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Tag Archives | Tom Douglas
The Annual Songwriter Festival Celebrates It’s 20th Year!
The 20th Annual Tin Pan South festival is in the books, and Focus was there for some of the best shows of the week. The festival consists of two songwriter rounds per night in 10 separate venues. (Simultaneously… that is to say 20 rounds per night!) Obviously I could only get to two – sometimes three – per night, and I tried to choose the best of the best.
This is one of my favorite events of the year. It’s not fan mania, it’s not running around craziness, it’s not media madness… it’s the best songwriters in the world in a down-home style playing acoustic versions of their most famous songs. They truly enjoy playing and singing together, and the more accomplished musicians like to jump in to harmonize or play along, even when they’ve never sung or played them before! Not only that, I really love hearing these Billboard-topping hits played by the people who wrote them.
For those who are not familiar, more country artists than you would think DON’T write their own songs, and if they do they almost always collaborate with songwriters. This is a festival where you get to hear the songwriters. And not just hit-makers either. The week also consists of some of the best unsigned artists and incredibly talented singer/songwriters from Nashville.
What better way to kick it off than two rounds at The Hard Rock Café? Josh Turner was the big name at the first, while Luke Bryan took time out of his busy schedule to play the second. These are obviously two big names who DO write a lot of their material.
Josh was on stage with many of his collaborators Mark Narmore, Mark Nesler and Jeremy Spillman. They played a lot of his stuff along with Narmore singing his number one smash “Thats What I Love About Sundays” complete with Neil Diamond impression, and Nesler jamming out to Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in My Shirt.” And although it was cool seeing Josh and his songwriters singing these versions, Josh has a personality about as dry as the Mohave Desert.
Not so with Luke. He was with some of the biggest songwriters in town: Jim Beavers, Bob DiPiero and Jeff Stevens. I’ve ever laughed so hard at a songwriter round! From bad language and dirty jokes to Luke being half in the bag, this is the reason I love this week.
Jim Beavers kicked it off with his hit “Am I The Only One” cut by Dierks Bentley. He also sang “Felt Good On My Lips” and “Red Solo Cup,” a crowd favorite. Luke started with “Is Someone Else Calling You Baby,” and also hit “Rain Is A Good Thing,” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” Also for those who didn’t know Luke got his big break writing “Good Directions” which was cut by Billy Currington. Bob Dipiero a.k.a. Bobby D had me in stitches, singing the REAL version of “Daddy’s Money.” He also sang Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice” and Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone.”
That was certainly the highlight, although afterwards I got the hell out of there as the slew of Vanderbilt girls rushed the stage to meet Luke afterwards.
Wednesday I tried hitting three shows. First was the Musicians Corner show at Commodore Grille featuring Jared Blake, Jessica Campbell, Daniel Ellsworth, Matt Giraud and Pearl Heart. A very eclectic show, they covered indie, rock, pop, blues and country. Such is Musicians Corner.
Then I had to hurry over to The Rutledge to catch Danny Myrick, Heidi Newfield, Bridgette Tatum and Focus friends, The Farm. These artists never cease to amaze me. Nick Hoffman from The Farm was playing beautiful fiddle accompaniments to many of the songs simply by asking what key the song was in. And for the record, I still have a crush on Krista 😉
Then it was off to Hard Rock again for a show I was really excited about. The ASCAP-hosted event featured an opening by the incredibly talented duo Striking Matches who I have had the privilege of hearing a few times before. Watch out for them, they’ll be huge! Then the main show featured Radney Foster, Josh Kear, Eric Paslay and Rivers Rutherford. Just to name a few of the songs these guys have penned: “Raining on Sunday” “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” “If You Ever Stop Loving Me” “Real Good Man” “Stealing Cinderella” “Dancing Away With My Heart,” “Drunk On You,” “Before He Cheats,” and “Need You Now.” Whew!
The last four were penned by Big Yellow Dog hit-making machine Josh Kear, who I worked with about a year ago. I got to hear “Dancing Away With My Heart” when it was still a WORK TAPE, and he debuted the song live at last year’s Tin Pan. It was so cool to hear it come full circle, now a number one song, and hearing him sing it again. Oh, and those last two songs won Josh a total of three Grammy’s… no big.
