Nashville hit makers descend on the Island for the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriters Festival

Martha’s Vineyard Songwriters Festival hit maker and instructor Clay Mills. – Photo courtesy Matt Casey

An upcoming concert at Flatbread Co. at the airport will showcase the songs of some of Nashville’s finest songwriters and artists this Saturday, Sept. 19, at 8 pm. The show, titled Behind the Curtain with Nashville Hit-Makers and Rising Stars,” is one night of a long weekend of events in concert with the third annual Martha’s Vineyard Songwriters Festival (MVSF) presented by New England to Nashville (NETN), a group founded in 2012 to support artists based in or connected to New England whose artistic efforts are focused on the Nashville music scene.

The group has grown to more than 100 songwriters, and sponsors workshops and performances for Nashville songwriters and artists throughout the year. According to a press release, over 50,000 artists and songwriters are trying to make it in Nashville, but there are less than 50 writers who have more than one song cut a year, and barely over 1,000 songs recorded a year by major labels. “Having all these hit writers and emerging artists who have navigated these harsh waters coming up North and sharing their songs and experiences is truly a unique opportunity for music fans,” said Matt Casey, founder of the festival.

This weekend’s Flatbread show will showcase MVSF lead instructors Clay Mills and Marty Dodson, who have penned hits for top contemporary country artists like Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Billy Currington, Diamond Rio, and Lady Antebellum. They will be joined by a number of emerging Nashville artists, many of whom are signed by major labels, including Josh Dorr, Jackie Lee, Annie Bosko, Lance Carpenter, Jilly Martin, Jackie Lee, Casey Derhak, Brent Harrison, Morgan Myles, Vanessa Bransan, and Elise Hayes. On Saturday night these artists will play original acoustic songs and then will be backed by a full band for covers of hit songs.

All aspiring songwriters are invited to attend the four-day Vineyard festival, which begins on Thursday, Sept. 17, and concludes Sunday, Sept. 20. The festival will feature workshops focusing on both the art and business of commercial songwriting.

Workshop attendees are also invited to a casual BBQ/Guitar Pull on Friday, Sept. 18, where they will have the opportunity to meet and interact with both established and emerging artists.

Prior to their visit to Martha’s Vineyard, the hit writers and emerging artists performed at Loretta’s Last Call in Boston on Wednesday. Jim McCormick, who wrote No. 1 songs for Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean, said, “I’m really excited to be a part of this event and to get to play with some of the most talented people I know. I think anyone who loves great music will enjoy these performances. You’ll get a glimpse at the future of Nashville, hear No. 1 hits and the stories behind them, and get a sneak preview of songs that you might hear on the radio a couple of years from now.”

A portion of the proceeds from the Martha’s Vineyard Songwriter’s Festival will be donated to two nonprofit organizations benefiting children: Alex’s Place at the YMCA (, which was created to provide safe, educational, and entertaining experiences for teens on Martha’s Vineyard; and the Alliance for Children Foundation (AFC;, a Massachusetts-based international relief organization devoted to improving the physical and emotional well-being of orphaned and at-risk children worldwide. The AFC was founded by West Tisbury resident Filis Casey.

All workshops will be at Alex’s Place at the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA, and musical performances will be held at various Island venues across the weekend.

“Behind the Curtain with Nashville Hit-Makers and Rising Stars” at Flatbread Co., Saturday, Sept. 19, 8 pm. Tickets are $20 for general admissions, $60 for VIP meet and greet. Tickets on sale now at For more information on the festival and a full schedule of the weekend’s events, visit