Tin Pan South celebrated its 20th anniversary this year — and did they ever do it up right! From long-lasting hit writers who’ve been recognized for many years to the newcomers who are burning up the charts and the clubs around town with their music, this year’s songwriter’s festival was simply one of the best.

The kick-off party filled the room with greatness, including Alex Call, Michael Martin Murphey, Gary Burr and Bernie Nelson; space is too limited to list all the mega-talent in attendance.

Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, performing at Nashville’s Hard Rock Cafe during Tin Pan South.

But suffice to say, the vibration of the room was a memorable one. And each little group that lingered only proved that one of the greatest things about being a songwriter isn’t even so much the gift of lyrics and melody that comes forth, but the genuine warmth and camaraderie among all the writers. Long-time hit writers such as Murphey act as mentors to their younger, less experienced counterparts, helping them move ahead, write better songs, and become a part of songwriting history.

There really is no middle ground among this group. As a matter of fact, one television reporter in attendance at the kickoff party asked the question: ‘Is there really any such thing as an ‘up-and-coming’ songwriter, or is it just that writers do what they do?’

Well, the answer is two-fold: if you’re in the music business — in any genre — and haven’t had a song “cut” by a recognizable artist, then you are likely considered an “up and coming songwriter” from a music publisher’s viewpoint. And yes, if you are just starting out, and have only written three songs, then again, there is most definitely room to grow, define your craft, and you are indeed “up and coming.”

However, the flip side of that is, if you are really a songwriter who writes when inspiration hits, sleeps with a notepad and pen by your bed, and finds yourself writing on lunch bags and pizza boxes, then you’re likely a songwriter who — with or without cuts — is just doing what you do, and living your dream. Even unpaid, it all seems worthwhile.

It is a great life to be in, and I think most would agree whether you’ve had one cut, 50 cuts, or no cuts, just being able to live the dream among friends who are doing the same, makes it a good dream to follow. Granted though, I’m sure walking to the mailbox and seeing those five-and six-figure checks doesn’t hurt either.

If you were wondering why a songwriter’s celebration, the answer would easily be found by having attended any one of the Tin Pan South events this year. The featured acts were so incredible… it is just beyond words.

Madison Cain

Madison Cain

Those of us who had the privilege of hearing could not help but marvel. Murphey singing “Wildfire” with Paul Overstreet and an entire audience singing backup; Mike Loudermilk (a fantastic guitarist who accompanied this show) playing a solo, while the rest of us live in awe; Scotty Emerick singing “I Love this Bar” while Murphey dances a jig; Overstreet still singing “A Long Line of Love” and making us all remember why falling in love is so great in the first place… ahhhh, magic!

Then you have folks like Alex Call, Leslie Ellis (whose vocals are nothing short of amazing), Casey Kelly and one of my personal favorites, C.J. Watson. If you haven’t yet listened to Watson’s “Coupe de Ville,” you’re missing out. It will make you smile for the rest of the day.

John Oates & Daphne Willis

John Oates & Daphne Willis

From venue to venue, greatness was the name of the game. Writers like John Oates of “Hall and Oates”, the incredible Jim Lauderdale, Jonathan Cain (Journey’s former keyboard player), Daphne Willis and more, filled the venues with tunes of now and then. And lets not forget Chris Wallin, Jonathan Singleton, Leslie Satcher (has there ever been a more angelic voice?), Chris Hennessee, Marc-Alan Barnette, Deric Ruttan, Dierks Bentley, Jeff Stevens and Luke Bryan. The list just goes on and on.

You definitely want to visit Tin Pan South’s website and check out all the great talent that appeared this year, and start making plans to attend next year. You do NOT want to miss it.