Courtesy of Sideways Media

Women’s History Month is celebrated throughout the month of March, so it felt extremely timely when singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman opened The Accidentals’ TIME OUT performance at The Ark with Keb’ Mo’ and Rosanne Cash’s “Put a Woman in Charge.” She co-wrote the song alongside John Lewis Parker and Kevin Moore in 2018. Seated in a semicircle decked with microphones, guitars and violins, five talented female songwriters played along with Chapman in listening room fashion, similar to the likes of the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tenn.

It’s not very often you get to join a listening room experience with three generations of legendary female songwriters. However, The Accidentals, a female-fronted folk band from Traverse City, designed their month-long tour as a bridge between generations of well-respected Nashville female songwriters. Savannah Buist and Katie Larson of The Accidentals, the youngest women on stage, met Chapman, Kim Richey and Maia Sharp — other musicians — through different co-writing sessions, and many of the women appear in the credits on the band’s 2021 album Vessels and latest EP release Time Out Session #2. Although newbies to the Nashville songwriting scene, Buist and Larson held their own among the more seasoned writers, swooning the Ann Arbor crowd with their recent projects. Highlights included “Wildfire,” which was written with Richey and hit number one on folk radio, as well as “Slow and Steady” off of Vessels, which was written by Larson during a blizzardy drive back to Traverse City to see her dog Maggie before she passed away. 

The show moved in a circle, with each woman performing their own work with support from the others on their respective instruments. In between songs, the women would share brief anecdotes or tell jokes, like when California native Sharp sighed after playing her song “Backburner” off her 2021 album Mercy Rising, expressing how she wishes that she could have a string section follow her around in her daily life. Many stories were also shared throughout the night, and familiar names in music came up as the group recalled past experiences working on co-writes and touring as artists. 

After performing her song “A Place Called Home,” Richey shared a memory of when she performed at a Florida music festival and joined the crowd at the main stage to watch Brandi Carlile perform. Carlile decided to perform Richey’s song and invited her on stage to perform with her, to which Richey received numerous high fives and fist bumps on her way to the main stage. As Richey described it, it felt like she was “going into a wrestling match.”

Similarly, Chapman shared the story behind her famous ballad “Sand and Water,” which was performed by Elton John throughout his U.S. tour in the late ‘90s. Chapman explained how the song was written after she lost her husband to cancer and that she never expected it to take off the way it did. For Chapman, however, the fact that one of her most vulnerable projects became one of her most popular songs is a testament to the power of vulnerability and writing from the heart. In fact, Chapman said that she tells this story to younger songwriters looking for advice, hoping to inspire them to write music that’s authentic to their emotions and experiences.

After sharing numerous stories about the musicians who have mentored them throughout their careers, all five women also shared their passion for educating the next generation of songwriters and artists. Many of the women have taught at Interlochen Center for the Arts, where Buist and Larson were once students before they became touring artists. Similarly, The Accidentals frequently host workshops through the Michigan Music Alliance and schools throughout the country. The band has collaborated with the Cleveland-based Contemporary Youth Orchestra for projects including their single “Requiem for a Lark.

With women only making up a small percentage of songwriters in the music industry, it was encouraging to see a stage of powerful female storytellers who’ve earned successful careers in music. What’s more is that, despite the age differences between the group, every woman had a compelling story to share that was relatable regardless of what season of life they were writing about. The women of the TIME OUT Tour are proof that musical storytelling can transcend time, and the music and artists we love today were made possible through the songwriters who came before them, serving as mentors and cultivating their talents along the way.

Daily Arts Writer Kaitlyn Fox can be reached at