Nashville Top 3 Open Mic Nights

Nashville top 3 open mic nights flourish as new songwriters still flock to Music City

As a performing songwriter I’ve seen my fair share of writers nights and open mics.  This is my opinion of the Nashville top 3 open mic nights.  I’m writing this review from the upcoming songwriter’s perspective, and I’m basing this assessment on a few factors such as consistency, audience quality, and how well it’s run.  There are several other high quality writers nights and open mics in Nashville on any given night of the week, but these three have stood the test of time; they were each here when I moved to Nashville and are still go-to venues for local songwriters who are itching to play some originals to an audience.

Writers Nights vs. Open Mics

Some people use the terms interchangeably but they are two different things.  Writers Nights are scheduled blocks of songwriters playing their original songs, whereas Open Mics are first-come/first-serve signups.  Some venues do both in the same night, having scheduled rounds followed by an open mic.

1.)  Douglas Corner Cafejoe

If it’s Tuesday, getchur phones out!   This is a huge favorite for local songwriters.   The house is always packed and the networking opportunities are rich.  If you frequently attend Douglas Corner’s open mic night, you will undoubtedly increase your chances to make friends and learn about other cool open mics around town.  The stage sounds very, very good and is manned by 60-year Nashville native, Donnie Winters.  This open mic is absolutely phenomenal and without fail it happens unless there is a holiday.  This is why it is my first in the list of Nashville Top 3 open mic nights.

When & Where: Tuesdays 8:00pm on 8th Avenue South, right across from Zanie’s Comedy club.

Signing Up Call (615) 292-2530 on Tuesday at 1:00pm CST and leave your name on the answering machine.  This puts you on the signup list, then just show up at 8:00pm ready to play.   NOTE:  Seriously, call at 1:00pm, the lines will be busy and if you call at even 1:20pm, you’ll be near the end of the list, playing after midnight.  If you want to play early you may have to start calling at 12:59pm and call 100 times before you finally get through at something like 1:05pm.  You’ll be on stage with three other songwriters and you’ll each play two songs.  Being in an early round usually means you will play to a larger audience.

2.) The Commodore Grillcomm

This is a unique writers night and open mic venue, and the stage always sounds great.  The open mic portion of this night starts at 10:00pm, and from about 6:00pm-10:00pm there are scheduled acts which are booked by the host.  These acts are seasoned and you will thoroughly enjoy yourself as you take advantage of the full-service food menu and bar.  It’s located in a hotel right by Vanderbilt, so it’s a premium place to have your songs heard by people visiting from out of town.  The house is always packed with good energy and an attentive audience.

When & Where:  It’s on West End, here.  It happens every night of the week except Tuesdays.  Debi Champion hosts on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.   On Fridays and Saturdays, Rick and Tammy Stewart host the night.

Signing Up:  Be there by 7:00pm to sign up.  The signup period ends at 8:00pm and they only take about eight people.  Four play at 10:00pm and the other four play at 10:30pm.  Each person plays one to two songs depending on time.

If you want to play in the earlier slots that start at 6:00pm, just ask the host about it, but those songwriters are scheduled in advance.

3.) The Bluebird Cafebb

Ahh… the famed Bluebird Cafe.  It’s a real experience to play here.  No other venue in all of Nashville can consistently provide a guaranteed, shoulder-to-shoulder packed house of 100 people intently listening to your song.  The room is always dead quiet as each performer plays.  It’s a premium performance for any songwriter to give.

When & Where:  Mondays 6pm on 21st Ave South – aka Hillsboro Pike

Signing Up Monday is the Open Mic, from 6:00pm to 8:45 pm. Sign up is done by phone and begins at 11:00 am on the Monday you want to play. The first 25 callers to get through will be given a slot to play, and one or two reserved seats. The number to call is 615-943-8168. There is no voice mail so you have to keep calling until you get through. If you don’t get through in 30 minutes, the list is probably full and they have stopped taking calls. The Bluebird Cafe’s Monday Open Mic is hosted by longtime Nashville veteran, Barbara Cloyd.

