Kristian Plays CMA Songwriters Series in Los Angeles and Phoenix

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Kristian joined the CMA Songwriters Series for two shows this week, playing L.A.’s House of Blues and the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona alongside country music songwriting superstars Bob DiPiero, Bobby Pinson, and the legendary Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. Both nights were intimate gatherings peppered with lots of laughter, as all four men cracked wise, delivered well-honed one-liners, and told the (often hilarious) stories behind their songs before performing them live.


The sheer volume of hit songs on the stage was humbling. Bill Anderson alone has spent nearly 50 years in the business, a career spanning from his first No. 1 for Ray Price in 1958 to such recent massive hits as Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullaby” and George Strait’s “Give It Away.” He delivered acoustic versions of both favorites in his sage, intelligent voice, defusing the sadness of the lyrics with perfect comic timing in between tunes. (What’s the difference between a songwriter and a large pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four.) If you ever have a chance to sit at Anderson’s feet and listen, don’t pass it up. The man is an icon.


On the opposite side of the stage, host Bob DiPiero lent his gruff, matter-of-fact voice to the blockbusters he’s written: Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone,” which had the L.A. audience joyfully contributing the bang-bangs; Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice,” where his use of “Apalachicola” led to a blossoming bromance with Kristian; and George Strait’s “Blue Clear Sky,” explaining to the audience that the backwards phrasing in the title (as opposed to “clear blue”) was inspired by Forrest Gump, and he was unwilling to change it... even when Strait asked him to. “The Church on Cumberland Road” led things off in L.A., and returned in Phoenix by request, the second performance featuring a long and very impressive piano solo from Brandon Bush, who sat in with the men on keyboards both nights.

Frequent Sugarland collaborator Bobby Pinson likes to describe himself as “Chris from Family Guy,” and he provided much of the evening’s comic relief, whether pausing for a water break at the end of his own “Don’t Ask Me How I Know,” or rewriting the words to three of the songs he co-wrote with Jennifer and Kristian – “All I Want To Do,” “Already Gone,” and “It Happens” – into what can only be called the “Poop Remix.” (Don’t ask for specifics. You kinda had to be there.) He also showcased several of the massive Toby Keith tracks he had a hand in, from “Made in America” to “Beers Ago.”


As Kristian tweeted after the first show, “Hits to the left of me, hits to the right...” He supported his fellow performers on mandolin throughout each night, and when it came to his turn in each round, Mr. Bush decided bring the crowd both backwards and forwards on his own personal songwriting timeline. On several occasions, he chose to demonstrate the way his old Billy Pilgrim material has influenced and shaped the songs he’s written with Sugarland over the years. In L.A., “I Won’t Tell” bled into “These Are the Days,” and in Phoenix, he performed the wonderful “Insomniac/Incredible Machine” mashup he debuted during his 2010 Thanksgiving show at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur.


He also tried out some new original material, like “You Can’t Stop The Sun From Going Down,” a song about life’s inevitabilities that he “co-wrote” with his 7 year old daughter Camille – all three other men on stage immediately tried to sign her to a publishing deal – and “I’ll Never Run Out of Ways,” written with his old friend Ellis Paul. In L.A., Kristian had the crowd and himself grooving to a new tune called “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” about the way karma comes back around. “That song made me want to dance!” he said, then joked, “I can’t dance.” To his left, Bill Anderson shot back, “No, but you sure can write songs.”


Of course, there were Sugarland songs in both sets: Kristian performed “Stand Up” in Phoenix (garnering a tiny standing ovation from the front row), and “Baby Girl” made back-to-back appearances. We learned that Kristian’s original suggestion for that song’s second line was Don’t know / Can’t see ‘em / Except for the ones in the wax museum, and everyone more or less agreed that it was a good thing Jennifer talked him out of that lyric; he also reshaped the way the song can be sung, performing it in a slow, sad singer-songwriter style. “It’s hard when you’re starting out as an artist to get your parents to believe you’re doing anything worthwhile,” he explained of the mood change, and in that light, the melancholy mood fit perfectly. At the end of the song in Phoenix, he paused for a moment and said, “Jennifer and I wrote this about the third month of knowing each other,” and then shook his head. “Anything is possible,” he concluded.


All in all, it was two extraordinarily special nights of music, with the raucous bar crowd at the House of Blues contrasting perfectly with the sophisticated theater patrons who attended in Phoenix. Both audiences were treated to a once-in-a lifetime chance to hear the songs they love sung by the people who created them, and hear them the way they likely emerged from each songwriter: just an acoustic guitar, an idea, and a voice. The CMA Songwriters Series continues across the country throughout the year; if it comes to your town, you’re gonna want to make the trip.


Did you join us for either of these dates? Talk about your experience in the comments! Couldn’t make it? Stay tuned – we’ll try and have some audio of Kristian’s performance for you in the coming days. In the meantime, check out photos from the shows here.

