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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Key West Songwriter's Festival

                                     2015   KEY WEST SONGWRITER'S FEST!!!

(Listen To The Greatest Country while you read the Blog)

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The largest music honor has been bestowed on me once again and I will be in the 2015 Key West Songwriter's Festival!

The Key West Songwriter's Festival is the largest and most important musical event of the year in Key West, bar none.

For those not familiar with the Key West Songwriter's Festival (KWSF), it is the largest songwriter festival in the United States and is put on by BMI Nashville, along with Key West's Smokin' Tuna's Charlie Bauer and Dani Strampello Holliday. Everyone does a hell of a great job every year. I don't know this year's exact count, but in the past few years it's been somewhere around 150 songwriters  You can imagine what a hand full it is getting everyone organized, for not only their music schedules, but also their lodging, transportation, and everything else that goes along with it. Hats off to them all!!!

It's Much More Than Just a Songwriter's Festival

As I mentioned, this is a BMI Nashville event. So keep in mind, these are the finest songwriters in the United States. Every year Nashville virtually moves to Key West for a few days to stretch it's legs at the KWSF. We're not only talking about songwriters either. In reality, this isn't just a songwriter's festival, per say.We're talking publishers, producers, A&R people, record company owners and execs, you name it. They're all here.This is an event where everyone gets together to not only hear great music by the writers, but also to let their hair down a bit, yet at the same time, catch some new acts they may not have seen before. It's not at all uncommon for them to  put a few business deals together. In short, the KWSF is a major event on so many levels!

So, as you can see this is not just any songwriter festival. Of the approximately 150 songwriters in the event, I think about a half dozen are Key West songwriters. The rest are from, or through Nashville.

EDIT: Dani Holliday just informed me that there are actually 227 registered songwriters in the event this year, so I wasn't even close, being 77 short of the actual number! All the more work for her! Everyone needs to take their hats off to her, Charlie Bauer, and everyone from the Nashville end of the organizing side of things! Than you! Additionally, she mentioned that if you count bands, there are around 240, then add the songwriters coming here that are not in the event and you're most likely looking at close to and maybe even surpassing 500! Also she mentioned that  there are writers from L.A., New York, England, Germany, and Australia!!! :-O

As for the event itself, this year it runs from May 6 - 10. Songwriters will be showcasing their songs all over town, at various different venues. With a very few exceptions, all of these events are free, in the best of Key West traditions!

I'm very fortunate in that I have been a Nashville published songwriter with the firm McClure and Trowbridge Publishing Nashville, for the last fifteen years. When I first got into the festival, it was through my publisher in Nashville, George McClure. He's assisted in sending good vibes to the festival ever since on my behalf! Thanks George!

Since that first time, Key West promoters Dani Strampello Holliday and Charlie Bauer have also been batting for me as well! Thank you Dani and Charlie!

The last two KWSFs that I've been in, I've been paired up with my good friend, Nashville based Misty Loggins, for the showcase. When I found out my schedule this year, in the beginning of March, I was thrilled when I had a call from Misty telling me that we were again paired up! Fantastic! Not only that, but we're paired up playing on Key West's South Beach at the end of Duval St.!

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(Misty Loggins)

South Beach was where I had my debut gig with the KWSF. As good as the other venues were that I've been at over the years, this was always my favorite! Playing on the beach, looking out to the  Florida Straits/Atlantic Ocean. Plus, it's right at the Southernmost Cafe, so you can go inside and grab a bite to eat or,get yourself a libation at their walk up bar, right on the beach! They have a good selection of great beer there as well!

One thing about the KWSF however that is different from the other gigs that go on the entire rest of the year here in Key West, these are concerts, they are not bar gigs. At bar gigs people have the option to listen to the music, or chat with their friends. At the songwriters festival, these are concerts. The audience is here to listen to the songs, as they were composed, by the writers who wrote them. There's no conversations. These are concerts. People are here to listen. As a performer, it's something that we all love doing; playing for folks who are there to enjoy the songs we write.

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(Southernmost Cafe on South Beach)

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(View of the water at South Beach, Key West)

The other day I went over to the KWSF's website and saw that fellow local Howard Livingston will be joining Misty and me on our set! Howard's a great guy and there will be a lot of laughs and great music to be had, no doubt!

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(Howard Livingston - picture by Mark Reiman)

Misty, Howard, and I will be playing Saturday, May 9 from noon to 1 PM on South Beach, Key West. It's the best location of all the events in the festival, in my opinion.

