On May 20-22, the Town of Bethany Beach will host Songwriter Showcase: The Nashville Connection, at 7:30 p.m. on the bandstand. The event will feature three nights of original music written and performed by musicians in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia whose connections to Nashville have helped to boost their careers.
The event has been in the making for three years but has been shelved due to COVID-19.
“The concept came about in 2016 after a trip to Nashville,” said Julie Malewski, events director for the Town. “I came back and started researching area artists with ties to Nashville that I could present in Bethany.”
Each artist on the roster has a different style. Friday night features Jimmy Charles, who has toured the country with original material, opening for Lady A, Montgomery Gentry, Kip Moore, Kacey Musgraves, Travis Tritt, Josh Turner, Merle Haggard, Joe Nichols and more. The Ocean City, Md., native headed to Nashville in 2010. He tried out for Nashville Star, along with 40,000 other people, and made it to the Top 50.
Charles would go on to earn a unanimous vote ticket to Hollywood as a Season 9 “American Idol” contestant. While the singer/songwriter found early success in 2014 with his first single, “Whatever It Takes,” picked up nationwide by iHeart radio, it’s “Superman” that solidified his place in the spotlight.
Written for ZERO the End of Prostate Cancer to promote awareness with bandmate Goose Gossett and cancer survivor/mentor Phil Shulka, the song’s companion video premiered on CMT, trending in the No. 1 spot for over 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 release, for “Hard way to Go,” premiered with CMT and climbed to No. 1 on The Country Network. The video was paired with an outreach program with National partners American Addiction Centers, Vertava Health and other addiction awareness non-profits to help reach those battling addiction.
A national spokesman for ZERO the End of Prostate Cancer since 2014, Charles was named Outstanding Young Tennessean (2017) for his work against the disease and his many other philanthropic gestures. He then went on to win the National, Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) honor in 2019. An accolade given to former Presidents, Scientists, Military Heroes, and Elvis himself. Jimmy’s successes continue today, recently winning Nashville Industry Music Awards’ Male Country Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for “Never Had a Bad Day.”
Saturday’s show will host three acts: Craig Bickhardt, Sarah Williams and the Hobbs Sisters. Bickhardt will lead the show as a Writers Round, in which each act will perform six songs with brief introductions. Native Pennsylvanian Bickhardt rose to prominence as a songwriter in Nashville during the 1980s and 1990s, racking up astring of cuts by Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Poco, Alison Krauss, Martina McBride, Randy Meisner (The Eagles), Kathy Mattea, The Judds and Nicolette Larsen, among others.
His big break as a recording artist came in 1983, when he wrote and sang the closing theme for the Academy Award-winning film “Tender Mercies” starring 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 half of the duo Idlewheel with Poco bassist Jack Sundrud.
As a performer, Bickhardt has shared stages with Bruce Springsteen, Judy Collins, Harry Chapin, Stephen Stills, Little Feat, Janis Ian and others. He has appeared on the PBS television series “Austin City Limits” (as a member of S.K.B.) and has played more than 2,000 concerts, including at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the New Bedford Folk Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival.
In 1986, he was drafted into the very first “Writers in the Round.” According to Amy Kurland, founder and owner of Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, “Craig Bickhardt replaced Paul Overstreet in our first and most famous In The Round foursome. His songs are a mix of musical innovation and lyrical inspiration.”
Also performing Saturday night is indie 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. In 2001, she moved to Nashville to study piano, perform, record, teach and write songs with and for Nashville artists.
Her original songs give musical tribute to her tidewater, country, Southern-rock roots while she reveals her practice and passion for popular piano stylings. She has two full-length albums available, “Ruby” (2009) and “Come Back Around” (2014), that feature her as an artist and show her writing. Another EP, under the duo project Sarah and Lindsay, “Let’s Call It Love” (2012), is also available, featuring songs from the “12in12” project.
The third act on Saturday’s roster is rising country artists The Hobbs Sisters, a twin-sister duo known for their harmonies and distinct sound. Originally from Pittsburgh and now based in Nashville, they balance a full touring schedule that includes opening 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 in outlets such as The Boot and American Songwriter.
Sunday features Josh Christina, a Maryland resident whose style is described as a mix between Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Elton John. He writes his own music, refurbishes the classics, and plays piano. He is described as “a rock-and-roll revivalist whose music provides a bridge across generational lines by going backward to move into the future.”
In 2015, he caught the attention of Nashville-based producer Kent Wells (Dolly Parton), who immediately got to work with Christina on his sophomore effort. His two Nashville-recorded albums, “Good Old Love” and “I’m 21,” were both produced by Wells. His single “Kayla Ann” charted on the Music Row chart in Nashville and as No. 1 some independent charts.
Christina hit the international airwaves when he performed live on Ireland’s “Late, Late Show” in September of 2016. Not only did it place Christina’s music upon the world stage, but also introduced his amazing style and sound 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-winner Jon Carroll (Starland Vocal band). His most recent single, “Weekend Night in America,” landed on the college charts.
For updates on the concert series, visit www.townofbethanybeach.com, under Activities.