The Lazy Loafer Speaks — 30A Songwriters Festival
Editor’s Note: When the Boss Loafer saw we were writing something about the 30A Songwriters Festival, he decided he wanted to put his two cents in…Since he is the boss, here it is.
Many, many years ago (back when I was just a little Lazy) I was reading an interview with one of my favorite female performers. It could have been Bonnie Raitt. Or Melissa Etheridge. Maybe Sheryl Crowe. I forget who.
At some point, though, she was talking about the rest of the people who worked with her. Yeah, she said, you go to the concert or buy the CD for Bonnie Raitt (or whomever), but there are a whole host of other folks involved. There’s the band, back-up singers, sound people, producers, etc. But there’s someone else, she said, no one ever thinks about—the songwriter.
You see, she explained, people think the celebrity onstage is solely responsible for creating the song…and in many cases, they are. But they also frequently rely on songwriters to give them the raw material to which the performer then imparts their own, unique musical style. She went on to mention this one guy in particular—John Hiatt—who, I learned is responsible for a quite a few of the songs we’ve heard on the radio performed by people other than him.
This was in the days before the big, bad internet so the next day I went to my local record store (remember those?) and asked the clerk if he’d ever heard of John Hiatt. He knew exactly who I was talking about.
“The man’s an absolute genius. He’ll never be a superstar—he hasn’t got those A-list celebrity good looks—but he’s responsible for boosting a lot of people who never would have been noticed up onto the A-list. He writes poetry…sheer poetry.” He took me over to the “H” section of the store.
Hiatt had a number of albums (remember those?), most of which contained a song title or two I recognized. I picked up a few and took them home for a listen. It was everything I could have asked for. Rock, funk, blues, country. And woven through it all were lyrics the likes of which I’d never heard.
It’s the twilight that captures the sorrow of time
In between the life and the lived.
I press on through the darkness so thoroughly blind
To a light the new morning gives.
–John Hiatt, “Come Home to You”
That’s a helluva long way from “ooh baby, baby,” “yeah, yeah, yeah,” and “all night long” which was the bulk of the lyrics I knew in those days. It opened up a whole new world of music appreciation to me and I quickly went from listening to whatever was on the Billboard Top 40, to searching out the arcane, the obscure, the esoteric. I have had an enormous appreciation for songwriters ever since.
So, when those three idiots who work for me, called a few years ago to say there would be a “30-A Songwriters Festival” in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida I couldn’t wait to get my tickets and book the trip. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and I’ve gone back every year since. Each time I’ve been introduced to new faces such as Chely Wright and Mary Gauthier
and seen some old favorites—Matthew Sweet, Joan Osborne and, from just around the corner (Pensacola, that is) Shawn Mullins.
But time I cannot change
So here’s to looking back
You know I drink a whole bottle of my pride and I toast to change
To keep these demons off my back
–Shawn Mullins, “Shimmer”
This year’s line-up will be the biggest yet. Shawn Mullins will be there, along with Richard Thompson (one of the early members of Fairport Convention), James McMurtry (the live version of “Choctaw Bingo” has to be seen to be believed) and Robert Randolph & the Family Band (possibly THE most high-energy act I’ve ever seen). Also, people like Ani di Franco, Mary Gauthier and Matthew Sweet. Bluesmen Tinsley Ellis and Webb Wilder will be there as well and quite a few locals: Dannica Lowery, Donnie Sundal & Boukou Groove and a somewhat new voice on the scene—the multi-talented Cody Copeland.
Of course, every silver lining has it’s cloud. If there’s one thing about the 30-A Songwriters’ Festival that has always annoyed me, it’s that it takes place during NFL championship weekend. I’ve been complaining about that for years, now…no one ever listens to me.
Then again, all of my favorite teams have already been eliminated anyway.