As you step into the warm glow of the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe located in downtown New York, you are surrounded by an overwhelming feeling that something unique is housed between these walls lined with bookshelves and posters from events from the past. This small and intimate setting is where the Live From Home: Songwriter Round took place last night, hosted by one of Nashville’s most sought after songwriters, Shane McAnally. The ticket sales from the event went to benefit Housing Works and the amazing work that they do to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS in New York City. Joining McAnally for a night of music and laughs was Drake White, who just released his album Spark this past Friday; newcomer Walker Hayes; and three members of Old Dominion: Brad Tursi, Matt Ramsey, and Trevor Rosen.
As the immensely talented group sat down on the small stage, they picked up their guitars and what happened next was nothing short of magic. Taking their turns in a “round” setting, each of the songwriters shared stories relating their lives to the songs they were playing. Whether it was Ramsey admitting to only playing his Sam Hunt cut “Make You Miss Me” a few times but being aware that it is climbing the charts (Trevor Rosen chiming in that the hit song is currently number two) or McAnally explaining that Miranda Lambert’s single “Mama’s Broken Heart” was actually written about his mother, the explanations gave new life to the songs that the audience was singing along to.
The men from Old Dominion, who have been touring with Kenny Chesney all summer, most recently played “Save It For : Rainy Day” in front 56,000 people at Metlife Stadium in New Jersey this past weekend on stage with Chesney himself, who recorded the track last year. They played their version of the song as well as their first single to hit radio, “Break Up With Him,” which is the only song that all five members of the band wrote together.
Although the night was filled to the brim with moments all those in attendance will remember and discuss for a long time, highlights included Hayes letting the audience in on his real life struggles in this industry where following your dreams often comes at a price. “Lela’s Stars” is real, gutsy and raw, Hayes sings in a melodic rap about his old car’s roof falling down, being held up by his daughter’s thumb tacks as he drives to work at Costco for the early morning shift.
White, who had opened for Zac Brown the previous three nights, sounded flawless, his true gritty vocals accompanied by his passion for music, evident in his inability to stay in his seat while singing. He boot stomped and crooned on “Back To Free,” taking the audience back to a simpler place and time before the responsibilities of being an adult.
As if sitting and listening to these six brilliant songwriters sing songs we all know and love weren’t enough, attendees were treated to two new songs that they had been working on. Tursi, after a few more sips of beer, told us “I’ve only played this next song once and that was last night in front of friends.” Appropriately titled “Almost September,” he takes the cliched end of summer song and puts his own spin on it. Along with Ramsey, Rosen and McAnally, Tursi also played along to a new one they had written together. “Still Writing Songs About You” has all of the components of being the next huge hit for the foursome. Take a listen here.
Summing up the night in one sentence, the host of the evening, McAnally, said it best: “Nashville is filled with real people who know how to tell a real story; they are talking about their lives and your lives.” The event was a night to remember for all who crammed into the tiny bookstore cafe. To find out more about the great things Housing Works does check out their website.