It happens in living rooms all across this great nation whenever there’s a party with two or more songwriters in the room and a guitar close at hand. Someone will plead, “Play us a song!”
The floodgates are now open, and the guitar is passed back and forth as each songwriter sings their biggest hits, new songs and hidden jems. And, usually, since it is in an informal environment, there are little stories, one liners, teasing and, sometimes, apologies for playing a song of bawdy nature.
At one of the parties a long time ago someone thought, “Man, if I could bottle this up and sell it, I make a million dollars.”
And that’s what they did.
It may not have started in Nashville, but it certainly took root there in clubs such as the Blue Bird Cafe. Regardless, “Songwriters in the Round” can be found just about everywhere there’re songwriters, which is just about everywhere.
What started in those living rooms usually ended up with the songwriters huddled together in the center of the room, with the rest of the guests forming an outer concentric circles. But when the Songwriters in the Round got moved to more conventionally set up clubs, the songwriters formed a line on stage, usually sitting on stools.
In the round it was pretty obvious who was next as the passing is done in order (either clockwise or counter-clockwise), but once the writers ended up in line there was a little confusion. It would make sense to start at one end and end at the other, and start from the beginning again (and that usually how it is done). But I have seen rooms where it started at one end and when it reached the other end that songwriter would do two songs, and then the passing started to work its way back to the starting point.
There is usually a host of the show, which may or may not be one of the performing songwriters. If you are performing at one of these rounds (called rounds regardless of whether you’re in a circle or a line) the host will designate where you are going to sit. Most likely he or she is familiar with your material, and that of the other performers, and will place you in such a way they believe your songs will fit best.
Other criteria they might use to place you would include whether you have radio hits under your belt, if you’re promoting a new CD release, your personality, your draw or your celebrity…the same criteria that was used in your receiving an invitation in the first place.
If the host is one of the songwriters, he or she will usually perform the first song. After that they’ll introduce each of the guest performers before each performs their songs.
The songs will go round n’ round for the allotted time (sometimes a Writers in the Round will be just one of several acts performing in a club that night) or for a set number of songs played by each artist. When the round makes it way back to the host, he or she will perform one final number, thank the guests and the audience and call it a night.
Originally posted 2011-07-17 18:59:49.