Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day One: 'Tin Pan South' Brings Excitement and Shivers to MCAU Writers


Day One: March 25 (Tuesday)

         "Tin Pan South" kicked off on Tuesday with several hundred songwriters performing at various venues around the city. Choosing which shows to attend on the first night was a challenge for MCAU's roaming reporters, Wil Comstock and Scott Johnson. They finally opted to take in the 6 p.m. show at the Rutledge (featuring T. Graham Brown, Frank Myers, Jimmy Nichols, Eddy Raven, and Danny Wells); the 6 p.m. show at The Listening Room Cafe (featuring Brandy Clark, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osbourne); and the 9 p.m. show at the Rutledge (featuring Brett James, Lee Thomas Miller, Rivers Rutherford, and Caitlyn Smith).

T. Graham Brown and Jimmy Nichols
March 25 (Tuesday):

THE RUTLEDGE (Early Show):

         Danny Wells, T. Graham Brown, Eddy Raven and Frank Myers.   With incredible keyboards and backup vocals by Jimmy Nichols.
         It will be hard to top this show. Then again maybe I’m just getting sentimental in my old age. Take four seasoned pros who have known each other for years (Raven and Myers have worked together since 1981), four guys who have a great sense of humor (skillful musicians who are in great form), and you might just get a sense of what I experienced last night. I was blown away.
Danny Wells

         Danny Wells kicked off the show with “Little Bit of Life”, the title cut and hit for Craig Morgan that he wrote with Tony Carl Mullins. He also treated us to “Hello L-O-V-E”, written with Jeffery Steele and Recorded by John Michael Montgomery. Another crowd pleaser was “Check Yes or No”, which George Strait decided to cut because he played the demo one morning for his son Bubba. Now Bubba is usually in a bad mood in the morning. When the song was over, Bubba said, “Dad, you know I really didn’t want to like this song, but I really like it”. Myers ended with “These Days”, his big hit for Rascal Flatts that he wrote with Steve Robson and Jeffrey Steele.
         T. Graham Brown performed  “I Tell it Like it Use to Be”, a song he sang the demo on for songwriters Bucky Jones, Ron Hellard, and Michael Garvin. He ended up cutting the song on his first album, and it went to number seven. T. Graham joked about how he and his buddies would lie to their girlfriends' parents and tell them they were going to such and such movie and end up parking down on “Moonshadow Road”.  He said most people who introduce him always get his name wrong.  He’s been called T. Graham Nash, T. G. Sheppard, and once George Jones called him his good friend Tom T. Hall when he thanked him for joining him on a duet. Eddy Raven said he calls him “His T-ness”, bringing laughter to the crowd. T. Graham sang  “Darlene” standing by keyboardist Jimmy Nichols, who added great background vocals. Brown continuously thanked  the guys on stage for backing him up since he didn’t play an instrument. He saved the best song for last, “Wine Into Water”, a song he wrote with Bruce Burch pleading to Jesus for help as he struggled with alcohol addiction.
T. Graham Brown
         Eddy Raven started with his 1981 number one hit “Who Do You Know in California”. Frank Myers told him it wasn’t on the set list and Eddy replied, “Well I guess I’m listless”. He also performed “We Robbed Trains”, which was cut by Gene Watson; “I Got Mexico” , which was recorded by Barefoot Man; “You Should Have Been Gone by Now”, a number three song for Eddy written with Frank Myers and Don Pfrimmer; and “Thank God for Kids”, which ended up on albums by Alabama, John Rich, and Kenny Chesney. Raven commented that he has 10 brothers and sisters and a couple sons of his own, so he knows a little bit about kids.
Eddy Raven
         A light bulb went off as I was listening to Frank Myers. I commented to my friend Kara, “Oh, he was part of the duo Baker and Myers”.  She gave me a look that said, “You just figured that out?”  Feeling humbled, I listened as Frank called Lisa Hollis up to join him on “You and I”, a hit he wrote for Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gayle. Myers also sang “I’m Already There”, which he wrote with Richie McDonald and Gary Baker (you guessed it from Baker and Myers). This Lonestar song spent six weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot Country chart. He performed “My Front Porch Looking In”, another number one for Lonestar that he wrote with Gary Baker and Don Pfrimmer. A favorite of mine, “Tomorrow”, written with and cut by Chris Young, really showcased Myers' fine guitar wizardry. This guy can play. I also really enjoyed all the harmony vocals from both Frank and Danny Wells.
Frank Myers
         Somewhere in the show, I started watching T. Graham’s reaction to the other’s performances. He listened intently, smiled, shook his head yes, and radiated love and admiration for his longtime friends.  He was happy for their success. What a beautiful guy. What a great bunch of guys.  
-- Wil Comstock, MCAU Contributing Writer


Tin Pan South Beginner’s Survival Guide

Rule #1 – If you’re going to go to a show at a small club featuring the 2014 ACM Songwriter of the Year, GO EARLY or go home!

         My first "Tin Pan South" show ever goes down in the history books as an unforgettable experience. I chose to attend a highly anticipated show featuring Josh Osborne, current Music Row “buzz” artist Brandy Clark, and 2014 ACM Songwriter of the Year Shane McAnally.

