For 10 years now, the CMA Songwriters Series has been bringing the magic of a Bluebird Cafe writers round to venues around the country. The night before the CMA Awards, the series comes to Nashville. Last night, at the beautiful CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum the line up for this 10th anniversary edition was spectacular, and then in true Music City fashion, a surprise guest took it up another notch.
Songwriting legend and long-time CMA board member, Brett James, lead a round which included fellow legend Marcus Hummon, Sara Evans, and Chris DeStefano.
Brett started the party with his Kenny Chesney smash ‘Out Last Night,’ and followed with his 19th(!) #1 hit, Dierks Bentley’s ‘I Hold On.’ He channelled, as he put it, his “inner angry female” for Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Mr Know-it-all,’ and delivered such an impressive performance that it drew praise from Sara Evans. His final song was Carrie Underwood’s career-maker ‘Jesus Take the Wheel,’ written with Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.
Marcus Hummon delighted with his Dixie Chicks hits ‘Ready to Run’ and ‘Cowboy Take Me Away,’ both penned with Marti McGuire. He got behind the piano for a beautiful rendition of ‘Bless the Broken Road.’ Marcus showed his bravery by playing a brand new song, co-written with new Sony/RCA artist Josh Dorr, ‘I Can’t Read Your Mind.’
Though a few people were disappointed that Brandy Clark had to cancel due to illness, I think that sentiment was dropped when Chris DeStefano started singing. He connected with his inner sassy female for Carrie Underwood co-write ‘Good Girl,’ which was his first #1 hit. The next song, Brett Eldredge’s ‘Don’t Ya’ is special for being his first chart-topper as a producer, and changed up for the occasion, it received the Jason Mraz treatment. Chris also performed his recent Rascal Flatts single ‘Rewind,’ and closed, with assistance from James, with the stunning ‘Something in the Water,’ written with James and Carrie Underwood.
Sara Evans is most honored as a performing artist, so it was really nice to see her spotlighted for the incredible songwriter she is. She dusted off her debut, ‘Three Chords and the Truth,’ for the first time in about a decade, and followed up with ‘Perfect.’ In Music City, you never know who might jump on stage, and Sara brought out Gavin DeGraw for ‘Not Over You,’ DeGraw’s smash hit which Sara included on her most recent album. For her final song, she chose the first song she wrote with Marcus Hummon, ‘Born to Fly.’
Gavin DeGraw may have thought that he was only going to be assisting Sara Evans, but Brett James was quick to talk him into staying. He got behind the piano for the meaningful ‘Soldier,’ and closed out the night with a spectacular performance of his breakthrough hit ‘I Don’t Want to Be.’
By the final piano chord, the whole audience was on its feet cheering at the end of another perfect CMA Songwriters Series edition.
If you like listening to songs in their original form, and hearing the stories that inspired them, check out future CMA Songwriters Series show on CMAsongwriterseries.com.