  1. Sugarfan avatar

    On Tue, Jul 3, 2012 at 11:25 AM, Sugarfan said:

    I would love to attend a show like this! I keep hoping to get to Kristian's annual show at Eddie's Attic. What would really be great is a show like this coming to Chicago!

  2. Johnfromsoutherncalifornia avatar

    On Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 6:13 AM, Johnfromsoutherncalifornia said:

    I totally agree with RMCHECK! I was sitting in the front row with RMCHECK and KathieGunn last Tuesday night at the House of Blues!The show was worth more than what we payed to see it!It was priceless in a very small intimate venue and was truly unforgettable!We were part of the "raucous bar crowd" and we were proud of it!Were we glad to be there with Kristian and his gifted friends?In the words of Jennifer Nettles,"You damn right!"Were we a "raucous bar crowd?"I can say that we resemble that remark!California Sugarland fans are also sophisticated theater patrons!(I'm clearing my throat!)After all,we watched Jennifer's opening number in last years CMA Country Christmas....and we weren't drunk(yet!)This night at the HOB was magical and special and extraordinary and super funny and informative!Can you tell I liked the show?Whisperin' Bill Anderson is a American treasure and could teach the other 3 a thing or two!Bobby Pinson is hysterical!We laughed sooooo hard we almost couldn't make it to the bathroom!The "Poop Remix" almost had us rolling on the floor!(before our usual time!)I was there!Nice transition from the bathroom to the "Poop Remix" don't you think?I can't say what he said about Jennifer because this is a "family" website!Bobby Pinson is certifiably crazy!That must be why Jennifer identifies with him so much!Instead of frequent collaborator,I think co-conspirator is more appropriate!Bobby's "special water" breaks consisted of whiskey with a little water mixed in it!(by mistake)I got to shake his hand after the show was over.(even though I did not know where it had been!)It was my pleasure and honor to do so!He co-wrote "Already Gone" one of my favorite songs!Kristian......Kristian......Kristian!!!Where do I begin to tell you about Kristian?Trying to "set up" Bill Anderson all night!(order of rotation) did a heck of a job!He played two new songs(that's right.....I said TWO NEW SONGS!)for us that were FANtastic! I suggest his 7 year old daughter Camille get herself a agent!(Preferably not Sugarland's!)After all,we all know what Kristian does to old and new guitars!(the horror!)Kristian actually sang these songs in his own voice which we have never heard before this night!YOU KNOW.....the REAL KRISTIAN VOICE!!!After hearing this voice,I don't think I can listen to the old Kristian voice again....nothing will ever be the same!RMCHECK and I looked at each other and our lower jaw hit the floor while we were standing up!(think about it!)Our eyes got really big!I said "where the.......HECK(edited for website!)did that come from?Did you hear that?"RMCHECK responded " I have no idea but it sure was good!"All Sugarland fans MUST hear these new songs!We did!!!Concerning "Baby Girl," except for the ones in the wax museum sounds just like Kristian!Thank God for Jennifer!Kristian is right!!!With Sugarland "anything is possible" and "dreams come true!" I know my dreams are coming true in Sugarland!!!..LOVE...John

  3. Annababe avatar

    On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM, Annababe said:

    I was there in LA too! I'm travelling America for 3 months and only had one night in LA and then I saw this a few weeks before! Was super excited as I'd got tickets to the Houston show which was cancelled and it was the only Sugarland show I could get to on my travels. This more than made up for it! Such a beautiful evening, so much fun to attend and feel a part of something magical. I was sat right on the front row, right in front of Bill Anderson. Kristian was amazing and brought me to tears during Babygirl. I messed up with my recording of it so if anyone has a video to share that would be amazing if you could send me a link. Managed to sneak into the members area and grab a hello and a hug from Kristian who I think remembered me from the tiny intimate London show last year... or maybe not... who cares! I loved every minute of it!

  4. Robyn avatar

    On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 2:39 AM, Robyn said:

    wish i was there so awesome, love you Kristian

  5. Lynseyc avatar

    On Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 1:12 AM, Lynseyc said:

    I was able to attend the show last night in Phoenix. Truth be told, I was not sure what to expect as I had never been to something like this before. It was amazing! A group of very talented men, telling stories, singing songs and making us laugh! I agree with RMCHECK, if it comes to your town, don't miss it! I loved every minute of it!

  6. RMCHECK avatar

    On Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 7:55 PM, RMCHECK said:

    An amazing night in L.A. with four great songwriters. The show was filled with great stories, unstage camaraderie, and most of all great songs sung from the heart. Wait until you hear Kristian's new song “You Can’t Stop The Sun From Going Down,” simply beautiful. If you have a chance to see this show in your area, don't miss it.

  7. AnnaBiGu avatar

    On Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 7:31 PM, AnnaBiGu said:

    I was there in LA. I had never been to a show like that before and I loved it. Didn't matter I was alone, it was amazing. I love country music, I feel like country songs tell a story..there is something more in the lyrics that just the same word repeted over and over again. I would defiantly go again if given the opportunity. Thanks for a great night out!

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