Technically, it might not be a vacation for Kacey Musgraves, although she surely deserves one. Nonetheless, the 19th annual Key West Songwriters Festival is a trip few of us would turn down. It’s a chance to party, play and possibly write another smash with some of the best songwriters on the planet.
Musgraves and Sara Evans are among the artists set to hit the sand and surf during the festival taking place May 7-11 in Key West, Fla. Others performers include 2013 BMI Icon recipient Dean Dillon, American Idol runner-up Kree Harrison, Robert Earl Keen, Rhett Akins, Sundy Best, Love and Theft, Matraca Berg, Jon Randall, Anders Osborne and the legendary Tony Joe White, to name a few.
A few of the names on the extensive list may not be familiar to you — and that’s OK. I can’t help it, though. I’ve always been fascinated with songwriters. I just don’t think they get enough love from the greater world.
Each day, we turn on our radios, pop a CD into our stereos or slap some vinyl down on our turntables and groove, cry or sing along to our favorite songs. We’re moved by the music and made happy, made sad and made to believe in their power. Those places the songs take us are purely magical.
But while we’re in those magical places, how many of us stop and think, “Man, I wonder who wrote that song?”
Nowadays, if you want to solve that mystery, your best bet is to dig into some liner notes. That, of course, requires an actual album purchase. And, let’s face it, so many of us rely on digital downloads and streaming these days to enjoy our music, accessing the finer details of an album track is more difficult than ever.
But Musgraves is one of many artists who is helping turn all that around. While the chart-topping, Grammy and CMA-winning beauty is a great singer and a breath of fresh air for country music, she’s first and foremost a songwriter. She talks openly about her passion for the poetics of it all. She gushes about her fellow co-writers, giving them their share of the credit for her success.
Musgraves knows what it’s like to be in that world where, to a vast majority of listeners, your words and thoughts as a songwriter “belong” to the artist singing the song. A perfect example is “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert’s No. 1 single which Musgraves co-wrote with Brandy Clark and ACM songwriter of the year Shane McAnally.
How many folks do you think hear that song title and say, “Oh, yeah! That song Kacey Musgraves co-wrote that Miranda Lambert made a huge hit?” Not many. And Lambert can identify, too. She herself is a brilliant songwriter likely sitting on mounds of great songs no one will ever know she wrote.
The truth be told, a little anonymity in the music world is just what many songwriters desire. Some are completely content to quietly fulfill their creative needs in studios and Music Row writing rooms without any pomp or circumstance. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.
But the Key West Songwriters Festival isn’t going to allow for much anonymity for those creative types. It’s the place where the writers are celebrated, showered with love and toasted with the finest margaritas and piña coladas. There will be no hiding in the palm trees.
Other notable performances during the May festival will include Natalie Hemby (Lambert’s “White Liar” ), Gary Chapman, Kristen Kelly, Shawn Camp (Garth Brooks’ “Two Piña Coladas”), Wendell Mobley (Rascal Flatts’ “Fast Cars and Freedom” ), Jessi Alexander (Lee Brice’s “I Drive Your Truck” ) and so many more incredible hitmakers.
Cheers to that!