Country Steps in for First Steps

Chely Wright had one heck of a backup singer at Joe Diffie’s “Country Steps in for First Steps” benefit concert Sunday night (Feb. 13). Standing on the Ryman stage right behind her was pop singer/songwriter Richard Marx.

“This is the first year I was invited to this event, and I wanted Richard to come with me,” Wright explained, adding that the two have been writing together recently. Some of those songs may end up on her next album.

During Wright’s set, Marx sang his 1987 hit “Don’t Mean Nothing,” then the two joined forces for a duet of Marx’s hit ballad “Right Here Waiting,” both to thunderous applause. Backstage, Marx said he listened to a lot of traditional country music growing up, and although it obviously wasn’t his calling, he said he has been revitalized by the Nashville songwriting community.

“It’s the last place a songwriter can go,” Marx explained.

Marx has been working with a few Nashville writers and has penned tunes for SHeDAISY and Shane Minor. He also wrote and produced the Vince Gill/Barbra Streisand duet “If You Ever Leave Me.”

This is the eighth year that Diffie has rounded up his musician friends for the benefit show, which raises money for Nashville’s First Steps program. Diffie’s son Tyler, who has Down Syndrome, was a student in the program when Diffie was a struggling musician. The yearly concert, silent auction and golf tournament are ways the singer gives back to First Steps. So far his efforts have raised more than half a million dollars.

“It has taken on a life of its own,” Diffie told backstage. “I’ll keep doing it as long as the fans keep coming.”

Regular guest Collin Raye once again joined the lineup along with Ty Herndon, Andy Griggs and the Lonesome River Band.