WALTON COUNTY — It’s a good weekend for music lovers along the Emerald Coast.
The fourth annual 30A Songwriters Festival officially begins Friday and runs through Sunday at venues along Scenic County 30A, from Rosemary Beach to Blue Mountain Beach. Headliners include Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Suzanne Vega and Fastball.
The festival gathers writers who perform their own music and performers who write their songs for a weekend of “soulful melodies, powerful vocals and compelling lyrics” in intimate spaces and beach neighborhoods, promoters say.
“It’s a fairly young event, it’s just in its fourth year, but we’ve got some really great performers,” said Jon Ervin with Visit South Walton. “Everybody’s there for the music, and it’s different than most festivals.”
Although several music festivals focus on gathering thousands of visitors, Ervin said the Songwriters Festival offers its patrons a more intimate experience. He said the popular event sells out early.
“This is really a great way to start the year,” Ervin said. “There will be great food, beverages and talented artists. It really makes for a great weekend.”
Dannica Lowery, a South Walton singer, has participated in the event for the past three years. She said her folksy-coffee house music meshes perfectly with the other artists in attendance.
“The festival is great,” Lowery said. “It’s a chance for musicians like me to be on the same level as some mainstream musicians. You meet a lot of your idols and even, maybe, get to share a stage with them. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.”
Venues range from unique listening rooms to spacious outdoor amphitheaters. Each location is distinguished by its individual vibe, ambiance and musically-inspired stage artwork. The festival is produced by the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County and is presented by Visit South Walton.
“The 30A Songwriters Festival has quickly gained a reputation among musicians as a forum for true songwriters to perform their self-penned songs as well as established performers to showcase their original compositions,” said Russell Carter, festival chairman and producer and owner of Russell Carter Artist Management. “We book artists with diverse musical styles. Our emphasis is the art of the song.”
Venues include Vue, Gulf Place Amphitheater and Fire on the western stretch of the road to Caliza in Alys Beach on the eastern end. In between, count on great concerts in Seaside at Bud & Alley’s, the Pizza Bar, the REP Theatre and the Amphitheater; WaterColor venues including the Gathering Spot, Fish Out of Water and the Boat House; Amavida, Town Hall and Summer Kitchen in Rosemary Beach; Pandora’s and Hibiscus in Grayton Beach; and new places like 723 Whiskey Bravo in Seagrove and Bentley’s in Seacrest.
WaterColor Inn & Resort will serve once again as the festival headquarters.
“The 30A Songwriters Festival is a three-day party which takes place along the outrageously gorgeous beaches of South Walton, unexpectedly romantic in wintertime,” said Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles, one of the performers at last year’s event.
Hoffs went on to describe the experience like this: “A series of magical moments unfolding over the course of the long weekend — old friends reuniting, new friendships being born … large audiences and performers enjoying days and nights of music, storytelling both poignant and humorous, spontaneous jams, Southern hospitality, delicious food and wine.”
Festival weekend passes can be purchased at 30aSongwritersFestival.com, at the Cultural Arts Alliance office and at Central Square Records in Seaside. Net proceeds from the 30A Songwriters Festival benefit the CAA; members of the CAA will receive an additional 10 percent off weekend passes. Call 622-5970 to become a member and take advantage of the discount.
Visit 30aSongwritersFestival.com for more information and to order tickets.
NEW THIS YEAR
- In an effort to make the transition between venues seamless, five shuttles will be running along County 30A from 5:30-11:30 p.m. daily. Guides aboard the shuttles will advise riders on performance schedules and make recommendations on dining, shopping, venues and more.
- Festival organizers will screen the documentary film, “Duke & the King,” at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Seaside Meeting Hall Theatre. Part biography, part concert film, “Duke & The King” reveals the compelling story of Elvis Presley's former bass player, Duke Bardwell, one of the great, unheralded talents in American music. Bardwell is a longtime resident of Santa Rosa Beach.
- The Cultural Arts Alliance formed a partnership with the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) that includes on-site support, marketing and artist relations for the 30A Songwriters Festival.
ECPhas an exhibit inside the airport featuring original festival stage artwork created by local artists, a festival banner is hung in a high traffic location, and the music of featured artists is played over the airport’s sound system. As an added benefit, the airport will announce artists as they arrive at the airport, and also welcome them via Facebook and Twitter.
“There will be hundreds of artists and fans who will fly into Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport between now and especially the week of the festival,” Carter said. “We want everyone to feel that the fun and music begins as soon as they land in Panama City Beach and ECP is partnering with us to ensure that happens. Don’t be surprised if you get welcomed personally to the festival as you walk off your plane.”
30A Songwriters Festival
- When: Jan. 18-20
- Where: Venues along Walton County 30A, from Rosemary Beach in the west to Blue Mountain Beach in the east
- Details, tickets: 30aSongwritersFestival.com
- Schedule: Click for the full schedule by venue, artist or date and time
The festival will feature more than 125 songwriters and 200 musical performances. Confirmed artists include:
Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jeffrey Steele, Nanci Griffith, Suzanne Vega, Fastball, Tift Merritt, Allison Moorer, Charlie Mars, Eliza Gilkyson, Freedy Johnston, Randall Bramblett, The Shadowboxers, Joe Leathers, Gretchen Peters, Brigitte DeMeyer, Tommy Womack, Vicki Peterson, Susan Cowsill, Chas Sandford, Shannon Whitworth, Tommy Talton, Daphne Willis, Geoff McBride, Grayson Capps, Jeff Black, Reed Waddle, Don Dixon & Marti Jones, Cory Chisel, David Olney, DeAnna Cox, Webb Wilder, Cooper Carter & the Royal Senders, Wesley Cook, Andrew Combs, Blue Ribbon Healers, Brian White, Dannica Lowery, David Berkeley, Davin McCoy, Diane Durrett, Eliot Bronson, Gabriel Kelley, Hannah Thomas, Humming House, Jill Andrews, Karyn Williams, Kellin Watson, Kelsey Anna, Kyle Jacobs, Max McCann, Ray Bonneville, Ruston Kelly, Steve Bogard, The Owsley Brothers, Seth and May, Jeep Rosenberg, Sterling Fletcher and Jessica Cayne.