Friends make good music together…

. . . and Eric Church gathers some of the best for the BMI Maui Songwriters Festival at the MACC

Headliner Eric Church (above) and Lily Meola (second photo) are two of the featured artists at this year’s BMI Maui Songwriters Festival. Tickets for the 6 p.m. Saturday concert in the A&B Amphitheater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului are $39, $69, $89 and $129 premium seating (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org. Gates open at 5 p.m. A portion of proceeds from the festival will benefit the Dorvin and Betty Leis Charities, Inc., the BMI Foundation and the MACC. For more information about the other Maui venues, visit www.mauisongwritersfestival.com. Anthony D’Angio photo

Country star Eric Church is about to release a massive 15-album-vinyl box set, “61 Days in Church,” which captures his 2017 record-breaking “Holdin’ My Own Tour.”

During the tour, the hugely popular artist attempted an epic feat of performing and recording 30 songs per night at 61 shows. Individual concerts are available for download online with CDs planned for 2018.

Besides his hits, he would often feature a range of covers from The Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” and The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” to Little Feat’s “Oh Atlanta” and The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”

“I had so much fun learning songs that were unique to whatever city we found ourselves in,” Church reported. “It was special to see the crowd react to the songs that were only for them. I’m glad we recorded it and can relive it forever.”

By the close of the “Holdin’ My Own Tour,” Church had sold 930,000 tickets, making it the top music tour in the first quarter of 2017.

Lily Meola; Photo courtesy MACC

Headlining the BMI Maui Songwriters Festival concert at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s A&B Amphitheater, Church is a three-time Country Music Association- and five-time Academy of Country Music Award-winner. He was named country music’s top-selling artist in 2014 when his album, “The Outsiders,” sold more than one million copies.

Church followed up with “Mr. Misunderstood” in 2015, which he mailed free to his fan club members. Called “a love letter to his influences” by The New York Times and “the best album of his career” by The Guardian, “Mr. Misunderstood” won the CMA 2016 Album of the Year award.

On Oct. 4, Church debuted a new song, “Why Not Me,” at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, which he wrote for Sonny Melton, who sacrificed his life to save his wife during the recent Route 91 Harvest Festival Las Vegas shooting tragedy.

“Something broke in me on Sunday night when (the shooting) happened, and the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music,” Church told the audience.

“So I wrote a song.”

Na Leo Pilimihana join the Maui Pops Orchestra for a special “Holiday Pops” concert Sunday at the MACC. Photo courtesy Na Leo Pilimihana

The MACC’s “Eric Church & Friends” concert also features Grammy-winner Maren Morris, Academy of Country Music Awards-winner Jon Pardi, Randy Houser, Collective Soul singer Ed Roland and Maui’s Lily Meola.

Best known for her inspired, million-selling hit single, “My Church,” Morris won the 2017 Grammy for Best Solo Country Performance. With a debut album, “Hero,” that’s been hailed as a masterpiece, Morris also won the 2016 CMA New Artist of the Year award.

In response to the Las Vegas tragedy, Morris also released a song, “Dear Hate,” featuring Vince Gill.

“Hate is everywhere, and I’m sick of not doing enough,” she wrote on Instagram. “In the darkest tunnel, there is still love & music. That’s what it’s here for.”

Both Morris and Church played at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Known for her dynamic performances, “Morris takes the stage with as much prowess as Beyonce and (Taylor) Swift. As she carries on through her hour-long set, she looks like both a pop star and a country sweetheart,” a Billboard review praised.

Before arriving in Nashville, she worked as a songwriter, with songs included on albums by stars such as Tim McGraw and Kelly Clarkson, and used on the TV show “Nashville.”

Morris and former One Direction member Niall Horan were one of the highlights at the recent 2017 CMA Awards performing their duet, “Seeing Blind,” from his solo “Flicker” album. Morris will join Horan on his Flicker World Tour in 2018.

Riding a wave of success with the feel-good singles “Dirt On My Boots” and “Head Over Boots” topping Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, Pardi is among the other musicians playing the MACC. Following the release of his breakthrough album, “California Sunrise,” Pardi went on to win the ACM 2017 New Male Vocalist of the Year award.