I tried hitting two first round shows again, but I had so much fun at the first one, I only heard one song at the second. Granted, it was Paul Overstreet and the ENTIRE Rutledge singing “Forever and Ever Amen.” Then they brought it home with a bluegrass jam session. Awesome. But the first show was real groovy (I can’t think of a better word, albeit a little dated).
It was Greg Barnhill, Joanna Cotton, James Otto and Lee Roy Parnell. Joanna sang one song (can’t for the life of me remember the name) that was uncut, but so funny you could barely hear her over the laughter. She also sang a song that was pitched to Tina Turner. Obviously country fans know James Otto, and he was a big hit. I didn’t know he co-wrote one of my current favorites “Ain’t In No Hurry” by Zac Brown Band. At the end he segued right into a chorus of “Free Fallin’” and everyone on stage joined in for an impromptu four-part harmony! After he played his hit “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” I rushed to The Rutledge.
Another session of songwriting gold, this one featured Tom Douglas, Tony Lane, Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and James T. Slater. Here we go again with the laundry list of songs these guys wrote: “The House That Built Me,” “I Run To You,” “I Need You,” “Southern Voice,” “Little Rock,” “Roll With It,” “Letters From Home,” “Wasted,” “So Small,” “Last Name,” “Coming Home,” “A Little Bit Stronger,” “Jesus Take The Wheel,” “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” “ The High Cost Of Living,” and “Falling In Love Again.” Not bad.
Tony Lane with his salty, sultry voice sang “I Need You,” the Tim and Faith cut. In my opinion, that’s the way that song was intended to sound. I learned that the Hillary Lindsey-penned and Lady A-cut “American Honey” was in fact inspired by the liquor, and James Slater slayed a New Orleans version of “High Cost of Living” with Hillary Lindsey on harmony and Gordie Sampson rocking a guitar solo.
Friday I had to check out our dear friend Jesse Lee at Belcourt Taps & Tapas. She was adorable and amazing as always, playing some of her new material with friends Johnny Bulford and Chris Roberts.
Since this was a lower-key show, I didn’t expect to hear any songs that made the radio except for Jesse’s “It’s A Girl Thing.” Johnny surprised me by playing a song he wrote on a Tuesday afternoon; had it pitched to Lee Brice that Thursday; and that Saturday it was announced as his newest single… That doesn’t happen. And that song is currently sitting at number one on the charts: “Woman Like You.”
Then I went to Commodore Grille to see an artist I love, Mike Willis. He was joined by Danny Flowers, Jim Parker and Ricky Ray. Although I didn’t really know any of the songs, the guitar playing was stellar, and it was some of the bluesiest music I’d ever heard.
Although the week was starting to catch up to me, Saturday I hit up three more shows. Because I had hit up the shows with country hit-makers all week, I tried to diversify and see some independent singer/songwriters. First was Stephanie Chapman, Jen Foster, Emily West and Kate York at The Rutledge. Very fun and enjoyable, and Emily West – who has graced the Musicians Corner stage before – is just a joy to watch.
Then I stuck around to see The World Famous Headliners, a group comprised of three other Big Yellow Dog songwriters, Shawn Camp, “Big” Al Anderson and Pat McGlaughlin. Although The Headliners are a group in and of themselves, these three have written hits such as “Two Pina Coladas,” “ Would You Go With Me,” “River Of Love,” “Firecracker,” and George Straight’s current number one “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.”
I decided to end my week where I started it, at The Hard Rock to support my Musicians Corner family once again. This was the Music City Unsigned show featuring Justin Wade Tam, the Musicians Corner Production Director and lead singer of the group Humming House. He was joined by Sandra McCracken, Andrew Ripp, Amy Stroup, Waterdeep and Angel Snow. A great way to end the week.
Of course, I was on my own for half the week as Patrice was galavanting around Vegas at the ACMs. You can read her write up of that amazing experience here.
And be sure to keep an eye out for tickets next year when Tin Pan celebrates it’s 21st birthday! It really is a phenomenal time for music lovers. For the complete list of performers from this year’s Tin Pan South, click here.
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