Tybee Island native Tony Arata is one of Nashville's most successful songwriters.
On July 21, Arata will appear in concert at the Tybee Post Theater, joined by fellow songwriters Leslie Satcher and Annie Mosher. The concert is sponsored by Lovett Bennett Jr. and Rob Sullivan, Statesboro attorneys who are music fans and friends with Arata.
"I was born in Savannah and then we moved away for a while," Arata says. "When we came back, we moved to Tybee. That will always be home.
"It's a great place to call home," he says. "Some parts haven't changed at all."
In a way, it was on Tybee that Arata's career began.
"My brother gave me an old guitar when I was 13 years old," he says. "That was the start of my downfall. I've played since I was 13. I'm the baby of the family. I had three sisters and an older brother.
"They were all gone by the time I hit my teen years, and I was left with a wonderful album collection," Arata says. "I would sit for hours and listen to great songs."
One day, it dawned on Arata that those songs had to have come from somewhere.
"I'm a big fan of a lot of the artists," he says. "I realized they didn't necessarily write their songs themselves, they came from somewhere else.
"I began to write songs in earnest my freshman year in college," Arata says. "I have managed to make a living at it since we moved to Nashville. I've very grateful for that."
While studying for a journalism degree at Georgia Southern College (now Georgia Southern University), Arata began writing songs and performing them with local bands. In 1986, his wife, Jaymi, convinced him to move to Nashville.
"I very rarely made it to class because I played in bands," Arata says. "My wife and I married in 1984.
"Two years later, she called my hand," he says. "If I was going to write songs, we could be broke anywhere, so we might as well move to Nashville. It's been 30 years, and we've been there ever since."
Arata has written classic No. 1 hits such as "The Dance" for Garth Brooks, "Here I am" for Patty Loveless, "Dreaming With My Eyes Open" for Clay Walker and "I'm Holding My Own" for Lee Roy Parnell. Arata has recorded three solo albums of his own.
Other artists who have recorded Arata's songs include Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Trisha Yearwood, Delbert McClinton, Don Williams, Reba McEntire, Suzy Bogguss and Hal Ketchum.
A friend as well as a client, Brooks calls Arata "the king of soul in songwriting." Arata has written seven songs for Brooks, including "The Dance," which received Country Music Association and Grammy nominations and was chosen Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music
Arata has fond memories of Tybee Island.
"I remember when I was in high school just wandering and exploring," he says. "The Tybee Post Theater was just a shell of a building, abandoned for all intents and purposes.
"I can't wait to see what they've done with it," Arata says. "What a wonderful gift to the community."
Arata is looking forward to showing Tybee to Satcher and Mosher.
"I'm excited to get to share my hometown with two dear friends," Arata says. "Annie Mosher, she's a wonderful, wonderful writer who can make you bust a gut laughing or make you cry.
"Leslie has been tremendously successful in Nashville. She's written for everyone from Willie Nelson to George Strait. We're going to have a good concert.
"Annie is going to open the show," Arata says. "Leslie and I will come out and swap songs and stories and go back and forth. It's not a band per se where everybody is playing on every song, we just take turns telling lies, as I say."
Satcher was born in Paris, Texas, where she sang in local churches and schools. In 1989, she moved to Nashville to become a country music singer and found success in songwriting.
Known as the Texas Tornado, Satcher wrote such country hits as "Troubadour" for George Strait, "Heartache" for Pam Tillis, "Tough" for Kellie Pickler and "Mission of Love" for Travis Tritt. She also has co-written singles for such artists as Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Gretchen Wilson, Patty Loveless and Vince Gill.
Satcher has recorded three albums of her own. After signing with Warner Bros. Records, she released her first album, "Love Letters," followed by the independent releases of "Creation" and "Gypsy Boots."
When she moved to Nashville, Satcher was mentored at a small publisher before moving to Sony Music Publishing, where she stayed for nearly 15 years. She was also signed as an artist at Warner Brothers.
Today, Satcher divides her time between songwriting and performing. A typical year includes more than 150 songwriting sessions and 65 live performances.
Annie Mosher grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont along the Canadian border. She studied theater and music at Syracuse University. She traveled the country after graduation to write songs about people and places that inspired her.
In 1999, Mosher moved to Nashville and began playing weekly with the group Girls With Guitars. She is a Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Award winner, which led to touring and a regular seat at Nashville's Bluebird CafÃ©.
When asked what inspires a song, Arata responded, "Up to recently, I joked it was tuition," he says.
"I don't spend an inordinate amount of time with a guitar or pen in hand. I do a lot of writing in the background.
"Everybody has their own way of doing this," Arata says. "Usually, I have ideas at all times and allow them to germinate."
There are different ways to write songs, Arata says.
"You can make something from whole cloth," he says. "You report on things you see. Like a journalist, I utilize a story and sit down and cover it.
"Some are true-life experiences, some are inspired by lines or words. It works differently for everybody, which is why I'm not a good cowriter.
"I'm not in any hurry to get to the end of the song," Arata says. "It's like having a friend walking around with me."
One of the best parts of being a songwriter is getting to know the people who perform the songs.
"Any writer is grateful for anything he can get," Arata says. "Garth has had a major, major impact on my life.
"The really neat part for me is I literally met him a week or two after I moved to Nashville. He had just moved from Oklahoma.
"It's been very rewarding to come up together," Arata says. "He's always been very kind and he's a wonderful songwriter in his own right."
Despite his major success, Brooks is very generous, Arata says.
"He gives up a spot on his record for one of your songs," Arata says. "He generally made 'The Dance' into his song and made it the record it is.
"I've always been a fan of Patty Loveless," Arata says. "She's the real McCoy. I'm very grateful to call them my friends."
When he moved to Nashville, Arata worked at a music magazine to pay the bills while he established his songwriting career. Although his journalism career was short-lived, it has influenced his songwriting career.
"One thing they drill into you in journalism school is that the lede is very important," he says. "There's only a certain amount of time to catch attention.
"The opening lines of a song are very important to me. When I'm writing, there are X number of words I'm looking for.
"A song is over in three minutes," Arata says. "Every word needs to count and move the story along as if you are writing an article. There's a beginning and an end."
In addition to performing, Arata plans to spend some time rediscovering Tybee Island.
"Nashville is a very tight-knit community, very welcoming," he says. "We wouldn't be having this conversation if I'd moved to Los Angeles.
"Both of our girls were born there, so it's home," Arata says. "But I can't wait to come back to Tybee."
IF YOU GO
What: Singer/songwriters Tony Arata, Leslie Satcher and Annie Mosher in concert
When: 8 p.m., July 21
Where: Tybee Post Theater, 10 Van Horne Ave.
Cost: Sold out
What else: A pre-concert champagne party and meet-and-greet will be held at 7 p.m.