Notes from Key West! Last week was BMI’s annual Key West Songwriters Festival, one of the most popular songwriters festivals in the country. Every year BMI (a performing rights organization) hosts a festival that showcases songwriters and artists who excel at the craft of writing. For five days, pretty much all of Nashville’s music scene journeys down to the southernmost point in the US to Key West, a little chain of islands in Florida. The festival is hosted by multiple indoor and outdoor venues down there, including a Saturday street concert that has, in the past, hosted big names such as Maren Morris, Chris Young, Cam, Old Dominion, LANCO, Walker Hayes, Sara Evans, and Tyler Farr.
We arrived in the Keys on Wednesday, and although the forecasters had been predicting rain all week, it was beautiful, hot weather. Krista Angelucci and I hosted a round Wednesday night during the kickoff party via our Women Crush It Wednesdays live stream platform. We highlighted artists Gabby Patrice and Kristen Merlin (who you may have seen on The Voice TV show). Some other artists we watched and played with last week (go look them up! SO good!) were: AJ Kross, AJ Gatio, Lockwood Barr, Karleen Watt, Seth Alley, Adam Searan, Colby Dee, Julia Cole, and Erin Ashley.
The nice thing about Key West is definitely the atmosphere. Aside from the beaches, marinas, quaint town, and tropical weather (we got our fair share of bike riding in!), everybody is a little more relaxed and a little more open to conversation. People that you may not normally approach back in Nashville are receptive and down to chill and have a few drinks by the pool (key lime pina colada, anyone?). It’s a great way for newcomers on the scene to not only mingle with publishers and artists, but to also find great writing collaborations for future. Bumping elbows with industry down in Key West also gives you a channel of conversation back in Nashville. The music business is, after all, all about relationships and shared experiences. With paradise all around you, the great thing is that the “work” doesn’t even feel like work.
Furthermore, if you’re a lyric person like I am, the festival is an awesome way to get the stories behind the songs you grew up loving or the hits on your radio now. We watched Lance Carpenter describe the writing room when he was penning Kelsea Ballerini’s hit “Love Me Like You Mean It” as well as got goosebumps as Doug Johnson sang “Three Wooden Crosses,” recorded by legend Randy Travis. Veteran writer, Liz Rose, most famous for her Taylor Swift cowrites, brought me back to high school. The writing you hear inspires and motivates you to want to sit out on the front porch of your bungalow until two a.m. and create (or at least I did!).
I returned back to the real world this week refreshed. Vacation, even a “working” one, is always needed. If you ever get the chance to check it out, you definitely should! However, living in one of the coolest music cities in the world, I have to say there’s no place like home.