30A Songwriters Festival

January 15-17, 2010 Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles fame kicked off the festival at Bud & Alley's waterfront bar. Everyone swarmed under the white tents for warmth and for guacamole and beer and wine.

We spent opening night at the Seaside Theatre. First set: Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird and Kelly Archer.

Natalie Hemby co-wrote "White Liar", a Billboard Magazine's Hot Country Song top 10 hit sung by Miranda Lambert. She co-wrote three other tracks with Lambert. Her song "Sweet Girl" was featured on the "Felicity" television series. Carrie Underwood cut one of her songs. She has had success since she turned 19 and seems to be more in demand every year.

Luke Laird writes laugh out loud lyrics and some touching ones too. He's written with/for Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Lee Ann Womack, Jessica Simpson, Holly Williams, Clay Walker, Jessica Harp, Julianne Hough, Little Big Town, Katharine McPhee, Joe Nichols and Laura Bell Bundy.

Kelly Archer, a "sweet and amazingly talented" Canadian, has written for The Eli Young Band, Jason Aldean and Jo Dee Messina among others.

Second set: local band Dread Clampitt and Mike Whitty shared the stage. Not pictured.

Jeff Black, Sam Bush and John Oates:

Jeff Black, "a songwriter's songwriter", has written for Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush and Blackhawk. He's a local favourite.

Sam Bush is a renowned mandolinist, songwriter, collaborator and is sometimes referred to as the King of Telluride and the King of Newgrass.

John Oates of Hall & Oates fame is short, really short, and from a seat in the audience he comes across as super friendly and unpretentious. He has a tween son who already towers over his Dad's shaggy black hairdo. Oates sang "She's Gone" and selections from his solo work and coloured Jeff Black and Sam Bush's songs with his guitar rhythms and fancy pickin'.

Day Two's workshop Origin of a Song with Shawn Mullins and Nicole Witt:

Shawn quickly became a favourite of ours. We're waiting for one of his newest songs presumably titled "Light You Up". A brief bio: "Grammy nominated singer songwriter wrote and produced Souls Core in 1998 with the hit "Lullabye" (Rockabye) which went to number 1 on pop charts in the U.S., Europe and Australia. "Beautiful Wreck" from 9th Ward Pickin Parlor (Vanguard) rose to number 1 on the AAA charts becoming the most played song on the format in 2006."

Nicole's songs have been recorded by George Strait, Colin Raye, Diamond Rio, Rodney Adkins, Terri Clark and others.

K.C. Clifford, Drew Tillman, Marc Berger:

K.C. Clifford lost a 100 pounds with Weight Watchers and was featured on the t.v. reality show Biggest Losers, Drew Tillman we met the prior night at Bud & Alley's waterfront bar where we could watch the waves lash the shore and the wind wipe all the texture out of the dark sky. Drew is super nice and we like his black guitar. And Marc Berger sings an antinuclear anthem “The Last One” and I don't remember beyong that.

We had time for just a couple songs from Greg Koons and Ben Reno before heading back over to the theatre:

Greg Koons released his "Welcome to the Nowhere Motel" record in June. Yep, we still call 'em "records".

Ben Reno looks like the California boy he is and has that "boy band" style.

Pat Hull (not pictured), William F. Gibbs, The Smoking Flowers at Seaside Meeting Hall Theatre:

Gibbs is an uconventional songwriter and, it could be said, a bohemian who mixes music genres (mostly southern inspired) and comes up with a "gumbo of retro sounds". An odd, but entertaining fellow.

Michelle Malone and Sonia Leigh:

Michelle is a comedic and consummate entertainer, even with a cold and seasoned with DayQuil, NyQuil, "SeaQuil" ;). Michelle's festival summary: "Veteran blues/rock musician from Atlanta left Agnes Scott college in to sign to Arista Records in New York. Ten original albums later she is still going strong touring the country. 'Raucous and Jubilant – somewhere between Lucinda and Shelby' – Rolling Stone."

Sonia's current release, "Angel on My Shoulder was recorded live at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA, where many Georgia musicians have launched their careers, including Jennifer Nettles and Kristen Hall of Sugarland, Shawn Mullins, and John Mayer."

Greg Barnhill and Tim Nichols:

Greg's songs have been recorded by Tim McGraw, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Lonestar, Martina McBride, Etta James, Bryan White, Lee Ann Womack, Ty Herndon, Sherrie Austin, Pam Tillis, and Jessica Simpson. The man can sing.

Tim Nichols wrote one of our favourite country songs, "Live Like You Were Dying", and we don't call ourselves country music fans. He also wrote Trace Adkins's "This Ain't No Thinking Thing".

Rodney Crowell, a spiritual and contemplative man, and ex-husband of Johnny Cash's daughter, Roseanne, hosted the second Origin of a Song workshop with Chely Wright.

Rodney told us about first time he met Johnny after downing several rum and cokes on the flight to meet the Cash family at their Jamaica abode. He arrived, smashed, and promptly challenged Mr. Cash about sleeping in same bed as his daughter, Roseanne. The showdown ended with Johnny: "I don't know you well enough to miss you if you leave."

Chely Wright wrote "Single White Female" and "Shut Up and Drive". I don't know her songs and I don't know why she feels compelled to showcase herself in her underwear or cuddled up to a pole on her blog or ... the like. Anyway.

We waited over and hour, with a couple hundred other people, in the frigid breeze to see Indigo Girls at The Gulf Green on Alys Beach. They put on a great show. I was equally impressed that they could keep moving their fingers in the bone-chilling breeze. If you know about the Indigo Girls you also know about their activism. If you too want to be a "punk ass patriot and a happy human being" you can check out the activism link on their website.

Cody Copeland has a supple voice and plays guitar like a keyboard, Carmel Mikol (a Cape Bretoner with a satiny voice), Ryan Parker and Michelle Luchese:

Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall (Jessi's husband) with 18 South.

Jessi is best known now for co-writing "The Climb", a song made famous by Miley Cyrus, but has also written for Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood and Little Big Town.

Jon Randall co-wrote "Whiskey Lullaby", toured with Lyle Lovatt, The Sam Bush Band, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood and Earl Scruggs. He sang "El Paso", a haunting song that you can hear on his myspace page.

You can find the complete lineup by clicking here.

-P