The next event is May 1-3, at the Daytona State Amphitheater.
A songwriter whose songs were popularized by stars including George Strait and Tim McGraw made a stop Feb. 1 at Dunkin’ Donuts in Palm Coast, to strum up interest in the next Palm Coast Songwriters Festival.
Tennessee native Anthony Smith was a child prodigy on the guitar who eventually moved to Nashville to become a performer. He was discovered by producers who hired him to write songs for other stars, instead. He was hoping to get at least one song picked up in the first year, so that his contract would be renewed. He got 40.
That success got him the record deal he had dreamed of. Although his recording career was short, he made a name in the industry writing songs, including George Strait’s hits “Run” and “Cowboys Like Us” and Tim McGraw’s “Kristofferson.”
Smith will join more than two dozen others at the next Palm Coast Songwriters Festival, scheduled for May 1-3, at the Daytona State Amphitheater. The artists will sing and share the stories behind their hit songs. Visit palmcoastsongwritersfestival.com for more information.
Smith spoke recently with the Palm Coast Observer about the art, the business and the upcoming event.
What is the feeling like when you perform your song versus when you hear the song performed by a star?
When you’re having your song played all over the world, it’s very gratifying to have a superstar sing your song. The first time you hear your song on the radio and it becomes a hit, it’s really an amazing feeling.
If you’re an artist, and you truly have that thing inside you that you want to perform, it’s great to play it yourself, particularly after it’s been a hit by someone else because they recognize the song, and they love hearing your interpretation of it, which is usually different.
How did you decide songwriting was your vocation?
I always wanted to be a performer, first and foremost, but I never separated the two. I was a singer-songwriter, like most of my heroes: The Beatles, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, even Tom T. Hall. But I also wanted to be a performer, like Steven Tyler.
When I moved to Nashville, the first success I had was as a writer, because I didn’t really have the type of personality where I was going knocking on doors. I went out and started playing these open mics, and before I knew it, I was talking to five or six different publishers who wanted to sign me to a writing deal.
Signing with a publisher is not a record deal. Their interest is in exploiting your song for revenue.
Was that disappointing? And what did it lead to?
It took me back because I did come to town to get a record deal. These publishing deals didn’t pay hardly anything unless you're already a hit songwriter. But I signed with Almo Irving — they owned the Beach Boys catalog and a lot of iconic artists — and it just blew up. My first year, I got like 40 cuts, which was really unprecedented.
So with all the success of these cuts and the hits that were coming out of it, the record labels were hearing me on my demos, and before I knew it, all the record labels were trying to sign me. I was in this amazing position: hit songwriter, everyone wanted my songs, everyone wanted to sign me.
You signed with Mercury, which you called a mistake because of the lack of promotion. But you fulfilled your dream of making a record.
I had three Billboard top 40s, which was great, because that allowed me to tour still. I loved it. I felt like, "I made it as an artist."
For people who have never been to a songwriters festival, what is something that might surprise them if they attend?
For people who’ve never been, many will walk away thinking that's the best concert they’ve ever been to. You're sitting down, hearing the stories behind the songs, how they got recorded, why they got recorded, what inspired the song, and you're getting to hear literally the best songwriters in the world. I feel very honored to be on the same stage with these guys.
This year, it’s going to be a significant jump productionwise. I love being part of watching this thing grow.
Garry Lubi is largely responsible for that, and I’ve been helping him, along with Thom Shepherd, and getting the right talent down there. Garry’s just great. I love his passion.