The impending threat of a storm didn’t stop music fans from flocking to Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley Thursday evening (March 30) for the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival. The night’s early showcase included performances by Craig Campbell, Kristian Bush, Rob Hatch, Justin Wilson and Steve Bogard.
The 90-minute set had the five songwriters sharing the stories behind their songs as well as some tales on how they’ve come to succeed in the Nashville music scene. Campbell documented the evening on his phone, warning his fellow songwriters that he’ll be Snapchatting them.
“Is that legal?” Hatch asked to which Wilson chimed in, “That’s not creepy at all.”
“Do what you do. I’m gonna do this. You’re fixin’ to get snapchatted,” Campbell asserted as the audience laughed.
The perfect segue into Bush’s comical song “Bar with a Pool In It,” the singer/songwriter shared that he thought of the song after walking into a resort and noticing a swim-up bar. “Why didn’t we think of this earlier as a culture?” he asked before singing the song with lines like “It’s got underwater stools in it. I can drink and never fall down.”
Several of the songwriters in the round have seen success writing songs for Randy Houser. Hatch recalled sitting at home on a Friday when Houser called him up, worried about not having enough songs to record in the studio the following Monday.
“Being a songwriter, I’m like, ‘Come on over to the house. Let’s see if we can find somethin,'” Hatch recalled. “He comes over and he says, ‘Man, I think I have something. Is this verse any good?’ and he plays the entire first verse. I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, man. That’s good. Let’s write that!'”
The two friends would then finish writing the song, “Goodnight Kiss,” with Jason Sellers. “It’s super weird to have any success at all in this and to have it with your friends is special,” Hatch concluded before performing the hit. Later, Wilson would agree, adding that Houser is one of his favorite singers.
“To have a song climb the charts with his voice on it that I was a part of writing is a special thing,” he said before he played his previous No. 1 hit from Houser, “We Went.”
Highlights throughout the evening included Bogard’s No. 1 hits with Dierks Bentley’s “Every Mile a Memory” and George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me,” Hatch’s No. 1 “I Don’t Dance” that he co-wrote with Lee Brice and Campbell’s poignant single “Outskirts of Heaven.”
“I was sitting at the house one night and I was thinking about where I was gonna go when this life is over,” Campbell said of writing his current single. “I grew up Southern Baptist and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. If you read the Bible, it tells you heaven is going to have these bright lights and pearly gates and big mansions which is the total opposite of where I grew up. So I wrote this song as a prayer request.”
A powerful track, Campbell’s voice reverberated throughout the venue and had the audience and songwriters entranced. “Now I have to change my plans about heaven,” Bush admitted at the close of the song.
Later, Hatch shared insight into the struggles songwriters often face. While he admits that sometimes things happen quickly, that wasn’t the case for his song, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.”
“Sometimes it happens really fast. That shit did not happen with this song,” he said with a laugh. “This song stuck around for seven years and nobody wanted any part of it until Mr. Justin Moore showed up and saved my poor broke country ass. This is my first number one song.”
This theme came up several times throughout the night as later Bush reiterated Hatch’s statement before playing his first hit with Sugarland’s “Baby Girl.”
“If you’re out there and you’re just starting or you love to hear the stories, hit songs aren’t hit songs when you write them. It’s obvious but it is absolutely true,” Bush conceded. “Nobody even heard of our band and we never played in front of anybody. We never had co-written before. I had always written by myself. The thing that we had in common was that we had all asked our parents for money. I have a habit as writing all of my songs as wishes. This is a wish that if I could pay them back for all the money I borrowed I would.”
Tin Pan South runs through Saturday, April 1.