Nashville Hitmakers Talk Shop at Songwriters Series
By Priyanka Aribindi
Fans at the CMA Close Up Stage had a one-of-a-kind experience Saturday afternoon when Fan Fair X hosted a CMA hallmark: the CMA Songwriters Series. Designed by CMA to showcase the talent of the most distinguished songwriters in Country music, this edition featured Kristian Bush of Sugarland, plus heavyweight hit makers Bob DiPiero and Brett James, all of whom toured Europe together earlier this year when CMA brought the series to Europe for a second time.
A booth at Fan Fair X had been handing out Chris Young cutouts earlier in the day, and to make up for his absence on stage, Bush taped one onto the seat next to him. “We brought Chris Young with us,” he joked to the audience. “We toured with him in Europe, and now he’s here.”
Though DiPiero was billed as the host of the event, the three songwriters split their time equally, introducing each other and sharing their adventures in Europe and the stories behind their greatest hits.
DiPiero started the show with “Southern Voice,” which he wrote with Tom Douglas for Tim McGraw, and was joined with vocals by James and Bush, with James on the acoustic guitar and Bush switching between a guitar and a mandolin. The stars continued in this manner, accompanying each other throughout the afternoon and trading turns picking which of their many hits to perform. DiPiero also played “Daddy’s Money,” “Lovin’ You Is Fun” and “Gone,” songs he co-wrote that were made famous by Ricochet, Easton Corbin and Montgomery Gentry, respectively.
“I tortured these two men with the following song while we walked through Europe,” Bush said of his first solo single “Love or Money.” Halfway through the song, he had the audience join in singing the chorus and making enthusiastic hand motions. “That is the biggest earworm you will ever hear,” James said after the song.
Bush also shared the story behind his duo Sugarland’s debut single “Baby Girl,” and proceeded to share the first two “drinking songs” he had written, entitled “On Top of My Flip Flops” and “I’m in Love With Drinking Beer” to loud laughter from the audience. “Please walk responsibly,” he said as he finished.
James didn’t miss the chance to share his biggest hits either, starting with Kenny Chesney’s “When the Sun Goes Down,” which the audience quickly joined. “This idea popped in my head on the corner of West End,” he told the crowd. He also shared the story of writing “Out Last Night” with Kenny Chesney in the Caribbean, played “Stay With Me (Brass Bed),” as made famous by Josh Gracin, and closed the afternoon’s showcase with Carrie Underwood’s hit “Jesus, Take The Wheel.”
“Getting to meet people is the best part of these shows,” said DiPiero of his company on stage. The three continued to joke with each other, the audience and the Chris Young cutout throughout the afternoon, drawing lots of laughs and cheers from the crowd. Many fans headed to hear the familiar hits during their performance, and when the show closed, the three were met by a loud standing ovation.