Lacey Williams remembers feeling devastated as she and her family left their home of 10 years in music-rich Nashville to move back to Utah, where her husband had accepted a job.
She was particularly sad to leave behind the many opportunities in Nashville to see songwriters perform.
“As we were driving across the country, it kind of dawned on me that Nashville doesn’t have this monopoly on songwriters, and so I was like, ‘You know what? I can recreate this. I can do the same thing,’ ” Williams told the Daily Herald.
Williams, half of husband-and-wife country music duo Drew and Lacey, brought a bit of Nashville back to Utah with her by creating the Maybelle Series, which is set to make a stop at The Rise in Orem this weekend.
The concert series, founded in 2016, features local female singer-songwriters in Nashville-style songwriter rounds. This in-the-round format allows multiple artists to share the stage throughout the show and take turns telling the story behind a song and then performing it.
“When you can hear the inspiration behind the song and how it was meaningful to the writer, then it becomes so much more meaningful to the listener,” Williams said. “It’s been so cool to do these here in Utah and see the audience just connect with the songwriters in ways that they haven’t before, and they usually leave just totally inspired and moved by this chance they’ve had to connect to the musicians.”
Williams also felt it was important to spotlight female songwriters with the Maybelle Series, which she named after Maybelle Carter, one of the original women of country music and songwriter-storytellers.
“It’s not often that you’ll find only female shows, and that was something that happened in Nashville and something that I really thought would be cool to recreate here,” Williams said.
Maybelle Series concerts usually feature four songwriters each in a spring and fall show each year that alternate between venues in northern Utah and southern Utah, where Williams lives. The founder said she tries to select a variety of songwriters for each Maybelle Series show, including both seasoned writers and new artists representing genres from folk to pop.
Local singer-songwriter Stephanie Mabey, who will be featured alongside Williams, Lucy Scholl and Nancy Hanson at Friday’s Maybelle Series concert in Orem, said she loves performing with other artists in songwriter rounds.
“I like to roll with it, just whatever the chemistry is that’s happening onstage and between the performers and the stories,” Mabey said. “The flow of the show is really organic, so that’s something I really love about it, and plus just more stripped, sharing music totally in the way that you wrote it, in that same form, there’s something kind of magical about it.”
Mabey said she thinks this in-the-round format also adds more layers to the music.
“I like that it mixes up your listening experience because playing a full set as a solo artist, it’s really challenging to keep it interesting,” Mabey said. “The variety is so nice because it keeps it fresh and engaging, and you don’t quite know what you’re going to get, which I think is pretty cool.”
Another purpose of the Maybelle Series is to give young female songwriters an opportunity to see professionals who do songwriting for a living, according to Williams.
“It’s been cool to almost have it be a mentor program as well,” Williams said. “We have a girl singing at this upcoming concert before the round starts. She’s in high school … and she will be singing a song she wrote, and I’ve been able to help her get that song ready to go and sing, and it’s been cool to provide brand new people that have never been able to do anything like this before a chance to sing their original songs.”
Williams said she hopes the Maybelle Series grows in the future to feature more shows and bigger venues without losing the intimate feeling of a traditional songwriter round.
“There is not a lack of talent,” Williams said. “There are definitely plenty of girls who can sing and write fantastic songs, and I would love to even expand it outside of Utah … and see where it goes because I definitely think there’s a place for it.”
Mabey said she hopes those who learn about and attend the Maybelle Series will be inspired by Williams’ “good example of having an idea and executing it in a way that it’s not just benefiting her.”
“My hope is that people can be looking for similar things that they can be doing themselves, maybe not with music, but just with whatever’s important to them because I think it’s really easy right now to be checked out or just kind of escaping or avoiding things, and I think when we’re getting involved with the people around us and creating community, I just think that’s how we feel more alive,” Mabey said.