Hidden Gems Shine at Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival

For 24 years, the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) has hosted the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival in Nashville, showcasing the folks who are not always the artists who perform the songs you hear. With more than 100 shows over the course of 5 days, you can get a taste of just about everything Nashville’s songwriters have to offer.

One of the highlights of the week was a show featuring Lori McKenna, Luke Laird, Barry Dean, and Natalie Hemby. You may not know their names, but you likely know their songs: “Girl Crush,” “Homeboy,” “Pontoon,” and “Automatic,” just to name a few. These four writers in particular are part of a music publishing company called Creative Nation, led by Laird (who has 20 number one songs to his credit). Laird also brought out special guests Steve Moakler, Maggie Chapman, and Native Run, who are all part of the Creative Nation family.

When you listen to country radio these days, not everything you hear is a poetic masterpiece. But for the writers behind those songs, it’s often what helps keeps the lights on. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper into an artist’s repertoire to hear the real masterpieces that the writers love to create. Tim McGraw’s new single “Humble and Kind” is one of the exceptions – written by McKenna, the song is truly a testament to her talent as a writer.

Sometimes those kinds of songs don’t get a shot on the radio,” says Laird.

But if the reaction to McGraw’s performance of “Humble and Kind” on the ACM Awards is any indication, this could be another hit for McKenna.

Not everybody who performs during Tin Pan South has a hit song under their belt yet, which is the beauty of the festival. Attendees get the chance to hear hidden gems before they reach the masses. A song that you hear at the festival this year could be a number one song this time next year.

To learn more about NSAI and Tin Pan South, visit


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