Post Malone, Lainey Wilson, Ashley Gorley & Ernest Highlight Power of Songwriting at Bluebird Cafe Show

Post Malone, Lainey Wilson, Ashley Gorley & Ernest Highlight Power of Songwriting at Bluebird Cafe Show

When country music fans are asked about the Grand Ole Opry, one of the venue’s standout features is its famed circle of wood, set center stage, where numerous country music legends and newcomers have performed.

But nearly 15 miles away is another circle that is illustrious in country music circles — the Bluebird Cafe’s in-the-round songwriter circles. For the past 42 years, the tiny music venue located in a cluster of stores off Hillsboro Pike in Nashville has provided what The Bluebird Cafe COO/GM Erika Wollam Nichols on Monday night called “a home for songs and songwriters.”

Indeed, over the past four decades, The Bluebird Cafe has been a place of camaraderie for songwriters, a place to test new songs before a discerning but supportive audience — and notably, a vessel of discovery of new generations of artists, as everyone from Taylor Swift to Garth Brooks has performed at the Bluebird early in their careers.

On Monday night (June 17), the Bluebird Cafe hosted another of those “only in Nashville” moments, welcoming the 9x RIAA diamond-certified and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Post Malone to its ranks, in his first Bluebird Cafe performance.

Post Malone, who currently reigns atop the Billboard Hot 100 for a fifth week with his Morgan Wallen collaboration “I Had Some Help,” has steadily been cementing his place in the country music sphere, having performed covers of country classics for years. More recently, he teamed with Wallen and HARDY to perform a tribute to the late Joe Diffie during the CMA Awards, as well as performing a set at country music festival Stagecoach, rendering a classic country-soaked performance during the ACM Awards, and teaming with Blake Shelton for the new song “Pour Me a Drink.”

Post Malone had some help that evening, welcoming Lainey Wilson and songwriter Ashley Gorley for true Bluebird Cafe in-the-round style performance, with Wilson and Gorley. For Post, the industry-only event marked an even-deeper nod to his respect for the genre and those who work and create within it.

“I dreamed about playing the Bluebird, and there’s such an energy in this room,” Wilson said, before telling Post Malone, “I’m so glad you are getting to play this place.”

Gorley launched the writers’ round with a version of Cole Swindell’s “She Had Me at Heads Carolina.” Throughout the evening, he also offered up a version of Nate Smith’s “World on Fire,” Chris Stapleton’s 2022 Grammy winner “You Should Probably Leave” (which Gorley noted he wrote back in 2011, saying, “Patience is a virtue”) and Wallen’s “Sand in My Boots.”

“I’d play songs from my album, but it doesn’t exist,” Gorley quipped — to which Wilson replied, “You could do a top 100 hits [album].”

Lainey Wilson

“Do people cuss during writers’ rounds?” Post Malone asked, before potentially setting a new record for how many F-bombs were dropped during a Bluebird Cafe performance — perhaps another sign of the immediate intimacy and comfort the 90-seat venue inspires.

When one of the performers needed a guitar pick, Wilson quipped to Post Malone, “I’m gonna get you to sign it and then sell it on Ebay.”

Wilson, Gorley and Post Malone swapped stories, jokes and songs, with Gorley performing several of the numerous hits he’s written with and for artists, while Wilson and Post Malone offered up a mix of their hits and newer music. Post Malone performed his 2016 song “Feeling Whitney,” a song he noted is not really inspired by the late singer Whitney Houston, but rather by a night of drinking in Texas.

In this acoustic setting, songs’ production was peeled back, highlighting the essential songcraft underpinning each, whether that was a more traditional country-flavored tune such as Wilson performing “Wildflowers and Wild Horses” or Post Malone offering up his massive pop hit “Sunflower,” which had been included in the 2018 animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Later, Post Malone noted, “My whole life, I’ve loved shapes, from octagons to triangles to rhombuses,” he said jokingly. “But the shape I love most is the circle,” he added, before launching into his 2019 hit “Circles.”

As the evening went on and the writers’ comfort level increased, Post Malone repeatedly, jokingly called for rounds of shots — and hot dogs — for the audience, while noting a favorite drink concoction: White Tea, a mix of vodka, peach schnnaps and sours. Later, a server brought each of the performers out a concoction, and they sipped on the drinks as they continued the round.

Wilson performed a song from her upcoming album Whirlwind, due in August. She offered up “4×4 by You,” noting that she was still new to performing the song and bringing up the lyrics on her phone — with Post Malone holding up the phone for her so she could view the lyrics.

“I feel like writing this record and getting into the studio with my band made me feel at home,” she said. “I definitely felt at home when I wrote this song.”

Earlier in the set, she performed “Wildflowers and Wild Horses,” telling the audience that her mother told her when she wrote the song, that Wilson’s great-grandfather caught one of the very last wild horses in Louisiana and farmed with it for years. “That’s the power of storytelling,” she shared. “Sometimes you are writing about something and you don’t know what you’re writing about until later on.”

Singer-songwriter Ernest was also in attendance, and joined the round to collaborate with Wilson on their first performance of a song from Ernest’s album Nashville, Tennessee. The two performed their duet of “I Would If I Could,” a two-decades-old song written by famed Nashville songcrafters Dean Dillon and Skip Ewing.

“I was doing this thing for Apple Music called ‘Lost and Found,’ songs that should be recorded that never got recorded,” Wilson said. She thanked Sony Music Publishing Nashville executive Anna Weisband for finding the song, before Ernest picked up his side of the song’s saga.

Unbeknownst to Wilson, hit songwriter Jessie Jo Dillon (and daughter of Dean Dillon) had also sent Ernest the song. “I had no idea that anybody else on Earth had heard this song,” Ernest said, noting that he reached out to Dean Dillon to tell him he would record it — and noted Dillon had forgotten he had written it. “He said, ‘Damn, son — if you are writing songs like this, what do you need me for?’ I said, ‘You wrote this song!’” Dillon later called Ernest and said, “You won’t believe me but [Sony Music Publishing Nashville leader] Rusty Gaston called me and said Lainey Wilson is going to record this song.’ So Lainey and I were like, ‘We have to do this together.’”

While the Bluebird Cafe is known for its policy of having the audience refrain from chatter while songwriters are performing, it’s also known as an “anything can happen” atmosphere. As the evening drew to a close, Post Malone launched into his current Hot 100 chart-topper (sans Wallen), with the crowd singing along to “I Had Some Help.”

Ashley Gorley

“This song is about drinkin’, and I might as well, to immerse myself,” he quipped, sipping on his drink before launching into the song.

True to that same spirit, they closed the evening with Ernest joining Post Malone to perform George Jones’ 1980 hit, “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will).”

“This is the most fun I’ve had, being able to play with Ashley and Lainey and Ernest,” Post said.