Nashville songwriters to perform benefit in Salt Lake CitySep 09, 2022 10:12AM ● By Tom Haraldsen
Monty Powell and Anna Wilson are award-winning singers and songwriters whose compositions have become #1 hits for country music superstars such as Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn and many others. They are not just accomplished musicians – they are storytellers.
Now, they’re telling their story.
The powerhouse couple, who live part of the year in Utah, are back in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 16 to perform “North and South” at the First Presbyterian Church. It will serve as a fundraiser for the church’s 150th anniversary restoration campaign.
“North and South” is the musical story of how they met, dated, broke up, reconciled and married in 2000, “a modern day story of love not war” as they describe it.
“We’d written the song, recorded it on our Troubadour 77 album, put it out, and then the more we began thinking about it, we realized that this is a song about who we are and where we came from,” Anna said. “We both knew there was a bigger story here, something a lot more than just three minutes long.”
That song was the inspiration for the musical production that Monty and Anna have performed this summer at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill in Bryce Canyon City, as well as in Sun Valley, Idaho and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Thanks to a sponsorship from Zions Bank, they’ve finally returned to live performances in front of audiences after more than two years in isolation due to the pandemic.
“It is really hard to go from performing in front of a live audience, which we were used to doing, and seeing all the faces and getting that energy back, to literally performing to an iPhone about six feet in front of you,” Monty said of the months that he and Anna spent doing weekly live streamed concerts on Facebook from their living room. “You don’t see people, you have no idea if they’re applauding or laughing at your jokes. It was kind of a bizarre thing, and we’ve talked to a lot of performers who said it was the most difficult time in their careers.”
Yet the pandemic allowed them to write the musical, which took about two years to compose plus another half-year to prepare the media components. The virtual shows from home “gave us time to prepare and refine it,” Anna said. “When we took it to Bryce Canyon, that was really our first chance to do it in front of a live audience and get their feedback. It’s helped us curate the assets of the show.”
Like the title implies, a girl from the North and a boy from the South, both dreaming of careers in Nashville, come together to not only find each other, but more about themselves. It’s a story told with songs, videos and a repartee with the audience that makes “North and South” an intimate love story. They perform a number of songs country music fans will easily recognize.
“People ask me to describe it, and I say, it’s a cross between ‘Springsteen on Broadway,’ the hit movie ‘Once’ and the Bluebird Cafe [in Nashville] story behind the song experience,” Anna said. “It has a little bit of all three of those elements.”
“We’ve been professional storytellers our whole lives,” Monty said, “and of course bits and pieces of our lives inhabit all of our songs. But those are, first, just 3-½ minutes long, and second, presented by somebody else. A lot of times, we’re just the folks behind the curtain. We’ve wanted to really tell our story from top to bottom, and musical theater is really where we feel this show belongs.”
They plan to take the musical to theaters around the country, and perhaps set up a residency in Nashville for a few months.
Tickets to “North and South” are available online at fpcnorthandsouth.bpt.me. Showtime for the Sept. 16 performance is 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 12 C Street, in Salt Lake City.
“I think one of things that we’re happiest about is who we are and where we came from as we present this project,” Monty said. “It really is just us telling our story as non-famous people who have been part of the fabric of a very famous and very big industry.”
And a great love story.λ