The 25th Annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival came to a close on Saturday (April 1). The world’s largest songwriters festival, the week included nightly showcases around Nashville featuring some of the biggest talent in country music. The Station Inn’s early showcase, appropriately titled A Whole Lotta Soul, featured Mickey Guyton, Rick Brantley, Tenille and Victoria Banks in the round performing heart-wrenching material that had both the singers and the audience in tears throughout the nearly two-hour concert.
For several of the songwriters, it was their first time playing at the Station Inn and they marveled at the venue’s history. A simple room set up with folding chairs and tables with the smell of popcorn wafting throughout, things quickly got intimate as the songwriters shared many of the stories behind their songs as well as their journey to Music City. In fact, it was often as if we were in each writer’s living room as Guyton told the heartbreaking tale of a terrible ex-boyfriend who frequently inspired her music while Brantley talked of the difficulty he has playing “Enough Rope,” a song he wrote for his father who passed away last summer.
Both Guyton and Banks also detailed the struggles a career in music can often bring. While Guyton says people often assume once you get a record deal you made it, that’s not often the case.
“You still have to pay your bills,” she said, sharing that she got a job at Nordstrom in the lingerie department shortly after moving to Nashville. “You meet so many women with all these different insecurities from all these walks of life and it’s so crazy what a good bra will do for a woman. Our spirits are so delicate and beautiful and I wanted to write a song about being comfortable in your own skin so I wrote this for you ladies.”
She then segued into the powerful “Pretty Little Mustang” while Banks assisted on guitar. Later, Banks would invite frequent collaborator Phil Barton to take the stage who acted as her duet partner for their Sara Evans cut, “Can’t Stop Loving You,” which she recorded with Isaac Slade of the Fray.
“You can be Isaac and I can be Sara,” she told Barton before the two traded verses on the emotional song. Afterward, Guyton asked the two songwriters to tell the story behind the next track she was about to play, “Why Baby Why,” that they co-wrote.
“We had locked ourselves away in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains to try and write and be inspired,” Banks explained. “We had written six songs in two days and we were like, ‘We’ve done our job we’ll go for a walk. We got a mile from the house… “
“And Victoria sang this little amazing chorus idea,” Barton explained. “Then we ran back to the cabin to finish the song.”
Before performing the powerful ballad, Guyton said when she first heard the song she immediately thought of her ex.
“A lot of times I had a hard time getting through it because I was with this guy who broke my heart and I had a hard time letting him go,” she shared. “This song means so much more to me and now I’m over it so I can sing it with passion and still be able to relate to how I first heard it. It got me through some hard times.”
One highlight throughout the set included a new song from Tenille that was inspired by a writing trip to a small town in Canada. The town was suffering through a tragedy where five students died in a car accident and upon learning this, she wrote a song to honor the high school girl behind the wheel, Danielle. Tenille’s voice wavered as she sang the lyrics, which had her questioning how such a terrible incident could occur, and left many in attendance in tears.
Brantley’s sweet love song “Claudette,” which he wrote about a girl he has had a crush on since kindergarten, lightened the mood as he recalled first seeing the object of his affection standing by the glue sticks. The descriptive ballad brought to mind Bruce Springsteen with its vivid imagery and Brantley’s whiskey soaked vocals.
Closing the night with Guyton’s first single, “Better Than You Left Me” the singer/songwriter likened the writing experience to therapy. While she says it helped her get over that ex, her first radio single also assisted other women struggling in similar situations. “We are the prize, ladies,” she asserted, before thanking the audience for listening and encouraging them to continue to support live music and reach out to songwriters. “Thank you all for the love and support you are giving us here. You have no idea how much it means to us when we get messages and tweets and pictures. It really means so much to us and it keeps us going.”