The sound of music will soon encompass the beach as the fifth annual Blast on the Bay Songwriters’ Festival kicks off Oct. 17.
The free event sprawls across the Forgotten Coast from Mexico Beach to Indian Pass and welcomes Nashville-dwellin’ Grammy-winnin’ country songwriters who have penned tunes for the likes of superstars Faith Hill, Jason Aldean and Garth Brooks.
Songwriter Charlie Black and his wife, Dana, who have written hits for George Strait, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and many other country crooners, will perform for the fourth time.
Years ago the couple traded in the busy streets of Nashville for a relaxing life on the Forgotten Coast and each and every year the Songwriters’ Festival brings their friends to town.
The festival will begin on Oct. 17 with a lunchtime happy hour at Triple Tails and the following day, a workshop will be held at Dockside Seafood and Raw Bar where a panel of songwriters will participate in an informal open discussion on the art and business of song writing.
Topics will include the craft of song writing, song writing as a career, and music production, followed by a critique for participants who bring a sample along with them.
“Fellow writers will be able to get insight on the process,” said event coordinator Jason Bogan. “It’s a good place for both novices and seasoned writers to learn from the pros.”
The festival utilizes a writer’s round format like those commonly found in Nashville. Each show consists of four performers who trade off playing songs while the other writers can choose to join in with harmonies, extra guitar riffs or rhythm or just sit back and enjoy the tune.
Perhaps more fun than hearing these hit songs is learning the stories behind them. The writers are encouraged to offer up the inspiration behind their hits and discuss where they were and what was happening in their lives when they originally put pen to paper.
“It’s the untold story,” said Bogan. “They share what they were feeling when they wrote it.
“It’s all raw, live, unfiltered and unplugged, but it’s laid back and low-key. It’s not just for fans of country music, but fans of music and how it was created. It’s nice to see the writers of the hits get a little recognition.”
“A lot of serious songs had goofy beginnings,” added Black. “You never know what you’re going to hear.”
Black said he enjoys hearing and sharing the stories, but for him, the best moments are getting to hear a song the way it sounded right after the songwriter had completed the first draft.
While some of the hit songs are performed similarly to their well-known counterparts, others may have completely different words, arrangements or be performed on a different instrument altogether.
This year’s event will welcome 27 writers, a new record and a significant increase from the five who played the inaugural event in 2008.
The first festival was founded with the idea of keeping things quaint. According to Bogan it was never meant to be rival the size of similar festivals in bigger cities.
“The first couple of years, the writers were asking us, ‘Where’s Port St. Joe?’” laughed Bogan.
The growth happened organically as word got around. More writers heard of the festival’s success and intimate setting and offered to share their stories. Bogan and fellow organizer Will Rambeaux seek out writers with great energy and an established hit on the radio to participate.
Bogan encouraged musicians and music lovers to take advantage and experience the performances in such an intimate environment. He said that each show acts as its own meet-and-greet.
“The writers are regular folks and they’re ridiculously talented,” he said. “Everyone is super accessible and they’re happy to come down and share.”
Black said that he was looking forward to some great music and sharing lunch with old buddies that he’d written songs with over the years.
“I’m looking forward to it and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Black. “The whole town should come out and have a blast.”
Bogan noted that the festival was designed as a “listening event” for people to appreciate the songs and be respectful to the writers who in most cases have driven a minimum of nine hours to perform.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Coastal Songwriters Education Coalition Inc., a 501c3 not for profit. The Blast on the Bay Songwriter’s Festival runs from Oct. 17-20. To register in advance for the songwriter’s workshop, visit www.blastonthebay.com.
All times Eastern unless marked otherwise.
Friday, Oct 18
Triple Tails Seafood & Raw Bar
3 p.m. - Wil Nance, Alan Rhody, Bob Regan, Sonny Lemaire
5 p.m. - Lisa Shaffer, Steve Dean, Bill Whyte
6 p.m. - Bridgette Tatum and Aaron Barker
The Thirsty Goat
6:30 p.m. - Brett Jones, Jillia Jackson, Jesse Rice, Jerry Salley
8:30 p.m. - Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Brooke Eden, Shane Hines
10:30 p.m. - Aaron Barker, Bridgette Tatum, Earl Bud Lee, Jim Parker
Mango Marley’s (central time zone)
7 p.m. - Charlie Black, Dana Hunt Black, Tim Buppert, Steve Leslie
9 p.m. - Walt Aldridge, Sonny Lemaire, Riley Weston, Pete Sallis
Saturday, Oct 19
Dockside Seafood and Raw Bar
11:30 a.m. - Lisa Shaffer, Steve Dean, Bill Whyte
12:45 p.m. - Wil Nance, Alan Rhody, Bob Regan
2 p.m. – Free Songwriters’ Workshop
5 p.m. - Brett Jones, Jillia Jackson, Jesse Rice, Jerry Salley
7 p.m. - Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Brooke Eden, Shane Hines
Toucans (central time zone)
6 p.m. - Aaron Barker, Bridgette Tatum, Earl Bud Lee, Jim Parker
8 p.m. - Charlie Black, Dana Hunt Black, Tim Buppert, Steve Leslie
10 p.m. - Walt Aldridge, Sonny Lemaire, Riley Weston, Pete Sallis
7 p.m. - Walt Aldridge, Sonny Lemaire, Riley Weston, Pete Sallis
9 p.m. - Brett Jones, Jillia Jackson, Jesse Rice
Sunday, Oct 20
Indian Pass Raw Bar
2 p.m. - Lisa Shaffer, Steve Dean, Bill Whyte, Jerry Salley
3:30 p.m. - Wil Nance, Alan Rhody, Bob Regan, Walt Aldridge
5 p.m. - Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Brooke Eden, Shane Hines, Jillia Jackson
6:30 p.m. - Charlie Black, Dana Hunt Black, Tim Buppert, Steve Leslie
8 p.m. - Aaron Barker, Bridgette Tatum, Earl Bud Lee, Jim Parker
10 p.m. - Late Night Jam Session