Songwriter Series welcomes Beth Nielsen Chapman
March 8, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — She's the greatest singer-songwriter you've never heard of — but you've undoubtedly heard her music.
Beth Nielsen Chapman plays at the Chief Theater on Saturday, March 9, as part of the fifth annual Songwriter Series. Supporting her will be John Ragusa on flute, percussion and a conch shell.
"That conch shell will just rattle your sternum," Chapman said. "It's like an internal bath."
If you go
What: Songwriter Series presents Beth Nielsen Chapman
When: Bar opens at 6 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 9
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Chapman has written songs for top musicians including Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Willie Nelson, Faith Hill, Emmylou Harris and Neil Diamond. She's written several No. 1 hits in their respective categories: Willie Nelson's "Nothing I Can Do About It Now" in country; Jim Brickman's "Simple Things" in adult contemporary; and Faith Hill's "This Kiss," which topped several categories and earned a Grammy nomination.
Chapman's songs have appeared on television shows including ER, Dawson's Creek, Providence and Felicity, and in movie soundtracks such as "The Prince of Egypt," "Message In A Bottle," "The Rookie," "Where The Heart Is" and "Practical Magic."
Beth Nielsen Chapman's tips on tapping into creativity
- You have the ability to be creative. Creativity is a birthright. Every job, every moment of your life is creative if you're looking at it that way, if you're open to it.
- The "show-up" muscle — when you show up and do it — is the most important part. That's something you can develop.
- Record everything; don't confuse play and creative flow with editing and analyzing. When you're writing, you don't want to use the part of your brain that decides what's good and what's not. You want to be in the part of your brain that's the little kid running around, going "wooo!" All songs that are doing something fresh are coming from the playful part of the brain.
- Once you've finished your song, you have to address the music business — that's a different class. Don't plant your seedlings too close to the superhighway of the music. That's how you should treat your songs — they're precious, sacred and they might not be ready for it yet, and that's okay!
She's seen songs she's written surpass the 10-million mark of Youtube hits. She's been honored by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and won the Alabama State Council on the Arts' Distinguished Artist Award in 2009. Bu,t what Chapman holds most dear is her induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2016.
"Being in the tribe of songwriters is a sacred place," Chapman said. "If we write a song that's very heartfelt about what we've been through, it goes on to become a thing of its own and finds people who need to hear it."
Just about every day, Chapman receives an email or letter from a fan telling her that one of her songs found them at the right time.
Just as significant as Chapman's list of accomplishments in singing and songwriting is the time she spends as a teacher of creativity and songwriting.
"When I teach, I love to work with people who maybe aren't going to be professional songwriters, but they're going to tap into something that they have maybe never tried before," she said. "And what they leave behind can be super powerful."
What about the potential songwriter who just doesn't feel creative enough to try songwriting?
"Creativity is a birthright," Chapman said. "Every person has just as much access to creative flow as everybody else. It's like oxygen. Some of us breathe more deeply than others, but we're all around the same amount of oxygen."
Chapman also teaches workshops related to grief and healing, a topic she's learned about the hard way. Chapman's first husband, Ernest Chapman, died in 1994 following a battle with cancer, after 16 years together. Chapman was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after.
She went on to write "Sand and Water" in Ernest's memory, which was later performed by Elton John in honor of Princess Diana at her Westminster Abbey funeral.
Her most recent album is titled “Hearts of Glass,” the most sparse of all of her 13 solo albums.
Arty Smith is the director of the Songwriter Series at the Chief and is a big fan of Chapman.
"While she's written a lot of top hits for country musicians, and she lives in Nashville, she's also incredibly diverse in her music," Smith said. "She's a major international star, and we're so lucky to have her."
Smith credits the presence of big-name artists in this year's Songwriter Series with the success of past series.
"Because the Steamboat community has been so responsive to the series in the past few years, we've been able to bring more and more nationally and internationally known people to our concerts this year," Smith said, "which I think is pretty exciting."
Tickets are available for $25 at chieftheater.com.
"I feel like I've done my job if you've laughed a little and cried a little and had a good time," Chapman said. "It's a wonderful exchange of human experience."
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