The Bluebird Cafe is a popular destination to see live music in Nashville and Tin Pan South 2018 only amplified the venue’s in-demand status. On Thursday evening (April 5), it was a family affair as father-and-son songwriters Billy and Randy Montana and Marcus and Levi Hummon joined the famed stage with Erik Dylan for the festival’s late night showcase.
The nearly two-hour concert had the songwriter friends and family trading tales, harmonies and guitar accompaniment as part of the 26th annual songwriters festival. Each songwriter shared his appreciation to be at the venue with Dylan noting that the Bluebird is “the holy church for songwriters.”
A photo of one of Dylan’s songwriting heroes, Guy Clark, was displayed on the wall of the room and he pointed to it before playing the last song the two wrote together. Titled “Santa Fe,” Dylan said he didn’t learn until weeks after Clark’s death that his ashes were going to Santa Fe.
“When he mentioned the title of the song I said, ‘Why do you want to write a song called Santa Fe’ and he said, ‘I always thought I’d end up going there sometime,'” Dylan recalled. He then launched into a powerful performance of the ballad that had the audience listening intently.
Billy Montana served as host for the evening, introducing each of the songwriters and saying the round included “some of my favorite people in the world.” His performance was heavy in hits for Lee Brice, Garth Brooks and Rascal Flatts. Frequently his son, Randy, would provide harmonies on his songs while Marcus would assist his son, Levi, on guitar.
“We talk about our kids all the time so this is really special for us,” Marcus noted of sharing the stage with family before playing his 2000 hit with Sara Evans, “Born to Fly.”
Later, Levi shared the influence his father had on him when he decided to pursue a career as a songwriter and artist. As he explained, he went to college in Florida for two years and often sent his dad songs he had written. Impressed at what he heard, Marcus advised him to move back to Music City.
“I had an amazing mentor and an amazing dad and someone to look up to as a songwriter. When I moved back home I knew I wanted to do two things; release a song with my dad at some point and champion my mom’s organization Thistle Farms,” Levi said.
A place where women with a history of addiction and prostitution find refuge, Thistle Farms’ message is Love Heals. While in a round with Tom Douglas, the father and son realized they never penned a song called “Love Heals.” With the suggestion from Douglas, the three men later wrote the touching ballad, which Levi performed.
Throughout the evening, several men shared tales of the uncertainty a career in music can often bring. Among stories of helping Shania Twain with microphone troubles in the ’90s and not knowing if “Cowboy Take Me Away,” a song Marcus penned with the Dixie Chicks’ Martie Maguire for her sister Emily’s wedding, would ever be released, each songwriter captivated the room with their insight into the industry.
Highlights included Randy’s nostalgic “Rebel Kids” recorded by Justin Moore, Billy’s striking Garth Brooks cut “More Than A Memory,” and Dylan’s performance of Kip Moore’s “Comeback Kid.” Penned for his wife, Dylan shared the story behind the song, noting, “For the first seven years in this town, she was the only one that gave a shit that I was here.”
Tin Pan South serves as a fundraiser for the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), an organization that works to protect the rights and future of songwriters.
“It’s always such a blessing when this week comes around because it’s celebrating songwriting, songwriters, and Nashville,” Levi noted. “Something that makes Nashville so unique is songwriters. It’s really why this place is so special.”
The 26th Annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival closed on April 7. For more information and to support songwriters, visit nashvillesongwriters.com.