From mainstream to up-and-coming, the 30A Songwriters Festival delivers
The 30A Songwriters Festival is gearing up for its 11th year, uniting music fans and songwriters to benefit the Cultural Arts Alliance (CAA) of Walton County. Held each year on Martin Luther King weekend, this year’s festival features more than 200 musicians at 32 venues along the Emerald Coast for an unforgettable weekend of scheduled performances and impromptu collaborations.
Celebrated for its diversity and its ability to draw nationally-known and up-and-coming artists to its stages, the festival has earned a reputation as a place for surprises and unexpected pairings that happen when performing musicians invite other artists to partner.
The festival launched in 2010, with more than 50 songwriters performing in seven local venues, and it has grown since in both number and prestige. The 30A Songwriter Festival is unique in its intimate, one-of-a-kind performances that range from acoustic to full band, and in venues ranging from restaurants to small theaters and large outdoor spaces. In some venues, talking is discouraged because of the listening-room feel of the performance.
This year’s lineup includes Tanya Tucker, Don McLean, John Prine, Brian Wilson, Indigo Girls, and Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits. Artists Chely Wright, Shawn Mullins, and Jeffrey Steele — who took part in the inaugural event — will also return for this year’s gathering. If you’d like to get a jump-start on the music before you go, there’s a Spotify playlist that features music from this year’s artists.
Veterans of past festivals advise newbies to slow down and avoid the urgency of racing from one venue to another. It’s the in-between moments, they say, that allow visitors to unexpectedly encounter musicians who may someday make it big. They also advise against long waits and recommend visiting other less crowded venues in search of undiscovered music.
The festival serves as the major fundraiser for the CAA, whose mission is to champion the arts through leadership, advocacy, funding, programs, and education. One hundred percent of the net profits support the CAA, which provides need-based student scholarships and education grants to organizations that incorporate music, performing arts, visual arts, and other programs that usually suffer from lack of funding. Named for the road that runs through 16 beach communities along the Florida Coast, the 30A festival typically raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to benefit the CAA.
The 30A Songwriters Festival also features a silent auction component that has previously included such items as a Tesla Sport Roadster, artist-signed guitars, trips, and art, and is open to the public online.
Tickets for this year’s festival start at $110 for a single-day pass, and are available for purchase here. The event begins at 5 p.m. on January 17 and runs through January 20.