This month marks the 25th anniversary of New York City's revered songwriter showcase the New York Songwriters Circle, which, for once a month since 1991 at The Bitter End on Bleecker St., has fostered emerging songwriters, several of whom have gone on to earn impressive Billboard chart careers as artists, beginning with Lisa Loeb. Norah Jones, Gavin DeGraw and Lana Del Rey, among others, have followed.
Tomorrow, Nov. 17, the Circle celebrates with a birthday bash featuring, among other talents, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Oates and Tony and Grammy Award winner Billy Porter, known for his starring role in the hit musical Kinky Boots. (Two shows will take place, at 7:30 and 10 p.m.)
On the latest Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, Porter, fellow Circle graduate Vanessa Carlton and artistic director and host of the Circle Tina Shafer chat with Billboard's Gary Trust and Alex Vitoulis about the showcase's rich legacy. "When I first started running the Circle, I thought, 'This'll just be temporary, and I'll book my buddies,' " Shafer says. "Little did I know, I just kept booking and booking people. It is the gift that keeps on giving."
In 1991, Shafer muses, "The music business was in a completely different place than it is now. But one thing that's always remained the same is people's desire for great content, and to see it performed live and to hear the story behind the song. [The Circle] has given a voice to a lot of writers that otherwise wouldn't have been heard."
Also during the podcast, Carlton relays the influence that the New York Songwriters Circle and Shafer have had on her since she was a teen and recalls writing her biggest hit, 2002's No. 5 Billboard Hot 100 smash (and a Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary No. 1), "A Thousand Miles."
Plus, Porter recounts his career beginnings with Shafer, whose "Love Is on the Way" he made a Billboard R&B chart hit in 1997, before he went on to grace various other tallies and bask in the Broadway spotlight. Perhaps most importantly in the current cultural climate, Porter candidly discusses his climb as an outsider (a gay singer with a theatrical sound wasn't exactly a label's first choice in the '90s). "What I've learned is you have to be true," he shares. "What I came up with is: Own who I am, and scream it from the mountaintop."
A sampling of previous episodes with host Gary Trust:
Author Marc Myers / Anthony Head on the "Buffy" Musical Episode / Suzanne Vega / Bobby Bones (hosted by Jim Asker) / How Daya Broke Through on New Label Artbeatz / The Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit / Joel Whitburn / Debbie Gibson / Hit Songs Deconstructed on The Chainsmokers & Meghan Trainor / Lionel Richie (hosted by Trevor Anderson)
Enjoy the entire latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!