By Scott Baker
The sounds of Nashville will reach the shores of Lake Martin in late July during the second annual Lake Martin Songwriters Festival. More than 20 hit-writing and highly acclaimed songwriters are slated to appear and perform at 15 different venues in the area July 27-31. The big finale on Saturday night in downtown Alexander City will be headlined by Thompson Square.
The inaugural event in 2021 attracted so much attention and praise from both the songwriters and patrons that the organizing committee has been overwhelmed with writers clamoring to get involved. “I never expected to be receiving phone calls from such prestigious writers,” says Sandra Fuller, executive director of Tallapoosa County Tourism and one of the organizers. “I’ve been listening to these artists’ hit songs on the radio, and suddenly they’re calling me up and asking if they can participate. It’s surreal!”
Jamie O’Neal, the writer and artist behind the No. 1 hit singles “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels,” is one of those artists. Another is Kristen Kelly, who is taking a break from touring with Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and others. The star-studded songwriter lineup also includes Marla Cannon-Goodman, Heidi Raye and Brian White among others. While their names may not be recognizable, the artists who’ve recorded their songs are: Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, George Strait, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride and many other major recording artists.
Grammy-nominated Blue Foley, writer of Ashley MacBryde’s “Never Will,” enjoyed the event so much last year that he wasted no time drumming up enthusiasm and support for the second-year event. The effect of Foley’s support is evident with the inclusion of Johnny Bulford, co-writer of the No. 1 hit “A Woman Like You” by Lee Brice and “Lonely Eyes” by Chris Young. Terri Jo Box, a hit-writing machine for Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Trisha Yearwood and many others, declared her desire to return before she even left the stage last year.
“The folks at Lake Martin were so welcoming, and the lake is absolutely magnificent,” Foley says. “All the songwriters stayed together and we jammed all night and played on the lake all day. I couldn’t wait to return to Nashville and tell everyone about it. This year is going to be even better!”
The Lake Martin Songwriter Festival is more than a showcase of the writers behind the songs; it’s a weekend chock-full of world-class performances at small venues where the writers share insight on their writing process, what compelled them to write the song and invite questions from attendees. At many of the venues, spectators are merely a few feet away from the performers and the feeling is intimate and conversational.
In addition to the showcase of talent, this year’s event will feature a songwriting competition for writers 20 years of age and younger. Held on Friday night at Wind Creek State Park, the event will be hosted and judged by Bruce Wawrzyniak with “Now Hear This” podcast and Trey Foshee of the band Blackberry Breeze. The winner will perform the winning composition on the main stage Saturday night.
Main Street in Alexander City will be transformed with a stage erected between the historic downtown buildings creating a natural acoustic venue. The Josh Kiser Band opens the concert at 6:30 p.m., followed by Jamie O’Neal performing her hit singles “There Is No Arizona” and “When I Think About Angels.” Thompson Square will share their new single “Country In My Soul,” among other favorites.
“One of the best parts of the Lake Martin Songwriters Festival is it’s all free,” Fuller says. “Lake Martin already is a fantastic vacation destination and this festival will continue to grow and introduce more and more songwriters and music lovers to Lake Martin and central Alabama.”
The Lake Martin Film Festival is presented by Those Lake Martin Guys and Tallapoosa County Tourism. For more information and a complete lineup, visit here. This article first appeared in Alabama Living magazine.