Tunesmiths took over downtown Nashville last week when the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) held its 22nd annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival. More than 400 songwriters performed, sharing the stories behind their songs at over 90 shows in 10 of Nashville’s premiere venues from March 25-29.
From Nashville's greenest talent to legends of years past,
From Nashville's greenest talent to legends of years past,you never know what you're going to hear or who you're going to see during the five-night festival. Tin Pan South 2014 brought numerous surprise appearances (and performances), including ABC's "Nashville" cast members and multi-platinum artist Jewel. Rascal Flatts' Joe Don Rooney used the occasion to announce he's going to be a dad again.
Here's a recap of some of the festival's highlights, surprises and rare (had to see it to believe it) moments.
March 25 – Each year, funds raised from one show is donated to a selected charity and this year was of no exception. “St. Jude Country Cares 25th Anniversary Show” donated door sales at the Rutledge to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It featured: Brett James ("Jesus, Take The Wheel," "The Truth," "When the Sun Goes Down"), Rivers Rutherford ("Real Good Man," "When I Get Where I'm Going," "Stealing Cinderella"), Lee Thomas Miller ("The World," "You’re Gonna Miss This," "In Color") and Caitlyn Smith ("Everything’s Changed," "Hank Drank," "Sweet California").
At the Listening Room Café: Dave Barnes ("God Gave Me You," "Until You," "Little Lies"), Steve Moakler ("Wide Open," "Waiting," "True Like Your Name"), Ben Rector ("Ordinary Love," "Forever Like That," "I Like You") and Andrew Ripp ("You Will Find Me," "Forever After Love," "Peace Like a River"). The intimate club reached capacity prior to showtime and had to cut the line, leaving many disappointed fans who waited in cold temperatures for hours to get inside.
Journey’s Jonathan Cain had a "Don’t Stop Believing" sing-a-long at the Bluebird Cafe, while Nashville’s TV "Mayor" Eric Close ("Teddy Conrad" on ABC’s "Nashville") watched from the audience. And just down the road, Shay Mooney of the hot country duo Dan + Shay surprised the 9 p.m. Belcourt Taps late show.
March 26 – 2004 Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Morgan ("Sleeping Single in a Double Bed") guest appeared at the late-night Douglas Corner Café show and performed a 34-year-old Johnny Cash tune which is featured on Cash's recently released posthumous album, "Out Among the Stars."
At the Station Inn, Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard (“Evil on Your Mind”) joined Larry Gatlin (“Broken Lady,” “She Used To Be Somebody’s Baby,” “Talkin’ To The Moon”), Vince Gill (“I Still Believe In You,” “Go Rest High On That Mountain,” “Worlds Apart”), Leslie Satcher (“When God Fearin’ Women Get The Blues,” “House Of Cash,” “Troubadour”) and Bobby Tomberlin (“One More Day,” “Good Day To Run,” “She Misses Him On Sundays The Most”). This dimly-lit venue was filled with a packed-tighter-than-a-can-of-sardines crowd.
Jaime Lynn Spears canceled her Tin Pan South debut at the Bluebird Café without explanation. However, new-to-Nashville star Jewel sat in her place alongside Lisa Carver (who has written songs cut by Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw and Sugarland), Corey Crowder (Kenny Rogers, the Cadillac Three) and Liz Rose (“Teardrops On My Guitar,” “You Belong With Me,” “Tim McGraw”).
“I’ve been a fan of Jewel’s forever, but I actually got to witness her live the other night," said Lisa Carver. "And in a town of singers, I was just completely blown away. I didn’t know what to say after the show – I was like, ‘Oh my God, that ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ song absolutely rattled my ovaries."
Jewel then rattled everyone else's ovaries by performing her songs “Carnivore," “Boy Needs A Bike (Ride Away)” and “A Hole In My Heart.” “I’m doing the ugly, snot, chin quivering cry,” said Lisa after the latter. “Oh my God, that freaking killed me. Can I have a hug? I’ve been to therapy and church, and there goes my dang Bare Minerals.” Jewel stood up to hug Lisa, who was seated next to her.
Liz Rose sang two extremely personal songs, *“Yellow Room” and *“Older In Tulsa." Lisa mentioned that her own song, “Bullet” may be a future track for “Little Kip [Moore].” Corey Crowder also tackled some of his own unreleased tunes, "1, 2, 9, 10” and "Lived In.”
Liz, Corey and Lisa all joined together “in honor of Jaime Lynn who is not here," to play "Run” from Jaime Lynn's debut album, a song they wrote together.
Surprise guest Jewel closed the night with a standing ovation for her hit “Who Will Save Your Soul.” She also played fan-favorite “Hands,” which was written post-9/11.
Over at the Rutledge, ABC’s “Nashville” star Sam Palladio (“Gunnar Scott”) chimed in during the early show, while castmates Aubrey Peeples (“Layla Grant”) and Chaley Rose (“Zooey Dalton”) offered moral support from the audience.
March 27 – The Recording Academy's Nashville chapter presented Jim Lauderdale (“Twang,” “Get to You,” “One of You”) with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Rodney Crowell (“After All This Time,” “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” “Making Memories Of Us”) at the Station Inn.
"This from a record Rodney produced and I'll keep bragging on him through the night because this really is great for me every time I can be near this man. In all seriousness, he really has been such a big influence on me," Jim said before starting the night off with "Planet of Love," written in tribute to Gram Parsons and George Jones.
