When you first hear the premise for the Tybee Island Songwriters Festival, it might be a bit surprising that something like it would take place on Tybee.
The concept is one you’d normally see in Nashville—a multi-venue festival featuring a mix of prominent and up-and-coming songwriters sharing the stage together.
Some of the prominent writers you might not know by name, but you’d definitely know the songs they penned for popular artists.
Thanks to songwriter Sean Squires, Tybee Island is about to be transformed into a hotspot for writers over the course of a weekend. Squires tells Connect that the idea for the Tybee Island Songwriters Festival was hatched a while back.
“I’ve been songwriting for years, but over the last four or five years I’ve taken it more seriously,” he says. “Through that, I’ve made some pretty good contacts. I was pitching to a producer maybe about 14 months ago and we started talking about a festival down here on Tybee Island.”
Squires, who is passionate about the craft of songwriting, wanted to offer a platform for writers to showcase their work in front of an audience of music lovers outside of the typical music cities. He also wanted people in Savannah to understand just what a songwriting festival is and why this is an incredible opportunity to see some great shows.
“Most people have the misnomer that this is just for songwriters,” he says. “We’re going to have 17 different performances from writers who have written some of the biggest hits out there on the radio today—and yesteryear, too. We’ve got guys who have written for Ronnie Milsap, all the way to Lee Brice.”
There six Hall of Fame writers scheduled to perform among a long list of notables, including Archie Jordan—perhaps best known for writing Milsap’s “What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life.” Jordan will be playing the Tybee Post Theater, one of four venues hosting shows during the festival. The theater will be hosting ticketed events, taking place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. One performance will happen each day, with two on Saturday.
“After those four shows, we have 12 other events,” Squires explains. “Those will happen at The Deck, The Rock House, and Fannie’s.”
There’s a meet-and-greet event on Thursday night with some of the writers involved in the festival, which will also be ticketed. Outside of the Tybee Post shows and the meet-and-greet, the rest of the shows are free and open to the public.
Joining Jordan at the Tybee Post Theater is another Hall of Famer, Richard Leigh. Leigh is best known for penning the hit “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
“I think he’s got eight number ones under his belt, and maybe 700 cuts,” Squires says. The prolific Byron Hill will also take the Tybee Post stage, and some of the writers playing over the course of the festival include Phillip Lammonds, Tony Arata, Sarah Poole, Renee Clonts, and locals Jason Bible, Lyn Avenue, Jacob Evans, and Jason Courtenay.
Squires says he hopes that including up-and-coming writers alongside veterans will increase their visibility and potentially get them noticed by publishers.
“Savannah and the surrounding area, we’ve got the arts culture—the music festival, film festivals. So, who doesn’t want to come to the beach and be able to hear songs that they heard on the radio, but get the stories behind them?” he says.
“Our perspective is to be able to introduce people to that aspect of [music], and see where it goes from here. We plan on it being an annual event.”
A full list of songwriters slated to perform over the course of the weekend is available on the Tybee Island Songwriters Festival website. The opening concert will take place on Thurs., Sep. 12 at 7 P.M., with tickets available for $20 advance and $25 day of show.