There is always a buzz of excitement in the air on the leadup to Halloween weekend in Nashville.
And this year was no different, as among the never-ending to-do’s included an intimate performance from Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and author Mary Gauthier at 3rd and Lindsley, along with her partner Jaimee Harris.
Her last album, Dark Enough to See the Stars, dropped in June of last year, and this past Thursday, Gauthier set out to perform songs from all eleven of her albums, and read passages from her first book, Saved by a Song: The Art and Healing Power of Songwriting. Accompanied by Neilson Hubbard on drums and Lex Price on bass, Gauthier delighted with her charm and musical excellence.
It was a warm, clear night in Nashville, and the scene at the venue was vibrant and bustling. Half a mile south of Broadway, the streets were lined with cars and people, and the audience filed eagerly into the venue. The energy inside was palpable; the seats and tables filled up quickly with a cacophony of conversation, and the artwork lining the walls with portraits of greats like The Beatles, Elvis, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and more set forth a feeling of musical importance in the large, open room.
Harris soon took the stage, rocking her signature red sunglasses reflecting the blue, green, and purple stage lights. The audience was soon put into a trance; her smooth and sweet vocals floated through the room, and her songs were emotional, charming, and skillfully crafted. After an impressive opening set, Harris was joined onstage by the Gauthier for a performance that was nothing short of captivating.
Gauthier opened with one of her most popular songs, “I Drink,” which is a gentle acoustic number that’s been covered by country music giants like Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton. Her confident and laidback stage presence, along with her chemistry with Harris — who accompanied Gauthier throughout the show — was immediately evident. As Gauthier crooned the lines “Fish swim, birds fly / Daddies yell, mamas cry / Old men sit and think / I drink,” the audience hummed and sung along.
The second song of the set, “Drag Queens in Limousines,” seemed to be a fan favorite. It’s a catchy tune about finding family and acceptance in unlikely places as you go along. The audience sang along, clearly loving the inclusivity and fun of the song, and relating to its universal message. The powerful lines “Sometimes you gotta do / What you gotta do / And hope that the people you love / Will catch up with you,” provoked a cheer from the audience, and the positive energy in the room persisted through the whole set.
Gauthier opened “Last of the Hobo Kings” with the tale of how she developed a rather unique hobby: reading The New York Times obituary sections in search of good, unique stories about people’s lives. This inspired the track, which told the story of a lauded hobo called Steam Train Maury who embodied the life of a true vagabond. Gauthier’s wit and lyrical wisdom shines through in this song, with her personality being felt through every word.
Gauthier had participated in a program called “Songwriting with Soldiers,” which resulted in her Grammy-nominated 2018 record, Rifles & Rosary Beads. On this album, she worked with writer and veteran Jamie Trent to depict the reality of being a veteran in the United States, and the performance of “Bullet Holes in the Sky” was as emotional as it is beautiful. As Gauthier belted the chorus, “And they thank me for my service and wave their little flags / They genuflect on Sundays and yes, they’d send us back,” the audience was silent, taking in the realities of war and trauma that Gauthier managed to so poignantly express.
Joined onstage by Ben Glover, Gauthier closed out the show on a touching, personal, and relatable note. The timelessness of arguably her biggest song, “Mercy Now,” conveys a deep and beautiful message of all of us needing a little understanding and empathy. Glover’s raspy and soft vocals complemented Gauthier’s own strong and husky voice brilliantly.
Mary Gauthier’s message as an artist is best conveyed through something she had said towards the beginning of the show: “When people ask me if I think music can change the world, I say, ‘Well, it changed mine.’”