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Concert Reviews:
Uncle Kracker opens Tin Pan South festival with songs, stories, friends

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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Like so many others, Uncle Kracker has been spending a lot of time sitting at home while the Covid-19 pandemic works its way around the globe.

But on Tuesday, Oct. 20, he made some music again -- while still sitting.

Kracker was the opening act for this year's Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, a five-day event in Nashville that's gone virtual this year. Joined by Grose Pointe native JT Harding, who co-wrote the 2009 hit "Smile," Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) relaxed on a couch in the garage of his east side home garage and spent about 35 minutes playing a few song and telling stories about them.

Accompanied by Kracker band members Mike Adkins and Matt Hamann as well as Lake Orion singer-songwriter Steve Taylor on mandolin, the pre-recorded segment featured stripped-down renditions of "Smile" and Kracker's first hit, "Follow Me," as well as Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," which Kracker co-wrote, and "Sangria," the 2015 Blake Shelton hit Harding co-wrote.

Harding -- who's also written hits for Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley -- guided the segment, sporting a pink-and-black tropical suit and talking first about his favorite Ford vehicles (the company sponsored the streamcast). He and Kracker recalled writing "Smile" as the last song during a session in northern Michigan, in the midst of a major snowstorm; Harding remembered that he lost one of his boots while trooping through the drifts.

Harding also noted that Urban's "Somewhere in My Car" was inspired by drives on Lakeshore Drive through Grosse Pointe and St. Clair Shores.

Kracker, meanwhile, spoke about having elements of "Follow Me" as a teenager, though the song wouldn't be finished until 2000 and surface the following year on his first album. He also revealed a bit about the process behind "All Summer Long," remembering that "the hardest part of that song was (Rock) and me arguing about 'catching walleye from the dock'...If it weren't for that line we wrote that song in, like, 18 minutes."

While discussing the songwriting process, Harding advised viewers that "Songs are like sausages -- don't watch how songs are being made. Just enjoy them when they're done." He also reveled in Kracker's first appearance as part of Tin Pan South, cracking, "I never thought I'd be in a room with you losing your virginity at anything. I bet they edit that out."

The Kracker session will be archived via tinpansouth.com. The festival runs through Saturday, Oct. 24, with scores of songwriters performing from around the country. Proceeds raised during the event benefit the Nashville Songwriters Association International.

Web Site: www.tinpansouth.com

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