“That’s me, the man that put everything together,” laughs Sean Squires as he answers the phone.
The organizer of the upcoming inaugural Tybee Songwriter Festival says he’s thankful just to be on schedule in the wake of the Hurricane Dorian scare. “45 musicians is a whole lot of cats to herd, but I think we’ve finally got it figured out,” said Squires.
The festival will be a four-day series featuring songwriters from all across the United States and Canada in 17 performances at four different Tybee venues. While this year marks the island’s first official Songwriter Festival, Squires says the organization is striving to make the event an annual occurrence.
A US Army veteran and songwriter himself, Squires has been living in Savannah almost 30 years now and says he’s been writing songs and playing music for about the past 20 of those.
“The shows will all be in an intimate songwriters round format,” he explained. “In a songwriters’ round, three or four artists get on stage and each artist will play one full song before explaining how it came to be, or the meaning behind it. Once the first musician finishes their piece and explanation, the next artist performs a song and the process repeats itself until time runs out.”
The festival kicks off with two ticketed events Thursday night. The opening performance will feature Grammy Award-winning songwriter Archie Jordan as well as notable top ten songwriter Richard Leigh and Nashville studio veteran Doug Stokes.
Directly following the opening concert the festival will host a meet and greet event at Fannie's on the Beach, another ticketed event which will be attended by around 30 of the festival’s performers. The meet and greet will feature select performances throughout the event and performers will be on hand to make introductions and answer any questions attendees may have.
While the festival does feature five ticketed events, including nightly concerts at the Tybee Post Theatre, the rest of the weekend’s roster includes an extensive schedule of free performances rotating between The Rock House, Fannies on the Beach and The Deck.
The festival will offer a wide array of talent with storied Nashville songwriters and multiple Grammy Award winners sharing stages with local favorites like Jason Bible, Jason Courtenay, Sarah Poole and Tell Scarlet. The festival touts a number of notable performers, six of which have been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“The level of songwriting is very high,” said Squires. “Byron Hill has written songs for Ray Charles, Reba Mcintyre, and Kenny Rogers. Doug Johnson wrote Randy Travis’ hit ‘Three Wooden Crosses.’ Michelle Wright out of Canada has over 25 top ten radio hits and Tybee’s own Tony Arata is known for writing Garth Brooks’ song ‘The Dance’ as well as many others.”
For an inaugural event, the festival has somehow already managed to garner the support of multiple music industry veterans.
Ontario’s Willow Sound Records will be bringing both Jessica Pearson and Michelle Wright down from Canada. Multiple Nashville music publishers and labels will also be in attendance to support their respective acts to include Broken Bow Records, The Syndicut, and Demolition Music.
“I’m extremely gracious these labels want to see this festival become a success,” Squires added. “I think that alone speaks to the merit of the festival and what we’re trying to do here.”
As if providing the patrons of Tybee with the soulful sounds of nationally recognized songwriters wasn’t enough, the festival also plans to select a nonprofit to benefit each year.
This year the festival is planning to raffle off a guitar autographed by each of the festival performers for $5 a ticket with the proceeds going to benefit The Tybee Post Theatre.