Kix Brooks and Desmond Child have penned the soundtrack to many music fans’ lives, but even these hit songwriters had to start somewhere. That was the premise behind the fifth annual “The First and The Worst” benefit concert for Music Health Alliance, held Wednesday at Nashville’s City Winery.
In addition to performances by Dunn of Brooks & Dunn (“Better Man,” “Red Dirt Road”), a newly announced Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, and Songwriters Hall of Famer Child (Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady”), songwriters Luke Dick (Dierks Bentley’s “Burning Man,” Eric Church’s “Kill a Word”), Laura Veltz (Dan + Shay’s “Speechless,” Maren Morris’ “Rich”) and Jamie Floyd (Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade”) shared the stage for a memorable concert at City Winery. For more than three hours, each songwriter offered up early creations and chart-topping hits to a sold-out show that benefited Music Health Alliance, a nonprofit healthcare advocate for music industry professionals. More than $500,000 has been raised for Music Health Alliance during the event’s first five years.
The first two rounds of the evening had each songwriter sharing one of the worst songs they have written as they competed for the audience-voted “Crappy” trophy. Dick kicked off the round with a song called “TTYL” and admitted that he had reached out to several friends for the lyrics to the song he penned 15 years ago.
“Texting had just begun and all of these abbreviations just came out, so we thought we’d make an abbreviation song that’d be the talk of the town,” Dick recalled. With lyrics like “What went wrong/ IDK/ WTF is all I could say/ So long, I wish you well/ XXOO/ TTYL,” the room erupted in laughter.
Floyd followed with the first song she wrote at 7 years old. Inspired by a comment her babysitter made about a Betty Boop doll, she titled the track “I Have No Neck.” “My head is too big for my body/ My legs are too long for my waist/ My arms are too skinny for my shoulders/ And my top is contracted to my head/ ‘Cause I have no neck/ What the heck?” she crooned.
While Brooks and Child shared snippets of songs they wrote about girls they had crushes on as kids, it was Veltz’s comical track about dipping, appropriately titled “Little Dipper,” that won her the coveted “Crappy” award. “It might be offensive, I don’t know,” she prefaced the track. She then explained to the audience that she was singing from a boy’s perspective. “She’s my little dipper/ My hunting buddy/ My fishin’ wizard/ One pinch under that lip and I want to kiss her,” she sang before admitting, “That’s gross! Why would anyone say that?”
“I’ve actually only won one other award ever. This is a big day,” Veltz marveled when the audience crowned her with the “Crappy” award. “This one really takes my self-esteem down a little lower, but in a way, I feel good about it.”
Additional highlights included Child’s “You Make Me Rock Hard,” a song recorded by KISS that began as a joke with Diane Warren and Paul Stanley, and Floyd’s infectious “Home Is Where the Bar Is.” Each songwriter would go on to play two more rounds of their hits and discuss the highs and lows of life as a songwriter.
“Nobody ever starts out a professional songwriter. … You’re only as good as your last song,” Brooks explained. “It’s something that eats on you, it lives inside you, it drives you and it’s a part of your life. It doesn’t matter how much success you’ve had; you always have another song to write.”