CMA Songwriters Series 10th Anniversary at Joe’s Pub

CMA Songwriters Series
10th Anniversary
at Joe’s Pub, New York City
February 12, 2014

On Tuesday and Wednesday night, four award winning country music songwriters took to the Joe’s Pub stage as so many have over the past years.  However, this time, it was to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub, which is located at 425 Lafayette Street in New York City.  I was lucky enough to be invited by the Country Music Association to attend the 7 PM show on Wednesday, February 12th and witness a truly special show. 

For anyone who has not been to one of these Joe’s Pub CMA shows, you are truly missing out.  Not only is the venue a small, intimate nightclub, but you get to witness a guitar pull, where each artist takes turns playing a song.  On this particular night, each artist performed four songs, of which almost every one of them was a huge radio hit.  Bob DiPiero has been the host of each of the CMA shows I have been to at Joe’s Pub, and tonight was no different.  He is charismatic, funny, and extremely talented.  He started things off with “The Church on Cumberland Road” which was recorded by Shenandoah.  Kix Brooks, formerly of the mega-duo, Brooks & Dunn, who was the star artist of the night, played a flawless harmonica while DiPiero sang and electrified the crowd with his guitarmanship. 


What followed was a multitude of hits and stories behind the songs.  Of course, songs such as “Red Dirt Road” and “Only In America” by Kix Brooks had the crowd smiling and singing the most.  But Jon Nite, quietly proved to have a budding future already chock full of #1 songs under his belt.  He was the most modest and quiet of the bunch, but when he told his stories and sang his songs, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  He told a story about the recent #1 hit “We Were Us” which Thomas Rhett turned down because he “hated it”, but Keith Urban recruited Miranda Lambert to sing on it and made it a huge hit.  He also spoke about a tough time in his life which led to him to write the Dierks Bentley hit “Tip It On Back” which allowed him to escape from the moment he was in.  The CMA Songwriters Series works so well because of the dissection of how the song was made.  For a fan of country music like me, who especially the stories they create, it brings even more intrigue by hearing the story behind the story. 

Not to be outdone, Tim Nichols added his humor to each of the songs he sang.  He even did a little Trace Adkins-like dance to the end of “Ain’t No Thinkin’ Thing”.  But his powerful “Live Like You Were Dying” (recorded by Tim McGraw) produced the biggest sing a long of the night as the entire crowd was in unison.  That particular song was not really about the story behind the song, but Tim touched on the reactions he got from people after the song was released.  The messages in the song are so strong about the real reasons for living that he felt amazed how much he really touched people.  That is the beauty of real music. 

 Kix Brooks, however, stole most of the show as he has always been a performer personified.  He told stories about having Jell-O shots with Ronnie Dunn in New Orleans, being on a bus with Merle Haggard, the struggles of being in a duo for twenty years, and even played along with every single songwriter’s song.  However, as he introduced “Only In America” (see video clip below), he told a hysterical story about how the song was President Bush’s campaign song which ultimately led to him being invited to the White House for the inauguration.  He said he met Muhammad Ali, Colin Powell, and even Ricky Martin.  He also said he was a bit surprised when he heard his song eight years later during a Barack Obama campaign (because he had not given him permission to use it) and receiving a text from John Rich as it played saying “not cool, man”.  His jokes had people in stitches and his songs were sung with gusto. 

All in all, the art of the song was the true star of the night.  What makes the CMA Songwriters Series at Joe’s Pub so special is the intimate venue and the story behind the song, then hearing how that story translated into such a huge hit.  I know I am not the only one that hopes the CMA keeps bringing these amazing shows for another ten years and beyond …
  1. The Church on Cumberland Road – Bob DiPiero (recorded by Shenandoah)
  2. Red Dirt Road – Kix Brooks (recorded by Brooks & Dunn)
  3. We Were Us – Jon Nite (recorded by Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert)
  4. Heads Carolina, Tails California – Tim Nichols (recorded by Jo Dee Messina)
  5. American Made – Bob DiPiero (recorded by Oak Ridge Boys)
  6. Can’t Make This Stuff Up – Kix Brooks (recorded by Kix Brooks)
  7. Tip It On Back – Jon Nite (recorded by Dierks Bentley)
  8. Girls Lie Too – Tim Nichols (recorded by Terri Clarke)
  9. Can’t Take the Honky Tonk Outta the Girl – Bob DiPiero (recorded by Brooks & Dunn)
  10. You’re Gunna Miss Me When I’m Gone – Kix Brooks (recorded by Brooks & Dunn)
  11. Beachin’ – Jon Nite (recorded by Jake Owen)
  12. Ain’t No Thinkin’ Thing – Tim Nichols (recorded by Trace Adkins)
  13. Southern Voice – Bob DiPiero (recorded by Tim McGraw)
  14. Only in America – Kix Brooks (recorded by Brooks & Dunn)
  15. Whatever She’s Got – Jon Nite (recorded by David Nail)
  16. Live Like You Were Dying – Tim Nichols (recorded by Tim McGraw)