13 Replies to “Nashville Top 3 Open Mic Nights”

  1. Agree 100%—I’m from Ottawa and can honestly say I met all my very best friends at Douglas Corner and the Commodore—Donnie and Debi as hosts made me feel at home and always had my back with the sound system—as an older rookie (didn’t go there until I was already 60)–I was anxious as hell BUT it was the best thing I have ever done in the world—and these two places kept me coming back—the Bluebird is indeed special (people really really listen!!) but it is a lot harder to get on–the other two fueled my passion and I don’t remember ever having one single bad night.–if you’re new to Nashville–get yer butt there for sure.

  2. Dont forget about Puckett’s Rising Star in Franklin, TN. its the only open mic where participants can win money!! The audience votes for their favorite song (along with a judges pick) at each of the 7 preliminary events. The grand prize winner receives $500 from Pucketts and a round with several hit Nashville writers! (our last winner was paired up with Brett James!) More details here:

    The events are held on Tuesdays at Puckett’s Boat House in Franklin, TN.

  3. Nailed it – Three best and in the correct order I might add….If you hit them just as they are posted – 1., 2, and 3., you’ll be happy you did….

  4. Hi – it’s on my ‘bucket list’ to play a couple of tunes live in Nashville. And I coming out in from the UK in couple of months. Would any of these open mikes provide a piano/keyboard? Thanks!

    1. Bluebird has a house keyboard. Often times at Douglas there is a keyboard on stage that someone brought, and usually they’ll share it.

  5. I’m traveling from NJ to Nashville and really want to get into the Bue Bird. I won’t be back in Nashville for most likely a very long time. Would you recommend lining up at 3:00. I read on their website no earlier that 4:30.

    1. If it’s really important to you to play the Bluebird then yes, the earlier you line up the better. Keep in mind, if you are a first time attendee who’s first in line, it’s technically possible that you could still not get to play because of the second-try policy which always depends on the number of people who show up with a “second try ticket” in their hand.

      In this case, you would receive a second-try ticket that guarantees you a chance to play the next time you visit.

      Barbara Cloyd
      knows a lot about the Bluebird, too. Check her out.

  6. The key at the Bluebird is to not worry about the line at all. Mondays people line up at 4:30 in the line before the line. That is a waste of time. At 5:30 they come out to the line before the line and get every artist that wants to play to write their name on a slip of paper. They then place them in a basket and go inside and draw names in the order you will play. You may have gotten there right at 5:30 and still play close to the front of about 35-45 players. All the rest of the club will be filled to capacity with tourists wanting to hear and see the Blue Bird. If at the end of the real line, as you were late…you may have to stand outside. Even if you are number 5,10 or whatever…you could have to stand outside then go right up on stage to play your spot. If you are just going to listen and want a seat…then wait in the line before the line. If too many players show up…they will give your paper a stamp then next time you go to the front of the line, yet that really may not determine the order you play in…If 35-45 people are there, they will only get one song. Please keep in mind that on open mic nights, songs are not screened at all and sometimes its like watching the american idol failures. It can be exceptional at times but you have to listen to a lot of other characters. Writers Rounds are different as stated above. Those people are pre-screened typically and have better material and vocals.

  7. For all three venues, do you have to play an original song or can you play a cover song? Also, is it hard to get seating for the guests that want to watch your performance?

    1. Tammy,

      The Bluebird is the only venue that will literally not allow covers. While Douglas Corner and The Commodore absolutely prefer originals, there are covers that do slip through, but it’s usually from “regulars”. All these venues’ purposes are to highlight songwriters, so covers are not what people go there for.


    2. And regarding guests, The Commodore and Douglas Corner have no restrictions (unless of course the building occupancy is exceeded) but Bluebird does have a strict ticketing system, you may be able to buy online but most of their events are literally, “first in line, first in, then no more.” So they always have a line out front.

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