The first Martha's Vineyard Songwriters' Festival will bring a dozen songwriters to Martha's Vineyard this weekend. The festival is a spin-off of the Key West Songwriters' Festival, which began in 1996 at the Hog's Breath Saloon with about eight songwriters. This past spring, over 130 writers attended and performed at the festival there, which has become a major shoulder-season event in Key West.
Charlie Bauer, the promoter of the Key West Songwriters' Festival, says that Bruce Isaacson, a Vermonter who has performed on the Vineyard several times in the past, suggested that this island would be another good place to hold a songwriters' festival. "The main thing is to have fun and bring some performers out there," says Mr. Bauer. "It keeps bringing more and more people back every year."
The event's main sponsor is Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), the company that collects license fees from businesses that use music, which it then distributes as royalties to songwriters, composers, and music publishers. This festival is designed primarily for the songwriters, in hopes that they will take advantage of the retreat-like setting and form new creative partnerships with each other. They will also, of course, be bringing their music to new audiences here.
Kim Carnes, a Nashville-based singer/songwriter known far and wide for her 1981 mega hit "Bette Davis Eyes," will return to Martha's Vineyard to participate in the festival. She was here in late July to perform at Rock the Rock, a fundraiser for the Island Affordable Housing Fund.
"It's just such a beautiful place," Ms. Carnes says of the Vineyard. "I'd wanted to come there my whole life." She is looking forward to coming back, and to meeting other participants in this weekend's festival, especially Lucie Silvas from Great Britain.
"Up until the time I moved to Nashville," Ms. Carnes says, "I wrote by myself or sometimes with my keyboard player. Collaboration is about chemistry, and do you have the same taste in music, and is it fun?
"If I'm in the middle of writing a song, I write it over and over again until I get it right. There are a lot of people in this town [Nashville] who write really well on assignment, within a close time-frame, but I'm not one of them. Whenever it hits me, I go to the piano and see if it's going to work out."
Ms. Carnes will be playing at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, along with four other performers: troubadour Scotty Emerick, whose compositions include Toby Keith's "As Good As I Once Was," "I'm Just Talkin' 'Bout Tonight" and "A Little Too Late," all of which he co-wrote with Keith; Chris Barron, former front man for alt-rock group the Spin Doctors ("Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" and "Two Princes"); and five-time BMI Country Songwriter of the Year Paul Overstreet, the pen behind Randy Travis's "Deeper than the Holler," The Judds' "Love Can Build a Bridge," among others.
Martha's Vineyard Songwriters' Festival, Friday, Sept. 18, 8-10:30 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. Performances include: New York-based Jeff Cohen; British pop singer/songwriter Lucie Silvas; Natalie Hemby; alternative-pop singer/songwriter Daniel Tashian; Key West singer/songwriter Scott Kirby; Nashville tunesmith James Slater; and Hugh Prestwood, who has written for Randy Travis, Alison Krauss, and Trisha Yearwood.
Saturday, Sept. 19, 8-10:30 pm, Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs, with Paul Overstreet, Scott Emerick, Kim Carnes, Chris Barron. $25; $45 for both nights in advance from ticketsMV.com.
Amelia Smith is a freelance writer living in West Tisbury.