30A Songwriters Festival to feature Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Graham Nash and Leon Russell By Debbie McChesney
Music from all over the country is coming to town for the sixth annual 30A Songwriters Festival, heating up a frigid January and luring music lovers from across the country. The festival, held Jan. 16-18, features a variety of venues — from the grassy amphitheater in Gulf Place to the intimate setting of Bud & Alley’s Back Porch. No matter the place, the laid back atmosphere of 30A prevails. Seated on wooden stools and chairs, instruments in hand, artists spend time telling the stories behind the songs in the conversational tone that further draws out the overall intimacy of the festival.
The line-up this year brings together some of the great talents of the music industry. If we are lucky, we might hear Graham Nash tell the story behind the hit song “Our House.”
“It was kind of a cold gray morning as it sometimes can be in Los Angeles, and I said, ‘Why don’t I light the fire and you put some flowers in the vase that you just bought.’ So she’s cutting stems and leaves and arranging flowers in this vase, and I’d lit the fire. Now, my and Joan’s life at the time were far from ordinary … and I thought, ‘What an ordinary moment.’ And I sat down at Joan’s piano and an hour later, ‘Our House’ was written.
Nash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice — with Crosby, Stills and Nash and later with The Hollies. He was also inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame twice and is a Grammy Award winner. Nash’s is a not-to-be-missed performance.
The 30A Songwriters Festival is known as a place for audiences to hear songwriters perform their own music. Leon Russell certainly has a large selection to choose from. He has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Barbara Streisand, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Delaney and Bonnie and Whitney Houston, just to name a few. Elton John credits Russell for encouraging him when he was first getting started and gave a very compelling introduction when Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, saying “he has the perfect mix of Soul, Gospel, and Bluegrass.” Their joint album, The Union, was released in 2010. Russell will be playing at Gulf Place on Saturday following Jason Isbell. Isbell is best known for his song ”Cover Me Up,” which he wrote for his wife. So grab your lawn chairs and arrive early for an entire afternoon of legendary music.
Music lovers will love getting the opportunity to witness different musical presentations. One of my personal favorites is the “in the round” setting, in which three or four musicians share the stage taking turns singing and supporting each other with harmonicas and humor. Last year, Ruston Kelly, Kyle Jacobs and Joe Leathers shared the microphone at The Boat House in Watercolor. The small venue on the lake coupled with the banter among the musicians created a fun and artistic presentation.
Although the weather usually cooperates with Russell Carter, the producer and organizer of The 30A Songwriters Festival, his own Indigo Girls, whom he discovered and now manages, fought off wind and blowing sand to give one of the most memorable concerts during a particularly blustery day at a previous Songwriters Fest in Alys Beach. They will be performing this year, hopefully under better conditions.
Get geared up for the festival by listening to the artist on the radio prior to seeing them in person.
Visit 30A Songwriters Festival online.