As it was in years past, three Nashville hitmakers will share the stage during this year’s edition of Nashville Lights.
Event organizer Peter Svendsen announced that Nashville singer/songwriters Chase McGill, Phil O’Donnell and Wynn Varble have been penciled in to headline this year’s show which takes place at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Cleburne Conference Center.
The show, now in its seventh year, brings together Nashville and Texas songwriters to perform and share the stories behind their songs with the audience. Svendsen, who spent several decades working in the music industry, helped develop the show, which has since become an annual Cleburne tradition.
“Every year we see the magic of music on display,” Svendsen said. “The opening act displays new and upcoming talent. The Texas acts have a following and are looking to move to that next level. The Nashville artists have written huge hits for country artists everyone knows. Every year we bring new talent, new songs and new experiences. That’s why it’s always a great show and why I’m excited every year to see the artists and hear their songs and stories.”
Canadian native O’Donnell moved to Nashville in 1994 where he proceeded to write for and/or perform with a laundry list of artists ranging from Tim McGraw to Kelly Pickler to Darius Rucker.
Among other achievements, O’Donnell penned Blake Shelton’s No. 1 hit “Doin What She Likes,” and George Strait’s 60th No. 1, “Give It All We’ve Got Tonight.”
“I love doing this concept of up close and personal with the audience and sharing stories,” O’Donnell said of Nashville Light’s format.
O’Donnell answered both when asked whether he prefers playing live or writing and recording music.
“I like it all,” O’Donnell said. “Making and playing music is the most blessed thing I get to do.”
McGill tackled piano at 5, guitar at 12 and wound his way from hard rock to bluegrass to country.
“I spent a lot of my youth in the woods or on the river with my dad,” McGill said. “He used to harp on ow being observant to every little detail is what would land the bigger buck or bass.
“I guess I think of songs like that. I think those little details that can only make it from pen to pad if you’ve lived it are what takes the song from a spike to a 12 point so to speak.”
McGill signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing in 2012 and went on to write songs for Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney and a host of others.
Varble on Thursday said he’s looking forward to playing his first Cleburne gig though at the same time admitted he was enjoying the 50 degree Massachusetts weather.
“But no, I’ve played Texas plenty but this will be my first time in Cleburne,” Varble said. “The playing and sharing stories? We do that fairly often and it works out well. The people seem to enjoy it and we certainly enjoy it.”
Varble said his love of classic country stems from his dad’s record collection. At a young age, he traded his brother’s Grand Funk Railroad album for a copy of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” and went on to absorb life lessons aplenty from Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger” album.
Varble’s first radio single came courtesy of Sammy Kershaw’s cover of his song “Fit To Be Tied Down.” Dozens of hits followed including three No. 1s, not to mention multiple nominations and/or awards including being named the Nashville Songwriters Association’s Songwriter of the Year in 2009. Three of Varble’s tracks appear on Garth Brooks’ latest album including the hit single, “Mom.”
“Just been loving country music my whole life,” Varble said when asked what music means to him. “My dream when I was young was just to write a song. I thank God every day for being able to do what I do for a living.”
Proceeds from the show benefit the Cleburne Education Foundation.
Through grants, the foundation provides funding to Cleburne ISD teachers and campuses for educational programs, equipment and supplies.