Probably the most notable thing about Barbara Cloyd is how many songwriters she has helped over the years. She never set out to become one of Nashville’s most successful and respected songwriting mentors, but whenever she sees talent she instinctively does whatever she can to nurture and promote it.

Her music career began at the age of three singing “Frosty the Snowman” with the Sunday school choir and she’s been hooked ever since. After getting a degree in Theater from the University of Iowa, Barbara says, “Being an actress didn’t seem like a secure career so I became a musician instead.” She bought a four channel Peavy PA and spent a few years playing cover tunes in clubs in her hometown, St. Louis, Mo.

She rmusic row songwriting mecca Nashville ealized that to have the kind of music career she wanted, she had to move to an industry center, and Nashville seemed like a better fit than New York or LA for a down-to-earth Midwestern girl with a love for songs that tell stories. In 1983 getting laid off from a day job gave her unemployment benefits that provided funding for the move. Barbara had never been to Nashville, didn’t know anyone there, didn’t have a job or a place to stay, but she sold everything that wouldn’t fit in the car and made the five-hour drive. “Within a few days,” she says, “I knew I had finally made it home.”

Her work with other songwriters began when she was hired to launch the Monday Night Open Mic at The Bluebird Cafe, which even by its third year, had become the “it” place to play original music. From the start, the open mic became a stepping stone for a steady stream of hopefuls, including artists like Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley, as well as countless songwriters who went on to major chart success. Bluebird Cafe, songwriting club in NAshville where barbara cloyd hosts open mic

The Bluebird also hired Barbara to book early shows at the club, the time slot open those who have not yet built a following or had a string of hits. She was able to give valuable stage time to stand-outs like Brandy Clark, Eric Paslay Matt Ramsey and Trevor Jones of Old Dominion, David Wilcox, Gillian Welch and Iris Dement, plus a host of soon-to-be hit writers including Bret Jones, Jon Nite and Chuck Cannon.

During her early years at The Bluebird, Barbara worked as a waitress at a health food restaurant on Music Row. A cook at that restaurant had just moved from California so her husband Jon Robbin, could pursue a songwriting career and she invited Barbara over for dinner to introduce them. Says Barbara, “I didn’t think his writing style would be compatible with mine, but they had just fed me dinner so when he asked me about co-writing, I was too polite to say no. I’m glad Mama taught me good manners because we ended up writing  ‘I Guess You Had to Be There.’” That song, regarded by many as a Country Classic, became a hit for Lorrie Morgan in 1993.

With her new status as a hit songwriter, other Nashville music clubs sought her services to host writers nights and more and more songwriters started asking her for feedback and advice. She discovered her passion for teaching and started a consultation service in 1998. Her years of experience on the front lines of the Nashville songwriting community have given her a keen understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and her insights are a blessing to songwriters who seek her out for feedback on their songs and advice on how to navigate the music business.

Chris Oglesby and Bobby Rymer at a Play for Publishers songwriting workshop at the Bluebird Cafe, Nashville TennesseeOne of her most sought after and respected endeavors is the “Play for Publishers” workshop series where songwriters play their originals for successful publishers looking to discover new talent. Many attendees have ended up with open doors on Music Row and all of them get valuable feedback that helps them take their writing to the next level. Alumni of the workshops include artists Dustin Lynch, Kelleigh Bannen and Jameson Rodgers and hit writers Adam James, Jon Nite, Joe Leathers and Brian Henningsen. Rebound Recording artist Drew Baldridge got his first publishing deal as a direct result of being heard at a workshop by the creative director of This Music.

Few things are more exciting to Barbara than discovering great talent and she always had en eye out for writers and artists she can help. She has become widely known on Music Row for her ability to spot exceptional talent and her introductions have opened doors that led to successful careers for quite a few, including Adam James, Bret Jones, Barry Dean, Marcel and Anthony Smith. Plus a few you just haven’t heard of YET.


Brett Jones hit Nashville songwriter

Brett Jones

Barry Dean Hit Nashville Songwriter

Barry Dean

Marcel hit Nashville songwriter


Anthony Smith hit Nashville songwriter

Anthony Smith

Adam James Nashville songwriter

Adam James






Through it all, she has never stopped writing and playing. She is a regular at writers nights in Nashville and at the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival. You can hear her EP Drive on Reverb Nation and song demos on Soundcloud.