Award-winning Songwriters Get Ideas From Life

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ALTON – As they say in Nashville: “There’s a three-minute movie in a song.” The best songwriters immediately capture the audience’s attention and go on to tell a story in three minutes, the average length of a song.

            Tia McGraff and Tommy Parham are award-winning songwriters and experts at their craft. They’ll be performing their concert, “Listen, It’s Christmas,” 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 7, at Jacoby Arts Center, 627 E. Broadway, Alton, IL.

Both play acoustic guitar. Parham also provides background vocals and McGraff adds the piano when not on the road.

“You could call it ‘intimate acoustic,’” says Parham. Others have called their music Americana-folk.

This is their fourth year playing Jacoby. Along with some Christmas songs, there will be tunes from their latest CD, “Crazy Beautiful,” as well as a few from their new CD with the working title, “Masterpiece.”

McGraff and Parham recently traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama where they attended the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival for the 10th year. About their songwriting style, McGraff says, “We write story songs. We get our ideas from fans who share stories of their lives or news events. Anywhere, basically.”

One of their songs, “The Fire,” was written after seeing news about the 2014 Ferguson riots and the Middle East. That song won the couple honorable mention at the 2016 Pozaloozi Awards, in Florida.

The couple – described by the FBISF as a “modern day Johnny and June” – met in Nashville. McGraff arrived there from Canada in 1999; Parham made his way there in 1998 from Vandalia, Illinois by way of California. They met through Parham’s publisher, started collaborating on songwriting and eventually married in 2006.

McGraff and Parham are finishing up their “Crazy Beautiful” international tour. That CD came out in 2015 and received a first-round Grammy nomination for Americana Album of the Year. Traveling with them has been Jake, their husky/Australian shepherd rescue dog.

Last year, McGraff wrote “Jake the Road Dawg.” The self-published children’s book chronicles life on the road through Jake’s eyes and touches on subjects such as making friends and adjusting to a new home. McGraff and Parham also wrote three songs for a CD that accompanies the book.

How does writing a song compare to writing a book?

“It’s a whole other process,” says McGraff, who took an online course to learn about fleshing out characters beyond the three-minute song. She wanted the dialogue to be informal, “like the way kids would talk,” and each chapter is a separate vignette.  

Jake will be in Alton with the couple and McGraff hopes Jake will be able to attend the concert to give “pawagraphs.” Copies of their previous six CDs will be available for purchase for $15 and “Jake the Road Dawg” will be on sale for $20.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or follow the link at Cabaret style open seating begins at 7:00 p.m. and free parking is available on-site. A cash bar is available. Visitors are welcome to arrive early to view Residual Impact, a reflection of the physical and psychological, visible and subliminal, influences of the world around us.

About the Jacoby Arts Center

The mission of the Jacoby Arts Center is to nurture and promote the practice and appreciation of the arts through education, exhibits, cultural programs and community outreach initiatives. Jacoby Arts Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Jacoby Arts Center is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Jacoby Arts Center, 627 E. Broadway, Alton, IL 62002 / 618-462-5222 /

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627 E Broadway, ALTON, IL 62002 (Driving Directions)
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