A songwriters’ festival, Nashville songwriter Will Rambeaux said, is a chance to “reconnect to that skinny 18-year-old who wanted to be a rock star.”
Rambeaux and nearly two dozen other songwriters will descend on the Forgotten Coast Oct. 19-20 for the fourth annual Blast on the Bay Songwriters’ Festival.
“We love it down there,” said Rambeaux, who was talking from the set a new Nashville-based television series in which he plays, surprise, a songwriter. “Songwriters do this all year round, all over the country. These kind of festivals are growing.
“Port St. Joe is what I’d call a boutique festival. It is not Key West, where they have something like 300 songwriters and which is the granddaddy of them all. But we keep it small, because we like it that way. The community, the venues, has their charms. We love it.”
In a sense, Rambeaux could be considered the godfather of the Blast on the Bay event. After the closing of the paper mill and a move to attracting tourists to Gulf County, Rambeaux’s nephew, who had grown up attending songwriters’ festival with Rambeaux, suggested a festival along the Forgotten Coast.
“When it was first proposed I said, ‘Port St. What?’” Rambeaux said with a laugh. “I never heard of the place. But I came down and scouted the area and just fell in love with it.
“I thought this is the best-kept secret in Florida.”
The initial festival proved such a success that is has steadily grown, from a dozen artists the first year to nearly two-dozen this year. They will be performing at venues such as Sunset Coastal Grill, the Haughty Heron, Thirsty Goat, Toucan’s, Lookout Lounge, Provisions and Mango Marley’s.
As with each prior year, there will be a songwriters’ workshop on Saturday of the event at Dockside Café and the event will wrap up with hugely-popular Sunday afternoon jam session at the Indian Pass Raw Bar.
“We love doing the workshop,” Rambeaux said. “We get a lot of people, it is very informal, and there are some good people who come out because they love songwriting and love music. It is great and you can get some ideas.”
The beauty of it all for the public, the performances are all free beyond any door charge by the venue.
For the songwriters, the festival feed several appetites.
One is networking, Rambeaux said. A second is the chance to bounce ideas off on another and write some songs. Another is a chance to see a songwriter you may not have had a chance to see in the stratified world of Nashville, Rambeaux said.
And, finally, there is the joy of picking up the guitar and being that teenager longing to be a rock star again.
“The big secret is that all songwriters are closet performers,” Rambeaux said. “In Nashville, you don’t get that chance to perform. Your job is to be in a room and write songs.
“But at a festival we get to do what we started out doing and what we love to do. You get to go back to being that skinny 18-year-old who wanted to be a rock star. That is so great.”
A dynamic that has grown uniquely during the growth of Blast on the Bay is the event’s connection to the Semper Fi Sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts of deployed military personnel, who hold their annual “Beach Blast” at the same time as the festival.
The two events have grown together, founded in the same year. The Semper Fi Sisters provide volunteer work at some of the songwriting festival venues, some of the songwriters will perform during the SFS’s “Boxes of Love” packing party, and the two events are partial sponsors of the other.
“They are great girls and we love playing for them and supporting them,” Rambeaux said. “In every era there are young people who put on that uniform to save the rest of our (rear ends). I wasn’t in the military myself, but I have come to really appreciate those who serve.”
Schedule of performances
Friday, Oct 19
6 p.m. - Provisions
6:30 p.m. - Thirsty Goat
7 p.m. (CT) - Mango Marley’s
Saturday, Oct 20
2 p.m. - Dockside Cafe | Port Saint Joe Marina-Songwriters’ Workshop
5 p.m. - Lookout Lounge
6 p.m. - Sunset Coastal Grill
7 p.m. - Haughty Heron
6:30 p.m. (CT) - Toucan's
Sunday, Oct 21
2 p.m. - Indian Pass Raw Bar
2012 Song Fest Artists
Will Rambeaux, Tim Buppert, Lisa Shaffer, Bill Whyte, Steve Dean, Charlie Black and Dana Hunt Black, Casey Black, Steve Leslie, Sonny Lemaire, Walt Aldridge, Abigail Rose, Chas Sandford, Erin Enderlin, Jerry Salley, Jim Parker, Little Feather (Elizabeth Sharpe), Sam Brooker (Little Feather), Aaron Spraggs (Little Feather), Pete Sallis, Jesse Rice, Riley Weston and Brett Jones.