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)