Acclaimed musician in City for songwriters’ circle

Described as having an ‘understated yet powerful’ approach to crafting tunes, Wyatt Easterling brings his musical mastery to The Hub on Feb. 26.

On a bit of a touring trek through Alberta, he’ll be taking part in a songwriters’ circle with Ross Stafford and Rob Heath starting at 7 p.m. The event is being presented by the Central Music Festival Society.

“It’s a lot of fun for a songwriter,” he explains during a recent chat while he was on his way to Memphis from his home in Nashville. “If you are a songwriter it’s great to hear from different writers. We all have different experiences and ways of structuring a song.”

Easterling follows a steady songwriting current that has made him one of Nashville’s most prominent writers.

“I’m a songwriter with deep country and folk ties. I like to write little vignettes about every day life,” he explains, adding he also loves ‘heartbreaking’ ballads. His latest disc Where This River Goes certainly captures his observations of the world around him.

From the dream-like, moving title track to his duet with Jessi Colter-Jennings on Sounds Like Life To Me the project overflows with simple truths and poignant stories. The compelling, melancholic tones of Modern Day Drifter also gained prominence when country star Dierks Bentley covered it on a recent project. Easterling’s voice, with its rugged clarity, is the perfect match for the material – earthy, authentic and wonderfully real.

Easterling hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and his folk-oriented music reflects his upbringing. Both his folks played the piano and the kids were encouraged to play an instrument as well. There was also a multitude of outside influences.

“I was surrounded by the likes of John D. Loudermilk (Tobacco Road, Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye), Livingston Taylor and his brother James Taylor,” he explains. “As you can imagine we claimed all three as our local heroes. Your songs had to have legs if you wanted to gain any attention in the music scene where I grew up.”

Meanwhile, Easterling certainly has linked up with a string of famous folk over the years. While living in Los Angeles as a child when his father was studying medicine there, his Sunday school teachers were the Borgnines – that would be acclaimed film star Ernest and his wife.

“It was such a trip – he would walk into class with this enormous grin on his face.”

And it was in Los Angeles that Easterling first declared his intentions of being a musician, even though he was only about eight years old at the time.

“I was just in LA a few months ago. When I lived there, it was right off Sunset Boulevard. I visited my old elementary school – talk about a blast from the past,” he says with a laugh. “When I was there I remember hanging out on the playground and we were talking about what we were going to do when we grew up. I said I’m going to be a singer.”

The other kids weren’t exactly supportive of the idea as it seemed like such a huge, elusive dream.

But Easterling never lost his drive. A few years later he was making connections in Nashville and relishing the life of working in a studio on the production end of things. He ended up with Atlantic Records, signing multi-platinum artists John Michael Montgomery, Neil McCoy and Tracy Lawrence to their first record deals.

Easterling also produced Montgomery’s triple platinum selling debut Life’s a Dance for Atlantic Records. Over the years, he’s worked with Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, Carole King, Olivia Newton John, Cher and a host of others as well.

All the while, he was honing his own skills as an artist and introducing his music to audiences.

Years passed and the pace slowed down until Easterling took stock a few years ago. He recalls thinking about earlier days of being an artist and the joy he garnered from performing live. It certainly wasn’t time to call it quits.

These days, Easterling is enjoying playing more intimate venues and house concerts in the singer/songwriter sense. Hitting the road with his guitar is just the ticket, and there are plenty of folks out there who appreciate the simpler, more personal approach. His songs clearly show the depth of a man who has experienced much and is eager to share his reflections. He remembers being told that the world doesn’t need another poorly written song.

“I recall a more colorful adjective being used to describe (poorly), but that was the gist of the comment,” he recalls. “I try to remember that bit of advice when I write.”

Tickets for the songwriters’ circle are $15 each or $30 for families. They are available at The Hub (4936 – Ross St.)