Last weekend closed the first annual Island Hopper Songwriter Festival. The festival brought 50 acclaimed songwriters to play and share stories in the areas most intimate settings. Fans came from all over and were delighted to hear their favorite songs told by the crafters themselves. Captiva Island is normally slow this time of year but was 90% occupied during the festival which was certainly a goal of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, who organized this incredible event. Cat Country 107.1 and I Heart Media were on hand to host the rounds along with BMI. Every moment was better than the next taking festival goers on an emotional journey. Below are just some of the highlights:
1) Kristen Kelly was the talk of Captiva Weekend. BMI exec, Dan Spears, said it best “If all things were right in this world, this girl would be #1” Kristen received a standing ovation for each round and especially when she belted out “He Loves to Make Me Cry”.
2) The home of the famed American Artist, Robert Rauschenberg, was opened to the public for the very first time. The gorgeous ocean side home is filled with eclectic art and history. It provided such a unique upscale backdrop for writers George Ducas and Jeff Cohen to share with us.
3) Royal Shell Vacations opened up one of their gorgeous rental homes for a very special night. Sipping on wine at the beach house we heard the story behind “Parachute” the song that Marshall Altman almost didn’t let happen. We heard Billy Montana share that he turned on American Idol for the first time when Kellie Pickler was set to sing “Suds in the Bucket”. He missed the performance but tuned in just in time to hear Simon Cowell berate the song. He added that he happened to be sitting in the living room that song bought so it was all good.
4) There is something so moving about watching songwriters get emotional while singing their own songs. Somehow you feel a deeper connection to the lyrics and the people in those intimate moments. We saw this with Dylan Altman when he sang “Whiskey and Water”. We experienced this again the following weekend when Sonia Leigh sang her heartfelt tribute “Alabama” in a room full of her family and friends.
5) Kristian Bush graced us the second weekend with his charm and wit. He has a way of instantly engaging people, gifting them an extra dose of life through relatable lyrics. Kristian told the crowd at Nervous Nellies, “Music should either shake your hips or explode your heart”.
6) The Pink Shell hosted a spectacular brunch the final day of the festival. Sonia Leigh and Dave Gibson simply made us feel. We laughed with them, we cried with them and not one person in attendance wanted it to end.
7) The friendliness of the staff at Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau did not go unnoticed. They are a group of genuinely kind people. They were helpful, friendly and set the stage for the entire festival.
8) Loving Mary was the headlining act on Saturday in Fort Myers Beach. Their intricately blended harmonies and band made up of songwriters simply rock. The energy was electrifying, people were dancing and they went home with thousands of new fans.
9) Wynn Varble is a mixed breed. His cuts include some of the more powerful emotional songs such as “Waitin’ on a Woman” and “Have You Forgotten”. However, in person he shows a very different side. He is hysterical and sometimes off the cuff. You never know what you are going to get but you certainly know you are going to laugh. Also humorous was a newer duo, Whiskey Rose. They look young and innocent but tend to “write about homicide” a lot.
10) Thompson Square closed out the final day to a sold out crowd. People crowded into a nearby bar, even spilling into the streets for a chance to hear this award winning duo. They play off each other beautifully and sang the songs we all love and gave us a glimpse at new music.
11) Seeing something in local favorite, Chloe, hit maker Ken Johnson went out of his way to give her advice. He said she had something unique to her voice and delivery and offered up people to connect with and workshops to attend. He took a genuine interest in helping her and it was inspiring to watch him unselfishly share with her.
12) Simply being on Captiva Island and Fort Myers Beach was a highlight. Rich with history and charm there is a story around every corner. There is no building taller than a palm tree, the people were welcoming and the food and drink were exquisite.
13) There was a 93 year old woman that attended Chloe‘s final set. She had researched Chloe previously and handed her a package with pages of handwritten notes. The first was a letter explaining her intent and the latter were two songs she had written. The woman wanted someone to hear them before her life on earth was done. Ive since learned that the two have made arrangements to meet and sing together.
14) Danny Myrick echoed what may felt saying “songwriters don’t get together as much as you would think in Nashville”. Its fun being on a tropical vacation, writing and playing with some of your greatest friends. Its paradise.