Jackson Emmer, photo by Olive and West Photography

The Roaring Fork Valley is rich with entertainment opportunities. The Valley supports a wealth of options in music, drama and the fine arts. One venue in particular has proven to be a dependable option for a varied selection of live entertainment: TACAW (The Arts Campus at Willits).

On Sept. 1, TACAW will host a Songwriters’ Round that music lovers won’t want to miss. The show will feature three notable songwriters, who will all remain on-stage, taking turns performing songs they have written, sharing information about the song’s inspiration and talking about the process of writing a song. 

The songwriters will be Jackson Emmer, Susan Gibson and David Starr. The Sopris Sun had an opportunity to ask the performers a few questions in advance of the show, and each of them offered fascinating replies.

Roaring Fork local Jackson Emmer’s first instrument was — wait for it — the trombone, which he played in fifth grade band class. When he was 15 years old, he graduated to a Fender Stratocaster. Now, Emmer prefers Collings or Martin acoustic guitars. 

He first realized that he could write songs after viewing a number of performers in Nashville, Tennessee. “Seeing how those artists worked made me realize that I could do it too,” thought Emmer, and he was correct. 

In 2018, Emmer’s first album “Jukebox” was featured in Rolling Stone magazine. “That changed my life,” he said.

Emmer noted that the Songwriter’s Round is most common in Nashville, and that the format is fairly standardized. Songwriters take the stage, take turns performing an original song and offer information about the inspiration for the creation of the song. 

“It’s very intimate, casual and the songwriters often choose their next song based on whatever the last performer did. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s one of my favorite ways to see live music,” he continued. 

Asked if every song needs to tell a story, he replied, “No, but people tend to like stories. There are a million right ways to do it, but if you can spin a good yarn, chances are good that the listener will connect.”

Susan Gibson, courtesy photo

Susan Gibson is a songwriter from Texas. She and Emmer first met at a song-writing contest (Songwriter’s Serenade) in Texas in 2018. Gibson is a well-known composer/performer and has even written a hit song for the Dixie Chicks titled “Wide Open Spaces”. She has traveled all over the West and generally brings her beloved dogs along for the ride.

Gibson said that music has always held a huge place in her life. She is an engaging songwriter and musician (with a good sense of humor), and although her favorite instrument is a Gibson EC-30 guitar, she often includes her banjo in a show.

Gibson stated, “I think as the creator, I’m the least objective person to describe my music, but what I hope other people would say about it is that my songs are little mirrors that I hold up so they can see themselves in my stories and songs. Connection is always my intent.”

David Starr, courtesy photo

David Starr of Cedaredge, Colorado will also be taking part in the Songwriter’s Round. Asking Starr about his current preference in guitars is problematic, as he owns Starr’s Guitars in Cedaredge. Starr says he received his first musical instrument at the age of nine. It was a set of gold/sparkle drums made in Japan. Some of Starr’s favorite brands of guitars include Breedlove, Gibson and custom-made Larrivee guitars. 

He is so well-liked in Cedaredge that the town has celebrated “David Starr Day” on his birthday every year since 2016. He first met Emmer when they played together at a concert up in Missouri Heights at the old schoolhouse, and Gibson has performed in Starr’s store. 

Starr’s music credentials are impressive. He has released a number of albums, toured internationally and opened shows for A-list performing artists. His latest music collection, “Touchstones”, was produced and arranged by John Oates of Hall & Oates fame. Asked to describe his music, Starr responded, “I guess I would call it Americana.”

As we all know, putting a label on something never comes close to defining it, so the very best way to learn about this special evening at TACAW is to attend it and judge for yourself! Doors open at 7p.m. and the live show begins at 8p.m. Tickets and more info at tacaw.org