Key West Songwriter's Festival 2012
What can one say about the Key West Songwriter’s Festival? Well, for starters it’s by far, the largest musical event held in Key West. Additionally, unlike other musical events, in addition to 130+ songwriters in attendance, there are also the top executives in the recording industry in from Nashville. Basically what happens is the recording industry moves to Key West for six days, or so to have fun and let their hair down. The festival is a joint production between Charlie Bauer, who started the festival 17 years ago and BMI Nashville. BMI, Charlie’s establishment Smokin’ Tuna, and Better Angels music publishing are the main sponsors of the event, which is held in about thirty different locations around the Island. The island was packed as well for the festival! Word on the street was that if you could actually find a room, they were running $400 a night and air fare from Nashville to Key West was $900 for a walk on.
One of the fun things for everyone here during the Songwriter’s Fest is the realization that so many songs we hear are not written by those who make the songs famous, but rather by songwriters whom many of us may have never heard of. Forgive the pun, but the un-sung heroes of music today. Here in Key West we always hear great musicians playing what’s known as “Covers”; Songs made famous by other artists. It’s a two way street, as no matter how good a musician or a band are, without good songs to work with, they’ll never have a foundation to work off of. Often I’ll hear a song myself that I always assumed was written by the artist who made it famous. This year I heard the song “I Ain’t Missin’ You At All”, of course made famous by John Waits. This year I learned he didn’t write it, but rather a guy in a cowboy hat playing at The Bottle Cap did. Regretfully, I missed his name. Likewise the beautiful song done by Jimmy Buffett and Martina McBride “Trip Around The Sun”. I always thought it was a Buffett song. Stupid me, huh? Then, there I was at a completely and utterly packed Smokin’ Tuna when Al Anderson started playing it. He co-wrote it with Steve Bruton and Sharon Vaughan. When I heard it, I had to hop up from my table and tunnel my way to the stage armed with my iPhone video rolling!
For me, this was my second year as a performer. Special thanks and tons of gratitude to BMI, Charlie, Dani Holiday, and McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville for getting me involved in this fantastic event. Dani Holiday is the point woman for the festival here in Key West. Everything seems to go through Dani and she’s one very, very busy woman! She always kept a smile however, which in turn keeps everyone else smiling as well! As with last year, I was one of her poster deliverers. It’s a fun task and as I’m local with some time to burn, I’m always happy to contribute.
This year my gig was at the Best Western Key Ambassador, which is over by the airport. I was teamed up with my pal, Misty Loggins, whom I recorded Island Blue with earlier this year. Additionally, my old buddy Bobby D, who played a lot of the lead guitar on my CD “Shanghai’d and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)” had just moved back into town the day before and was kind enough to video both Misty and my performances. Our gig went great, as well. We were poolside. What a great setting! Misty kicked ass on her songs too! What a performer and a great honor to share the stage with! She was just flat out fantastic! We also did the first solo acoustic version of Island Blue that we’ve ever done. With the song getting airplay from California all across the country… and across the Atlantic in Europe as well, wild horses couldn’t drag us from the stage to keep us from doing that one! The last time we were together doing it was when she recorded her vocals back five months ago at Danny Simpson’s Private Ear Studios. We never got to rehearse it, but Misty being the pro that she is, aced it!
In addition, I got to meet not one, but two Facebook friends Flip Flop and also, Kent McCoy! What fun and we also hung out here and there throughout the festival at additional events. My buddy Key Largo Joe also made it after automobile trouble on the way down the Keys Thanks Joe!!!
It being just the nature of the beast, there are so many events going on simultaneously, it’s just impossible to see them all. Two performers that I caught for the first time that left a big impression on me were Chuck Cannon and Lauren Lucas. This was Chuck’s seventeenth appearance, so he’s been in every event since the beginning as this was the seventeenth annual event. Chuck’s an amazing guitarist who plays in a very bazar tuning all of the time. At the same time, he’s also a marvelous wordsmith. It was a treat to meet and also hear him. As a matter of fact, he and Misty wrote a song and played it together on her set! Great stuff indeed!
I bumped into Lauren Lucas’ set at Island Dogs by chance and was very impressed. Great chord changes, not typical and wonderful lyrics to go along with them. It was a great surprise! Regretfully I didn’t get to meet her. I was at an outside table, so there was a bit of crowd noise and the camera was a good deal shaky, however her audio cuts through quite well.
Since Charlie Bauer started Smokin’ Tuna back last summer, it only made sense that Smokin’ Tuna was the central location for everything. It’s a great music venue as well. Local songwriter, by way of Texas, by way of Nashville, Clint Bullard had what had to be the best audience reaction of the entire festival. Everyone in the crowd was singing along with the choruses/bridges in all of his songs! I didn’t see this with any other performers on this magnitude. It was truly awe inspiring! Clint did a great set as well and having such fantastic support left me in amazement of both his great performance as well as his fans enthusiasm for him. It made me feel good all over!
Also at Smokin’ Tuna were sets from the writers at Better Angels. What a marvelous group of writers they are as well! In one forty five minute set, I heard three #1 hits. Amazing really! The head of Better Angels, Rob sat in on the Cajon on all of his players sets. I had a couple of nice short conversations with him both this year and last. What a positive guy! We’re all grateful for his support of the event!
I already can’t wait for next year’s Songwriter’s Fest! The Key West Songwriter’s Fest is a celebration of writers. No, you won’t hear any covers… but you may just know a lot of the songs you hear, done by the artists who are the ones who actually wrote them. (Additionally, I can promise you that you’ll hear a boatload of just incredible songs that you never heard before as well!) Without them, the artists who made them famous, or cover them in bars as solo, or as bands, would never have had them to play to begin with. This isn’t a matter of what came first, the chicken or the egg. The song is always born first. Everything else comes after that, the arrangements, the production, the musicianship, the performances, the recordings, everything. The song always comes first in music. The song is the nucleus of music.