Arts & Culture

Online auditions offered to join Muscle Shoals music scene

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. -- In the past, aspiring singers and songwriters were auditioned in person in the course of a day at FAME Recording Studios during a call for new talent.

The concept is being expanded with the The Call -- Muscle Shoals, via Facebook.

"I looked around 15 years ago in the music industry here and no one was younger than me, and not many were older than me," said Rodney Hall, president of FAME Music. "I knew we had to do something."

So, the Tuesday Music Club was launched. Established musicians and songwriters auditioned new talent at the studio, and nurtured them in the business. That group of young guns included Jason Isbell, Shonna Tucker, Jimbo Hart, Gary Nichols, Scott Boyer Jr. and Angela and Zack Hacker.

"It was an experiment," Hall said. "When I look back on it, it was a pretty good idea."

FAME is looking for the next generation of writers and musicians with The Call -- Muscle Shoals.

"We're doing the The Call on Facebook with video auditions," said Shawn Patrick, a musician and songwriter who launched the Tuesday Music Club, and now The Call, with Hall. "It allows us to do a lot more people a lot more efficiently. It's a prescreen to the studio auditions.

"Doing 25 auditions in one day was hard," he said of the Tuesday Music Club. "The technology is good enough now that, with a smartphone, you can make a fairly decent video."

There is a social media element to The Call, as well. Those who upload their video demos to the The Call -- Muscle Shoals Facebook page will be asked to have their friends vote for the song. The song with the highest votes will get studio time at the legendary FAME Recording Studios. There is a $25 entry fee, as well.

"Just because you don't win the contest doesn't mean we are not interested," Hall said. "We are looking for talent."

Patrick said an instructional video on how to upload the video will be included on the Facebook page. The contest closes April 1 -- "unless we decide to extend it due to response," he said.

The winner will get a full day at FAME with professional musicians, producers and songwriters who will provide advice. A stay at the Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa is included, as well.

FAME has produced dozens of hit records through the years, ranging from Southern soul to rock to pop to country. Among the artists who have scored hits at FAME are Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Etta James, the Osmonds, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Shenandoah and Bobbi Gentry.

The studio and publishing company were founded by Rick Hall, who is featured in the documentary "Muscle Shoals."