This fall, the Country Music Association and the critically-heralded public TV series "Front and Center" will partner up for two separate concert specials that will feature many of Music City's most talented artists doing what they do best.
The shows will feature the music of six-time CMA Award winner Lady Antebellum as they are joined by special guests as well as a special 10th Anniversary CMA Songwriters Series Celebration with two-time CMA Award winner Dierks Bentley joined by four of Nashville's top songwriters, Jim Beavers, Ross Copperman, Brett James, and Jon Randall.
The episodes, which tape later this month in Nashville, are scheduled to air in the fall as part of the lead-up to the 48th Annual CMA Awards.
For CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern, the shows offer a chance to shine the spotlight on some of the most creative people in Nashville. "I am so excited about having another TV opportunity to expose the songwriting base of our leadership. I have a soft spot in my heart for singer-songwriters, and great country songs. Having these two platforms to be able to showcase some of the great songs in our format in October leading up to the award show in November is exciting."
Trahern tells Billboard that between the CMA's "Songwriter Series" of shows that started a decade ago, as well as the attention focused on the creative community by ABC's "Nashville," there seems to be more interest in the songwriting craft than ever before. "We started the songwriting series itself ten years ago in New York when we did the CMA show there. Certainly on a national base, things like 'Nashville' have exposed singer-songwriters and the idea of an in-the-round. The show itself came about because Don Maggi, who is the Executive Producer of "Front And Center," came to our show in New York back in February," she said. "We were brainstorming about doing something for our tenth anniversary. His coming out to that show led to these tapings."
Maggi says that night in the Big Apple this past winter was definitely a magical night. "It was so great - the core of what music is all about – singer / songwriters up there telling a story, It was as real as it gets. It's the same thing we do on Front and Center. After the show, I told Sarah 'We have to do something.' It was so fun and exciting to see how these talented singer and songwriters are able to create such great music."
Trahern thinks both tapings will showcase a little bit of Nashville magic. She admits that going to songwriters' showcases has always been a passion of hers – even before starting her career. "Going to a singer-songwriter night is something I've been engaged in long before I was in the business per se. I love that the songs are all familiar to you, but the stories are not. They put a different spin on it. We had a songwriters' show in London in March. Brett James, one of our board members, was on that show, and he did the current song he had with Dierks, "I Hold On." He was talking about Dierks' inspiration about writing the song, about his guitar and his truck, and going through this life-change with the loss of his father and the birth of his baby really inspired him. I later told Dierks that I learned more about that song from Brett than I had when I had seen him on a bigger TV show. The story in context gave it different meaning. Every time I've heard them doing, I have a different picture of the story behind the song."
The Music of Lady Antebellum will include an intimate evening of the trio's signature hits and a first taste of new music from their forthcoming fifth studio album. The group will share personal stories from the road, the writing room, and the events that inspired their music along with special guest songwriters with whom they have worked throughout the course of their career.
Bentley will be joined on stage by songwriters for a special 10th Anniversary CMA Songwriters Series celebration. The "Front and Center" taping will capture a CMA Songwriters Series style round featuring Bentley joined by Jim Beavers ("5-1-5-0" written with and recorded by Dierks Bentley, "Red Solo Cup" recorded by Toby Keith), Ross Copperman ("Tip It On Back" recorded by Dierks Bentley, "Beat of the Music" recorded by Brett Eldredge), Brett James ("I Hold On" written with and recorded by Dierks Bentley, "Jesus Take the Wheel" recorded by Carrie Underwood), and Jon Randall ("Draw Me A Map" written with and recorded by Dierks Bentley, "Whiskey Lullaby" recorded by Alison Krauss and Brad Paisley).
Maggi says both nights promise to be magical. "In the atmosphere that you're in, in such a small and intimate room, it is always so overpowering. You hear the story, and because you're sitting so close, you feel it. That's what music is all about, and that what we try to capture." He told The 615 that is his reason for doing what he does. "What inspired me to do this with Front And Center was the feeling you get when you are sitting that close, and you realize how exceptional and talented they are, it's overwhelming, and at the same time, it's inspiring!"