Review: The Brothers of the Sun Make History as they become Giants of NJ

Brothers of the Sun Tour
Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw
with Jake Owen and Grace Potter
Metlife Stadium, NJ – August 11, 2012

Last year Kenny Chesney came to Metlife Stadium with Zac Brown Band and made history as the biggest country music show of all time in the New York/New Jersey area.  This year, Chesney brought, long-time friend and megastar, Tim McGraw along with him and they upped the ante.  By the time the lights went out at the home of the Super Bowl Champions, Chesney & McGraw had finished a set for 56,285 fans, breaking that previous record (see

As I pulled into the Stadium parking lot I saw a crowd rushing towards the side where a shirtless Tim McGraw was standing outside his bus.  He was simply standing there posing with no shirt, a bandana and atheltic shorts.  Women were flocking to take pictures and to take a gander at the unbelievably fit singer.

 I did not get into the actual Stadium for Jake Owen or Grace Potter’s sets, but by the time I took my seat, a few minutes before McGraw took to the stage, the Stadium was already at full capacity.  New Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” began to play over the sound system as McGraw’s band took to the stage and the big screens followed the lead man’s walk up from backstage to the forefront.  He walked to the front of the catwalk, took the microphone and immediately launched into “Felt Good On My Lips”. 

McGraw’s style is very different from Chesney’s.  There is no running around or jumping up and down.  Instead, he strolls around the stage pointing to and slapping hands with fans.  He takes a lot of time standing with his arms out stretched.  But, the style works well for the man who has become a true sex symbol in music, movies, and fashion.  His set worked in many amazing classics, a few slower ballads, and a couple of new, un-released singles. 

A few people in the crowd brought along jerseys of his father, Tug McGraw, a former Phillies and Mets pitcher, in which Tim was happy to grab the jersey and hold it up to the crowd.  He even brought his mother out on stage during “Let It Go”.  The new song “Mexicoma” was a big miss as most of the crowd did not seem to be interested in it at all.  But when the opening notes of songs like “Where the Green Grass Grows”, “Last Dollar” or “Something Like That” were played, the entire Stadium seemed to jump out of their chairs and get right back into it. 

Overall, McGraw’s set did not flow as well as Chesney’s, but when his classic songs were played, the sound level from the crowd was no different.  He finished off the set with an emotional rendition of “Live Like You Were Dying” and came back out after a short encore to “Cowboy In Me” and “I Like It, I Love It”.  By this time, the sky had turned dark and the stadium had become illuminated with lights, screens, and energetic fans.  He finished the hour and half set with his newest single, “Truck Yeah”.  The lights went dark, the crowd was satisfied, yet the main event was yet to come. 

After about a half an hour, a ten minute video, showcasing Kenny Chesney’s many travels to beaches around the world, while the song “Welcome to the Fishbowl” was played over the speakers.  It culminated with a video of Chesney standing atop the empty Stadium with two football helmets in hand.  He stated he was happy to be in the home of the “New York Jets and the Super Bowl Champion New York Football Giants”.  The crowd roared and Chesney emerged from a hole in the middle of the Stadium. 

From there, Chesney did not slow down for the rest of the night.  He was off and running with “Beer In Mexico” then got onto a swing to fly over the crowd to the main stage as he sang “Keg in the Closet”.  The swing has become synonomous with Chesney Stadium shows as are songs about the summer.  When he touched down to the main stage he did not disapoint as he ripped into “Summertime”.  The perfect start to a perfect set. 

