From “In Color” To “Never Alone”: Nashville Songwriters Tell Stories Behind Hits

(L-R) Victoria Shaw, Bob DiPiero, Lee Thomas Miller, Jim Photoglo (credit: Annie Reuter)

(L-R) Victoria Shaw, Bob DiPiero, Lee Thomas Miller, Jim Photoglo (credit: Annie Reuter)

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“Welcome to Nashville in New York City,” [pullquote quote="Songwriters are deeply disturbed." credit="Lee Thomas Miller"]host Bob DiPiero said as he greeted country fans at Joe’s Pub. “We’re going to play some songs. We’re going to tell you stories. Basically this is our living room.”

For the eighth year, the CMA Songwriters Series returned to New York and did just that.

On March 22, songwriters Victoria Shaw, Lee Thomas Miller, and Jim Photoglo took the stage alongside DiPiero to tell the stories behind many of their chart-topping hits.

While country music was the main event, GRAMMY award winner and producer Mark Hudson wowed the crowd when he was called onstage to perform. He told the tale behind one of the songs he wrote with Aerosmith.

As he joined the songwriters onstage, Hudson professed his love for the genre. “The country music audience is the most faithful. You hang in there forever,” he said.

Hudson explained the co-write behind his GRAMMY-winning Aerosmith hit “Livin’On the Edge.” After he played the band a few options, he noticed that they liked his material but didn’t completely connect to any of the songs. Steven Tyler then suggested, “What would you play if you were in Aerosmith?”

Mark Hudson

Mark Hudson (Photo by Annie Reuter)

“At that point I hated pop music,” Hudson confessed. “No one was saying anything with meaning so I started singing, ‘Something’s wrong with the world today I don’t know what it is’ and Steven goes ‘Stop!’ John Lennon‘s in the room!’ And I never saw a mouth open that big.”

Hudson explained that Tyler was feeling what Hudson had felt when he wrote it: inspiration from John Lennon. The band asked him to play more, and though he had only written that one part, the rest of the song flowed out.

“I’ll play the song and then get out because I know it’s country night, and you’re all like, ‘Who is this guy who’s dressed all in purple like Barney?’” he said, before he began to play “Livin’ On the Edge.” “The song has just as much meaning now as it did then, probably more.”

And it was country night. For over two hours, DiPiero, Shaw, Miller and Photoglo sat in a round with their guitar and keyboard and told the audience what it’s really like in the songwriting room.

[pullquote quote="It started out stupid, and to my surprise it was played on the radio. " credit="Lee Thomas Miller"]“Songwriters are deeply disturbed,” Miller admitted. “It’s hard to write love songs because they get so trite. Understand this ladies, if the love song you love the most was written by men, there were vulgar versions of that song made in the room.”

Miller then introduced Brad Paisley‘s comical “I’m Still a Guy.” “It started out stupid, and to my surprise it was played on the radio. For three weeks it was the No. 1 record, and I don’t think my mother likes it,” he said.

Before Shaw performed “I Love the Way You Love Me,” a song she wrote and was recorded by John Michael Montgomery, she explained how the idea came to her after a date with her future husband. “He’s a really good kisser,” she said. While driving, she was thinking about the sound a kiss makes and the song came to her. “I pulled off the road and called my answering machine and sang the words,” she said.

Another track of Shaw’s, the poignant “Never Alone,” was inspired by four lines of an Irish Blessing. Later recorded by a number of artists including Lady Antebellum and Sara Evans, Shaw said she carried those lines around for 10 years until the song came to her.

The night proved that New York has die-hard country fans, as everyone in the room sang along on most songs during the evening. While the energetic “Gone” had the audience singing, it was “In Color” that got the most requests. The songwriters ended the set with DiPiero’s “Blue Clear Sky” before they received a standing ovation.

With the warm reception of last night’s show, country fans in New York will surely be back. In fact, the next CMA Songwriters Series is set for May 9 and will feature Al Anderson, Phil Vassar, Craig Wiseman and DiPiero.

- Annie Reuter, CBS Local