Since 1957, a small club in Los Angeles has been rocking the music world. The Troubador has welcomed and launched the careers of musicians like Bob Dylan, Elton John, the Eagles, Neil Young, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, The Knack, Guns and Roses and Pearl Jam. It’s stage is legendary, a place where the dreamers, the poets, the singers and musicians go hoping for a chance to make it big. A lot of them do.
You might ask what The Troubador has to do with Fayetteville, N.C., and the answer is simple. Fayetteville is also a place where dreamers, poets, singer and musicians are looking for their big break. And for a lucky few that search starts on the wooden ﬂ oor of Huske Hardware House.
Since 2011, Huske has played host to a singer/songwriter competition that brings some of the areas brightest and best to downtown to share their talent and their souls. Held each Wednesday night, the competition has grown with each iteration, and this year it’s gone over the top. The ﬁrst iteration, was put together in the hopes that it would draw area performers. The idea was brought to Huske owner Josh Collins by Greg Biltz, a musician and emcee of the event, who saw the need for such a venue in the community. Over the years, the competition has brought hundreds of talented writers/performers to the Huske stage, many of who have gone on to bigger and better things. Biltz thinks this year will be no different.
“Nobody does it any better,” said Biltz, prior to the second night of the competition, “not in Raleigh, not in Wilmington. This is where it’s happening.”
From its small beginnings (Collins put up a $2,000 cash award), the competition has bloomed and taken on a life of its own. This year, Huske has teamed up with PCG Nashville, a Nashville-based development company, to give performers a leg up in the industry. PCG Institute is an innovative artist development company dedicated to addressing the unique needs of the recording artist. The artists and managers at the institute take what they call a “customized scientiﬁ c approach to development, producing balance in all areas of the artist’s mind, body and spirit.” They look beyond the music and ensure that aspiring musicians have “the skills, knowledge and strategic planning needed to achieve success in the music business.”
The addition of PCG Nashville to the competition has resulted in changes in the way the competition is judged and the way songwriters enter. There are now two categories for contestants to enter. The ﬁ rst is for performers between the ages of 12 and 30. Performers who enter in that category will compete to win a $15,000, six-month scholarship to the PCG facility in Nashville. Those over 30, will compete for a $3,000 cash prize. Collins explained that the addition of the scholarship category will allow young artists to gain the experience and shaping needed to really succeed in the industry. Collins’ daughter, Summer, is currently enrolled in PCG, and is learning a lot about the industry and is making the necessary contacts to move forward with her career.
The ﬁnales of this year’s event will be judged by Bernard Porter, who is the president of PCG. With more than 25 years in the industry, Porter is recognized nationwide for his skills in artist development, and in fact, was instrumental in signing Jason Aldean to Broken Bow Records. Collins believes having someone of Porter’s standing in the industry involved in the competition will bring more attention to the performers who are competing.
As in year’s past, performers have the opportunity to sing two songs. The ﬁ rst song can be a cover, but the second song must be an original. Each week, the top two performers will move forward in the competition, with everything coming down to the ﬁ nale in late March. Sign-ups for the event begin at 7 p.m. each Wednesday night, with the showcase beginning at 8 p.m. For updates on the competition, visit Huske Hardware House on Facebook and check out information about the competitors in upcoming editions of Up & Coming Weekly, one of the sponsors of the competition.
Photo: Nathan Fair at the grand finale of the 2011 competition.