On January 17, 2024

Rockin’ the Region with Kara Tondorff

One of my top events from last year was the 2nd annual Singer/Songwriter Festival at Rivershed Killington. On Jan. 26, at 7:30 p.m., for the first time, they’re hosting “Wintersong: A Celebration of Female Songwriters.” One notable difference, besides being all female, is that owner Kara Tondorff is one of the performers. I’ve heard a lot that Tondorff has made guest appearances on stage, but I’ve always missed it. Now is the time to hear her and the other five women perform. Joining Tondorff from the Singer/Songwriter Festival are April Cushman, Kylie Sackley, Tiffany Goss, and Rivershed newcomers Olivia Rudeen and Erin Enderlin. These women have written songs for Pink, Walker Hayes, Luke Bryan, Randy Travis, Faith Hill, Brett Young, and Reba McEntire and won many awards. This will also happen the next night at Rivershed in Scituate, Massachusetts. Tondorff is from Massachusetts, April is from New Hampshire, and the others are from Nashville, but they all have Nashville ties. Tondorff talked about them and said, “I got rave reviews about Olivia and Erin and heard they’re phenomenal. Cushman is a Nashville-quality songwriter who is local to New Hampshire, so it’s cool to have her right in our backyard. I just met Tiffany in October, and we hit it off, as has Kylie, whom I’ve done a couple of festivals with. Tiffany wrote ‘You Ain’t Here to Kiss Me’ for Brett Young; it’s a great song.”

Tondorff opened the Scituate restaurant in 2014 and Killington in 2021. Killington was a complete remodel, as it used to be Peppino’s. If you’ve ever been there, you know the two are like night and day. Her first career was as a touring songwriter. She said, “I got to the point where I needed to make a living, and this wasn’t sustainable. When I got into restaurants, part of my passion with The Rivershed, I was able to build a network of musicians, and now I’m tapped into the writing community.” One thing I love about Rivershed is the music they bring to town; it’s unique but so good.” Tondorff added, “I’m pretty picky about who I have playing.”

Tondorff wants to get back into songwriting and said, “I figured I’d do something that scares me a little bit and throw myself right in.” Tondorff’s biggest tour was an eight-week tour through the U.S. and Canada, and then she moved to Los Angeles for seven months. She had success there, and her “Your Words” song was put on Dawson’s Creek.” Her record won “Record of the Year with Music Connection magazine. Tondorff added, “That got me a lot of attention—gigs, stuff like that. I used to play the House of Blues in Boston; that was kind of my home base.” Tondorff said her music is singer-songwriter with a flair for country.


In 2007, she moved to Nashville and lived there for nine months. Tondorff said, “I immersed myself in the songwriting community there.” She is headed there this week to “hopefully do some writing,” as she said, and to check out some performers too. She got into songwriting later in life; her focus was as an artist, but it’s something she has a passion for now. She and April are writing some songs together. She said, “It’s something I want to break into. Some of these women that I’m networking with, when we’re up in Killington, we’re going to take a day or two to do some co-writing.”

Tondorff got the idea for this after she had April, Tiffany, and Kylie up in October for the Singer/Songwriter Festival. She said the four of them really hit it off. She said, “We had such a great time together, beyond just music, like actual friendship. We decided we didn’t want to go another year, so let’s do an all-female one and celebrate the female songwriter. I put the wheels in motion and got it all solidified. I think it’s going to be a great event.” If it’s anything like the others, it’s a do-not-miss event.

Tondorff said she’s trying to get better about setting aside time to write, and that’s going fairly well, but she could be driving in the car and an idea will hit her. “I’ll have moments where I’ll come up with something in my head, and I know I have to write. Yesterday I woke up at 4 a.m. with an idea for a song, and then I wrote almost a whole song at 4 a.m. Crazy, but whatever. I have two or three songs I really love but haven’t had the time to finish. But yesterday’s I have to tweak a little, but I got it done from start to finish and it feels good, check.” She said the song is about finding someone you like. She added, “It’s kind of a sappy, romantic song. I have a lot of success writing early in the morning.”

Tondorff didn’t start playing guitar until she was 17, and she dabbles on the piano but isn’t very good. She said, “I can do enough that I’ve been trying to write a little on the piano. I have a digital piano in Killington and Massachusetts that I try to play around with.” One of her favorite songwriters is Lori McKenna, from Massachusetts. She wrote “Humble and Kind” for Tim McGraw and many others. Tondorff said, “She’s brilliant.” Her parents were big into music, so she grew up on Nina Simone, Van Morrison, and The Dead. Her new favorite band is Wild Rivers.

Tondorff wants to encourage people to come out and see music this way. Many haven’t seen Nashville style like this in the round. She said, “People are blown away. They want to see music like this all the time. You get such variety, and you get to learn how the songs were made and created, and you hear people’s stories. I’ve had people tell me these festivals are life-changing for them. That makes me feel good.”

Tondorff said music has helped her get through hard times, so having a song impact somebody who is maybe going through something and they can relate to it is special to her.

For more information,  visit therivershed.com.

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