By Laura Meyer, www.LauraMeyer.net
Musical Notes is a regular column by Laura Meyer, a touring songwriter and guitarist. Each month, Laura clues us in on musical venues in towns and cities around the world.
Tucked in a small alley behind the Decatur Court House you’ll find the staircase leading to Eddie’s Attic, a venue voted “Best Place to Hear Live Music” by Creative Loafing, AOL, and Paste, among others. While Decatur is a pleasant suburb of Atlanta, Eddie’s Attic has helped put the city on the map, creating a unique destination that draws some of the most highly-regarded performing songwriters of our time. Its reputation stems not only from the big names who have played there – Sheryl Crow, The Black Crowes, and Ani DiFranco, to name a few – but also for its unique listening room environment and support of the still unknown, aspiring singer-songwriters such as myself.
The heart and soul of Eddie’s Attic is Eddie Owen, an affectionate supporter of original music who has overseen the club for nearly twenty years. Every Monday night he hosts the Songwriter’s Open Mic, a friendly competition that draws some of the best independent touring acts from across the country. If the words “open mic” conjure particularly painful, off-key displays by inexperienced loved ones and strangers – this isn’t it. (Most of the time.) In fact, Eddie openly states that he started his competition to reinvigorate the regular, often dreadful, open mic night. By introducing an incentive to play well – door money and a chance to compete in the biannual “Shoot-out” for $1000 and prizes – he started drawing more than the local kids (though the local kids are often the best.)
The competition is open to anyone, but you have to plan ahead – performance spots start filling up two months in advance. It’s not uncommon to see as many acts from Portland, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Chicago, or New York as from the Atlanta area,and I have tweaked many national tour itineraries to fit in a Monday night at Eddie’s. The draw is not just the opportunity to win some gas money, but also the opportunity to play to a fullhouse and gain entry to a thriving music community. Themusicians I’ve competed with have become touring buddies, friends, and collaborators. For a small $5 door fee, an audience member can sample national talent in this relaxed setting and establish personal relationships with the artists as they grow. Perhaps the most notable past winner of the Eddie’s competition is John Mayer, a former employee.
Even amidst the competition, Eddie’s Attic has a family feel, with down-home cooking, a friendly staff, and a capacity of 185 (in the music room). The one rule of the house is that there’s absolutely no talking during performances, so for those who want to talk, there are TV monitors displaying the concert live in the adjacent bar and patio. Most remain in the cozy listening room, though, where they can be free from the distractions of cell phones and immersed in the experience Eddie and his staff has worked so hard to create.