Chesney played all of his hits and his entire hour and a half solo set was nothing short of a sing-a-long.  He played up to Giants and Jets fans alike.  He sang of old memories with “I Go Back” and “Anything But Mine”.  And he told stories of forbidden love on tunes such as “Come Over” and Somewhere With You”.

A true highlight was when he brought out Grace Potter for their duet to “You and Tequila”.  This song is easily one of my favorite country songs and I have seen him perform it live many times.  However, this was the first time I saw him do it live with Grace.  Their voices go together with such ease as the song combines love, alcohol, and the summer – three things that are clear influences in Chesney’s music. 

Chesney, as usual, worked up quite the sweat.  He ran from side to side and gave his all into the performance.  It is not suprising that he can fill up Stadiums across America.  His songs equal his performance and the crowd really responds to what he does on stage.  He is a true superstar in every sense of the word.

His final song of his set was “Boys of Fall”.  I was bit disappointed that Eli Manning nor none of the home team’s players emerged on stage for this song.  But I quickly moved past that when Tim McGraw emerged from the center stage during the first song of the encore, and the two Brothers of the Sun sang “Feel Like A Rockstar” from dueling stages, ala Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch The Throne Tour.

The encore was the real highlight of the night as the two megastars traded verses on “Indian Outlaw” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”.  The two used every inch of the stage, with Tim’s swagger and Kenny’s energy in full force.  They were full of smiles and truly seemed to enjoy sharing the spotlight.  The night was finished with “Running on Empty”, as Jake Owen and Grace Potter emerged on stage as well.  They took a solid ten minutes to sign autographs for the crowd and give out a New York Giants helmet to a young girl. 

The record breaking concert was everything the fans had hoped for and more.  That beautiful August night was country music at its finest with two of its stars shining bright in the biggest stage of all.  One can only hope that Kenny Chesney keeps his Stadium tours alive so that more and more fans can witness this summertime staple. 


Kenny Chesney

  1. Welcome to the Fishbowl (Intro & Video)
  2. Beer in Mexico
  3. Keg in the Closet
  4. Summertime
  5. Reality
  6. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
  7. How Forever Feels
  8. I Go Back
  9. Come Over
  10. Anything But Mine
  11. Back Where I Come From
  12. Livin’ In Fast Forward
  13. Young
  14. Somewhere With You
  15. Never Wanted Nothing More
  16. You and Tequila (with Grace Potter)
  17. Out Last Night
  18. When The Sun Goes Down
  19. Don’t Happen Twice
  20. Boys of Fall
  21. Feel Like A Rockstar (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  22. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  23. Indian Outlaw (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw)
  24. Running on Empty (ENCORE – with Tim McGraw and Jake Owen and Grace Potter)

Tim McGraw

  1. Felt Good On My Lips
  2. For A Little While
  3. Down on the Farm
  4. Real Good Man
  5. Last Dollar
  6. Unbroken
  7. Everywhere
  8. Where the Green Grass Grows
  9. Mexicoma
  10. All I Want is a Life
  11. Just to See You Smile
  12. Better Than I Used to Be
  13. Let It Go
  14. How Bad Do You Want It
  15. Back When
  16. Something Like That
  17. Southern Voice
  18. Live Like You Were Dying
  19. Cowboy In Me (Encore)
  20. I Like It, I Love It (Encore)
  21. Truck Yeah (Encore)
Where The Green Grass Grows
I Go Back
You And Tequila
You and Tequila (Crowd Singing)

Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan Shine Bright at Mohegan Sun

Emotional Traffic Tour
with Luke Bryan and The Band Perry
Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut

If you are a fan of any genre of music, you have heard of Tim McGraw.  He has countless #1 singles, was the most played artist of the decade, and even did a crossover song with Hip-Hop Star Nelly which was accepted by all radio stations.   He is in movies, commercials, and even has his own cologne.  But for all of those achievements, the thing he does best is perform live. 

On July 23rd, 2011, Tim McGraw brought his Emotional Traffic Tour to Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.  The Tour is named after an upcoming album that he is currently in a legal dispute over with his record label.  The supporting acts on this Tour are The Band Perry and a rising star, Luke Bryan.

