Music series to showcase songwriters


The Home by Dark Songwriters Show is returning to the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center this weekend. This photo was taken during the show this past September. (Special Photo)

The Home by Dark Songwriters Show will feel less like a typical concert and more like friends sitting on a front porch playing music with neighbors coming over to listen, James Casto said.

It’s an in-the-round format, with several songwriters on stage at the same time, along with musicians, playing music and telling stories.

“This is a unique way to hear music,” said Casto, the show’s founder and host. “The idea of having multiple songwriters on stage at the same time interacting with each other, every show is the first and last time you’ll see that show.”

Casto, a songwriter himself who started the Home by Dark series eight years ago in the Alpharetta area, first brought the show to the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center in September and will return Saturday, with songwriters Victoria Banks and Ernie Halter and musicians Matt Blanchard, Tony Marvelli and Jim Hettinger.

Banks wrote the award-winning song “Saints & Angels” recorded by country singer Sara Evans, as well as the hit song “Come on Over” recorded by pop singer Jessica Simpson.

Halter has shared a studio and stage with Jason Mraz, Lady Antebellum, Neil Young, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and others, and has found success with his own songs featured on SiriusXM Coffeehouse, Good Morning America, in the film “A Thousand Words,” on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “General Hospital,” “Young & The Restless,” “Cougar Town,” “Army Wives” and “The Real World.”

Both will share the stage with Casto, who in addition to hosting duties plays piano and drums, as well as Blanchard, a saxophone player from New York City, Marvelli, a bass player who has toured with big-name, Christian artists, and Hettinger, a pianist and accordion player from Atlanta.

“At the end of the two hours you feel like you know everybody on stage a little bit and if you saw them at the supermarket you could walk up to them,” Casto said. “I think our show really turns the spotlight on these songwriters that people may not know.”

Casto hopes at the end of the night audiences will have developed a new perspective on songwriting.

“I don’t think many people think about songwriting and it’s sort of the backbone of the music industry,” he said. “I think you can expect to be entertained and to be inspired and to feel a sense of community. I never wanted the shows to be a typical concert.

“We’ve tried to create, especially in larger venues like Gwinnett, some textures,” he continued. “Throughout the course of the two-hour show you have these moments, you get a little taste of everything, some subtle, tender moment and some upbeat, fun moments.”