From May 20-22, the City of Bethany Beach will host Songwriter Showcase: The Nashville Connection, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bandstand. The event will feature three nights of original music written and performed by musicians from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia whose ties to Nashville have helped boost their careers.
The event has been in the works for three years but has been suspended due to COVID-19.
“The concept was born in 2016 after a trip to Nashville,” said Julie Malewski, the city’s events director. “I came back and started looking for local artists with Nashville ties that I could introduce to Bethany.”
Each artist on the list has a different style. Friday night Jimmy Charles, who has toured the country with original material, opens for Lady A, Montgomery Gentry, Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves, Travis Tritt, Josh Turner, Merle Haggard, Joe Nichols and more. The Ocean City, Maryland native made it to Nashville in 2010. He tried out the Nashville Star, along with 40,000 other people, and reached the Top 50.
Charles would go on to earn a unanimous Hollywood vote ticket as a contestant on Season 9 “American Idol”. While the singer-songwriter found early success in 2014 with his debut single, “Whatever It Takes,” which received national coverage on iHeart radio, it was “Superman” that cemented his place under the projectors.
Written for ZERO the End of Prostate Cancer to promote awareness with bandmate Goose Gossett and cancer survivor/mentor Phil Shulka, the song’s accompanying video premiered on CMT, trending at the top spot for more than a decade. a week, with more than 5,000 shares its first day on the site. The clip also aired on GAC, ZUUS (now known as The Country Network) and Heartland.
His next release, “Bout Summertime” showcased his more adventurous and carefree side and landed him on the Music Row Chart. His latest music video, for “Hard way to Go”, premiered with CMT and climbed to No. 1 on The Country Network. The video was combined with an outreach program with national partners American Addiction Centers, Vertava Health and other addiction awareness nonprofits to help reach those struggling with addiction.
A national spokesperson for ZERO the End of Prostate Cancer since 2014, Charles was named an Outstanding Young Tennessean (2017) for his work against the disease and his many other philanthropic gestures. He went on to win the National Award, Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) in 2019. A distinction given to former presidents, scientists, military heroes and Elvis himself. Jimmy’s successes continue today, recently winning Male Country Artist of the Year from the Nashville Industry Music Awards and Song of the Year for “Never Had a Bad Day.”
Saturday’s show will feature three artists: Craig Bickhardt, Sarah Williams and the Hobbs Sisters. Bickhardt will lead the show as Writers Round, in which each act will perform six songs with brief intros. A native of Pennsylvania, Bickhardt rose to prominence as a songwriter in Nashville in the 1980s and 1990s, racking up a string of tracks from Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, BB King, Poco, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Randy Meisner (The Eagles), Kathy Mattea, Les Judd and Nicolette Larsen, among others.
His big breakthrough as a recording artist came in 1983, when he wrote and sang the closing theme for the Oscar-winning film “Tender Mercies” with Robert Duvall and Tess Harper. Bickhardt teamed up with fellow songwriters Thom Schuyler and Fred Knobloch to release a CD that spawned three hit singles, including Bickhardt’s “Givers and Takers” and the Bickhardt-Schuyler tune “This Old House “. Since then he has released a dozen CDs as a solo artist and as one half of the duo Idlewheel with Poco bassist Jack Sundrud.
As a performer, Bickhardt shared stages with Bruce Springsteen, Judy Collins, Harry Chapin, Stephen Stills, Little Feat, Janis Ian and others. He appeared on the PBS television series “Austin City Limits” (as a member of SKB) and performed over 2,000 concerts, including at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, New Bedford Folk Festival, and Kerrville Folk Festival.
In 1986, he was drafted into the very first “Writers in the Round”. According to Amy Kurland, founder and owner of Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, “Craig Bickhardt replaced Paul Overstreet in our first and most famous quartet In The Round. His songs are a blend of musical innovation and lyrical inspiration.
Freelance artist Sarah Williams, who grew up on a farm in southern Virginia and has spent summers visiting Bethany Beach since her early high school years, also performs Saturday night. In 2001 she moved to Nashville to study piano, perform, record, teach and write songs with and for Nashville artists.
His original songs pay musical homage to his tidal, country and southern rock roots while revealing his practice and passion for popular piano styles. She has two full albums available, “Ruby” (2009) and “Come Back Around” (2014), which feature her as an artist and show her writing. Another EP, as part of the Sarah and Lindsay duo project, “Let’s Call It Love” (2012), is also available, featuring songs from the “12in12” project.
The third act on Saturday’s list is the rise of country artists The Hobbs Sisters, a twin duo known for their harmonies and distinct sound. Hailing from Pittsburgh and now based in Nashville, they balance a full touring schedule that includes openings for artists such as Lady A and Russell Dickerson while writing with up-and-coming songwriters in Nashville.
Their debut album, “Turn It Up”, was featured on outlets including The Boot and American Songwriter.
Sunday features Josh Christina, a resident of Maryland whose style is described as a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Elton John. He writes his own music, revamps the classics and plays the piano. He is described as “a rock and roll revivalist whose music bridges generations by stepping back into the future”.
In 2015, he caught the eye of Nashville-based producer Kent Wells (Dolly Parton), who immediately began working with Christina on his second effort. His two Nashville-recorded albums, “Good Old Love” and “I’m 21”, were both produced by Wells. Her single “Kayla Ann” charted on the Music Row chart in Nashville and as #1 on some independent charts.
Christina hit international airwaves when he performed live on Ireland’s “Late, Late Show” in September 2016. Not only did this put Christina’s music on the world stage, it also showcased her style and sound amazing to a new generation of music fans. His album “Instincts” was recorded at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. The album was co-produced by two-time Grammy Award-winning Jon Carroll (Starland Vocal). Her most recent single, “Weekend Night in America,” landed on the college charts.
For updates on the concert series, visit www.townofbethanybeach.com, under Activities.