“He’s one to root for if you’re looking for a return of country music to the glory days of yore,” praised Saving Country Music.

Influenced by Buck Owens and George Strait, his latest catchy song, “Heartache on the Dance Floor,” (with 22 million YouTube views) is a Top 10 country chart hit.

With No. 1 hits like “How Country Feels” and “Like a Cowboy,” Houser was praised by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for having, “one of the most powerful voices in country music.”

Following his recent UK tour, Red Guitar Music declared, “Houser is in possession of one of the, if not the, best voice out there.” His hit “Like a Cowboy,” which reached No. 3 on the Country Airplay chart, received a 2015 Country Music Association Awards Song of the Year nomination.

The lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the platinum-selling rock band Collective Soul, Roland’s popular songs include “Shine,” “December” and “Run.”

Maui’s Meola was named as one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.” Her critically acclaimed debut album, “They Say,” featured duets with legends Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

The third annual BMI Maui Songwriters Festival will kick off at 7 p.m. tonight at Fleetwood’s on Front St. in Lahaina with performances by Morris, Houser, Roland, Meola, Bob DiPiero and Casey Beathard.

One of Nashville’s most prolific songwriters, DiPiero has scored many hit singles and 15 No. 1s for artists such as the Oak Ridge Boys, George Strait, Vince Gill, Faith Hill and Reba McEntire. 

Beathard has composed more than 20 Top Ten singles, including eight No. 1 records, for the likes of Church, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Rodney Atkins, Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus.

On Friday, BMI will present the songwriter series, “How I Wrote That Song,” at the Wailea Beach Resort — Marriott, Maui at 8 p.m. The event will include performances by ACM Vocalist of the Year-winner Pardi, Grammy Award-nominee, Lee Thomas Miller, acclaimed composers Heather Morgan and Wendell Mobley, lyricist Luke Dick and singer-songwriter Ashley McBryde.

Named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” McBryde was praised by The Boot as, “everything you love about traditional country music, from gritty vocals to twangy guitars.” Her fans include Church, who once dubbed her, a “whiskey-drinking badass.”

Showcasing Nashville’s iconic “songwriter in the round” acoustic performances, the evening offers an opportunity to hear the stories behind some of country music’s biggest hits. The performers have written songs for the likes of Brad Paisley, Brett Eldredge, Trace Adkins and Jamey Johnson.

* The BMI Maui Songwriters Festival runs tonight through Saturday. It’s hosted by Storme Warren of Sirius XM’s The Highway. Tickets for Fleetwood’s are $50 for standing room in the main bar and lounge, $75 seated, $125 for front row and $225 for VIP booth with artist meet-and- greet. Call 669-6425. General admission tickets for the Wailea Beach Resort event are $50. Seating is first come, first served. For more information, visit www.mauisongwritersfestival.com.


Hawaii’s favorite Na Leo Pilimehana join the Maui Pops Orchestra for a special “Holiday Pops” concert at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Castle Theater at the MACC.

The multi-Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning trio features Lehua Kalima, Nalani Jenkins Choy and Angie Fernandez Morales. Capturing the islands with their rich harmonies and inspirational messages, the three women first teamed while attending Kamehameha Schools. Over the years, this best-selling Hawaiian group has won a number of Hoku Awards including Contemporary Album of the Year for “Feel the Spirit.”

Under the baton of Music Director James Durham, Na Leo Pilimehana will ring in the holiday season with a festive concert featuring some of their most-loved songs, as well as many holiday favorites.

* The “Holiday Pops” concert featuring special guest Na Leo Pilimehana is presented at 3 p.m., Sunday in the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $20, $35, $50 and $60; and half-price for students 18 and under in the $60/$50/$35 price sections (plus applicable fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, go to the box office, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org.


Grammy winner Kalani Pe’a has just released a new Christmas single, “Kanakaloka.” On Tuesday he will perform a free concert from 6:30 to 8 p.m at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului.


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