The Listening Room
         I arrived at the The Listening Room Café about 20 minutes early and paid $25 for parking. (Beginner’s mistake, yes I know…) I was greeted to the announcement that the venue was at full capacity.

Rule #2 – Your green press pass gets you nowhere at The Listening Room!

         After hearing this, I stepped forward to show my shiny green press pass, hoping it would get me in the door. No dice! Reporters were treated just like the people waiting in the cash line to get into the highly anticipated show.

Rule #3 – Wear a hat and gloves, even though it’s spring! You just might be standing in the cold!

         Your roving Music City Arts Update reporter stood out in frigid 30-degree temperatures waiting for someone to leave so that I could get in! The good news is that the Listening Room Café has speakers set up outside so that people can hear the show.

The Highlights:

         The songwriters sounded amazing! They each played a song before passing the microphone on to the next person. The trio had more than enough hit songs to go around for hours. McAnally, in particular, has been on a roll with hit songs including Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You,” “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Luke Bryan, and “Follow Your Arrow” by Kasey Musgraves. Although it was frigid, the crowd standing in line expressed delight as he performed each of the songs.

         Brandy Clark, fresh off her "Ellen Degeneres Show" debut, proved why she is currently the buzz of Music Row. Do yourself a favor and check out her album “12 Stories.” Clark performed the hit she wrote for Miranda Lambert (“Mama’s Broken Heart”), as well as originals from her current album. The crowd was clearly into the humorous “Hungover” as it received the most applause and howls of approval.    

         Josh Osborne also had plenty to sing about. He passionately sang hits ranging from the emotional “Come Over” by Kenny Chesney, “Chainsaw” by The Band Perry, and Billy Currington’s “We Are Tonight.” His rapport with McAnally was evident as they provided backup vocals for each other’s songs.

         At this point, the trio changed things up by doing a round where they sang each other’s songs. McAnally admitted that this was an intimidating concept, but they went for it anyway. Osborne sang the McAnally/Clark-penned “The Day She Got Divorced” that was made famous by Reba McEntire. Next, Clark sang the Osborne-penned “Neon” that was a hit for Chris Young. McAnally ended the round by singing a Clark tune about sadness. By this time, my whole body was an icicle, so I unfortunately didn’t get the name of the song and gave up my place in line. Here’s hoping for a better experience Thursday!

-- Scott Johnson, MCAU Assistant Editor

THE RUTLEDGE (Second Show):

         Proceeds from this show went to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
         Standing in line for this show I met a great couple, Carol and Bob, from The Outer Banks, N.C. They drive out  for "Tin Pan South" every year.  Ordinary folks who love the music and the story behind the song. People like them is what makes TPS great. Make sure to talk to the people around you. Who knows? They might give you an idea for a song!
         The second show at the Rutledge was all about four writers at the top of their game.  Every one of them had songs climbing the charts.
          Brett James opened with “I Hold On”, written with and recorded by Dierks Bentley. What a great blues-filled gritty voice James has! I love it. On his next turn, he did “Bottoms Up”, a co-write with Brantley Gilbert (who cut the song), Brett James, and Justin Weaver. My new friends Carol and Bob whispered, “You’ve got to see the video for this song”. We also heard “The Truth” recorded by Jason Aldean, "Stay With Me (Brass Bed)" by Josh Gracin, and his huge hit, “Jesus Take the Wheel” by Carrie Underwood.
         I heard Lee Thomas Miller for the first time last year and was impressed with his humor and great stories. Lee writes with Brad Paisley a lot and performed “To Me You Are the World” and “I’m Still a Guy”.  They finished “Guy” at 2 in the morning, and Brad was so excited he said, "We have to wake up my wife and sing it for her."  His wife was nine months pregnant at the time. She laughed so hard when they were done that her water broke... true story. “Should Have Seen It in Color”, a hit for Jamey Johnson, really touched me.
         I highly recommend seeing Caitlyn Smith. Great songs and great alternative vocals with lots of  dynamics. She seduced me with “Heart of Dixie”, cut by Danielle Bradbery, and co-written with Brett James and Troy Vegas. A new one, “Wasted Champagne”, went over well with the crowd. And who couldn’t fall in love with “You Can’t Make Old Friends”, her current hit with Kenny and Dolly, co-written with Ryan Hanna King and Don Schlitz.
         I admit this was my first time seeing Rivers Rutherford live.  What a phenomenal guitarist. What a delta blues voice! Joe Nichols just released his song “Old School Country Song”, which was inspired by the last time he saw his grandmother, who was 94. She didn’t quite remember things too well. He asked her how old she was, and she didn’t know. So he got a hand-held mirror and gave it to her. She replied, “I guess I’m about 65”. “No,” Rivers said. “Well 60," she said, smiling. “No grandma, you’re 94... fifty years older than me.”  She looked at him and said, “Oh, you’re Rivers. You were born on my fiftieth birthday.“ “That’s right Grannie, I’m 44."  “Oh,” she said without missing a beat. “That must make me 110!” Rivers also treated us to “These are My People” (Rodney Atkins) and “When I get Where I’m Going” performed by Tim McGraw. I heard Rivers has a CD out.   I’ll have to check his website and buy a copy.

-- Wil Comstock, MCAU Writer

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