The evening’s performers (from left): Carly Pearce, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and Ashley McBryde.
Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Ashley McBryde, and Carly Pearce Share Their Truths During All For The Hall New York
Gala fundraiser concert supports Country Music Hall of Fame
and Museum education programs
“The truth is always best,” Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill told the two hundred or so audience members gathered in New York’s Irving Plaza on Tuesday night (September 12) for All for the Hall New York, a fundraising concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. He was responding to a story from one of the event’s other performers, Carly Pearce, but he could just as well have been voicing a motto for the show.
Throughout the hour and a half concert, Gill, fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris, Ashley McBryde, and Pearce continued the long country music tradition of singing truths: theirs, other people’s, universal ones. The event was organized as a guitar pull: a type of performance long established in Nashville in which the participants are onstage together and take turns sharing songs. The casual, intimate format encouraged storytelling, banter, and impromptu harmonizing from the performers, all of whom are also songwriters.
“The music you will hear tonight will exist one time, in this room, in these moments,” said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young as he introduced the evening, produced by museum board members Rod Essig, Ken Levitan, Clarence Spalding, and Jody Williams and co-hosted by Gill, who is the museum’s board president, and Emmylou Harris, a museum trustee emeritus.
“Truthfully, I’m just the best they could get for free on a Tuesday,” Gill joked after Young introduced him. Among Gill’s selections for the evening were his 1994 hit “Whenever You Come Around” and two brand-new, unreleased songs.
The first new one was about musical heroes who paved the way for him. “I just wanted a seat at the table / Maybe carve a path of my own / I’ll sing all my sad songs ’bout heartache / ’Til my heroes are calling me home,” went the chorus, while the other new song found Gill “wishin’ things could be a little kinder,” as he described it to the audience. Guitar player and friend Jack Schneider accompanied Gill (and, at times, Harris) throughout the event.
Gill opened the show, however, with a cover of an old Jimmy Buffett song, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk,” and Gill encouraged the crowd to join him in singing the ribald chorus in honor of the late singer-songwriter.
“I just love ‘love songs,’” Harris joked afterwards about the Buffett song. She, too, offered a tribute song, performing “Home Sweet Home”—which is written from the perspective of an unhoused person—in memory of her friend, Father Charles Strobel, a longtime advocate for Nashville’s homeless population and the founder of Room in the Inn, a Nashville shelter and service organization.
Harris also performed “If This Is Goodbye,” “Old Yellow Moon,” and “My Name Is Emmett Till.” Released in 2011, the latter song, she explained, was inspired by an NPR story about Till, a Black teenager, who in 1955 was abducted, tortured, and murdered after a white woman accused him of flirting with her. Harris’s “Prayer in Open D,” meanwhile, came at the request of a friend who was in attendance.
“I was starting to feel the approach of age and a bit of melancholy,” Harris said, explaining the origin of the song, which she released in 1993. “What you don’t realize when you’re in your forties is that it’s probably gonna get worse,” she added, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “Somehow, it gets better, too.”
McBryde also had a tribute to share, albeit to someone still living. She wrote her song “Bible and a .44” for her father, on his 1982 Martin D-35S acoustic guitar, which she was forbidden to touch as a child but which he gave her a few years ago. McBryde excels at telling a good story, and the tale of how she learned she wasn’t allowed to touch that guitar (it involves nearly breaking it) left her friend Pearce in stitches on the other end of the stage.
“Everybody’s gotta be good at something, and I’m good at being nervous and saying the just-dumb-enough thing,” McBryde offered humorously at one point. Her other three performances were all of songs from her brand-new album, The Devil I Know, released on September 8: “Light on in the Kitchen,” her current single; “6th of October”; and “Single at the Same Time.” She also joined Pearce on “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” their Grammy-winning duet.
Although Pearce did not introduce any of her songs as tributes, they certainly maintained the evening’s theme of truth-telling. She sang songs close to her heart that she co-wrote: “Never Wanted to Be That Girl,” “29,” “We Don’t Fight Anymore” (her current single, featuring Chris Stapleton), and “What He Didn’t Do.” “29,” in particular, she explained to the audience, is inspired by the year she got both married and divorced.
“I decided to do it because so many of my heroes—and I’m sitting up here with two of them [Harris and Gill]—they never shied away from being themselves,” Pearce reflected. “They’ve just unapologetically been themselves, and I didn’t feel like it would be right to me as a human being to not tell my story.”
The evening also showcased the museum’s flagship education program, Words & Music, which pairs students with professional songwriters, who help them develop language-arts skills as they learn how to write songs. A video about Words & Music featured the song “When Hearts Come to Life,” written by first-grade students from PS32, Samuel Mills Sprole School in Brooklyn. The first graders participated in Words & Music instruction led by Songwriters Hall of Fame member Liz Rose and Phil Barton.
All for the Hall attendees were also invited to a Monday night (September 11) VIP reception at the home of Jamie Tisch, featuring a performance by up-and-coming singer-songwriter Peytan Porter. As museum CEO Young introduced her, he noted that at the last All for the Hall New York reception, in 2018, it was Pearce—at the time a rising performer who had earned her first #1 radio single the year prior—who performed.
The All for the Hall series of fundraising concerts began in 2005, when Gill suggested that country music artists donate the proceeds from one annual performance to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Since then, All for the Hall concerts have raised nearly $6 million in support of the museum’s educational initiatives, which directly serve more than 130,000 people annually.