Everyone knows it’s finally spring in Nashville when thousands of aspiring songwriters and music fans invade the city for Tin Pan South. The world’s largest songwriter festival, produced by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), just finished its 21st go-round, as some of the music industry’s most famed songwriters of past and present times performed in various venues around Music City for five straight nights.
PHOTOS: Tin Pan South Festival
Tin Pan South is primarily a week of writers in the round, some of whom are old friends and some of whom have never met, some of whom have stable careers as writers and/or performers, and some of whom are thrilled to have a gig for a night. Downtown at Nashville’s Hard Rock Cafe, writers from Major Bob Music’s staff held court. Platinum Major Bob staff writers like Karyn Rochelle and Cary Barlowe (former lead guitarist for the Rick Rubin-championed band-that-should-have-made-it-
A mile or so to the south at the club 3rd and Lindsley, the advertised plan was for slide guitar whiz Colin Linden and Americana maestro Buddy Miller, both part of the musical goings-on of the ABC television show Nashville, to appear with some special guests. Those guests ended up being pretty much the entire performing cast of the TV show itself, actors who also are good singers as well and not just lip-synchers and are actually showing up on the music charts. Nashville stars Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten took their turns at the mic, along with supporting cast members Clare Bowen, Sam Palladio, Jonathan Jackson, and pop/rock solo artist Erin McCarley, who plays the touring guitarist of Britton’s character Rayna James on the program. Young sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella, who portray the daughters of Britton’s character, opened the show with a version of the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” that set the tone for a night that gave the packed house its money’s worth. And if the Nashville crew’s appearance at 3rd and Lindsley wasn’t enough, real-life Nashville writer/artists Gary Nicholson, Sarah Buxton and Tyler James also appeared.
At the Listening Room in landmark Cummins Station, writer/artists Mark Nesler, James Otto, Patrick Davis and Corey Crowder played, all four of them being well-acquainted. While the first three have long track records, Crowder was the relative newcomer. “I hate to use this word, but it was a magical night,” said Crowder, a Universal staff writer who has opened for Lady Antebellum, Willie Nelson and others and whose music has appeared on Nashville, The Biggest Loser and other television shows. “The crowd was great, I was playing with my buddies, there were no awkward moments…it was for sure one of my favorite nights of playing in the round ever.”
Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but in the no-less-busy Vanderbilt University area, “Chicks with Picks” held court at the Belcourt Taps venue. Featuring Marcia Ramirez, Roxie Randle, Sabrina, and longtime Brooks & Dunn backup vocalist and The Singing Bee house band member Kim Parent, the “Chicks” played to a packed house of mostly college students. “It was a tough round,” Parent joked. “I had to bring my A-game because everybody else is so good.”
At the world-famous Bluebird Cafe (no hyperbole, it really is world-famous), Kim Richey, Jeff Black, mandolin legend Sam Bush and Irish sensation Gareth Dunlop played to a sold-out house (though pretty much every room in town was sold out and the tiny Bluebird usually is anyway). “I think I did four songs of my own and one that Kim and I wrote together; I’ve been getting into the co-writing thing that so many people do in Nashville,” Dunlop said. “And playing with Sam was amazing, he’s a monster.”
Other highlights of the week included Erin Enderlin and Joey + Rory swapping songs at the Station Inn, Jeffrey Steele and Dustin Lynch playing together in a round at Douglas Corner, and Tonic’s Emerson Hart in the round with Dave Barnes, Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin, and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley at the Listening Room, among other great combinations that may never be duplicated.
And now that that’s over, the NSAI staffers can start working on number 22 for next spring.