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Liberty native featured in Country Hall of Fame

Will stream Songwriter Session 9 p.m. Tuesday

Bob DiPiero didn’t come home in April for his annual American Made Country Music Songwriter Series benefit show at Youngstown’s Ford Family Recital Hall.

That and every other gig that month was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those who had tickets and for those who’ve never seen the Liberty native perform, DiPiero will do a Songwriter Session for the Country Music Hall of Fame that will be streamed live at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the hall’s Instagram account.

During a telephone interview from his home in Nashville, DiPiero said he was invited by the hall of fame to participate in the series, which has featured such artists as Eric Church and Brandy Clark in recent weeks. In many ways, it’s similar to the shows DiPiero has played locally, only he will be performing by himself instead of joined by a couple of fellow songwriters.

The biggest difference is no live audience.

“It’s definitely a different animal,” he said. “The whole energy transfer between the performer and the audience is a one-of-a-kind experience. Every one is different. The audience brings a lot of energy to the performer. I’ve done a couple of them during the whole COVID thing we have going on, and it’s like being in kindergarten and pretending, pretending you have an audience in front of you.”

DiPiero won’t ignore his hits — the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee has penned 15 No. 1 country singles and had more than 1,000 songs recorded by other artists — but he hopes to play of the of the new material he’s written during the pandemic. One of those songs is “The Ballad of John Prine,” about the beloved singer-songwriter who died April 7 from COVID-19.

“I can’t say we were best buddies, but we traveled in similar circles, and I was a major fan of his writing and his ability to connect with people. He had that ability to reach out to all different walks of life, whether they were young or old. John transcended all of that.”

DiPiero has continued to collaborate with other songwriters during the shutdown, although instead of being in the same room together, they’re relying on technology like Zoom for those sessions. He described it as adapt and evolve or dissolve.

“For me it’s been kind of interesting, kind of fun,” he said. “First of all, it’s gotten me out of my comfort zone, which is always a good thing … It makes me pay more attention to what’s being said. We can’t all talk at the same time. I’m continuing to write some songs I’m pretty happy with, and I don’t have to drive anywhere to write. You can stay home in your shorts and T-shirt, but I miss the human connection.”

He also has been using the downtime to work on a book that will be called “Becoming Number One.”

“It’s built around my career in the music business, but it’s really a book that anyone can read and enjoy and get some inspiration from,” he said. “It’s about having the mind of a student at all times. You can’t rust if you’re constantly moving and learning.”

DiPiero is looking forward to playing for audiences again. In addition to rescheduling the postponed benefit for COMPASS Family and Community Services at Ford Family Recital Hall, a benefit show is planned for the Dana School of Music in the near future.

“We don’t have an exact date nailed down yet,” he said. “I’m an alumni of Youngstown State University and a graduate from Dana School of Music. Anytime I can help them, I’m happy to do it.”

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