The upcoming Studio 23 Nashville Live concert at World Music Nashville features some great songs. Some of them have been chart topping hits, and others not as widely known.
Our headliner Walter Egan has several hit songs, and he’s the artist who originally recorded them. His biggest hit was “Magnet and Steel,” a top ten pop hit from 1978. “Hot Summer Nights” was a minor hit for him, and a bigger hit for the group Night in 1979.
Walter’s credibility as a writer goes back to “Hearts On Fire,” recorded by Gram Parsons and EmmyLou Harris in 1973, on Gram’s final album “Grievous Angel.”
We’ll be doing Walter’s versions of those songs, along with others he’s written more recently. I especially like “Old Photographs,” released last year, which you can find on youtube, with Walter performing it solo at McCabe’s in L.A.
Other songs we’ll be doing at the concert are from writers who were not the artists who made them hits. For example, Diamond Rio sang “One More Day” but it was written by Bobby Tomberlin with Stephen Dale Jones. Kevin Sharp sang “She’s Sure Taking It Well,” but Tim Buppert wrote it, along with Don Pfrimmer and George Teren.
Both those songs were number one country hits. There can be a long discussion about whether a “great” song is necessarily a popular one, but the fact that a song hits number one can get your attention.
What is a “great” song?
Can we define a “great” song? If it’s a hit, is it then automatically “great?” If it moves one person to tears, does that make it “great?” There are many ways to apply the word.
From a musician’s perspective, a “great” song is one that seems to play itself. It has an inherent logic that provides a momentum that makes it easy to play, as one’s fingers seem to find their natural place playing the familiar chords and rhythms that work so well for that particular song. It all makes sense, even as it contains enough surprises to make it original and refreshing. It flows.
Making it look easy is the hard part.
Nashville is a place where songwriting is appreciated, and practiced seriously on a daily basis. When a song is successful, other writers can appreciate the craftsmanship. They may be a little jealous of the success, but determined to equal or surpass the achievement of the hit writer. They go back to their craft and try again.
Like many other musicians and songwriters, I moved here from L.A. It was music that drew me there, and songwriting that drew me to Nashville.
Walter Egan and I were in L.A. around the same time. His song “Hot Summer Nights” was recorded by the group Night in 1979, produced by Richard Perry on his Planet Label. I had the privilege of recording a sax solo on another record produced by Richard Perry for his Planet Label, “Dirty Work” by The Pointer Sisters.
You can catch that tiny piece of my history around the two minute mark in this youtube video: https://youtu.be/io4tVuFXe0I
I never met Walter back then. I don’t remember hearing “Magnet and Steel” on the radio. I was busy playing more R&B flavored stuff, which turned into Billy Vera and The Beaters.
But now, in Nashville, I know Walter, and appreciate the song, and the others he’s written. Walter is an unusual presence in Nashville, a hit songwriter and artist who continues to create original material without the benefit of music business support.
Credit for my appreciation of Walter Egan, and the fact that he’s involved in the Studio 23 Nashville show, goes to Beth Sass, who has been collaborating with him for the last three years. It makes perfect sense that Beth would also be featured in the concert next week. She and Walter have just completed an album together.
As an indication of their creativity, Walter and Beth were still working on the title of it when we gathered to rehearse recently. They liked the fact that their initials - WE, BS - formed a word, WEBS. But that wasn’t good enough. So they expanded that to create the word Websight, a delightful pun that emphasizes their creative vision.
Remembering Don Pfrimmer
Beth has also written extensively with Don Pfrimmer, a respected Nashville songwriter who died in 2015. Don’s writing is directly connected to two of the five artists featured in the concert - as co-writer of Tim Buppert’s “She’s Sure Taking It Well,” and as co-writer of “Too Many Doors,” which Beth is singing.
As an indirect connection, Don also co-wrote “Meet In The Middle,” Diamond Rio’s debut hit from 1991. Diamond Rio is connected to this show by way of Bobby Tomberlin, who wrote and will perform their later number one song “One More Day.”
So we have Walter Egan, Beth Sass, Bobby Tomberlin and Tim Buppert as established writers, from both pop and country words. The other writer on the show is Laura Powers, who has charted her own creative course. Her trilogy of albums “Legends of The Goddess,” is in a Celtic pop style, with ethereal sounds and mythical lyrics. Laura also painted the cover art for each of the albums.
I met Laura when she was writing songs for the Nashville market, and in fact one of her songs at the concert, “If This Greyhound Just Had Wings,” is more “country.” She will also perform a song I co-wrote with her, “Piece of the Sky,” which is more of a jazzy style. Laura is a delightful performer, and I’m very happy to have her as part of this show.
I know that having a “hit” gives a songwriter bragging rights, but I also know that there are great songs that remain known by a smaller group of people. I am glad to be playing great songs with the five artists who wrote them on the Studio 23 Nashville Live show March 10.
Walter, Beth, Bobby, Laura and Tim are all very talented people worth hearing, and they’ve never been on the same stage together before. That in itself is a creative act.
See you there!
Bloggin' Bryan 3march18