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Tune Up for this Year’s Songwriter Festivals in the United States

by Debra Bokur

Feb 6, 2020

Indiemonozar | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

The popularity of songwriter festivals continues to grow. Along with exceptional live music experiences, audiences are often treated to sessions with songwriters in a tradition that encourages them to share the fascinating and moving stories behind their lyrics.


Palm Coast Songwriters Festival, May 1–3, will showcase the works of artists, including Sarah Beth Terry, JR Ward, Steve Azar, Ira Dean, Bridgette Tatum, Casey Beathard, Leslie Satcher and James Slater. One of the many attractions of this particular festival is the chance to listen in small, intimate venues. Stages include the Hidden Treasures Raw Bar & Grill in Flagler Beach, Moonrise Brewery and Daytona State College Palm Coast Amphitheater. There’s also a general admission lawn, but seating is not provided. Instead, attendees should plan to bring their own chairs or blankets.


Key West plays host to the world’s largest songwriters festival, the 24th edition of the Key West Songwriters Festival, May 8–12. Hugely popular, this island-wide party regularly attracts top industry names. This year’s line up includes Liz Rose, Earl Bud Lee, Brad Paisley, Lee Roy Parnell, Even Stevens and Kylie Sackley, who will take to stages in a variety of local venues, including the Ocean Key Resort, Key West Theater, Schooner Wharf and the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. While the majority of shows are free, some require advance ticket purchase. Check the website for details.


Key West Songwriters Festival. Photo: Giancarlo Espinosa | Dreamstime.com


The annual Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival in Nashville, Tennessee, March 24–28, ranks as an annual favorite with both artists and fans, regularly drawing in around 300 songwriter participants. The first official festival took place in 1993, and past stages included historic and popular spots such as The Bluebird Café, Hard Rock Café Nashville, The Listening Room Café and The Local.


Fall will bring top singer-writer talent to the annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival, generally held in September. Averaging around 100 national and regional songwriters, this laid-back fest offers shows at locations in Margaritaville Biloxi, downtown Ocean Springs, Gautier and Moss Point. The fun at this popular musical event includes workshops with songwriters, and special events such as 2019’s Gospel Showcase.


Always highly anticipated, the 30A Songwriters Festival takes its name from its location along Highway 30A in South Walton, Florida, and is offered each January. Pulling in big names such as Brian Wilson, Tanya Tucker, the Indigo Girls, Don McLean and John Prine — all of whom performed at the 2020 event — this annual Who’s Who of singer-songwriters has been in production for more than 10 years, and serves as the major fundraiser for Walton County’s Cultural Arts Alliance, a private, non-profit organization. Performances are staged in intimate spaces and big amphitheaters, allowing for a variety of musical experiences. Keep an eye on the website for announcements regarding the next festival, as tickets go fast and area lodging fills quickly.


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