“I Hope You Dance” Nashville songwriter Mark D. Sanders to perform first concert in Steamboat Wednesday
For three decades, Mark D. Sanders has forged an illustrious career as one of Nashville’s most esteemed songwriters.
The list of his accomplishments range from Writer of the Year awards to the 2000 CMA Song of the Year for “I Hope You Dance” (sung by Lee Ann Womack), which also won the 2001 Grammy for Country Song of the Year. He has also penned recent hits such as “Blue Clear Sky” (with Bob DiPiero) for George Strait; “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” Jo Dee Messina’s first hit single; and “My Heart Has A History” for Paul Brandt.
He said his success comes from a single word many songwriters know well — perseverance.
“There are so many disappointments along the way,” Sanders said. “You deal with those on a daily basis, but you just have to keep trying and keep going.”
At 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Chief Theater, Sanders will bring one of his new endeavors, the Nashville-meets-Colorado record “First Fast Car,” featuring Sarah Majors, Megan Mullins and Steamboat Springs musician Steve Boynton, owner of First String Music.
After meeting Boynton about 7 years ago in Steamboat, Sanders conceived the idea for the new album.
“He’s such a great guitar player, and he gives me that Colorado perspective, which is a little more laid back than the Nashville music perspective,” he said.
Sharing the stage with Sanders and Boynton will be Tennessee native Majors, who has held a career as a professional songwriter since 1994 with songs in a variety of genres, including country, pop, bluegrass, contemporary folk, alt-rock and gospel. She found her place among Nashville’s songwriters after the success of the hit track “Love Lessons,” by Tracy Byrd.
Mullins, on the other hand, is a multi-instrumentalists, singer/songwriter who has appeared on Saturday Night Live and with Meghan Trainor and Miranda Lambert — on the CMA Awards — The Jonas Brothers, Alabama, Big and Rich and Shania Twain. Not only that, she’s been a featured soloist on American Idol, NBC’s Nashville Star, The Grand Ole Opry, SNL, Dancing with the Stars, The American Music Awards, The CMT Awards, Rachel Ray, Good Morning America, GAC’s Next GAC Star, Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, The View and more.
The CD, “First Fast Car,” was inspired by a phrase Sanders said to his daughter — also a songwriter — about his new BMW.
“When you’re a songwriter, there are certain times when you just know instantly that a phrase could be the title of a new song,” he said. “She gave me that look, and we knew it would be the title.”
When he started as a songwriter, it was an outlet, a constant, something he inherently knew how to do.
“It saved my life,” Sanders said. “I didn’t do anything else for a living. I was a guy who couldn’t keep a job and was depressed. I eliminated all of my other career choices and became a songwriter. That gave me the reason to live.”
In 1980, Sanders went to Nashville to pitch his first few songs, which, he said, were primarily unsuccessful.
“I had to learn how to get outside of myself,” he said. “I had to learn how to write commercial songs but to put bits of truth in those.”
Now, he currently holds a staff position at Reba McEntire’s Starstruck Publishing company that has enabled him to work with musicians such as Randy Travis, Trisha Yearwood, Sammy Kershaw, Tracy Lawrence, Garth Brooks and Vince Gill.
Writing serves as more than just a career for Sanders; it’s his life, an outlet through which he revels in his own personal story and truth.
“There’s an art to songwriting,” he said, “and I learned the poetry from my father and perseverance from my mother. You can’t do songwriting justice with just poetry.”
Tickets to the show are $20 and available at chieftheater.com or All That, 601 Lincoln Ave.
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