Five singer-songwriters will bring their Nashville sound to Detroit Friday night.
Wil Nance, Danika Holmes, Jeb Hart, Rob Taube and Mark Barnowski will share their Americana, country, folk and pop sounds through the Nashtown Songwriters Round at the Farmington Civic Theater as part of the “Friday Night Live” concert series.
As the final show in the concert series’ winter season, “Nashtown” will allow the singer-songwriters to mix elements of Music City with Motown through their live performances and musical storytelling.
“It’s going to be a great show at the Nashtown Songwriters Round,” Wil Nance said. “I hope people will be moved, laugh and cry some, have a good time and hear some great stories behind the songs.”
Wil Nance, a country music singer-songwriter based in Nashville, has moved people with his catchy lyrics and music for nearly two decades. He’s penned No. 1 hits for Brad Paisley and George Strait, including “She’s Everything” and “Round About Way,” as well as a top 10 hit for Joe Nichols and songs for Mo Pitney and other country artists.
“I wrote the first draft of ‘She’s Everything’ and played it for my buddy, Chris Dubois, who works with Brad Paisley. He played it for Brad, and he liked the song,” Nance said. “I got a call from Chris one day saying Brad had never done this before, and if he was going to sing it in front of 20,000 people, then he wanted to change a few words to make it more about his wife. I laughed and said, ‘Tell Brad I don’t want him singing about my wife in front of that many people.’ The rest is history – he did a great job on the song.”
Originally from St. Louis, Nance watched his dad play guitar and sing in local churches and at honky-tonks. That encouraged Nance to pick up the guitar and start writing songs at age 11 and later form a band with his brother Gary. They played around the St. Louis area for a few years before Nance moved to Cincinnati and then Nashville.
Nance moved to Nashville after being inspired by the songwriting of country singer-songwriter Dean Dillon, who’s also penned songs for George Strait. Twenty years later, Nance teamed up with Dillon to co-write the George Strait hit, “If Heartaches Were for Horses.”
“I was standing in a place called Lefty’s Tavern in Cincinnati before I moved to Nashville, and a buddy of mine played, ‘Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her,’ on the jukebox, and it wasn’t George Strait singing,” he said. “I looked, and it was Dean Dillon, and when I heard the way he interpreted his own song, I said that’s what I want to do.”
Before co-writing with Dean Dillon, Nance penned a slew of other hits for George Strait and recalled the exhilaration of writing “Round About Way” and “Where Have I Been All My Life” for the country legend.
“My buddy Steve Dean and his publisher, Tom Collins, got it to George when he was in the studio. It was my first No. 1,” Nance said. “‘Where Have I Been All My Life’ was written with my friends Steve Williams and Sherrie Austin. I had that idea for about a year and it took us that long to write, or at least figure out how to write it.”
In addition to writing songs for Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Craig Morgan, Diamond Rio, Sammy Kershaw, the Oakridge Boys and Easton Corbin, Nance plans to keep penning tunes with other songwriters and performing.
“I really don’t know what it takes to write a hit these days, I just get up and do what I do, and I hope it finds some light at the end of this crazy music tunnel,” Nance said. “Co-writing is a wonderful thing, I’ve heard you’re only as good as your co-writer. I’m trying to write the best song that I can with the best people, and I’m also doing a lot of shows and corporate events.”
Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart – Danika & The Jeb
A Nashville acoustic pop and Americana duo, Danika Holmes and Jeb Hart, aka Danika & The Jeb, bring a dynamic, uplifting and fun sound that includes a combination of artfully written songs and powerful musical phrasing.
Together, Danika & The Jeb have performed more than 1,200 shows in the U.S., U.K. and Europe since forming in 2010. They’ve also opened for Lyle Lovett, Dierks Bentley, Phil Vassar and Tracy Lawrence.
Holmes believes that a well-written song can embody all emotions of the human existence, and she articulates that beautifully with her slightly raspy, yet warm voice and truthful lyrics.
“I learned how to play the guitar from Jeb. It’s been so fun playing together all these years now because our musical style has grown together,” said Holmes, who grew up listening to church music. “As a vocalist, every artist wishes they had a guitar player like Jeb, someone who knows when to hang back and knows when to step up to the front of the stage and give a killer solo as well.”
Grand-nephew to country artist Clyde Moody, Hart can craft a story with six strings. Despite a car accident that left him unable to play for several years, Hart’s determination to overcome prevailed.
“I started on sax when I was nine and then on guitar at 14. When I was young, I’d go to work with my mom and was told to be quiet,” Hart said. “I’d hang out next to her desk with a pair of headphones on and record mixed tapes from the radio onto this little boombox she bought me.”
The duo’s latest project, “Day #2349, Danika & The Jeb – Live at Campbell Steele Gallery,” is a live double album that was recorded in Marion, Iowa last year. They recorded it 2,349 days after the release of their first album, “Second Chances,” in 2010.
“Our goal was to capture one of our 1,200 live performances in a way that made people feel like they were right there listening to it,” Holmes said. “We didn’t want it to be a ‘best of’ album where you get the best version of 20 live shows. Our double-disc album is a complete show, beginning to end.”
Danika & The Jeb will capture that same live spirit during their performance Friday night in Farmington with Wil Nance, Rob Taube and Mark Barnowski.
“We never tell exactly what we are preparing, but we choose our set from about six hours of rehearsed material,” Holmes said. “We like to read our audience and the other writers we’ll be playing for and with.”
Later this year, Danika & The Jeb will launch a Patreon page to share more live adventures with their fans. Each month, they will release two pieces of content that will include audio or live video projects. Danika & The Jeb also will be playing 80 more shows throughout the U.S. and Europe this year.
