Bluebird Café.
I couldn’t have written it better if it was a song.