Only at Tin Pan South can you see legendary songwriters like Victoria Shaw and Tom Douglas performing their best-known hits in an up close and personal setting. Shaw and Douglas took center stage at The Local and The Listening Room Cafe, respectively, as Tin Pan South, the world’s largest songwriter festival, came to a close, Saturday night (April 7th).
As good fortune would have it, “Sports & Entertainment Nashville” entered The Local just as Shaw gave the introduction to perhaps her most beloved song, “The River,” which Garth Brooks took to No. 1 in 1992. Accompanying herself on keyboards, Shaw gave an inspiring performance that truly brought home the song’s timeless message. The revved up packed house joined in on the chorus.
Pop songwriter Desmond Child also had them singing along to a familiar tune, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” which practically begs for a joint effort. There wasn’t a single person, young or old, pop fan or not, who couldn’t recall the words to this iconic smash. The show was billed as “The British Invasion of Nashville,” mainly due to the presence of The Bass Brothers, a trio hailing from the U.K. The brothers showcased their tight harmonies on a tune they wrote with Shaw, “Did You Ever Make it to Memphis.”
Cruising over to The Listening Room Cafe, there was time to catch the final rounds of the early show, featuring a group of younger writers: Brian Lee, Ferras, Ilsey and Meghan Kabir, who was raised partly in Franklin, Tennessee. The singularly named Ilsey, a Los Angeles-based writer, provided a memorable highlight with “Mercy,” a song she wrote for Shawn Mendes. The audience gave a spirited response to Kabir’s, “I Come in Pieces.”
Fans filed in for the late show at The Listening Room Cafe, filling all the available tables in quick fashion. And why not? With a bill that starred the venerable Tom Douglas, Sarah Buxton and David Hodges, formerly of the band Evanescence, small wonder that the venue was completely packed.
Douglas, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, could likely serve as the poster guy for Tin Pan South. He was working in real estate in Dallas before finally deciding to change his life course and move to Nashville in the 1990’s to become a songwriter. A more articulate speaker you will not find, with an intelligent wit to boot. As he introduced his Grammy-nominated song “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” Douglas mentioned that the idea sprang from a newspaper article. For the benefit of the young people in the house, Douglas quipped, he proceeded to explain what a newspaper was, using the term “anachronistic” to help define it.
Buxton, famed for her clear writing style and raspy singing voice, followed with “Every Time I Fall in Love,” which she noted was her most recorded song. Hodges gave some of his history with the Arkansas-based band Evanescence, prompting Douglas to ask the meaning of the band’s name. For the record, the root word “evanesce” means to disappear or fade away. Hodges sang the band’s hit “Bring Me to Life,” which has not faded away even after more than 20 years.
Douglas again displayed his wry humor with a story. “I got my first country hit when I was 41,” he said, drawing an amazed reaction from the crowd. “Now, I’m 86,” Douglas (actually 65) joked. The song in question was Collin Raye’s 1994 single, “Little Rock,” which Douglas performed. Later, Douglas played “Southern Voice,” recorded by Tim McGraw, with Buxton chiming in on vocals.
Buxton has long been considered one of the finest vocalists around Music City, but her writing is equally formidable. Among her penned hits are the wonderful “Stupid Boy” by Keith Urban, another Urban single “Put You in a Song,” and “Outside My Window.” For one of her Tin Pan South turns, Buxton performed “Sun Daze,” the Florida Georgia Line hit that became her first No. 1 as a writer. Buxton received ample backing from her husband and guitar wizard Tom Bukovac.
Additional late shows wrapping up Tin Pan South featured Jamie Floyd and Paul Overstreet at Station Inn, plus Kent Blazy and Cory Batten at Douglas Corner Cafe. The Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival helps support the ongoing efforts of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.