I was not able to see The Band Perry perform because I was awarded a meet and greet with Luke Bryan.  I have met Luke many times over the course of his career.  The first time was when he was doing a free acoustic set at a Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlantic City, NJ back in January of 2008.  He has come quite a long way from free sets at restaurants.  He now has three number 1 singles on the Billboard Country Charts.   He is on his way to a fourth number 1 with “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” which is currently number eight and rising each week. 

As always, Luke was incredibly nice and humble.  He takes the time to take a picture and  give an autograph with each meet and greet pass-holder.  Since I have met him seven times now over the past two and a half years, he recognizes me.   We spoke a bit about his upcoming headling tour which is the “CMT on Tour 2011”.  He said they will be making a stop in New York City which should excite most country fans in that area.

During his set, he utilized the catwalk to perfection.  Usually opening acts are hesitant to use the catwalk at all and stick to the main stage.  However, Luke is not the ordinary opening act.  He came out to “Country Man” and immediately ran all the way down the catwalk which stretched out from the stage all the way to the back of the floor section.  He had everyone in the Arena up and dancing the entire time.  He ran through hits like “Rain Is A Good Thing”, “Do I”, “We Rode In Trucks” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby”.  A highlight was the macho song “Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets”.  Of course, his newest single (“Country Girl, Shake it For Me”) had everyone shaking and singing along to every word.  He ended the set, as he does with every one of his shows, with a remix of his first single “All My Friends” and Metalica’s “Enter The Sandman”.  Overall, Luke Bryan’s set was one of the best opening acts I have ever seen and had every bit of energy that a headliner would have. 

Tim McGraw would not be outshined this night.  When it was time for his set a giant screen was unvieled and the spotlight quickly shined on the other side of the Arena.  To everyone’s surprise, McGraw appeared walking down the aisle from that opposite side while singing one of his biggest hits, “Something Like That”. 

Tim utilized the catwalk more than any headliner I have every seen.  He wasn’t running around like a Kenny Chesney, but had a slow powerful walk that had every woman in the building scream and every guy admire his “swagger”.  He sang all of his hits from “Where the Green Grass Grows” to “Last Dollar” to “The Cowboy In Me”.  He even threw in some fan favorites like “Do You Want Fries With That” and “Red Ragtop”.  Whatever he decided to sing next was met with cheers, screams, and applause. 

I have seen Tim McGraw five times now and this was not only the best, but it appeared to be the most fun he ever had.  He seemed to give every single person along the catwalk, including myself, a high five.  He was constantly smiling, which is unique for the usually serious McGraw.  It was good to see him like that since I know he is going through that heated legal battle with his Record Company. 

He even surprised the crowd by bringing out The Band Perry for “Can’t Really Be Gone” and Luke Bryan for “Back When”.  Luke and Tim seemed like young teenagers having the time of their lives, singing, laughing and even hugging at points. 

Tim closed out his set with “Real Good Man”.  His encore consisted of  “Live Like You Were Dying”, “Indian Outlaw” and “I Like It, I Love It”.  Full of energy and bravado, Tim McGraw put forth a memorable performance that shows why he is still certainly one of the Kings of Country Music. 

Luke Bryan’s Setlist:

1. Country Man
2. Someone Else Calling You Baby
3. Drinking Beer and Wasting Bullets
4. If You Ain’t Here To Party
5. Drunk On You
6. We Rode In Trucks
7. Do I
8. Rain Is A Good Thing
9. Country Girl (Shake It For Me)
10. All My Friends (with “Enter The Sandman”)

Tim McGraw’s Setlist:
1. Something Like That
2. Where The Green Grass Grows
3. Down On The Farm
4. Last Dollar
5. Just To See You Smile
6. Please Remember Me
7. For A Little While
8. Right Back At Ya
9. Red Ragtop
10. Unbroken
11. Sail On
12. Can’t Really Be Gone (with The Band Perry)
13. Back When (with Luke Bryan)
14. Do You Want Fries With That
15. The Cowboy In Me
16. Southern Voice
17. Felt Good On My Lips
18. Real Good Man


19. Live Like You Were Dying
20. Indian Outlaw
21. I Like It, I Love It