Stop by and catch our show!

Also, in the best of Key West traditions, 90% of all the shows are free (including ours!). Just walk in and enjoy!

If you are thinking of coming from out of town, book right away. It wouldn't be the first time that every room in town is booked solid for the festival!

For more information on the Key West Songwriter's Festival, please check out their website!

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(On The Beach 2011)

Please also "Like" my music page on Facebook!

To hear and download my music

Also available on iTunes, and CD Universe! Search:  "Key West Chris"

Thanks Everyone!!! 

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At Viva

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Bought a Bar In Key West!

                                                  I BOUGHT A BAR IN KEY WEST!

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Well, the title isn't entirely correct. What I did was buy into a bar in Key West! Dave and Leslie Bevens, owners of The Cork and Stogie, after six years of ownership, were looking for a partner and it was just a natural fit for us. I'm grateful to both of them for taking me on!

To start with, The Cork' is our regular local bar. Before Dani and I moved a year ago, it was three blocks away. Now it's two blocks. We would stop by there several times a week and always felt right at home. It's a neighborhood bar, which also gets the most interesting visitors from out of town, so there's always someone interesting to chat with and who knows what might be the subject at hand?

Authors, comedians, actors, locals, and musicians seem to gravitate to the Cork'. It's that kind of place!  

How this all came about was around the beginning of February Viva Zapata was up for sale. I ran over there when I heard about it and, along with two others made arrangements to buy the place. In the end however, I came to the realization that we really didn't have enough to do the deal. We'd be able to close on it and keep it alive for a few months, but after that the rent would be going up on a graduated scale and be double what it started, in the height of the slowest part of the year. If we had another $100,000 or so, it could work, but that wasn't the case. In the end we decided to pass on it. The owner had reserve people and they have since bought it and I wish them the very best!

Shortly after this, I was at the Cork and Stogie and Dave asked me if I'd be interested in joining the fold. For me it was a "no brainer". Dave and I were friends outside the Cork' and have known each other for years. He and Leslie are honest as the day is long and they call things as they see them, with no tap dancing involved, so to speak.

So, now I am a bar owner in Key West! What a thrill!

We have some things to accomplish and a few hurdles to crest to do so, however we're underway!

Me, being a musician, would love to have live music at the Cork! We have the appropriate license from the City of Key West, however we don't have the licenses from BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, the companies that pay what's known in the music business as "the mechanical royalties", or the royalties that are paid when someone plays your song live at a venue, radio airplay, on a jukebox. So looking into that is on the agenda. The biggest hurdle is will it make money, or lose money? The Cork is extremely small. Without getting into specific numbers, lets just say that for the Cork to invest in paying for the mechanical rights to all three organizations, BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC, will it pay off? So, we're not sure if having live music is something that will work. It's ironic that a Nashville published songwriter (me) buys into a bar, but may not be able to have live music. I'm not complainig or groaning mind you. It is what it is. Over the years I've seen BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC sue bars and restaurants for not paying the fees and they win every time, rightfully so. What I've seen are damages judgements anywhere from $65,000 to close to $200,000. That's not an option. At the moment live music is on hold and we're using other sources for atmosphere music, namely Pandora.

We're also looking at a new A/C system. The old one just won't cut it when summer hits.

Patio seating is likewise a very large issue we have to look into. We have some homework to tackle concerning the City of Key West.

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The porch of The Cork and Stogie seems to always draw the trade winds that flow through Key West.

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Dani Hoy behind the bar at the Cork' She doesn't actually work there, but she looks like she does!

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The Cork and Stogie's Living Room

So, now I'm an owner of a bar in Key West! I think the funniest thing about it all was, after Dave and I made the final agreement and I bought my share, we went and told bartenders Tiffany and Mark. Tiffany quit on the spot! HA HA! Actually, by coincidence, Tiffany was going to give her notice that day anyway, as it turned out. She's starting a paddle board yoga business! Tiffany's been just fantastic over the three years she's been here. I of course, only saw her as a bartender for those three years and not a co-worker, save for the last two weeks, but The Cork and it's patrons will all miss Tiffany! Good luck Tiffany!

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As we speak, The Cork has an assortment of over 60 beers, an excellent wine selection, as well as a unique collection of cigars, many of which are not found on the island.

The Cork and Stogie is located at 1218 Duval St., Key West, Fl. Conch Republic U.S.A.

When you're in town, be sure to stop and check us out!!!!! 

