CMA CLOSE UP: CMA SONGWRITERS SERIES ACHIEVES 10-YEAR MILESTONE

By Alan Light

© 2014 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

In 2005, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Bob DiPiero came up with the idea of presenting a “songwriters in the round” show at Joe’s Pub in New York City, presented by the Country Music Association to mark the CMA Awards’ debut at Madison Square Garden. Still, he wasn’t sure how much enthusiasm the project inspired.

“Early on, I think not everyone on the CMA Board may have seen the value,” he said. “And songwriters are such lone wolves, at first even they were like, ‘What’s in this for me?’”

But as the CMA Songwriters Series wraps up its first decade, DiPiero’s dream has become an international institution. Since the triumph of that first date, the Series has presented more than 75 shows in 15 cities, from London to Los Angeles, from Austin to Paris. And it has featured more than 130 of music’s most gifted storytellers, with more than 70 CMA Song of the Year nominations among them. What began as an experiment, a special event for the CMA Awards’ debut at Madison Square Garden, has turned into a unique showcase for a segment of the music community that usually exists outside the spotlight.

For the writers, the format — usually four songwriters on a stage, alone with their guitars, going down the line through four or five songs each — offers a rare chance to present their work the way they initially intended, and to provide the stories, context or inspiration for their most memorable compositions.

“I like having the opportunity to get up and show people what I do, as opposed to having somebody else show them,” said Rivers Rutherford, a frequent participant in the Series, whose No. 1 hits include Brooks & Dunn’s “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” McGraw’s “Real Good Man” and Gretchen Wilson’s “Homewrecker.” “I get to share a side of me that, as an artist, I wouldn’t normally get to.”

“A lot of songwriters are performers at heart,” added Brandy Clark. “So this gives us all the chance to satisfy that side of ourselves. It’s easy to be locked inside of a room all the time, just writing songs, and not really stay in touch with why you’re doing it, with the people who are buying it and whose lives it’s affecting.”

Above all, what comes through at these events is the sense of pure fun and mutual respect between the songwriters. “It’s not re­hearsed, and most of the time it sounds like it,” said Rutherford. “It’s a couple of guys sit­ting around playing in their living room; it just happens that there’s an audience watching.”

“Honestly, I can’t believe the set list whenev­er we get to the end of one of these gigs,” said Kristian Bush. “I’m humbled to be in the lineup every time, and I’m in awe of these writers who have shaped the soundtrack to our lives.”

This year wraps up with a return to Joe’s Pub on Dec. 3 and 4, with DiPiero welcoming Radney Foster, Brett James and Craig Wiseman. For ticket information and more on the Series, visit CMAsongwritersseries.com.

 

Brandy Clark performs at Joe’s Pub in New York City for CMA Songwriters Series in 2013. Photo Credit: Kevin Yatarola / CMA
Brandy Clark performs at Joe’s Pub in New York City for CMA Songwriters Series in 2013.
Photo Credit: Kevin Yatarola / CMA
Carrie Underwood takes part in a 2012 CMA Songwriters Series event at the Royale Boston Nightclub. Photo Credit: Natasha Moustache / CMA
Carrie Underwood takes part in a 2012 CMA Songwriters Series event at the Royale Boston Nightclub.
Photo Credit: Natasha Moustache / CMA
Little Big Town joins a 2010 CMA Songwriters Series panel at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton / CMA
Little Big Town joins a 2010 CMA Songwriters Series panel at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton / CMA