It sounds strange, at a country event, to hear ‘What’s up, London?’ in a British accent, but it just goes to show how much the country scene has changed over the past year. This years CMA Songwriter series featured Sam Palladio (a British actor and musician best know for his role as Gunnar on TV series Nashville), Brandy Clark, Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall, and Kix Brooks as host. There is something somewhat magical about seeing songwriters in this format – it is the songs that are important, and the stories that accompany them.
The stripped back performance was enchanting – there was utter silence as each songwriter took their chance to sing, and the audience clung to their every word. Kix kicked off the night with Red Dirt Road, and it was the first of many hits to be performed last night. From Whiskey Lullaby to Follow Your Arrow, to If I Didn’t Know Better, and The Climb, it was clear that these are some of the best songwriters that Nashville has to offer.
With acoustic guitars as the only accompaniment, the focus was on the vocal. Sam Palladio showed off his impressive falsetto, and Brandy Clark’s voice sounded even more country in person. Sam was at a slight disadvantage, in that he didn’t have as many ‘hits’ as the other writers, but he held his own, and seemed genuinely humbled to be surrounded by such prowess. The night was filled with candid moments – notably Brandy’s confession that she is, in fact, a ‘paranoid pot smoker,’ and Jessi’s story of tracking down the man for which she wrote I Drive Your Truck.
Striking Matches made a surprise appearance, and in the words of Jessi Alexander, it was ‘crazy good.’ Their percussive guitar playing made the duo stand out, and it was clear as to why they are one of the most highly anticipated acts on the C2C Pop-up stages this weekend. The entire night truly embodied what is important about country music – it is the community, the stories, and the songs.