As a folk, rock and country singer-songwriter, Rob Taube’s music career began in Detroit. A former member of the Detroit rock band Scratch, Taube has worked as a professional keyboardist, guitarist and singer and performed with Hank Williams Jr., Leon Russell and James Taylor.
Now a busy New York producer, teacher and musician, Taube’s recent projects include an album with rock legend Simon Kirke, drummer for Bad Company. Several of their joint compositions are featured on Kirke’s latest album, “All Because of You.”
“New York is an incredibly exasperating, incredibly exciting place that feels sometimes like a big slot machine you keep feeding your money into hoping for a big payoff,” said Taube, who’s inspired by The Beatles, Billy Joel, James Taylor and Hank Williams Jr. “I’ve been here for 30 years and probably will be here until they kick me out. But seriously, it’s a great location for my demo studio, Groove Garden. You never know who’s going to walk in off the street and blow you away.”
Besides Kirke, Taube also has penned songs with Billy Lee, Mary Beth Stone and Mark Barnowski and served as a member of the New York City chapter of Nashville Songwriters Association International.
“Each writer has a different style, a different personality. Mark, who is putting together the Nashtown show, is one of the finest and most versatile writers I’ve ever worked with,” said Taube, who’s also worked in Nashville. “I guess when I write with someone I’m always trying to do what I can to help them write their very best song. I try to listen to what they are trying to say, and a lot of times, that really opens whole worlds of ideas for me.”
In addition to working with other artists, Taube writes and records his own material, including “Halfway Home” from 2009. The folk-country-rock album consists of 11 tracks Taube wrote at age 50 to mark the halfway point of his life.
“I did a lot of the work myself on a laptop until I got picked up by Avid Records, and they helped me finish it,” he said. “The songs were just pouring out at that time, it was really amazing.”
For Friday’s show, Taube will perform songs from “Halfway Home” as well as new material he’s written with Mark Barnowski.
“One favorite that will be on my upcoming album is called ‘Michigan Girl,’ a kind of love letter to that part of the world I love so much as well as to a sort of idealized romantic partner who symbolizes that love,” he said. “I also plan to do ‘Seven Years of Good Luck,’ a reggae-groove love song to my real-life partner, my wife, Thea.”
As for upcoming projects, Taube is releasing an album he’s co-produced with Nikki Neretin of Nikki and the Human Element, a New York City band with a big heart and edgy social conscience. He’s also headed to Seattle soon to write and record with The Walkabouts’ Carla Torgerson, who’s working on her second solo album.
As the organizer of Friday’s Nashtown show, Mark Barnowski promises to deliver one of the most enjoyable nights of original music from the Music City-based and -inspired singer-songwriter lineup.
“We’ll tell the story behind the hits and future hits in the ‘Songwriters Round’ format that pretty much runs Nashville,” said Barnowski, who’s originally from Detroit. “For my part, my set will include ‘Kiss Me,’ ‘Good To Be a Kid,’ ‘Watchin’ You Be You,’ ‘Make A Good Man,’ ‘Beam Me Up’ and ‘Did I Ever.’ We’re also giving away a $1,000 guitar at the end of the show from one of our great sponsors, Gretsch.”
While growing up in Detroit, Barnowski learned to play guitar as a child and formed a three-piece band with two older brothers when he was 12. The band was called Relation and grew to include all seven Barnowski kids, who became a show group similar to The Osmonds and The Partridge Family.
“We traveled the country up to 50 weeks a year and played in Vegas, Tahoe and Reno and even appeared with Liberace,” he said. “Relation recorded three albums together, including two that were produced by the legendary Kim Fowley (The Runaways). We kept our home base in Motown, but also based ourselves in Palm Springs, Calif. In 1979, we took first place on Chuck Barris’ ‘Gong Show.’”
An accomplished singer-songwriter and musician, Barnowski was the 2015 Tennessee Songwriters Association International (TSAI) Male Songwriter of the Year and won TSAI’s 2016 and 2017 Song of the Year. He recently co-wrote two songs with Corey Lee Barker for last year’s William Shatner-Jeff Cook project, including “Beam Me Up” and “Too Old to Be Vegan.”
“We needed to write a song that William Shatner could speak to and Jeff Cook could sing on. First thing that came to mind was the phrase, ‘Beam Me Up.’ It needed a twist, so we made it a drinking song about Jim Beam. I seriously believe if it gets any airplay at all, it would take off,” Barnowski said.
“‘Too Old to Be Vegan’ was just another song that popped in my head when I was trying to come up with something funny that would fit the profile. My co-writer, Corey, is a natural for comedic stuff, and we worked very well together on this project.”
Barnowski writes and performs his own material under the moniker, Mark Edwards, and has charted four top 50 singles and reached No. 43 on Billboard’s AC charts. He also has worked as a record promoter for Michael W. Smith, Bruce Hornsby, Harry Connick Jr., and LeAnn Rimes.
“I’ve worn more than two hats and have been blessed to always have been able to make a living in the music industry, but the most rewarding part of my career has always been being a singer-songwriter,” he said. “I believe co-writing with so many great songwriters, and at one point being a successful artist, gives me a unique perspective on what may play out best to the artists we pitch our songs to.”
As for his next project, Barnowski is working with Barker on a sleepy-bye instrumental CD for parents to help soothe their babies to sleep.
“We’re hoping to get an iconic voice like Alison Krauss or Dolly Parton,” he said. “Corey and I have also written a ton of Christmas songs for Hallmark. Keep an ear out for them in December.”
Friday, April 5
Doors: 7:30 p.m.
Show: 8 p.m.
Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand River Ave. in Farmington
The Nashtown songwriters round also will feature a Gretsch guitar package, valued at more than $1,000, that will be awarded to one lucky winner after the show. (Insert link)