Liberty native Bob DiPiero culled recordings of songwriters' showcases in Nashville for the music on his first solo CD.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
Songwriting is a continuous process for Bob DiPiero, who estimates he's had a hand in penning about 1,000 tunes over the last two decades.
"It's like a radio station in my head. ... I can turn it down but I can't turn it off," he says.
That's not the only frequency on which this Liberty native operates.
DiPiero's CD "Laugh," from the "Live at the Bluebird Cafe" series on American Originals Records, is now available at Borders bookstores, Tower Music and on the Web (American-OriginalsCDs.com). It's his first solo recording.
"Laugh" features songs that DiPiero wrote for country music artists who rode them to the top of the charts. Those include "Church on Cumberland Road," which Shenandoah recorded; "Money in the Bank," which worked for John Anderson; "Wink" and "They're Playin' Our Song," both hits for Neal McCoy; "Daddy's Money," which got Ricochet noticed; and "Worlds Apart," which he co-wrote with superstar Vince Gill.
At the Bluebird: This time, however, it's DiPiero at the lead microphone. He and three of his songwriting friends have formed their own band in which they play their own songs in stripped-down arrangements.
Their favorite showcase is the Bluebird Cafe, where Nashville's songwriters have gathered for 19 years.
DiPiero cobbled together songs he'd performed during various sets at the Bluebird from July 1997 to March 2000. Bekka Bramlett, Billy Dean, Richard Marx, Skip Ewing and Victoria Shaw were among those who joined him on stage.
Thing is, DiPiero didn't tell his friends that they were being recorded.
"It's one of those things where it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission," said DiPiero, who returned home last week for a family reunion.
The reason for the secrecy is that DiPiero wanted the CD to be an accurate reflection of those nights at the Bluebird -- the informality and spontaneity of the performances, the camaraderie between musicians, the imperfections that come with live shows. "This is how it really is," he said.
Also on "Laugh" is DiPiero's favorite song, "Draggin' the Lake for the Moon," which he co-wrote with John Scott Sherrill and Gary Morris. It was recorded once but never became popular.
"I wanted to put it on there just for my own -- one for me," he said of the love song that "marked a particular time in my life."
What's funny: As the CD title suggests, there are hefty doses of humor in between songs. Some of it may be familiar to people who attended Di-Piero's workshops at Youngstown State University Dana School of Music (his alma mater) in March 2000.
DiPiero tells how the Tom Hanks movie "Forrest Gump" inspired him to write the song "Blue Clear Sky." Musician Steve Seskin shares telephone messages he's received from DiPiero, a k a mobster Pino the Squid. DiPiero remembers a few strange conversations between his ex-wife, singer Pam Tillis, and some fans.
The longest, and funniest, piece is about lunch at a famous Nashville diner with a famished Vince Gill. Asked how much he embellished that story, "Hardly any," DiPiero replied.
DiPiero will be giving some one-man shows at various Borders stores, and he's writing new songs with Kix Brooks, he said.
Soon DiPiero will add another big name to the list of people who have recorded his music -- Eric Clapton.
After DiPiero and Gill wrote songs for Gill's 1996 album "High Lonesome Sound," Gill's producer told him not to include "Wait Till Your Daddy Gets Home" because it was "too rock 'n' roll," DiPiero said.
That song has been resurrected now that Lost Highway Records is producing a tribute CD to musicians with ties to Oklahoma. Gill, a native Oklahoman, and Clapton, who played with Tulsan Jamie Oldaker, will pair up on it, DiPiero said.