Three local venues will house performances by songwriters from May 4-6.
A first of its kind for Flagler County, the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival this weekend will showcase nine country artists at three outdoor venues.
Unlike a music festival where audience members listen to song after song from a full band, a songwriter festival provides a unique, more intimate experience between the artist and the listener, as the songwriters will often share the meaning behind their lyrics, said Thom Shepherd, County Music Artist of Texas Songwriter of the Year and one of the festival organizers.
“It’s a really magic kind of experience,” Shepherd said. “I think people are going to love it. It’s one of those things where you don’t really get it until you see it, so we’re hoping everybody comes out to check it out. Once you see it, you’re hooked.”
Shepherd teamed up with Garry Lubi, senior vice president/commercial banking at CenterState Bank and David Ayers, of Flagler Broadcasting, to brainstorm this event over the last couple years. For the last six months, the trio have worked to secure nine songwriters, including Shepherd, and three venues: Veterans Park in Flagler Beach for “First Friday,” the Daytona State College Palm Coast Amphitheater and the Palm Coast Arts Foundation stage.
Lubi and Shepherd got to know each other through the music scene in Nashville before Lubi moved around the county and eventually ended up in Flagler County in 2007. Their friendship goes back to 1996.
“With Garry living in Nashville for years, he saw the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival in Nashville, and he wanted to bring something like that to Florida — to the Palm Coast, Flagler Beach area,” Shepherd said. “So, a couple years ago he said, ‘Well, what do we have to do to bring something like that here?’ I said, ‘Well, I just have to call a few folks.’”
With free admission to all three shows, Ayers and Lubi envision that the event will start a tradition of an annual songwriters festival in Flagler County — similar to the yearly Key West Songwriters Festival and the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival in Nashville, the largest songwriters festival in the world.
“Our vision for this whole thing is that it becomes an annual event, that we grow it over time,” Lubi said. “Today, nine writers was a size that we felt comfortable with. … There’s a time frame where we could end up having 20 or 30 writers and even grow it up to 50 or 60 writers someday.”
Ayers said that kicking off the festival at “First Friday” suits the character of the event — locals gathering to hear from songwriters to learn about their backgrounds while getting to know each other in a welcoming space.
“These are national people that are very busy, and the fact that Thom has gotten people of this caliber to come here and to perform here, we need a good turnout to show support for it,” Ayers said. “It’s kind of a new cultural turn on for Palm Coast.”
The festival is presented by the Palm Coast Observer, KIX Country 98.7 and Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches (VisitFlagler.com). Visit https://palmcoastsongwriters.com.