Sunday, March 29, 2015

Young Performers Impress Audiences on Fourth Night of 'Tin Pan South'


Day Four: March 27 (Friday)

         For day four of "Tin Pan South", MCAU's writers decided to spotlight emerging and professional singer-songwriters. The level of talent was well beyond expectations, reassuring us that the future of music looks promising indeed.

Young writers impress at the Blue Bar

First Show (Early Show at Blue Bar):  

         The first show featured Lance Carpenter, Melissa Fuller, Gavin Slate, and Elana Springsteen.

         The last time I was at the Blue Bar, it was called Trilogy. Do you remember the restaurant owned by Naomi, Wynonna and Ashley Judd? I hit this show cold knowing nothing about any of these writers. After the first round, these guys really started to kick into gear. The waitress brought Gavin and Lance a beer. They toasted on-stage, and Lance said it would be a few months before Elana could have one. That was when we learned she's only 14 years old. Melissa wasn't drinking because she was pregnant.

         During this set, we heard Melissa Fuller's melodic "When Love Had Its Way", a newly recorded duet by Kacey Jones and Katie Armiger. I liked the encouraging "Don't Quit Your Daydream", a song she wrote for other emerging tunesmiths in town. "Heavy Rotation" was written with her co-writer in 15 minutes. They excitedly brought the song over to their publisher who said, "Now, this is a song about a record, right?" They enthusiastically told him yes, to which he responded, "Well I'm not clear what a 38 is." They answered, "45s and 38s." Laughing, the publishing explained their error, and the line was re-written.

         Gavin Slate's voice reminds me of the Scottish alternative rock band Del Amitri... and I really like Del Amitri! Gavin recently moved to Nashville from Toronto. I loved his confessional song "The Truth". His heartfelt "I've Got to Leave You to See" had all of us thinking about our own move to Nashville to pursue our dreams. It's always hard to leave people you love behind. Wes Mack, who is on the Big Machine label, cut Gavin's "Love the Way You Let Me Down". The song describes a relationship with "a girl who treats (him) like garbage, but (he) just can't get enough." Seems most of us have experienced something like that!

         Special guest Elana Springsteen of Virginia Beach, Va., was the big surprise of the evening. This 14-year-old has already written some great songs, and she's quite a guitarist. Everyone smiled as she sang the age-appropriate "Too Young to Care". Ah... the reckless carelessness of youth, which (by the way) I'm sure does not apply to Elana. I certainly related to her insightful "The In-Between", the place where we all live between the big events in life. Telling us she grew up near a military base, she played "What I Wouldn't Give". The song was sung through the eyes of a deployed soldier, longing to be home to put his kids to bed and fall asleep next to his wife. This girl is sure going places.

         Lance Carpenter had quite a few friends to cheer him on. He's a likeable guy with a big heart and big voice. I enjoyed his "We Still Ride" with its strong hook and rap-like chorus. Lance tenderly sang as he finger-picked "Better Than Me", a song of devotion that he wrote with Justin Wilson. One night while hanging out with his "co-writer family", eating pizza and drinking beer, someone picked up a guitar. They started writing "Love Me Like You Mean It", the current single for Kelsea Ballerini. I have an idea Carpenter will be having a lot more pizza, beer and hits!

-- Wil Comstock, MCAU Contributing Writer

 Second Show (Late Show at Commodore Lounge):

         The lobby of the Holiday Inn was packed when we arrived for the second show around 8:20. Marc-Alan Barnette, whose show had just ended, walked the pass line to thank everyone for coming. Other songwriters, some visiting from as far away as Great Britain and Bermuda, shot the bull while waiting to enter the lounge. Once inside, one couldn't help but notice Debi Champion hurriedly making preparations for the show. Her dedication and professionalism are always appreciated.

Ryan Beaver and John Osborne

         The lineup for this show was Ryan Beaver, Maren Morris, Lucie Silvas, and a surprise replacement (for Jeremy Spillman)... the amazing Barry Dean. The talented guitarist John Osborne provided accompaniment and background vocals.

         Country upstart Ryan Beaver loves to write and perform sad songs. He kicked off the show with the romantic country ballad "You Were the Rain" (the opposite of his admitted untenable "wildfire"). The Texas tenor drew heavy applause from the crowd with "Kristofferson" (a song honoring the songwriting legend), "When This World Ends" (an unusual mix of romance and holocaust), and "Whatever the Night May Bring" (a romance that weathers a terrible storm). His foot-tapping song "Vegas Doesn't Stay in Vegas" sounds like a classic country tune one might have heard in the '80s or '90s... with one-night stands, slot machines, unexpected romance, and broken hearts. Beaver has a lot of talent... as a singer-guitarist, but especially as a country songwriter. I expect him to write a lot of hits.

         I knew a star was being born when I heard the first few bars of Lucie Silvas' first song, "Unbreakable Love". Wow... what a voice! Her vocals transcended from smooth and subtle to soaring R&B that's reminiscent of the legendary Bonnie Raitt. Silvas is a Brit whose performance, style and songs exude solid craft along with the unexpected. She can pull things in close country-style or explore new musical territory (with ease). Every song kept getting better. "Smoke" was sultry and hip. "Roots" combined acoustic-style piano with raspy emotion. "Gold" filled our heads with esoteric images of purple lilac beds and golden hearts. Silvas admitted that she doesn't always understand her lyrics. But the words are fascinating when paired with her colorful chord progressions and "heart and soul" vocals. "I love you all very much," she told the crowd before performing her song "Shame". "British 'do' love people, as well as dogs and horses."

Lucie Silvas
         Hit songwriter Barry Dean, calling himself an old man in a group of youngsters, stepped in for an ill Jeremy Spillman. Dean drew immediate applause with "Diamond Rings and Old Barstools", a song recorded by Tim McGraw. Dean Followed with the adult contemporary hit "Girls Chase Boys" (Ingrid Michaelson), the clever "Day Drinking" (Little Big Town), and a new tune on piano titled "Doesn't Give a Damn What Anyone Else Says" (a song for his wife). Dean, who arrived in Nashville from Kansas only 13 years ago, told the crowd how the accidental inclusion of a sad ballad ("Moving Oleta") on a work tape helped launch his songwriting career. The tear-prompting tune tells the story of an old man admitting the incapacitated love of his life into a nursing home. The song was recorded, then performed live for several years by Reba McEntire. His performance of "Moving Oleta" on piano was one of the highlights of the evening. His success proves that age and locality do not prevent dreams from coming true.

Barry Dean and Maren Morris
         Maren Morris has a strong voice that sounds slightly country with a strong hint of pop-alternative... revealing a range you don't always hear with the many tried-and-true country singer-songwriters around town. That versatility should serve her well in the future. She began by performing "Company You Keep", a groove-along, melodic tune co-written with Shane McAnally and Luke Laird. She showed her soulful vocal range (and tenderness) when she belted out "Second Wind", a song recorded by Kelly Clarkson. "There's passion in everything I'm hearing tonight," she said before launching into "I Wish I Was", a song about a girl who longs to be loved by someone who won't love back. Hasn't that happened to just about everyone?  The crowd also enjoyed her renditions of the poetic "Last Turn Home" (Tim McGraw), spunky "Loose Change", and sad-but-true "Bumming Cigarettes"... All outstanding performances by an excellent songwriter, vocalist and musician.
         Sometimes, you choose a show without knowing what to expect. This time, I came away very impressed. NSAI's staff did an excellent job putting this round together.

-- Chuck Whiting, MCAU Editor

Photos by Chuck Whiting

See photos from the TPS Opening Party at the Roundabout at

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