Victoria Shaw has written for some of music's biggest artists including Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera, Olivia Newton-John, Boyzone, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Michael McDonald. In 2010, when I found out that country music star Bryan White was going to be a featured guest on Victoria Shaw's Under The Covers series, I knew I had to be there. Well, not only did I get to attend the show, I even got to interview Bryan White himself, which was a dream come true!
Fast forward five years, to now having the opportunity to interview Victoria herself, the creator of Under The Covers, was a real treat! This August 31 at 7pm at Birdland (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue), Victoria will be joined on stage by Platinum recording artist Pam Tillis and Grammy nominee Jim Photoglo. The evening is a mixture of hit songs and new material by all three artists! This is one night you don't want to miss! Click here for tickets!
1. On August 31, you are bringing back your show Under The Covers to Birdland and this time around your special guests are country superstar Pam Tillis and Grammy nominee Jim Photoglo. How did you start your Under The Cover series? This kind of songwriters series has been going on for 30 years in Nashville and is quite popular at the Bluebird Café, which has been made famous by ABC’s Nashville. Any night of the week in Nashville you can go to the Bluebird Café or some other club and hear what they call "Songwriters in the Round," where either new songwriters try out their stuff or established songwriters play their hits or try new material. It’s really quite special.
So, I’m a New Yorker and I go to Birdland a lot, especially for Jim Caruso’s Cast Party. I met Jim and he already knew me because I opened for Garth Brooks in Central Park and he goes, "Oh my gosh, you should play here." I had been doing some other songwriter shows around the country and I just thought it would be great to have a series there, a real Nashville night in New York.
I started this series 11 years ago. Most times, when I do these songwriter shows, most people don’t know what they are coming for and they leave saying, "That was one of the best musical nights of my life." They recognize the songs that they didn’t realize this person wrote because most people think the artist is the one who wrote the song, which often is not true, especially in country music. The other thing that is great about these nights are the stories behind the songs and the comraderie between the people playing on stage. I make sure that everyone who's a part of this series are not only talented, but fun and funny. It’s really important to me. It has to be full entertainment because a songwriters show with a songwriter who has no personality is not fun. I make sure I get the right combination of people. I do these shows 2-3 times a year and they fulfill my performing need and give me a reason to come home to New York (laughs).
2. If you could give people one reason as to why they should come to Under the Covers, what would that reason be? It’s a really fun night. I don’t care if you don’t know one song these people play, you will leave the evening saying, "This was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to." I really like to make the evening feel they are in our living room and are privy to three friends just hanging out and playing music. It’s a very interactive night. There is no rehearsing, no set list because I like to fly by the seat of my pants and I think the audience likes to see the real stuff. They like to see you forget your own lyric once in a while. They like to see something created. They love to hear songs they know, but they also like hearing something new from a hit songwriter and see what they are working on next.
3. After all these years of doing this show, especially here at Birdland, how do you feel the show has grown since starting out? When I started doing it, I would always invite my A-list Nashville friends up here to play. I have a very diverse set of friends in all different genres, so it’s been really great incorporating all of them into my shows. I like having my friend Mark Hudson come in and play his big Aerosmith song "Livin’ on the Edge" and watch everyone go nuts over it. I had my friend Constantine Maroulis play and he was so cute because he was so nervous because he had never done something this stripped down. He did such a great job and people went crazy for him as they didn’t realize he was such a good songwriter. I paired him up with my friend Robin Meade who’s the anchor of Headline News in the morning and people don’t realize this journalist sings. I love showing multiple sides of performers. I read an article once, about Ramin Karimloo, that talks about his love of Broadway, Bluegrass, and Country music and he does this thing called Broadgrass and I literally just Tweeted him saying something like "We should play together or we should write together" and he Tweeted me right back saying yes, so he’s played quite a few shows of mine. My friend Erich Bergen has come on the show, performing songs from his EP that I produced earlier this year. It’s also exciting just to see who’s going to attend the show. At one of my shows, Bette Midler was there because she and I have written together and the audience flipped over her being there. My friend Lewis Black came and Jon Bon Jovi has come as well.
