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Key West Songwriter’s Festival Share Thisi

Earlier this month Heart’s Bluff Music had the privilege of co-sponsoring the Better Angels 16th Annual Key West Songwriter’s Festival.

For me the festival started on the plane ride from Nashville as I witnessed the airline staff gate-checking over twenty guitars! Shawn Camp introduced himself in the waiting area. Bob Dipiero and I discussed an old song we’d written together, and Dean Alexander sang a song over the airplane PA. The party had indeed started!

The Key West Songwriter’s Festival is known for being something of a Spring Break for industry folks. Now featuring over 100 performances and thousands of attendees, the event has grown steadily over 16 years. This was actually my first year to attend, and I wasn’t disappointed. The convergence of great venues throughout the kitschy Old Town, world-class songwriting talent, and a great beachfront room at Le Mer Guest House, provided the perfect blend of relaxation, networking and musical experiences.

Perhaps the biggest highlight for me was sponsoring our Hearts Bluff VIP lunch on Thursday. From a waterfront balcony at the Westin, event coordinator Shauna Collins put together an intimate, gourmet lunch for about 35 writers and sponsors.

Guests included:

Steve Bogard, Joey & Rory Feek, Chuck Cannon, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Marty Dodson, Caryl Mack Parker, David Lee, Alissa Moreno, James Slater, Tony Stampley, Even Stevens, Billy Yates, Arlis Albritton, Steffon Hamulak, Liz Morin, Becky Harris, Elisha Hoffman, Ben Margolis, Mark Mason, Charlie Bauer, Rob Rappaport, Bill Underwood

Liz Morin, Charlie Bauer, Arlis Albritton, Caryl Parker, Scott Parker, Chuck Cannon, James Slater

Mark Mason (BMI), Marty Dodson, David Lee, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Scott Parker, Caryl Parker, Rob Rappaport (Better Angels) & Guest

Mark Mason (BMI), Caryl Parker, Marty Dodson, Scott Parker, Steve Bogard (NSAI), Joey + Rory










During the lunch, I also had the privilege of spending some time with Joey + Rory. Joey was kind enough to enlighten me as to the mysterious origins of our prized Hearts Bluff logo. After all these years, I really had no clue.

Let it be known – our cow is officially a “Holstein Steer”.

Thanks, Joey!

Of course, there were many performances set over multiple days throughout Key West. It’s very hard to pick favorites. But here were a few highlights:

The World Famous Headliners delivered an amazing performance at the San Carlos Theatre – hands down fantastic! Shawn Camp, Pat McGlaughlin, Al Anderson, Greg Morrow and Michael Rhodes, tore it up!. Imagine a guilty mash-up of old Little Feat, Beach Boys, Traveling Willbury’s blended with traditional Blues, Cajun grooves, and a little T-Rex. It’s hopelessly familiar but twisted and fresh at the same time.

I also sat backstage, just a few feet away from the pure magic of Raul Malo and James Slater. After 25 years in this business, and hopelessly jaded, it’s great to still get chill bumps once in a while! Raul’s voice should be classified as a true American treasure.

My backstage view of Raul Malo and James Slater

Other favorites included Chuck Cannon appearing with Sarah Buxton and Tom Bukovak at the San Carlos Theatre. Cannon sang some of my all-time favorite tunes including: Ghost of Johnny Cash, Love and Money, and We All Give God the Blues. His songs were intermingled with Sarah’s stunning, soulful voice and songs. My pal Tom Bukovac, one of the finest guitarist on the planet, provided layer upon layer of tasty seasonings to both singers.

And at some point in your life you need to hear Hugh Prestwood’s weathered voice as he interprets The Song Remembers When – as he did late Friday night at the Tropic Cinema.

It’s also great being married to one of the best singers on the planet. I accompanied my wife Caryl, playing guitar on several of her sets around town. My favorite was her set with Rebecca Lynn Howard at St. Mary’s Garden. What incredible singers! I sat about 5 feet away from Rebecca as she sang Forgive – one of the top Country songs of the decade.

Caryl Parker, Hugh Prestwood and Scott Parker at the Pier House

Sunset Sail with Billy Yates, Dean Alexander, Brian White, and Kristie Lee Cook


Our trip ended with a Sunset Cruise featuring Brian White, Billy Yates, Dean Alexander, and Kristie Lee Cook. On the way back to shore, I experienced one of those legendary Key West sunsets – as a simultaneous storm formed on the horizon, complete with lightning and water-spouts. Even the sky reflected the diverse beauty of the Festival.

I came to Nashville about the same year the Key West Festival began. It reminded me of how blessed we truly are – being surrounded by so many old friends, and forging new relationships with such remarkably talented people. We are rich indeed.

I certainly look forward to next year’s festivities!

On our way to a gig – complete with guitar strapped on back!