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Updated: Aug 2, 2019


Never in my wildest dreams

Monday 28th January a day I will never forget, I was sitting in my kitchen with good pal Karen Ingram, We had been playing at a Fundraising gig the previous night and had indulged a little too much, so was feeling a little worst for wear. My phone rang and it was Colin Magee from Panarts & Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival advising that I had I been selected to go on a Song Writing Trip to Nashville in March, all funded by Arts Council NI say I nearly fell off my chair is an understatement! I honestly could'nt believe it!

Colin went through the details of trip and I said I'd love to join them on a Trip of a lifetime.

On completion of phone call myself and Karen danced and squealed around my kitchen for 10 minutes, I in total dis-belief, is this true? is this really happening? ....

And so prepartion began for this wonderful Trip, New clothes, guitar strings, check passport, holiday pass for exciting.

Day 1


We departed from Dublin International Airport, despite American Immigration hauling us over the tiles...mistaken identity I presume... It was my first time on such a huge long haul flight...I hav'nt done much travelling so its all new to me and my nerves were shattered, but my travel companions looked after me and kept me calm.

On arrival in Nashville We were taken to our beautiful home for the week and were feeling rather famished, so We ventured out to 'Browns Diner' which had come highly recommended by quite a few folks..a small converted dining Carriage with extremely friendly folk, a special Mention to the two beautiful ladies Antiona Meadors and Sherry Lynn Lampley who made me feel most welcome, and hopefully they will make a trip to this side of the pond soon! It turns out (small world) that We have mutual friends lol.

Also special Mention to Band performing in Brown's Diner: '''Browns Giftshop Revival''

Loved their sound hints of JJ Cale, worth seeing if you're ever in Nashville!

Then wearily & Jet-lagged We dandered back to our house unpacked and fell into our ever so comfy beds (reflecting on our journey I still could'nt believe I was actually in Nashville) ...then lights out!

Day 2



By this time myself Rory Nellis and Naimh McGlinchey had become acquainted, it is quite daunting knowing you are going to share a house for a week with complete strangers, but I honestly could'nt have asked for better house buddies!

We were tasked by Colin to attempt to co-write a song together, which could have went either way way bearing in mind that the three of us write songs in completely different Genres...

We decided to write a song about our trip to Nashville (it was something we all had in common) within an hour or so (to my surprise) We had the bones of lyrics and melody down, which was a lovely surprise for Colin and Anne on their arrival later that morning.


A short drive out to Leipers Fork, Franklin (a small town that looked like something out of the Waltons) We visited 'Pucketts Grocery Store' not like any grocery store here...they had a band playing and served beer and We sat out in the sun and had a hearty lunch enjoyed the 'Crac' and getting further acquainted with one another.



After a very pleasant afternoon in Leipers Fork, We had to get ready for our performances in the Blue Bird Cafe..I'm not usually keen on playing Solo but I gathered up all my courage and decided this was something I had to 'get over'

On arrival at The Blue Bird Cafe' We noticed people queuing to get in and later discovered these folks were queuing on standby in case of cancellations......ooops there's my nerves again lol 

The format of the evening:

Show 1 (in the round)

Niamh McGlinchy NI

Tony Arata USA (wrote 'The Dance' for Garth Brooks and written for Trisha Yearwood, Emmy Lou Harris and many More)

Pat Alger USA (had hits with Nanci Griffith and wrote 'Once In A Very Blue Moon', 'Lonestar State Of Mind' and for Garth Brooks, wrote 1 hits 'Unanswered Prayers' and 'Thunder Rolls' and many more)

Allison McGrath NI

The banter and Craic we had was fantastic listening to Tony and Pat was inspirational, Pat even played some lead guitar parts on some of my songs! The audience were extremely respectful and attentive and seemed to enjoy all the fun as much as We did.

A memory I will take with me to the grave!

Show 2 (in the round)

Rory Nellis NI

Ashley Campbell USA (a signed recording artist and has played C2C main stage)

Victoria Banks CANADA (one of Canada’s leading award winning writers – Songwriter of The Year in Canada. Victoria has written                                                  for Jessica Simpson, Sara Evans, Johnny Reid)

Phil Barton AUSTRALIA (co-wrote the number 1 hit ‘A Women Like You’ (Lee Brice), & ‘Loving You’ (Sara Evans). His song Cowboys Duty’ was nominated for an Oscar.)