Under The Cover series is really fun for both the audience, for me and the performer, plus it gets the performer out of their comfort zone. You never know what’s going to happen there. I mean, I never know what’s going to happen until that night!
4. What have you learned about yourself from doing this series? That I’m a good hostess. My biggest concern is making sure everyone is having fun. It’s not an ego thing, it’s a fun thing. Let’s have a party. If I can make them laugh and then make them feel with emotions as I sing, I’m just having a blast and they will too. So, I’m good at hosting a party and inviting the right guests.
5. You’ve written for almost everyone in the music industry. Some of my favorite artists you’ve written for Olivia Newton-John, Boyzone, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, and Pam Tillis. What do you love about performing this series here in New York? Have you ever thought of doing them somewhere else? Oh yes, I’ve done them all over the country, but I love having a home here in New York at Birdland. There’s nothing like New York. Here I am, this total city girl who has found success writing country music and pop music as well. I’ve had songs recorded by Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera and many others, but I keep coming home to country music. I think people get a kick out of seeing this New Yorker doing it in Nashville. What I love is that my friends are totally willing to come because it’s New York, it’s playing music, and they get some shopping in (laughs).
I’m really excited that Pam is one of my guests because she hasn’t played my show in New York. I always get a kick out of seeing how much fun they have on stage. I’ve never had anyone walk off stage without saying "Oh my gosh, please invite me back, I’ve had so much fun." It’s a real compliment and I take it very seriously because not only am I concerned with my audience having a great time, I feel totally responsible for my guests on stage. The people I invite are so special to me. This show is not about three spotlights on three different people, it’s about one spotlight shared by three people which is a very different vibe. It’s very warm and personable. My friends know that we are sharing one spotlight and that’s what makes it gel and work so beautifully.
Victoria Shaw is a pop/country songwriter responsible for over 80 million CD sales! As a singer, she had the great opportunity to open for Garth Brooks in the historic 1997 Central Park concert. Victoria also wrote one of Garth's biggest hits of all-time, "The River." The two-time Emmy Award-winning composer also wrote "I Love The Way You Love Me" for John Michael Montgomery (which won the ACM award for song of the year) and "Nobody Wants To Be Lonely" for Ricky Martin and Christina Aguilera. Her songs have been recorded by Olivia Newton John, Boyzone, Faith Hill, LeAnn Rimes, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Michael McDonald. In 2009 Victoria co-produced the debut CD for Lady Antebellumfor which she won a CMA award for producing their hit single RUN TO YOU.
Platinum selling recording artist Pam Tillis has had six number one's and 14 top ten singles on the Billboard charts. In addition to writing for her own projects, Pam's songs have been recorded by some of the biggest names throughout genres of music, including artists like Chaka Khan, Juice Newton, Gloria Gaynor, Conway Twitty and Dolly Parton. She has performed on the stages of Broadway in New York, modeled on the pages of Glamour Magazine and is a proud member of The Grand Ole Opry. Pam is a 15-time CMA nominee and two-time winner, a nine-time Academy of Country Music Award nominee, a two-time Grammy award winner and six-time Grammy nominee, an American Music Award's nominee and a two-time IBMA nominee and one-time winner. Besides having one of the purest, most authentic voices in Country Music, Pam Tillis has always insisted on writing and cutting songs that speak from the soul.
Jim Photoglo has musically spanned four decades as both a songwriter and artist, bringing his unique creative voice to the R&B, Pop and Country arenas. In the early 80's, Jim Photoglo had two Top 30 Pop hits: "We Were Meant To Be Lovers" and "Fool In Love With You." He has toured as a musician and backup singer for artists such as Carole King, Dan Fogelberg, Vince Gill, Nicolette Larson and the late Andy Gibb. As an award winning songwriter, Jim has enjoyed success writing songs for other artists such as Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Michael McDonald, The Everly Brothers and Alabama. He has scored multiple top 20 singles and two #1 singles including The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's signature song FISHIN' IN THE DARK which has gone on to be one of the most played songs in the history of Country Music.