The CMA Songwriters Series’ showcase on Friday evening (March 31) as part of Tin Pan South 2017 at 3rd & Lindsley boasted A-list writers Jim Beavers, Bob DiPiero, Lee Thomas Miller and Lonestar’s Richie McDonald. The nearly two-hour concert included the four songwriters sharing the stories behind their many award-winning hits as well as providing some comical tales of their time in Music City.
“Any Tim McGraw fans?” Miller asked to screams during his turn in the round. “Well, he’s not here.”
He then explained that when writing McGraw’s song “Southern Girl” with The Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and Rodney Clawson, he was confused at Johnston’s line of “soft as cotton in some cut-off jeans. “Jeans are made out of denim, not cotton,” he recalled telling Johnston. He quickly learned the singer wasn’t talking about jeans, but what girls often wear underneath their jeans.
The confessions continued throughout the night as McDonald said his song “My Front Porch Looking In” was inspired after he was forced to cancel a co-write with Frank Myers and Don Pfrimmer when his horse got out and he had to stay home to mend the fence. Myers offered his services and he and Pfrimmer joined in on the task. After spending time with McDonald’s family, the two songwriters told him they had an idea for a song which they came to write then next day.
“Thanks to my daughter, Molly, for the little red cowboy boots [line]. She had them on her wrong feet forever and we thought it was funny and never told her it was wrong ’cause it was cute and it ended up in a song,” he said. “She’s 18 now and walks funny but I got a hit song out of it and she got a new car.”
Later, DiPiero admitted that the inspiration behind George Strait’s “Blue Clear Sky” came from watching “Forrest Gump.” When Strait, who DiPiero called “the Frank Sinatra of country music” and “the Pope but with a different kind of hat,” questioned the line, DiPiero explained how he got it from the film and wasn’t about ready to change it. “Blue Clear Sky” would become a six-week No. 1 song and the album of the same name won Strait CMA Album of the Year. “So, don’t change your minds,” DiPiero advised.
Miller also pulled back the curtain on how some co-writes are scheduled. He said often publishers set the songwriters up in a writing session and sometimes they have never met who they’ll find themselves sitting in the room with that day.
“It’s like a blind date,” he shared. “This was my day with Brothers Osborne. They had a couple singles out, I had never met them. I assumed their album was out for a while. They’re funny, they’re awesome, they’re unbelievably talented. We wrote half a song. There was no urgency to finish the song because I thought we were writing for an album three years from now.”
As it turns out, the duo’s debut album wasn’t set to be released until months later. Initially upset thinking his song didn’t make the cut, he spoke to his publisher about it only to learn that his song made the record and would eventually become their single.
“We’re sitting there writing one day and they go, ‘Oh, you got the next single.'” he said of “It Ain’t My Fault” before playing the song. “I’ve only done this a couple times. It’s impossible to play. John is the greatest guitar player in the world and TJ sings lower than the piano will play.”
Songs like Miller’s CMA Award-winning Song of the Year “In Color” performed by Jamey Johnson and Beavers’ emotional “Drink a Beer” recorded by Luke Bryan were highlights of the evening, showing each of the songwriters’ talents. Later, McDonald described DiPiero, Beavers and Miller as “the best songwriters Nashville has to offer.”
“Lonestar came to town . . . we were wannabe songwriters. We got in rooms with guys like these,” he recalled. “I think the great thing that helped us have a career is we were artists but we knew there were great songwriters in this town. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have the career that we’ve had. We wouldn’t have the song that I’m fixin’ to play.”
McDonald was talking about “Amazed,” which was written by Marv Green, Aimee Mayo and Chris Lindsey. A song that concluded the CMA Songwriters Series, McDonald’s pristine vocals echoed throughout 3rd & Lindsley as he played keyboard.
“I didn’t write it but I was lucky enough to get to sing it. We went around the world a couple times and got to play for presidents and it was all because of this song here,” he added. “So thanks to all the Nashville songwriters.”
Tin Pan South runs through Saturday, April 1.