After the performance's We all connected with one another, then is was home time and another night of sweet dreams


Day 3 (St Patricks Day)



Today's activities involved us doing a performance/recording TV Show at Necat TV organised by the charming Trish Crist and her Production & film crew who had made a special effort to come out on a Sunday and pull out all the stops to Film us. 

We met with Jeff Syracuse and other supporters of Belnash activities, a few nibbles and a drop of wine.


St Patricks Day celebrations in Nashville...Despite numerous revellers and a little too much country music for my taste We discovered a Blues Bar 'Bourbon St' a fantastic venue with excellent stage sound system, it was almost like a mini theatre, and  the amazing band playing 'The Stacy Mitchart Blues band' I ended up getting called onto stage to sing a song, and was invited by band to their gig the following evening in BB KINGS Nashville. I Also met with lovely lady Meri Brott Phelps new Friend!

Then it was a taxi home and some more very sweet dreams.

Day 4


Our second last day started with a few visits to Music Publishers where We performed a few of our own songs and listened to tips and any advice that was going, and We also got to meet With Nancy Griffiths' Manager a charming gentleman who again gave up his time and knowledge for us.

Late afternoon I was then paired up with 'Benita Hill' to co-write a new song!

Benita Hill

Benita spent her early years on stage as a back-up singer, touring with seminal acts such as the Allman Brothers, J.J. Cale and Conway Twitty. Fun and formative years that lit the fire for a solo career that still burns brightly today, Benita moved to Nashville in 1979, to be closer to the community here and develop her songwriting ability. After writing for major publishing companies and landing an artist deal with Polygram Records, Benita worked as a background singer for likes of Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels and Ben Fold moved on to her own more jazz-oriented shows and started seriously honing her songwriting skills, and taking ownership of her publishing. Benita has had her share of ups and downs .... but has also had privilege of collaborating with jazz legends like Kirk Whalum and Isaac Hayes,and have written songs for Christal Gayle and Garth Brooks, including the #1 single "Two Pina Coladas".

Myself and Benita worked on a song idea I had 'Never in my Lifetime' a song that outlines the state of our beautiful planet and Humanity or lack there of !  Benita has a wonderful insight into lyric writing and 2 hours later a song was in the making, a charming Friendly Lady who gave up her time so freely, I do hope our paths will meet sometime again in the future.


After our songwriting session, I was at a loose end and on my own in house, so I bit the bullit and went for a night out in Nashville on my own!

I'll not deny I was a little nervous but knew the opportunity to hear the brilliant Stacy Mitchart Blues Band again this time in the legendary BB KINGS was an opportunity not to be passed up on.

On Arrival in BB Kings I was amazed at the size of the was immense the stage lighting and PA was second to none and the band certainly did not disappoint! I met a few lovely folks...the lovely Tracey Jones and her Hubby, made me feel less conspicious sitting at the bar on my earlier Men must assumed I was a hooker (woman on own at bar) lol Can I not just listen to a good band in peace!

I was then called to sing a song with band again and did a rendition of 'Tennesse Whiskey' here's a link to part of performance:

Thanks to Tracey Jones for the Video.

To perform at BB KINGS a dream come true this surely tops everything!

I can die a happy woman now!

Day 5


The last day of our amazing trip :-(


We were collected by Colin and Anne to meet up with Erika the General Manager of The Blue Bird Cafe, an informal chat on songwriting, and how 'Rights associations' operate in the USA and the impact of streaming sites such as Spotify etc.

It amazes me the kindness and generosity of folks in Nashville especially with their time.


Early afternoon We had an informal meeting with James Elliot and Drew Ramsey who are lecturers in Belmont University specialising in Songwriting, they discussed their roles as lecturers and mentors to the younger generation of song writers starting out. We then got a tour of College and Studios where U2 recorded 'The Joshua Tree' and Patsy Cline recorded 'Crazy' walls full of history oozing out, I could have stayed there all day.

Late afternoon it was off to record a video song each in Belmont University Movie dept. with Robin Foster and students, I can't wait to see the finished cut and hope that I did'nt break any cameras lol ..thanks to all who made it happen.


Curb Cafe

A final performance from us 3 songwriters from NI an informal but attentive gig to finish off this amazing experience!

To Conclude

I have to conclude by saying a huge thanks to Panarts, Colin Magee, Anne Magee, Arts Council of NI, Trish Crist,The Blue Bird Cafe, Erica, Benita Hill, James Elliot, Drew Ramsey, Robin Foster The Curb Cafe and my two new friends Niamh McGlinchey and Rory Nellis! ..I will treasure the memories of this amazing journey until the day I die xx

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