Tin Pan South and a Cherry Red Strat

The past two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of activity for me!  It all started last Tuesday with the first official “Dog Days of Summer” benefit concert at the Rutledge here in Nashville.  Rachel Proctor, Bruce Wallace and I each played a full band set to raise funds for the local “Camp Chaos” dog rescue organization that we’re involved in. I decided that rather than staying in my comfort zone and playing my acoustic guitar the whole night, I would take that cherry red electric Stratocaster guitar down from the wall in my studio and  play that instead, solo and all, to close my set of original songs with the cover song “Magic” by The Cars.  It was a blast!

The following week was Tin Pan South, the world-famous songwriters’ festival here in Nashville that features acoustic performances of original songs by hundreds of hit writers.  The writers perform in sets of four, and this year I was asked by NSAI (Nashville Songwriters’Association International) to put together my own “round”.  So I invited some of my favorite friends and cowriters to participate: Rachel Proctor (writer of “Where Would You Be” for Martina McBride), Julie Roberts (Mercury recording artist best known for her hit “Break Down Here”), and Gary Baker (who penned the monster crossover pop/country hits “I Swear” and “I’m Already There).  We played to a packed house of industry professionals and amateur songwriters alike, and it was especially exciting because Julie was debuting several songs that she had cowritten with Rachel and me, so we played along and harmonized with her.  We had a ball!

But the night was far from over.  The moment I got off stage, my phone rang and it was my cowriter Tia Sillers, asking me to take her place in a show at the Bluebird Café across town in 20 minutes because she was losing her voice!  So I packed up my guitar, jumped in the car and arrived just in time to take the stage alongside songwriters Mark Selby (The Dixie Chicks’ “There’s Your Trouble”, Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black”), Doug Johnson (Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses”, Rascall Flatt’s “Skin”) and the amazing new Curb artist Christianna Perez. Tia’s shoes are hard to fill (she penned the huge hit “I Hope You Dance” for Leanne Womack) but the show went really well and the audience was fabulous.  Not only that, but we even had a cameo performance by legendary country artist Larry Gatlin, who looked at me and said “This girl can sing tenor to a dog whistle!!!”  I think that’s a compliment….

The next morning, I was up and at it again – NSAI had invited me to be a panelist at their songwriting symposium alongside some of my songwriting idols: Gary Burr (“What Mattered Most”, “In a Week or Two”), Victoria Shaw (Garth’s “The River”) and Chris Wallin (Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink”, Montgomery Gentry’s “Something to be Proud of”).  We each performed a song and answered questions from what looked like an audience of several hundred writers.  It was a really special thing to be up there with writers whose songs I have loved for so long.

Tonight, 2 days later, I’m preparing for yet another Bluebird show, and then I’ll be performing in Georgia for the next two weekends.  In the meantime, I’m scheduled to co-write every day of the week.  Over the past two weeks I’ve written songs with Michelle Wright, Cyndi Thomson, Julie Roberts, Lila McCann, Rachel Proctor and a bunch of other writers I really admire, so my day job is pretty exciting too.  Who needs a vacation?  My whole life is a vacation!