Singer-songwriter Tina Shafer has seen and done it all. As the host of the New York Songwriters Circle for the past 25 years, she’s watched greats like Norah Jones, Billy Porter, Lana Del Rey, Gavin DeGraw and more walk through as relative unknowns before breaking big in the mainstream music world.
And she’s also walked the walk herself, having penned hit songs such as Celine Dion’s “Love Is On The Way.”
amNewYork had a chance to chat with the effervescent musician and discuss her remarkable run and anniversary.
Talk to me about the history of the New York Songwriters Circle and its impressive resume of performers.
It started in 1990-1991 and was the brainchild of the late Ken Gorka, the owner of The Bitter End at the time. I took over [hosting] in 1991 and in the beginning I just kind of ran it out of my rolodex of songwriter friends at the time. Some of those people were Jesse Harris. And then Jesse brought Norah [Jones] for her first gig. Lisa Loeb was there. ... We were all buddies!
What can fans expect at the upcoming anniversary event?
I got together most of the original people that started out with me back in 1991. From Rob Mathes, who’s conducted at the Kennedy Center, [to] Billy Porter, who’s gone on to win a Tony Award, it’s going to be an incredible [night] filled with memories and love. John Oates will be doing both shows!
And you’re performing as well. What can fans expect from your set list?
I’m going to pull out a couple from the old days, some that others can sing along to. I don’t think I’m going to do my big song “Love is On The Way,” but probably a lot of the others will play their hit songs. Julie Gold will do “From A Distance” and anything John Oates sings will be a hit (laughs).
In the case of “Love Is On The Way,” is it because it was written for someone else? Did you ever wish you had performed it instead?
There are those who write and perform their own stuff, and then there are writers who are amazing at writing for other people. I just happen to have co-written “Love Is On The Way” that happened to go on to sell 33 million records. [laughs] It was really a song tailor made to Billy Porter, Celine Dion...people with bombastic voices. I consider myself a rootsy singer.