On Thursday night, music lovers crowded into the infamous Bluebird Café in Nashville to hear a selection of talented musicians and songwriters playing in the round. This evening offered a unique perspective into the writing industry of Nashville and the talented people behind the poppy country hits on the radio. The line up included James Slater who has written for the likes of Tim McGraw and Jamie Johnson, Kat Higgins writer for Carrie Underwood, Jeff Cohen who has written for Josh Groban and Evan and Jaron and finally Leigh Nash, lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer and her husband Stephen Wilson.
Each artist rotated through the round, playing a mix of their biggest radio hits and new songs written as recently as the day prior. Read on for my individual reviews.
James Slater was the artistic M.C. for the evening and clearly the most accomplished in the industry. His music was a mix of South American flare, pop and country. While it wasn’t exactly my forte, there’s no denying his talent. With a flare for writing incredibly catchy tunes like Mexicoma recorded by Tim McGraw and Where have all the Pianos Gone, a classic ivory-tickling jam reminiscent of Billy Joel, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elton John, he was entertaining to say the least and an incredible pianist. At times he reminded me of a George Thorogood, at others his vocal inflections were similar to Dylan’s and perhaps that’s his biggest talent of all-channeling various musical styles and creating hit tunes from them.
Jeff Cohen was impressive for two reasons. First, his songs were passionate and lively. They invoked emotions that he clearly felt deeply himself. They were fun, they were sad, they ranged a huge span of emotions. Secondly, he stood by his music. Between songs, he told a story of a large industry executive wanting him to change the lyrics of Crazy for this Girl from “She’s got me thinking about a family” to “She’s got me thinking about a fantasy” and he flat out refused to release the song until the two parties could agree on a word…and they did. While his vocals weren’t always on pitch, his voice fit his songs in my opinion and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jeff perform.
Shout out to this Canadian girl making it in Nashville like a champ. Kat moved from Vancouver to Nashville five years ago and since then her songs have been cut by country-pop stars including Carrie Underwood. For anyone who likes their country hits fun, catchy and thoughtful, you’ll love Kat. Check out my personal favourite song of hers, Mexico (which I actually prefer performed by Kat herself).
Leigh Nash and Stephen Wilson
These two were by far the highlight of the evening for me. Leigh Nash, lead singer of Sixpence None the Richer guided a captive audience with a haunting voice and songs beautifully written about missing home, fighting your loved one and more. Accompanying her on a Spanish classical guitar and the odd vocal backup, husband Stephen Wilson was a pleasure to watch and a clear songwriting equal to Leigh. While the crowd was lucky to hear a medley of Kiss Me and There She Goes to end off the evening, I really enjoyed the tunes written more recently by Leigh and friends as well. She’s a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to catch her perform again!
Overall, it was another great evening in the cramped quarters of the Bluebird Café.
Peace, love & history.