Everyday you come across a song that resonates with you; it makes you either smile, cry or conjures up a plethora of other emotions. These thought provoking songs are written by someone, and often performed by another.
At the Fourth Annual Pensacola Beach Songwriters’ Festival, you have the unique opportunity to experience songwriters not only performing their own songs, but also telling you the back-stories that inspired the songs in the first place.
The origin of a song can be very different from what you think it is, and hearing it directly from the songwriter can be enlightening.
The ringmaster of this event is festival co-founder, Reneda Cross. She has been organizing the growing event for four years now, with a staff of two or three people.
“The Songwriters’ Festival is in its infancy, not on its feet yet,” Cross said. “We are putting on a successful festival on a shoestring.”
Pensacola Beach lends itself naturally to a pub-crawl style festival. You can start out at one venue, and plan the rest of your day to end up at the other end of the beach.
Currently, there are 15 stages you can visit during the festival: The Grand Marlin, Sandshaker Lounge, Castaways, Flounders, Laguna’s, Lillo’s Tuscan Grille, Aloha Wine and Liquors, Paradise Bar and Grill, Sabine Sandbar, Quietwater Amphitheatre; The Wine Bar and Bamboo Willies will host the Art and Wine stage. In Pensacola, Blues Angel Music and StudioAmped at WSRE.
Along with seeing your favorite songwriters at a variety of stages, you can partake in other events. One such event is a workshop, scheduled for Wednesday, October 3, called “Singing with Your Speaking Voice, Speaking with Your Singing Voice.” This workshop features Beth Nielsen Chapman, a Nashville-based singer, songwriter and recording artist.
Chapman has written numerous hits, and written songs for many top artists including: Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Bette Midler, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Michael McDonald, Amy Grant, Keb Mo’, Roberta Flack, Faith Hill, Willie Nelson, Bettye LaVette and Waylon Jennings—just to name a few. Elton John performed her groundbreaking song, “Sand and Water,” on his 1997 U.S. tour in place of the song “Candle In The Wind” to honor the memory of Princess Diana.
There are also boat cruises scheduled for the festival. On Wednesday, October 3, there will be a sunset cruise, featuring Beth Nielsen Chapman. The other is scheduled for Friday, October 5. Dubbed “The Good News Cruise,” it will feature Charlie Black, Dana Hunt Black, Chas Sandford, and Jim “Moose” Brown.
Representative from Bigger Picture Group, Donna Britton, will discuss how to place songs in film/TV and pitch them to artists. She has had over 30 placements since the last festival, so there will be plenty of new information. CJ Watson will talk about his experience getting four songs in the movie “Halloween Party” and how that led to being commissioned to write four additional songs.
The Songwriters’ Festival will team up with Pensacola Beach Elementary School and play putt-putt golf on October 5. This will be the 3rd Annual Celebrity Mini Golf Tournament. Proceeds from the tournament are earmarked for the music programs in participating local schools.
Throughout the year, the Pensacola Beach Elementary School kids write lyrics and send them to the songwriters in Nashville. The songwriters then set the lyrics to music and come back to perform the songs.
WSRE will be filming a special edition of StudioAmped, featuring songwriters from the Pensacola Beach Songwriters’ Festival. It will be taped on Tuesday, October 2 at WSRE’s Jean and Paul Amos Performance Studio on the campus of Pensacola State College. The public is invited to be part of the studio audience and admission is free. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert will start at 7 p.m. The program is scheduled to air on WSRE at a future date. Songwriters will perform their songs made famous by well-known recording artists. Scheduled to appear are Beth Nielsen Chapman, Dan DeMay, and Kerry Kurt Phillips.
On Sunday, October 7, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Paradise Bar and Grill will host a gospel singing. “A Sunday Gospel On The Sound” will feature some of the best in Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music.
A big surprise scheduled for the festival is the appearance of American country artist, James Otto. He is part of MuzikMafia, a group of musicians known for creating country music without prejudice. Otto has many singles that have charted on Billboard’s Hot Country Song charts. On top of that, his album, “Sunset Man,” was produced by John Rich of Big and Rich fame, and Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts fame, generated his number one hit, “Just Got Started Lovin’ You.”
For Otto’s appearance, the plan is to have a general public performance at Bamboo Willies, with a more intimate ticketed event planned at the Grand Marlin.
“He is super talented, and we are very excited to bring him down,” Cross said of Otto.
Most stages are free. However, some stages are designated as listening rooms; the price for admission is $15 each. A VIP weekend pass wristband can be purchased for $50, which will give you access to all listening room stages with the exception of the Sunset Cruises.
PENSACOLA BEACH SONGWRITERS’ FESTIVAL
WHEN: Tuesday, October 2 through Sunday, October 7
WHERE: Various locations on Pensacola Beach, and two in Pensacola
COST: Varies depending on activities chosen