(Larry Berwald and Scott McMahan)

By Jeff Maisey

Musicians Larry Berwald and Scott McMahan, in collaboration with The Roads Bistro in Virginia Beach, have started a new series they call Songs & Stories: An Evening of Original Music. 

Presented on the fourth Wednesday of each month, the showcased songwriter will perform a selection of tunes and share details of how each was composed. 

To learn more about this songwriter focus series, we checked in with McMahan and Berwald who preferred to reply jointly as The Overnite Lows. 

VEER: How did the Songs & Stories: An Evening of Original Music series come together at The Roads Bistro?

The Overnite Lows: Songs & Stories was born out of a desire to spotlight performing songwriters. You can find a great cover band or tribute act any night of the week in Hampton Roads but opportunities to see high quality original music performed by the artist themselves is harder to come by. We knew Michael at The Roads Bistro had an affinity for songwriters and a great space to present them in so we pitched him the idea for Songs & Stories.


VEER: The Big Pink at Victorian Station, in Hampton, took inspiration from Nashvilles Bluebird Cafe for its Songwriters in the Round series. Your series focuses primarily on one featured artist rather than 4 in a circle. What do you like best about focusing on one specific songwriter? 

The Overnite Lows: We love a good round and we’ve played many of them including The Big Pink in Hampton and The Bluebird in Nashville. A songwriters round can be great for shorter attention spans because it’s a new writer with every turn.The format of Songs & Stories is different in that it allows the songwriter to have a more in depth conversation with the audience. We like giving the artist the freedom to craft a longer narrative.

VEER: Tell us about The Overnite Lows — whose in the group and what are the backgrounds of the musicians?

The Overnite Lows: Scott McMahan is the principal songwriter and singer/guitarist. Scott is from East TN and has had success on the Americana and Blues charts.

Larry Berwald is a sideman guitarist and producer. Larry has lived in the area since the 1980s, performing and recording with a variety of artists including Seth Stainback, Bobby Blackhat Jesse Chong and many others. He most recently co produced Roberta Lea’s “Too Much of a Woman” album.

VEER: Do The Overnite Lows perform with the featured guest songwriter?

The Overnite Lows: We have collaborated with our featured artists at past shows and look forward to more of that in the future.

VEER: Do you serve as an MC and ask questions of the guest performer?

The Overnite Lows: Our hosting duties include performing and introducing our featured artist in addition to a short Q&A segment.

VEER: Does the songwriter take questions from the audience throughout the performance or at the end? 

The Overnite Lows: While we encourage our featured artists to engage with the audience we do our best to promote a listening room environment. Questions are welcome as long as they are posed respectfully and at appropriate times.

VEER: What do audiences seem to enjoy about learning how a song was composed? 

The Overnite Lows: We believe that the writer providing some backstory really enhances the appreciation of the listener, just as knowing a bit about the Impressionist Movement increases one’s appreciation of a Van Gogh. Learning where a song comes from can give great insight into why a songwriter writes in the first place and satisfies a natural curiosity we all have.

VEER: Does the guest artist also describe the studio recording of a song and what instrumentation was added to the skeletal structure to enhance the tune? 

The Overnite Lows: We encourage our guest artists to speak about any part of their experiences they would like to spotlight. That can include recording or songwriting. The focus of the evening leans more towards the Songs side of things but we love all kinds of Stories.

VEER: These storytelling events are true listening experiences. The venue is also a full service restaurant. How are the two balanced? 

The Overnite Lows: Because the Roads Bistro is a music-centric venue, the clientele tend to be more attentive than in most typical restaurants. Many people come primarily for music and are pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and service as well as the relaxed vibe. The environment is also physically constructed to have an area where music is the emphasis and a more distant area for dining, although the full menu is served throughout the restaurant.

VEER: The event happens the fourth Wednesday of each month. Who do you have scheduled in February, March and April? 

February 28 – Mike Gombas

March 27 – Mercy Creek

April 24 – Michael Lille

May 22 – Jesse Chong

VEER: Any additional thoughts to share? 

The Overnite Lows: We are sincerely grateful to Michael Baldwin at the Roads Bistro for supporting and fostering a creative musical outlet. This is also one of the few places where jazz music is performed several nights a week and has become a hub for some of the finest talents in the area in in some cases touring jazz ensembles.