For Mayor Rusty Paul, Sandy Springs’ inaugural City Green Live Friday night concert series “has gone even beyond my wildest expectations.”
The free series, which takes place on the city’s new park at its City Springs complex, started May 24 with one Grammy Award-winning band, the Steep Canyon Rangers. It will end with a Grammy nominee, Shawn Mullins, Sept. 27 and a bonus performance by Joe Gransden Oct. 4. The Frank Sinatra-themed concert by Gransden was added earlier this month and is the 11th concert in the series.
“The reaction has been great and people have just been really excited,” Paul said. “Everywhere I go, they ask me about it. They ask me, ‘Are we going to do this next year? Are we continuing to do this?’ The plan is, in working with Shaun Albrechtson, our new (City Springs) executive director, (to do so). He’s got even bigger plans for the future.
“We’ve learned a lot this year, but just from the crowds and the restaurants and the engagement with the space during the day, not just with the concert series but seeing the kids in the splash fountain, you see the moms and the dads out here chattering while their kids are playing, this place is really active from early morning until at night. The reaction has been very, very positive.”
Mullins was born in Atlanta and graduated from Clarkston High School in Clarkston. He attended North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, where he performed as a solo artist, and then spent a short period as an inactive infantry officer to fulfill his commitment to the U.S. Army Reserve.
He then launched his music career, hitting it big with the 1998 song “Lullaby,” which was No. 1 on three Billboard charts (Adult Alternative Songs, Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40) and was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Three others songs – “Everywhere I Go” (2000), “Beautiful Wreck” (2006) and “Light You Up” (2010) – were second or third on the Adult Alternative Songs chart.
Mullins, who lives in Decatur, talked about the impact the Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, before they had formed their band, had on him starting in the ninth grade.
“I hated school, didn’t like it at all,” he said. “I met Amy first and she had come to my school to play some songs and do some talks about songwriting. She was at Emory (University) at the time. I remember hanging out with her and was just really inspired by what she did and wanted to do that.
“She ended up getting my address and writing me a long letter to say, ‘Follow your dreams.’ … They let me open (concerts) many times for them over the years. As early as ’93 or ’94, I was opening for them. It helped. It always helps. They’re still great friends and we still do occasional stuff together.”
Mullins said he’s excited to perform at City Green Live, partly because it gives him the opportunity to play with his backing band, which he performs with only a handful of times a year. It includes veteran musicians Davis Causey on guitar, Tom “Panda” Ryan on bass and Gerry Hanson on drums.
“Whenever we come together, it’s sort of like we’re jazz musicians in that we don’t have a set plan, but they’re so good because they have so much experience,” he said. “We’re always somewhat unrehearsed, so it always makes for a great impromptu show. I hope won’t be raining or too hot.”
Mullins added opening act Rick Brantley, from Macon, is “a wonderful singer-songwriter.”
“I think it will be a fun show for everybody,” he said.
Mullins said for the past year he’s been collaborating with screenwriter Gary Rossio, known for the “Shrek” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, on writing songs for a new animated film’s soundtrack.
“It’s really fun, a fun process, but I can’t say much more about it, including the movie title,” he said, since the film is still in the early stages.
Paul said Albrechtson and his staff are working to get even bigger acts to perform at next year’s series.
“From the conversations I’m having with the new management team, I think it’s going to be a launching pad for even more high-profile artists to come in for these concerts,” he said. “So we’re excited about that.”
City Green Live is one way for the city to unite its residents through its diverse programming, Paul said.
“It’s about building this connective tissue of the community,” he said. “It’s about people who don’t know each other sitting on blankets adjacent to each other and getting to know each other. Their kids might go to school together but the parents may not know each other. So this is an opportunity for us to build these relationships and build a greater sense of community.”
Each concert starts at 7:30 p.m., and food trucks arrive at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit citysprings.com/city-green/stage.