Lori McKenna, Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Natalie Hemby – Listening Room Cafe

One of the amazing elements of Tin Pan South is that songwriters are given the opportunity to show off their own personalities outside of their hit songs, and that’s exactly what we got to see during a show at the Listening Room Cafe featuring Lori McKenna, Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Natalie Hemby.

All four acts have written for the biggest names in country music, with cuts by Little Big Town, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert between them. And while they treated the crowd to many of those hits, they also performed some of their favorite personal tracks as well.

Hemby charmed listeners with her performance of the sweet song, “Roy and Judy,” written about her thoughtful and caring neighbors she grew up next door that showed off her more poignant side. McKenna’s set was one of variety, with the CMA and Grammy winning songwriter singing everything from Little Big Town’s current single, “Happy People” (which she called the “happiest song I’ve ever written”) to the truthful “Everybody’s Moving to Nashville.”

Laird brought a real mellow vibe, performing a sweet acoustic rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” which he revealed was the first song they wrote together. Dean, as always, brought plenty of humor and laughs along with incredible songs, captivating the crowd with his soothing performance of “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” by Tim McGraw.

One of the best parts of the evening was the camaraderie demonstrated by the foursome, seeing as they’re all friends in real life. Hemby, Laird and Dean had the audience singing and clapping along to the summer jam “Pontoon,” which they all co-wrote together, giving the group their first No. 1 single. But it was McKenna’s performance of her career-defining hit, “Humble and Kind,” that showed not just how incredible a writer she is, but served as the cherry on top of a truly wonderful evening of songs, laughter and friendship.

 

Lindsay Ell, Justin Ebach, Jason Blaine and Hannah Ellis perform at the Douglas Corner Cafe during Tin Pan South. PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDSAY ELL

Lindsay Ell, Justin Ebach, Jason Blaine and Hannah Ellis – Douglas Corner Cafe

Not all songwriters can have chemistry like the ones that gathered at Douglas Corner Cafe during night three of Tin Pan South when Lindsay Ell, Justin Ebach, Jason Blaine and Hannah Ellis all brought their A-game to the stellar round.

Ellis grabbed the audience’s attention with her sassy and upbeat tune, “I Love You So What,” which was followed by the equally well-received, and energetic, “Singles You Up” from Ebach. An example of the fate-driven nature of songwriting came to light when Ebach told the story of how the song “When I Pray For You,” which is featured on the soundtrack to the movie “The Shack,” serendipitously came together when singers Dan + Shay surprisingly joined his writing session one day and the topic of conversation turned to their experiences as parents and soon-to-be-parents, resulting in the moving song.

Ell truly demonstrated her talent as a solo artist, performing songs off her new EP “Worth the Wait.” She opened her set with the slow, yet smooth track “Waitin’ on You” that serves as the first track of the project. But the true standout performance came on a song called “Don’t Call Me Lonely,” which finds Ell offering insightful wisdom about the strength one finds in being independent.

Meanwhile, Blaine wowed the crowd with the swanky, Spanish-infused “Little Heartbreaker” that includes a chill-inducing melody, which served as a highlight of the show. Ellis also provided a powerful moment when she sang “Officer Down,” a song she wrote about her late cousin who was killed in the line of duty as a police officer. Trying to process the pain, she decided to write the song from the perspective of his wife, saying it was the kind of song that “had to be written” and proving just how important the art of songwriting truly is.