By Jason Estopinal/Shannon Hutchison
When one sees a fundraiser entitled “All for the Hall” held for the County Music Hall of Fame, one’s first thought may be “I think the Country Music Hall of Fame is doing okay. I mean, it’s a Hall of Fame; I don’t see the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto hosting a game for the betterment of the Hockey Hall of Fame.” But that would just mean that one was unaware that the Country Music Hall of Fame was actually a non-profit, educational foundation that does a lot of good for the music world.
Okay, so that was me. I didn’t really catch the vision as to why funds needed to be raised for a Hall of Fame. But I get it now. As a friend once told me, “Dude, we gotta preserve America’s past, and we don’t have that much truly American stuff.” Actually, he didn’t say “stuff,” but I edited a little for the kids. But he’s right — events like this will be remembered as defining Americana moments, and man, do those guys put on an event or what?
Club Nokia in Los Angeles was host to the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “All for the Hall” fundraiser on September 23, which featured performances by Taylor Swift, Lionel Ritchie, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill. We were lucky enough to be there and to get to chat it up with some of the stars.
Armed with just their guitars (with the exception of Lionel Ritchie and his big-ass piano), and their benches and stools, each artist shared their love of country music (which makes a lot of sense, right?), picked out their hits, sang each other’s harmonies, played each other’s backups, and told their stories about songs, the industry, and why they love what they do.
They played their number ones and they played new music. Although the mix of artists may have seemed haphazard, their time together on stage highlighted a process that almost inevitably leads to good music (country or otherwise) — bringing the best of their fields, putting them in a room together, and seeing what comes out.
There was something endearing about Taylor Swift, so named for her extremely “swift” rise to the top of the charts (just kidding; that’s her real name), explains how she wrote a song about Romeo and Juliet, as though everyone in the audience didn’t already know what she was talking about when she said “Ro–”, and something legendary about Vince Gill playing along to Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” only to have Richie tell him “That’s good man, that’s good; you’re kicking ass.” I would do a lot to have Lionel Richie tell me I was kicking ass. And that was the tone of the night — moments of seemingly-random-but-actually-brilliant music.
I think Taylor tweeted it best: it was truly a “magical” night. On top of all of that, we got to chat with the Ms. Swift.
Why did you want to be here tonight?
I wanted to be here tonight because it’s a lineup of people who have an extremely incredible priority based on the songs that they have written and the stories that they have told. Country music has that same priority and I’m just proud to be a part of this event because it’s put on by the Country Music Hall of Fame and it’s really important to give back to that, because people need to know the history of country music. Also, selfishly, getting to hear Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson and Vince Gill and Lionel Ritchie tell the stories of how they wrote their songs and why, I defiantly wanted to be here for that.
Is there one country album that you absolutely can’t live without that was a big inspiration to you?
Come on Over by Shania Twain. I feel like that album really opened up a lot of people to listen to country music who didn’t previously listen to it and I think there’s something to be said for that.
You’re launching your album at the U.N., and your career is going international. How has it been to have fans around the world and to connect with them?
It’s been a beautiful thing to get go to other countries and having brought the Fearless tour to Japan and the UK and Australia and Canada; it’s been so much fun traveling. Traveling more extensively is something I’m so excited to have on the schedule this year. International [touring] is so much fun because it’s all these experiences I’ve never had before, and it’s like a new adventure.
What’s the reaction to “Innocent” been since you unleashed it on the VMAs?
Well I gauge a lot of performances that I’ve done or songs that I put out and how people are reacting to them when my phone either blows up or doesn’t. Like, I got so many text messages from my friends and acquaintances all saying really great things about that performance which was really wonderful. And also I read the comments I get on my Facebook and Twitter pages and on my website forums, and that was really wonderful to hear that they all liked the songs.
This year, and last, the All for the Hall has been chock full of legends. How does it feel being such a young representative, and is there any stress for when you get up there?
I feel so privileged to be invited to this event because I feel like I’m up there on the stage with the best role models I could possibly have. People who have carried out the career of singer-songwriter with such grace and dignity and carried it on with such longevity, and that’s something I can aspire to. And really being up there with them, I think we’re all such different artists — we’re all going to bring something different to the table and I think that’s going to be real fun. I said to Vince earlier “don’t be afraid to noodle on my songs with your guitar” because he has a tendency to at guitar pulls to just play along with people, and I was just like “please know you are so completely welcome to play on my music,” and he was like “Alright, I’ll do it.”
[Look for part two, a Q&A with Emmylou Harris tomorrow. -- Editor.]
About the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum
Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B, and Hatch Show Print®.
More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.