Stage set for Hwy. 80 Songwriter’s Festival

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 1, 2016

Highway 80 Songwriter's Fest Logo

A group of nine songwriters will perform their original music at this year’s Highway 80 Songwriter’s Festival. The event, hosted by the City of Demopolis and the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, is free to the public.
The festival will feature nine artists from 6 to 9 p.m. Following is information on the songwriters scheduled to perform.

Jacob Broussard
Broussard is a resident of Newbern, Alabama and this marks his first visit to perform at the Hwy. 80 Songwriter’s Festival.
“My music is a mix between country and a little Jimmy Buffett. Definitely aiming for the island style,” Broussard said.
He said he became involved in music at a young age and studied music business and production at Troy University under notable producers Robert Bullock (Nashville) and Robert W. Smith (Montgomery).
“Under (Bullock and Smith) I have performed as a studio musician and recorded in many studios across the Southeast. Also, I have performed at Universal Studios Orlando and Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville,” he said.

Christina Christian
Christian is a resident of Perdido Key, Florida and 2016 marks her third appearance at the Songwriter’s Festival, including her first year when it was held in Meridian.
“My music is nothing like you would hear on new country radio,” Christian said. “I started off writing in the footsteps of Taylor Swift and though my inspiration flowed from past relationships, my music and lyrics grew into a deeper connection and has evolved into more truth and less fantasy.
Christian said her parents were a big influence during her earliest days when she began to fall in love with music, from her father “jamming” to her mother listening to the car radio.
“My entire childhood prepared me and made my life’s goal a musical journey until He calls me home,” she said.
Christian has performed across the Southeast, from Nashville to Savannah, Ocean Springs to New Orleans.

Taylor Craven
Craven is a resident of Ocean Springs, Mississippi and said he is excited to be bringing his “Country-Americana” style music back to the Hwy. 80 Songwriter’s Festival for the third year.
Craven’s fascination with music began at home and in her church.
“My dad is a tremendous singer and my mom is a wonderful storyteller. “My first fascination with lyrics was reading from the hymnal at church,” he said. My first LP was a Mac Davis album and I used to sit by the record player and lift the needle back and forth, studying his lyric structure. He remains a big influence. I attended church camp one summer and learned 3 chords on the guitar (I now know 4 chords!). I came home and saved and bought my first guitar. I wrote my first song at 14.”
Craven has also performed at the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival and the Cotton Pickn’ Songwriter Festival in Monroeville. He is also a regular at the Mississippi Songwriter Festival and performs at clubs and churches.
Two of Craven’s songs have been in American Songwriter Magazine and was in the top 10 two years in a row for the Texas Troubadour Songwriter Classic.

Megan McMillan
McMillan is a resdient of Centreville, Alabama and is making her third appearance at the Songwriter’s Festival in Demopolis.
McMillan said it is difficult to describe her music, but feels it has an Americana quality.
“My daddy exposed me to a lot of different music … Haggard, Springsteen, Hank Sr., Tom Petty, Pink Floyd … and we were pretty into the 90s alternative stuff, too. I found myself being drawn to great lyrics so I started to try and emulate that. That was the beginning,” she said.
McMillan said she performs “year-round, traveling wherever, whenever, to play a mixture of my stuff and stuff people may already know.”
“I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to be part of this festival,” she added. “Mayor Mike (Grayson) and everyone involved go above and beyond to make us songwriters feel welcome. It’s one of my favorite events all year.

Derek Norsworthy
Norsworthy is a resident of Escatawpa, Missippi and, after a few years away, is returning to the Songwriter’s Festival for his third year
Norsworthy said one of the goals he has in writing songs is to remain honest. “I’m not comfortable writing about things I haven’t lived or seen others experience.”
“Music has been a part of my life since I was kid. My dad played drums, so there was always music around when I was young. I took up songwriting as a teenager and it has pretty much consumed my life since,” he added.
Norsworthy said he is proud to have shared the stage with a number of his heroes over the years, including Alabama, Blake Shelton, 3 Doors Down and Eric Church. “I grew up idolizing a lot of these guys and to see my name on the same flyer and call many of them buddies is an absolute blessing.”

Kenny Smitherman
Smitherman is a resident of Tuscaloosa and is performing at the Songwriter’s Festival for the first time.
Smitherman’s music offers a contemporary modern feel with a taste of the oldies.
“Growing up my daddy was a bluegrass musician and I used to go with him to square dances where he performed. One night at the age of 8 he asked me to get up and sing “Hound Dog” by Elvis because he had heard me sing at home and when people threw dimes and quarters at me I knew I wanted to be a musician and singer,” he said.
Smitherman’s music career includes playing guitar for recording artist Percy Sledge and Johnny Tillotson during their 1990 tour through the South and I am a founding member of the original Show Band, Chevy 6, that performed throughout the Southeast.
“I have continuously played with bands for the past 40 years and have been writing for just about as long,” he said.

Information was not available for the following songwriters set to perform Saturday: Alan Hartzell, Ted McVay, and Shawn Pfaffman.

This article originally published in the Wednesday, June 29, print edition of the Demopolis Times.