Tin Pan South provides the opportunity for songwriters to be the stars. During the 31st edition, some of Nashville’s best songwriters including Laura Veltz, Lori McKenna, Barry Dean and Jeffrey Steele took to local venues all over the city to showcase their voices alongside the popular lyrics they’ve written. That rang true for Ben Burgess, Josh Kerr, Parker Welling and Brandon Paddock, who took the stage at Analog at Hutton Hotel on Wednesday (March 29) where they performed a healthy balance of hits and original songs. Here are five of the best moments from the round.
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1.) “This is the song that means the most to me”
Welling has a true Nashville story–from her parents meeting at the Bluebird Cafe, to Welling attending Belmont University with future country superstar Russell Dickerson and fellow hit songwriter Casey Brown. Welling was writing with her college friends one day when she shared a chorus she had written for one of her songs. That same chorus would ultimately be the one heard in Dickerson’s hit “Blue Tacoma.” Dickerson then made the verses tell the personal story about a road trip along the California coast with his wife, Kailey.
“This is the song that means the most to me,” Welling professed, leading into a heartfelt performance of Dickerson’s second chart-topping song.
2.) “Being a songwriter is a fun adventure”
Welling and Brown struck gold with Russell Dickerson again when they teamed up to write the latter’s 2020 single, “Love You Like I Used To.”
“Being a songwriter is a fun adventure,” Welling said. She then told the story about how what would’ve been a song about a breakup turned into something more meaningful when Dickerson’s wife heard the demo. Kailey said they should’ve written the first verse tricking the listener into thinking the couple was about to break up, only for the chorus to kick in and you realize they’re actually in love. Welling, who is best friends with Kailey, had a similar concept in mind that she didn’t voice in the writing room. Kailey reassured her via text message that they should pursue the idea.
Dickerson took his wife’s comment to heart and went back to the drawing board with Welling and Brown, the three re-writing the track on Dickerson’s tour bus in the parking lot of Pine Knob Music Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. Coincidentally, Welling used to go to shows at that very venue when she and her family temporarily moved to Detroit when she was in middle and high school. That “magical” moment turned into another No. 1 song.
3.) Josh Kerr performs the hit that kept him from working at Dairy Queen
Kerr, whose name is behind songs by Kelsea Ballerini, Keith Urban and others, opened the round by performing the song that changed his life. The Buffalo, New York, native grew up working at Dairy Queen, which he did strategically knowing it was “only open seven months” out of the year, he joked. Kerr also quipped that the thought he’d have to resort to working at Dairy Queen again upon moving to Nashville. But that all changed when he got into the writing room with Ballerini to write what would become her debut No. 1 hit, “Love Me Like You Mean It.”
“This is my first No. 1 that made me never have to work at Dairy Queen again,” he said as he launched into a performance with supporting harmonies from his fellow songwriters onstage.
4.) Ben Burgess captures the essence of a songwriter
As host of the round, Burgess’ vibe ran the gamut from humorous to reflective. Burgess acknowledged that it’s “been a hard week for news” following the tragic mass shooting in Nashville at The Covenant School that resulted in the deaths of three children and three adults. “Life is short and we’ve got to tell everybody you love them,” he professed.
This led to the backstory of his original song, “Started a Band,” off his 2022 debut album Tears the Size of Texas. The songwriter noted that people like to hear you sing about your pain and hinted that the first and last lines of a song are “most important.” The song centers around a man whose girlfriend left him for a rock star, as told through lyrics that reference a 2002 band T-shirt he’ll never get back and curing his loneliness by buying a guitar. I might’ve lost the girl / But I started the band, he sang to cheers from the audience.
5.) Brandon Paddock performs his first round
For years, Paddock has been a hit songwriter, producer and engineer based in Los Angeles. He’s contributed to Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s to Never Growing Up” and “Human” by Christina Perri, among others. The Analog show served as Paddock’s first songwriter round in Nashville. He opened his set with an acoustic performance of Lady A’s “Like a Lady,” the top 20 hit that came out of one of his first writing sessions in Nashville with Hillary Scott, Dave Barnes, Martin Johnson and Michelle Buzz.
Later in the show, Paddock shared that he was recently in a writing session with Jake Owen that resulted in a song that celebrates the glory days of country music. With nods to Billy Ray Cyrus and CMT, Paddock sang there was a time when things were simple / There was a time when things were free. The chorus conveyed the song’s thesis statement, I want my country like it used to be. Paddock’s set proved his ability to adapt his L.A. pop sound to fit modern country songwriting.
(Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)