The Frayed At Both Ends tour, headlined by Aaron Lewis and supported by Bobby Pinson, made a stop at The Historic Gillioz Theatre Saturday night, giving country music fans the opportunity to enjoy a night full of hit songs performed acoustically.
The surprise for many Aaron Lewis fans comes from the first moment Bobby Pinson takes the stage, playing guitar and singing a plethora of well-known songs atop a single barstool. Pinson has been a songwriter in the industry for nearly three decades and his songs embody the power and integrity to take them across the width of today’s musical landscape.
“The whole point of doing this is because Aaron was just like, you need to be out there. People need to know who you are, and you need to do some theater shows,” Pinson explained. “So, he’s just doing everything he can to introduce me to these venues.”
Though this is the first time Pinson has performed on a tour in nearly 20 years, he’s decorated with awards from various country music entities and has even been Grammy-nominated.
“I got my first publishing deal in 1999. I was a songwriter first, then got a record deal and got married in 2004 and then by 2007, I was having a little trouble with my voice, so I just kept writing songs,” Pinson explained. “When that took off, I never really looked back.”
His contract with RCA Records birthed Pinson’s debut album, Man Like Me, which was one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year. The album’s hit single, “Don’t Ask Me How I Know” paved the way for what many consider one of the best records released in the last twenty years.
“I think I knew early on in my life where my creativity was going to come from. I was involved in UIL (Universal Interscholastic League) and did storytelling in the third grade,” he said. “I figured out that I was really good at that and went on to poetry, acting and just realized that was my gift… storytelling and singing. I didn’t know that all those years later, this is what I was working towards.”
Pinson has had over two hundred of his songs recorded by country music superstars over the years, including Toby Keith, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Blake Shelton, Cole Swindell, Sugarland, Brantley Gilbert, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flats, Brooks & Dunn, Tracy Lawrence, LeAnn Rimes, Montgomery Gentry, Van Zant and many more. He’s penned over 30 Top 40 hits, including 10 number one singles. His work has earned him 2009 BMI Songwriter of the Year, two CMA and ACM Single and Song of the Year nominations, seven BMI awards, and five NSAI (Songs I Wish I’d Written) awards. Over the years, Pinson has accredited some of his writing inspiration to the works of Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earl.
“I think people, and the things that happen to people, what they’re going through whether it’s good or bad is probably my closest everyday inspiration,” he said. “I’ll see something and think, wow, I’ve got to figure out how to capture that… Not on film, but where some people can still see it. I’m not a movie maker. I’m a songwriter. So, we’re just making movies that you hear.”
His number one singles include “Some Of It” recorded by Eric Church, “Burning Man” recorded by Dierks Bentley, “Homemade” recorded by Jake Owen, “Rearview Town” recorded by Jason Aldean, “Made In America” and “Never Cried In Front Of Me” recorded by Toby Keith, “All I Wanna Do,” “Want To,” “It Happens,” and “Already Gone” recorded by Sugarland.
“Sometimes inspiration comes from something you hear in a bar, or somebody will call you… but I’ll hear something and realize that I’ve said the same thing for years… that will inspire me to create something that sounds like I think it should,” he added. “It sounds simple, but a lot of things just don’t sound like I wish they would.”
Pinson’s latest single, “The Shave,” was inspired by moments with his late father and brought the packed Gillioz audience to absolute silence Saturday evening. The song opens with a soft acoustic melody that drifts into the soothing memory of his father teaching him how to shave. The tear-jerking lyrics come full circle as Pinson reflects on teaching his own son how to shave and ends with the final moments Pinson spent with his father, helping him shave before he met Jesus.
“It was a very personal song for me to write and now, I won’t play without singing that song,” he added. “I think it’s the most emotional song I’ve ever written.”
Over the years, Pinson has been a staple in country music songwriting, and he’s been called on by many other artists to help write through the experiences of others. Recently, he wrote a song with Cole Swindell and Chase McGill which explores the emotions of losing a parent.
“I’ve had some great stories that I've relayed into lyrics with other artists that are going through something… sometimes they can't even talk about it. But in general, when you write a song with an artist, and they're going through something, and you're helping them get through a song,” Pinson said.
“Cole Swindell is a good friend of mine and he's going through that. He lost his dad years ago and lost his mom recently. He had an idea called “Heads Up Heaven”, about saying a prayer that's giving God a clue about who he's about to get.”
Swindell debuted the new song at the Ryman Auditorium in November, which touched the crowd and lead them to recite the final chorus along with him, with flashlights swaying.
“He's talking to God in that song, basically loving on his mama, and saying everything that his mama is to him. Chase and I are the ones that he chose to get his idea through. When somebody comes to you and says I have this idea, you're who I want to write it with, to me that says a lot. Chase and I love working with each other and love Cole so much,” Pinson added.
“Sometimes it's a song, sometimes it's an emotion, it's a feeling, it's who you are, for a day or who you are for your whole life. This was a song about the person that was behind him as a person. To watch him just have a sigh of relief after the song was over. I feel like we nailed everything I wanted to say. That, to me is the most important thing I could do as a songwriter.”
Pinson has been the supporting artist on Aaron Lewis’ Frayed At Both Ends tour since October and is set to continue on the road through March of this year. Though he doesn’t see himself putting the pen down for good, the 50-year-old hopes to “retire” in the next decade.
“I always look at where my son is going to be in the next few years and what will I have done for him in that time? He’s on his way to college and I see myself hopefully doing some theater shows and writing some songs,” he said. “I’d like to be retired when I’m 60 but retirement for us doesn’t mean you quit writing songs… You just quit worrying if they’ll call you or not.”
The Frayed At Both Ends tour is set to stop in Chesterfield Thursday, Dec. 15. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at bobbypinsonmusic.com. Though there are only a few shows left this year, Pinson will rejoin Lewis on the road when touring starts back up in January.
“I’m going home for a couple days and then coming back St. Louis. I've got a lot of friends coming to that show and I just love this part of the country. I think people truly appreciate what I'm doing… They listen to the words and without words, you don't have country music, so I love to go where they love country music,” he said after Saturday's show in Springfield.
“We’re excited to play in Chesterfield and then we head back to Tennessee to finish up with the Ryman Auditorium, which is the last show this year. Then we start back in January on the first leg of next year that runs through March. I'm excited to be a part of that with Aaron and we hope you’ll come out and see a show.”