Setting Words to Music: “Songwriters In The Round” Live Again

It’s interesting to watch show concepts circle around. MTV debuted its Unplugged show in 1989 and it’s been a pleasure to watch the format–musicians sharing background stories and writing process with stripped down acoustic versions of their songs–move from tv to local stage.

When we did it at Deep Dish Theater in Chapel Hill a dozen years ago, we had local greats like Tom Maxwell (Squirrel Nut Zippers), Peter Holsapple (the dBs and R.E.M.), Caitlin Cary (Tres Chicas), and Django Haskins (The Old Ceremony) as well as a dozen others. The concept was picked back up in 2016 in Durham, where local Fayetteville musician Doug Burton performed at the 106 Main venue. “I ended up learning so much more about the other two performers’ lives and song craft than I ever would have under normal circumstances. We were encouraged to tell a quick story about what inspired our songs, or any anecdote that might offer a glimpse into our process. I immediately thought of the 90’s MTV show. I can still remember watching the very first one with Ray Davies, a personal songwriting hero, and I loved the episodes with Elvis Costello, R.E.M., Tom Petty, and David Bowie in particular.” Burton said.

Shaun McNamee, Doug Burton, Tish Mone in 2019

Now it’s Fayetteville’s turn to showcase local and state-wide musicians: how they link up with their muse, where their song ideas come from, their favorite musical memories, and perform their best and latest work. Burton teamed up with Michael Daughtry and started the show in 2019 at The Sweet Palette. After a pandemic hiatus, Burton is remounting the show this month and plans to run every Third Friday at the Fayetteville Bakery & Cafe on Boone Trail Extension.

I asked Burton how he selects musicians to perform for Songwriters in the Round. He replied, “Originality is something we highly prize. Also, some performers just have that “it” factor. I saw Shaun McNamee perform three songs one night at Coffee Scene’s Java Expressions and I knew I had to book him. If your songs tell a story, paint a picture, set a mood that the listener can easily find themselves in, we want to hear them. Likewise, if your songs are confrontational and force the listener to think in ways they hadn’t before, we want to hear those songs as well. Another good example is Jim Hurst. I’d simply never seen anyone play the piano like he did. It was almost like he was stabbing the keys. He played with such passion and feeling, you’d have thought he was at Madison Square Garden and not a local Open Mic. That’s what we’re looking for. And there’s lots of it here. I’ve seen some young performers recently who are extremely impressive and they will be on In The Round bills in upcoming months.”

Michael Daughtry, Lisette, Isabel Taylor

The first run of the show, in addition to Burton and Daughtry, featured musicians Kayla Dawn Cason, Isabel Taylor, Leah Kaufman, Glenn Jones, Kael Jackson, Lisette, Shaun McNamee, Tish Mone, Ernesto Rivas, Chris Scroggins, Jim Hurst, and Elisa Gale. The re-launch on Friday September 17 at 7:00 PM features Lisette, Alice Osborn, and Burton. The October line up will be Shaun McNamee & Neil Ray, Herman Ospina (from The Mood Kings) and Gamalier Padilla.

Burton is eager to feature musicians who want to share their stories, even if they don’t consider themselves strictly performing in the singer/songwriter genre of music. “In fact, our October bill will feature Herman Ospina from Charlotte’s The Mood Kings. They are one of the hottest rock bands in the state at the moment, so I was really happy when Herman was interested in joining us. He told me he is interested in performing in a more stripped down, acoustic format. From our original run, Chris Scroggins from The Scroggins Band was another example of a rocker who broke his songs down to the bare essentials, and Tish Mone, though definitely outside of the Singer-Songwriter mold, fit right in with our format and was one of my absolute favorites.”

Fayetteville has an incredible depth and breadth to its music scene. From Jazz to Rock, Classical to Hip-hop, Country to Pop, there are artists (alive and passed) who have gone on to fame and fortune from their beginnings here in Cumberland County. Songwriters In The Round is another great production to let us get to know the next round of artists on their way to making a name musically for themselves.

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