Song makers are coming to town
“It all begins with a song.”
I’ve heard Co-Lin Hall of Fame member Tricia Walker say these words many times. The Grammy Award winning songwriter says without a song there is no performer, no audience. And so the Overbrook Songwriters Festival, which showcases song makers, is returning to Brookhaven this summer.
As with nearly everything, last year’s festival was cancelled. This is the second year of the songwriters gathering. This year, twenty-five songwriters from all over the country will perform in five venues -- all in downtown Brookhaven within walking distance.
Songwriter festivals are popping up all over the country now. In 2019, Overbrook was one of four festivals in Mississippi. Now I know of at least three more. The biggest one is in Ocean Springs, where fourteen venues host hundreds of songwriters from Friday through Sunday.
You've never heard of most the songwriters. But I’ve learned over the years that you do not have to live in New York City, LA or Nashville to write good songs. There are good songwriters in Wesson and Loyd Star, and festivals like Overbrook give them the opportunity to demonstrate their talents. Many songwriters do not gig or play at bars and parties, but rather choose a quieter venue where the song is heard. And that’s what Overbrook is all about.
While you probably haven't heard of most of the artists performing at this year's Overbrook, there are two headliners who have garnered national attention:
Ed Tree grew up in Brookhaven and was a guitar hero at a very early age. After college, he moved to California where he started work as a guitar player for the likes of Rita Coolidge and Spencer Davis. His touring days are behind him now, but he stays busy producing records for other artists -- writing songs, as well as playing local shows with his band The Tall Man Group, “a group of five guys who all write songs and get together and play for one another,” says Tree. Every month, they all put a song idea in a hat from which they draw. All five then write a song for the next month using that idea. “It’s not a competition, but I want my song to be the best,” Tree says. You can hear him at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 7, at Recess 101.
· Friday night (August 6) at Recess, Pascagoula native Libby Rae Watson brings her saltwater blues to the stage. Watson is the winner of numerous blues awards and is a regular at The Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale and The North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Waterford. Watson’s show is full of energy, stories and Americana music.
Overbrook's Saturday venues begin music at noon that continues until 6 p.m. It's free to all. Magnolia Blues and Betty’s Eat Shop on Whitworth Avenue, Georgia Blues on Railroad Avenue and Brookhaven Sound Studios on Cherokee Street are the afternoon venues, while Recess hosts the night shows. The late night show at Betty’s on Saturday begins at 9 p.m., and it was the most attended show in 2019.
Cynthia Brando, from California and Bob Bogaert from Illinois are among out-of-towners, and there will be local musicians like Tony Norton, Cody Dunaway, the Old Troubadour Charline Hewitt and crowd-favorite Mike J. Case, who grew up in Brookhaven and now resides in Philadelphia, Mississippi. They will take the stage Saturday afternoon. .
One of the fun aspects of this festival will the writer’s circle held at Tyler Bridge’s Brookhaven Sound Studios. All songwriters who are not on the bill can come in and sit around and play their songs for one another. Some even ask for a critique. Last time, partnerships were formed and co-writers wrote songs together.
Check out the Overbrook Songwriters Festival on Facebook for updates. A complete list of venue owners and the financial sponsors is up on Facebook, too. A festival like this would never happen without their generosity.
This festival is like none other in our little corner of the world. Do you like original music sung by the person who wrote it? Do you like to hear the stories behind the song? Then make plans to attend. You’ll enjoy it, and you’ll be supporting the arts.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Shaw Furlow is a local composer, musician and arts promoter. He produces an internet-based video show -- From the Shadyside -- that spotlights area musical talent and is a consultant to school bands in the region.