Later in the show, Rodney called out his good friend Jim for not inviting him on his radio show, “The Buddy & Jim Show,” on SiriusXM Radio's Outlaw Country Channel. Jim responded with a quick invitation, and Rodney will now be on the show April 9.
Over at 3rd & Lindsley there was a soaking-wet line of people standing in the rain to see the Peach Pickers: Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Ben Hayslip. Inside, the three hit songwriters played their epic list of No. 1 singles, including a fan-demanded encore, all backed by a full band. Justin Martin (“Martin”) from “Duck Dynasty” was spotted at that late show.
ABC’s “Nashville” stars Lennon (“Maddie”) and Maisy (“Daphne”) Stella sweetly guest-starred in their parents', The Stellas, early Hard Rock Café show.
“Lee Brice just cut this for his new album,” said Ben before playing "Show You Off.” Ben later sang another Lee Brice tune, “Hard To Love” that he originally wrote as a self-reflection.
“This has been sitting comfortably in the 40s [on the charts] for about seven months,” said Kylie, a self-described “lover not a fighter” before singing her own “Love Is War” currently charting for new duo American Young. Kylie also sais during the show that she had just found out earlier that day that she had snagged Danielle Bradbery’s new single, “Young In America.”
“I’ve kind of mangled it a little bit, because it’s hard to do a husband and wife duo all coming out of one guy who can’t sing very well,” quipped Paul Jenkins before playing “I Got You,” made famous by Thompson Square. Paul later sang, “Over,” featured on Blake Shelton’s last album, a tune he said he'd actually written 15 years prior in the key of rock, not country.
Before singing "I Can't Outrun You," Kyle Jacobs said, “It was written from a very real heartbreak. I was all teary-eyed and snotty. Trace Adkins was actually the first person to cut this song, but Thompson Square put it on their new record.” He also chose to perform “I Drive Your Truck” cut by Lee Brice. He said it was inspired by an NPR interview with the father of soldier who lost his son on duty and said that he’d drive his son’s truck to remember him. “I was lucky enough to produce it—not write it—but this song in a lot of ways has changed my life," said Kyle.
Over at the Bluebird Café, JT Harding ("Smile", “Somewhere With You,” "Alone With You") joined Tim Nichols ("(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “A Baby Changes Everything,” “Live Like You Were Dying”) and Marv Green (“Amazed,” “Wasted,” “Farmers Daughter”) for the late show.
March 29 – The Listening Room was the place to be as Tin Pan South closed with a sold-out finale. Lines wrapped down and around 2nd Avenue for a show that featured Rascal Flatts lead guitartist Joe Don Rooney alongside hit songwriters and an award-winning producer: Dave Berg, Courtney Cole and Nathan Chapman.
Nathan started the feel-good closing night off with "Good Times," cut by Cassadee Pope for her solo debut album. He followed up later in the night with O.A.R.'s current single, "Peace" and a future cut, "Where We Left Off," for the band's new album.
Courtney, a writer for Big Machine Music, captivated attention with "Headlights," a personal tune co-written with Nathan. "Would I offend you guys if I stood up for this song? This song gets me excited," she beamed before introducing her own "Can't Buy Love" further into the set.
"I can tell you a time when each of these guys have had an influence on my life," said Courtney. "Nathan with Taylor Swift, I used to listen to Taylor Swift, ridiculously, all the time in my car. This guy [Dave], I remember being in college and hearing '[If You're] Going Through Hell' by Rodney Atkins on the radio, I remember exactly where I was. And 'God Bless The Broken Road' was me and my eighth grade boyfriend's song," a coment that prompted Joe Don to cut-in with, "Damn, I'm getting old." Courtney fadded, "I'm just fan girling over here big time."
Dave Berg selected his Chris Cagle cut, "What Kinda Gone," for his first tune. He also, without asking, got all three songwriters join him for an "If You're Going Through Hell (Before The Devil Even Knows)" sing-along with Nathan on percussion.
Besides providing impromptu guitar solos throughout the night for his fellow songwriters, Joe Don played a handful of Rascal Flatts favorites, including "Sunday Afternoon" which he said "should have been a single"; "She Goes All The Way," "Which featured the most talented guy I [Joe Don] ever was around, Jaime Foxx": "Sunrise," written with Nathan; and "Life Is a Highway." He also debuted his own two "gratuitous plugs available to be cut by any artists in the room," called "Moon Tan" and "Back to OK."
"I signed a publishing deal last year, at the end of the year, with Big Machine Music," shared Joe Don. "I'm so fired up about songwriting right now, it's almost like I got a shot in my arm. I'm just so happy where Nashville is and the growing crop of amazing artists we have. I just see so much potential for the future in Nashville and it makes me so proud to be a songwriter and live right here."
The dad of two said earlier in the night that he had "all night" to play, adding, "I haven't been out in awhile, so who knows what's going to happen." But before playing "Back to OK," the Okie shared very intimate news that his wife (who was in the audience) is preganant with their third child, as previously reported on Nashville Edge.
The Fast Access Passes for Tin Pan South surpassed expectations by selling out in 12 hours. Other fans had the option of purchasing pay-per-night tickets at each venue. Proceeds raised from ticket sales fund NSAI. Tin Pan South is the world’s largest all-songwriter music festival.