By Bob Doerschuk.
Lots of great songs have made their way from Great Britain and Ireland to the U.S. over these past 50-odd years. It’s about time to return the favor, which CMA is doing abundantly as its Songwriters Series makes its first trek overseas.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Bob DiPiero (who wrote Faith Hill’s “Take Me as I Am,” Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice” and George Strait’s “Blue Clear Sky,” among many other hits) launched the Songwriter Series in 2005 and has hosted almost all of its shows since then. Dedicated to informing the public on the writers behind today’s great Country songs, the Series again features DiPiero as emcee on four dates.
Joining DiPiero on this mini-tour are Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson (Brad Paisley’s and Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby” and Strait’s “Give It Away”) and former CMA Male Vocalist of the Year Clint Black, who wrote and recorded “Killin’ Time,” “State of Mind” and “When I Said I Do,” a duet with his wife, Lisa Hartman Black.
On Feb. 21, DiPiero, Anderson and Black taped an episode of the BBC Four series “Songwriters Circle” at Bush Hall in London. The tour — known from this point as “CMA/BMI Presents the CMA Songwriters Series” — continues to London’s Islington Assembly Hall on Feb. 22, Whelan’s in Dublin, Ireland, on Feb. 23, and finally to The Empire Music Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Feb. 25.
“When we began the Series in 2005, I never dreamed it would include such an honor as being asked to perform in England and Ireland,” said DiPiero. “These CMA Songwriter shows are one-of-a-kind performances by some of the very best songwriter/storytellers on the planet. I’ve never seen a more honest, authentic, entertaining musical performance anywhere.”
For Anderson, this tour represents a musical homecoming of sorts. “Put on a Bill Monroe record, close your eyes and you can feel yourself being transported back to an earlier time in Ireland and Scotland,” he reflected. “Those folks dug the wells from which our music sprang.”
Black amplified on the song-oriented focus of the Series. “When I’m performing in concert, everyone has a certain expectation because they know my hits,” he said. “So you feel a certain obligation to deliver that. In a songwriter environment, the criteria are more geared toward performing with the idea of the composition rather than the commercial success.”
Anticipation is high among those who operate the venues where these in-the-round events will take place. “This will help us to raise the profile of the Country songwriters at our festival here in Belfast,” said Colin Magee, Director, Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival. “I’ve been interested in the cultural connections between our music and American Country for many years now. Old folk songs from Ireland have similar structures (to Country songs) — and we’ve always loved a great story song! It’s one of the reasons we started the festival back in 2004.”
“This type of show, a focus on the writer, will have a great appeal to the songwriter community here,” added Simon Aldridge, Senior Executive, Writer/Publisher Relations, Europe, BMI. “The Songwriter Series is a real slice of Nashville songwriting and culture all in one go, and to have it appear on Britain’s shores in this format is a great opportunity. We’re specifically extending invitations to our U.K. BMI songwriters who will know of Bob’s, Bill’s and Clint’s works.”
“British and Irish audiences have always had an appetite for authentic, artistic music, and I’m certain these performances will exceed all expectations,” added Jody Williams, VP, Writer/ Publisher Relations, Nashville, BMI. “I’m so proud, as a CMA Board member, that we are putting our best foot forward to expose Nashville’s best in these markets.”
“The CMA Songwriter Series began in 2005 in New York and has expanded to cities across the United States including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Washington D.C.,” said CMA CEO Steve Moore. “The popularity of our music overseas and the appreciation the audience in the U.K. has for our songwriters made this a good fit and an opportune time to travel the series abroad. And it is terrific to have BMI as a partner in this exciting initiative.”
On the Web: www.CMASongwritersSeries.com