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Writer Comes 'Round

Hamilton, Ohio – The produce aisle’s loss turned into the record store’s gain.

Chris Gelbuda may not have had any control over the start of his life in music, but he made a conscious decision to pursue it as his vocation.

“My mom forced me to take Suzuki piano lessons when I was five,” he said. “I didn’t have a choice. I ended up picking up guitar in high school to impress the girls. Eventually my band started making money when I was 15, 16 years old.

“I thought maybe I could make music for a living. I went for it partly because I wanted to be Duane Allman and partly because I didn’t want to work a real job in the grocery store.”

Fast forward 25 years and see how Gelbuda made the right call when he performs in the Nashville Writer’s Round April 15 for the Fitton Center for Creative Arts’ Show Stoppers series.

Now one of the top musicians in Music City U.S.A. - aka Nashville, Tennessee - he writes, produces, plays and sings with artists way beyond the boundaries of the country music that made Nashville famous.

Perhaps best known for his work with Meghan Trainor – he co-wrote and produced “3 A.M.” and “Just a Friend” on her multi-platinum debut album Title and produced the smash single “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” featuring John Legend, which went to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 – the list of his collaborators ranges from Darius Rucker to Lady A, from Sublime to The Dirty Heads, from Robert Randolph to the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh to Phish’s Trey Anastasio. And Hamilton’s own David Shaw. Gelbuda is a veteran of the Big River Get Down at RiversEdge

“I come from a small town in Illinois that’s a lot like Hamilton,” Gelbuda said. “Right there on the river, it’s just a cool place. I want to come back there and play for Hamilton because they appreciate good music.”

Along the way he learned a somewhat surprising lesson working with people who work in music. One that might not have been part of the equation when decided to get into the business.

“How seriously they take their job at the top level,” Gelbuda said. “You go into it to avoid getting a real job and to have fun all the time, but you actually have to work non-stop.

“The work is everything you do before you get on stage. It’s riding around overnight in a crowed van. It’s Southwest cancelling a flight and scrambling to get to your next show. It’s guitars damaged in the luggage hold. Questionable gas-station food at 3 a.m.

“But you do all of that – deal with all of that - for that time you get to be on stage and be with an audience. That’s the payoff.”

Gelbuda brings Nashville friends and colleagues Carey Ott and Tim Fagan with him to the Fitton Center.

Both have extensive resumes in Nashville and beyond. Ott’s work with The Greencards earned them a Grammy nomination for best folk album. Fagan co-wrote the Colbie Caillat/Jason Mraz duet “Lucky” that won a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals.

More than just writers, though, they perform. And can tell a story. The show may have Nashville in the title, but it’s not going to be a night of Garth Brooks’ greatest hits.

“We’re mindful most people don’t want to hear just the deep cuts,” Gelbuda said. “And we want to give them something more than the mainstream hits they can hear on the radio. It’s a good mix.

“Sometimes for these Nashville nights you get people who write, but aren’t really world-class performers. That’s why they’re writers. But we’re all actually accomplished guitar players and we compliment each other well on stage. You can get a fresh take on a song just by having a couple of other great players playing something unique in the background.”

Tickets for the Nashville Writer’s Round are $32 for Fitton Center members, $39 for non-members, and are available here.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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