Tuesday, March 28 marks the beginning of five days of the assembling in Nashville of more songwriters than can probably be found per square block than in any place in the world. It’s time for the annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, but this year’s gathering is extra-special, as it marks the 25th year of the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s (NSAI) annual event to put the spotlight on the song and the songwriter.
At 10 designated Nashville music venues (and maybe a few other “unofficial” stray spots around town), a Who’s Who of songwriters – and not strictly country writers – will hold court for five nights, with each of the 10 locations staging both an early show and a late show, drawing everyone from the casual fan to the seasoned music business veteran. Jennifer Turnbow, the NSAI’s senior director of operations, said that this year’s event, featuring such names as Keb’ Mo’, Lee Roy Parnell, and legendary rock writer Desmond Child, is especially significant given the event’s amazing success over the past two-and-a-half decades.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the festival has grown over the past 25 years,” Turnbow said from the NSAI’s offices, located in a historic building on Roy Acuff Place on Nashville’s Music Row. “We started as a two-day festival in three venues. This year, we’ll produce 100 shows with over 400 songwriters participating. Each of these writers gives of their time to play to benefit the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and I think that speaks to the important work we do both as advocates for the profession of songwriting and as a community to educate aspiring songwriters. This festival is an unparalleled celebration of the songwriter, and I’m proud that we’ve been shining that spotlight on the people behind the songs for so long.”
Turnbow said that, while this year’s celebration is a landmark event, there was no concerted effort to garner the participation of any special names, since the biggest and brightest participate every year anyway. “Mostly it was business as usual [in recruiting participants],” she said. “We have a format that we think works and we try to stick with that. We value that we stay true to the ‘songwriter show.’ Our largest venue has a capacity of no more than 400 by design to maintain the intimacy of a songwriter round. That said, we did reach out to some of our organizational partners this year to encourage them to create ‘legacy’ shows to highlight our history, and they came through for us.”
For more information about the locations and performers at this year’s Tin Pan South, go to tinpansouth.com or nashvillesongwriters.com.