The 31st annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival returned to Nashville from March 28 – April 1, 2023. Throughout the five-day festival, hundreds of performers from Nashville, around the country and beyond took part in a total of 98 shows hosted in 10 venues across Music City, including the Hard Rock Cafe, The Listening Room, Live Oak, The Bluebird Café, 3rd & Lindsley, and more.
On Thursday, March 30, fans packed out 3rd & Lindsley to hear some of their favorite songs directly from the Sony Music Publishing Nashville songwriters behind them. To kick off the first of two rounds that evening, Trannie Anderson, Chase Rice, Matt Rogers and Jordan Walker came together on stage for a nearly two-hour-long set as they took turns playing five of the thousands of songs they’ve penned.
Walker kicked off the event with a delivery of Jordan Davis’ “Part Of It,” a sentimental track off the country star’s latest album, Bluebird Days. His set also included an unreleased Cody Johnson tune, “Take It Like A Man,” Luke Combs’ “When It Rains It Pours,” and a sentimental song written with Jacob Davis titled, “Backseat Driver,” which was introduced with a hilarious story that proves you really never know when inspiration might hit.
“I wrote this song with my buddy Jacob Davis, he’s got three daughters,” Walker began. “He walked in one day to our write and he had a coffee stain on his shirt. I said, ‘dude, how’d you spill coffee on yourself?’ He said, ‘I don’t wanna talk about it.’ So we didn’t for like an hour, and then we couldn’t come up with an idea. And I said, ‘dude, just tell me what happened this morning.’ He goes, ‘Alright, Walker. I was in the McDonald’s drive-through. I was trying to give Percy, my daughter an orange juice and a sausage biscuit, and I was trying to give this homeless guy on the corner a dollar, and I had my coffee. Stuff got crossway’d and here I am.’”
“We sat there for another hour and had no idea and finally, he said, ‘Alright, what are you thinking about this McDonald’s thing?’” he continued. “I had this idea going and the song goes out to any y’all out there that have any kids that’s ever sat back in their car seat and been, ‘Hey dad, why the birds fly? Why is that dog black? Why is that fence brown?’ This one goes out to you.”
His final song of the night was a comedic track called “She Drives Me To Drink.” While this has yet to be cut by an artist, the lighthearted song holds a special place in his heart, as it was inspired by his beloved wife, who couldn’t come pick him up after a night out.
After each of his performances, Walker passed the torch off to Rogers who started off with “The Long Way,” recorded by Brett Eldredge. This was followed by Jimmie Allen’s “Freedom Was A Highway,” Kelsey Hart’s unreleased “Drink About Me,” and several Cody Johnson cuts including his version of “Treasure” and the GRAMMY-award winning song, “’Til You Can’t.”
“This song has changed my life,” Rogers shared of Johnson’s critically acclaimed tune. “You know, despite awards and anything, the coolest things that have happened to me, whether I’ve played here…I play The Bluebird, I play at the Listening Room, I played it out of town, and without fail, somebody comes up to me and says, ‘man, we used that for my son’s graduation video, we used that for my grandfather’s funeral, doesn’t matter what it is, people saying they used it in weddings. As a songwriter, that’s about as cool as it gets for me.”
Anderson was up next. She was represented as the only female of the group and the only songwriter to be playing with a keyboard instead of a guitar. This talented songwriter showed off her work through songs like Tenille Arts’ “Girl To Girl” and an unreleased ballad for Dan + Shay. She also proudly performed two tracks off Lainey Wilson’s latest album – “Road Runner” and “Heart Like A Truck,” which topped the charts at country radio just days later.
In the midst of her set, Anderson joined forces with Walker for a duet of a song titled “Can’t Do Without Me,” which they originally penned for Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean. However, when these superstars didn’t end up cutting the track, it got picked up by two other talented country music artists, Lindsay Ell and Chayce Beckham.
“Baby, I’m dying to catch that lighting I only find from your fingertips / I’ve been missing and wishing to feel your kiss / And your hands all on my skin / It won’t be long ’til we are burning up ’em them sheets / And doing all those things that you can’t do without me,” they delivered in the upbeat chorus.
The last in the lineup was singer/songwriter, Chase Rice. Throughout his entire set, he chose to share stories and memories behind the making of his latest album, I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell. He started off by explaining why this project in particular means so much to him and the current chapter of his career, before moving into an acoustic performance of “Key West & Colorado.”
“It’s really, I mean, same story as these guys, it was 10 years ago or really, 2010, I moved here and started writing songs,” he shared. “It really took this album for me to figure out what I’m really good at and what I really want to do and say with my music instead of just trying to chase a hit. So I’m gonna start with this song right here. It was the first song that we recorded off the album. This is called ‘Key West & Colorado.’”
He continued with several more tracks off the record including the first half of the title, “I Hate Cowboys,” “If I Were Rock & Roll,” and “Bench Seat,” which brought on a deep set of emotions as he introduced the true story behind it.
Before wrapping up the show, Rice had one more performance in store. This time, he stepped away from his project to unveil a new, unreleased song titled, “Church,” which is fittingly inspired by fellow country music star, Eric Church.
“I wrote a song last Tuesday, first song I’ve written since I wrote my last record,” Rice explained. “I went to an Eric Church concert in 2008 and he’s great. I went to his show, it was right after I lost football, which was supposed to be my career. All my football buddies are retired now and I’m kind of just still going and getting going, so I’ll take this career all day long.”
He continued, “I went with this girl named Katie; she could see that I was going through it and she said, ‘do you wanna go to a concert?’ And I said, ‘okay, I’ve heard a couple of songs. He’s pretty new, but I’ll go see him play.’ That night he had me, man, he was singing about PBR’s, he was singing about going through tough shit, and if you’ve ever seen Eric Church live, you’re like, ‘damn, that’s my guy.’”
Following this performance, the songwriters signed off and cleared the stage in preparation for the next round of writers that were going to make their way through the venue.
Presented by Regions Bank, the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival is dubbed the largest songwriter’s festival in the world. This annual event was established in 1993 by the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI), which is known as the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters trade association. For 55 years, this organization has made it its mission to “advocate, educate, elevate and celebrate the songwriter.”
According to a press release, the festival is designed to offer audiences a platform to discover rising songwriters and watch songwriting legends in their element.
Many different genres and artists have passed through these rounds throughout the years, including Art Garfunkel, Carole King, Donna Summer, Josh Osborne, Lamont Dozier, Lori McKenna, RaeLynn, and Thomas Rhett.