Any good song tells a story. The music and lyrics should take you there.
And that’s what is so special about the 30A Songwriters Festival. It captures your soul instantly through the music, the lyrics and the many stories the songwriters share through their performances. Whether it’s an intimate concert at Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar or a traditional style outdoor amphitheater where hundreds are gathered for the performance, there’s something about being on the lookout for and waiting in anticipation of that certain song that reverberates with your senses, memories and experiences.
On Jan. 13-16, South Walton will be transformed into a songwriter’s paradise and the “hottest” mid-January destination for music fans. This year’s lineup brings together some of the great talents of the music industry. More than 175 artists will perform at 25 stages resulting in nearly 225 performances, and countless once in a life time moments. Esteemed artists include JOHN PRINE, CHEAP TRICK, DR. JOHN & THE NITE TRIPPERS and SHAWN COLVIN.
Set on the stunning Santa Rosa Beach’s Hwy. 30A and South Walton, the weekend that ensued in 2016 left a lasting impression on festival goers. Now in its eighth year, the festival has grown and evolved into a South Walton yearly tradition for music fans. And it’s the perfect event to showcase acclaimed artists and their writers, many of the writers with top-notch vocals of their own. Being able to get up close and personal with these music hit-makers is a big allure of the weekend.
Though different types of music appeal to different folks, and lyrics can be interpreted different ways by different people depending on what they’ve experienced in their lives, the musical notes and the words together will stir up emotions, memories and recalls of the storylines woven into life experiences, some joyful, some sad. We, as listeners, in many cases, listen to our own lives unfold as our own stories are being told. Part of the uniqueness of the 30A Songwriters Festival is the intimacy of hearing the songwriters tell the story behind the lyrics. Some songs may sound familiar from years past, some you may have heard on the radio recently. And some you may never hear again, but will likely never forget.
There is a diversity of venues and live music for each, with its own atmosphere and ambiance, according to preference of taste. Some pleasantly chill and low key, others offering an energetic, exciting vibes and catering to the looking-for-something-unique listener and avid music admirer. And in each one, songwriters pour their hearts out, laughing and joking and connecting with the audience on a very basic level. Venues, from rustic and upscale bars and restaurants, elegant clubs bedecked with white tents, outdoor amphitheaters, coffee houses and lake houses, town halls, theaters, covered patios to record stores range in capacity from 75 to 400 indoors to 4,000 outdoors. As a ticket holder, you can get up close and personal with your favorites — and discover new ones — in relaxed, intimate venues as if you are sitting in your living room with your two new best songwriter friends (and their guitars) within walking distance of the beach, or waving your hands majestically with hundreds of others at the larger performances.
With several back-to-back performances to watch, it is a unique opportunity to experience the heartfelt dedication and get inside the personalities of the artists that is part of songwriting. At Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, you can sip something warm, curl yourself into a cushioned seat with a few others by the warmth of the fire pit, and be serenaded by the guitar and raw talent to the tune of almost your own personal concert. At Central Square Records located above Sundog Books in Seaside, it’s open to both ticket and non-ticket holders. It’s more of a casual atmosphere and folks can stand on the porch upstairs and listen to music. Central Square Records also sells CDs of some of the musicians who stop in during their stay.
While some of the talent at this year’s festival are locals who are just starting out or seasoned songwriters vocalizing their own penned lyrics. If we are lucky, we’ll get to hear Emerson Hart (Tonic), David Ryan Harris (John Mayer band), David Hodges (Evanescence), and many, many others.
Recognizable performances on the main stage will include Parker Millsap, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, and Amy LaVere. Featured artists in venues at night on 30A include John Fullbright, Over the Rhine, JoJo Hermann (Widespread Panic), Chely Wright, Murray Attaway (Guadalcanal Diary), Sarah Lee Guthrie,Matthew Sweet, Tom Gray (The Brains), Shawn Mullins, Peter Case, John Gorka, Nicole Witt, and Farewell Angelina.
Headiner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees Cheap Trick and their highly melodic crunchy guitar pop song craft will perform Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14, at Grand Boulevard. Dr. John, the greatest purveyor of New Orleans music in its most unique and original form and six-time Grammy winner joins the lineup as well with both his Yamaha grand piano and the Nite Trippers. Grammy Award-winner and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame legend John Prine brings his love songs, his melancholy tales of life, his social commentary, and his humor to the stage on Sunday afternoon. Shawn Colvin, who was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award at the 2016 Americana Honors & Awards Show, is part of this exciting mix as well as rising star Parker Millsap.
Year after year, the 30A Songwriters Festival draws more and more enthusiastic, appreciative and knowledgeable audiences to South Walton, as each guest identifies with a particular songwriter or even several. Attendees are willing to invest in quality listening experiences while making new discoveries. And songwriters are approachable performers, not always in the limelight and unreachable, but down-to-earth folks like you and me with a passion to tell their stories live through a genre or lyrics.
Some now seasoned festival performers, these songwriters have discovered there are few things that go better together than beaches, relaxing atmospheres, excited attendees, gorgeous gulf sunsets, intimate and various venues, all while doing what they love — performing the songs they’ve written.
You will see old friends, meet new ones, laugh, cry, recall memories you thought had faded, discover new music and gain a new appreciation for music from your past when you come. Usually there are those still left standing at the final performance on Sunday evening, and they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else during January.
As always, 100 percent of the net proceeds from the 30A Songwriters Festival benefit the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and help it to fulfill its mission to support the arts throughout Walton County.
For more information on the 2017 30A Songwriters Festival, including a full list of artists and venues, visit 30asongwritersfestival.com.
Purchase Tickets: Festival weekend passes are available for $265 and can be purchased at 30asongwritersfestival.com, locally in South Walton at the Cultural Arts Alliance office, 105 Hogtown Bayou Lane (off North 393) in Santa Rosa Beach and at Central Square Records in Seaside. The website also offers VIP ticket options and VIP dinners.
Stay: In Seaside, visit seasidefl.com/vacation/rentals/ and click on one of the Visitors Bureau partners for accommodations.
Sunburst Beach Vacations and Homeowner’s Collection is offering discounted festival tickets with your accommodation package reservation. When you book, you also receive a free night’s stay with a minimum two-night consecutive booking in most homes.
Listen: Get geared up for the festival by listening to the artist on the radio prior to seeing them in person. Tune in to http://30aswf.gigdog.fm.
Link: The official 30A Songwriters Festival website, The 30A Songwriters Festival on Facebook, The 30A Songwriters Festival on Twitter@30AFest, #30AFest