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Recently Dave Senior and I went for a ride around Key West in an MGB owned by Brian Bradley.

If you'd like to see what Key West looks like from a 45 year old British sports car convertible, here it is! Thanks Dave and Brian!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks everyone!!!

To hear and download my music

Also available on iTunes, and CD Universe! Search:  "Key West Chris" 


Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Wrecker's Race!! Top priorities when visiting Key West included!

The Wrecker's Race!

"Sailing"  from the album "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)

To hear and download my music

(also available on iTunes, and CD Universe! Search "Key West Chris")

The Wrecker's Race!

In Key West every year there is an on going event called "The Wrecker's Race". It is held over four months every winter. The reason it's called The Wreckers Race, is because part of Key West's history is steeped in salvaging wrecked ships that were destroyed when they hit the reef, several miles off shore. When this would happen, those in Key West would sail out to the wreck, save the crew and then proceed to unload the ship of it's cargo for themselves.

While this sounds like looting, it's actually not and was 100% legal. As soon as the ship hit the reef and was destroyed, with the hull torn out and the boat sitting on the reef, the insurance paid for all of the cargo, as well as the boat itself. During this period in time, Key West was the richest town in Florida! This took place up to about 1890.

It's the most natural thing, when living on an island, to go sailing! There are sailing and yacht clubs around the island, as one might expect. Many people live on their boats here as well. In short, the water is the crux of the reasons Key West exists. Everything revolves around the water here. Yes, we have bars. Alcohol is the biggest business economically in town, but bars would never be here were it not for the water. The main reason bars are here in the first place was to give a recess to those in the fishing business. Way, way, way back Captain Tony's Saloon doubled as an ice house for the fishing industry. Word had it that in the early 1800's the water came right up to Captain Tony's... it wasn't Captain Tony's then of course and I don't know what it's name was at that time. However, sailors would come in on their off time for some beer or rum and who knows what else?

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Captain Tony's Saloon, Greene Street, Key West, Conch Republic.

If you are coming to Key West, here are your top priories:

1) Get out on the water

2) Go see Hemingway's House

3) Catch Barry Cuda at B.O.'s Fishwagon Friday's 6 - 9

4) Get Out on the Water

5) Catch Bill Blue for a Soundcheck at the Green Parrot 5:30 - 7 Fridays

6) Get out on the water

7) Catch Michael McCloud at Schooner Wharf  Wednesday - Sunday, Noon - 5 

 8) Get out on the water

9) Relax at The Cork and Stogie

So hopefully you get the idea that heading out on the water is imperative when going to Key West? If you don't get out on the water when you're visiting Key West, you just don't get it. Hey, you're on a tropical island that is in the United States, yet at the same time it's a different country, The Conch Republic! Why would anyone not head out on the water here? Hello. This island is 107 miles from the mainland and is where the Gulf Stream originates, as the waters of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico merge and bring temperate weather to Ireland and Great Britain. There are even palm trees on the south coast of Ireland! Guess where the seeds for those got their start?

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(Palm Tree in Ireland)

So, it goes without saying that getting out on the water is seriously what you want to do in Key West!

Every year, The Schooner Wharf Bar holds "The Wrecker's Race" and everyone on the island is grateful for it! The race runs from Key West to the Sand Key Light, about seven miles west of Key West. It's held once a month in January, February, March, and April. I've had the pleasure of being in the race around five times or so and this year I was invited by the boat Blue Ice, a 47 foot (16M) sailboat, to join them with Captain Bruce at the helm! What a wonderful time and day we had!

Pictures speak better than I ever can, so enjoy and a big thanks to Evelina, the owner of Schooner Wharf Bar who organizes all of this and also Captain Bruce and the crew of Blue Ice! A great list of passengers as well. Everyone had a complete blast too! The icing on the cake (Blue icing?? HA HA! ) was that we finished second in class!!!!

The Blue Ice is available for all sorts of endeavors! Check them out on their website for more!

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Blue Ice at the dock before leaving

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At the dock

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Leaving Key West Bight

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A beautiful sailboat visiting from the BVI

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Captain Bruce at the helm, leaving Key West Bight

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There's a party below decks as well!

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The America cutting through the water!

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Our sails

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The host of the event, Evelina at the helm!

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Aboard Blue Ice in the race!

Thank you for reading the blog! The next should be up within a couple of days... Big, Fun news on the way!!!

Thank you!!!

To hear and download my music

(also available on iTunes, and CD Universe! Search "Key West Chris")