The Third Street Songwriters Festival's popularity continues to balloon in its third year.
Hundreds of local and national songwriters will perform this weekend as the festival hits its third anniversary. The event starts Friday with a concert at 8 p.m. at Red Dragon Listening Room, followed by a late show at 11 p.m. at Huey's.
Performances and songwriter rounds continue Saturday at multiple venues along Third Street in downtown Baton Rouge from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. A hit writer showcase at Manship Theatre starts at 7 p.m. Saturday. Songwriter rounds will also be held at 11 a.m. Sunday at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar.
Kay McHenry Solar, the founder of the event, said Third Street Songwriters Festival came about after seeing a similar event in South Walton, Florida — the 30A Songwriters Festival.
"The first year, (the 30A Songwriters Festival) had maybe 500 people attend, then it had thousands upon thousands," McHenry Solar said. "When I saw that and saw how people here were reacting to original music, I thought that we could do this here."
In addition to the response of the Florida festival, McHenry Solar had already started an annual holiday concert at the Manship, bringing in songwriters who were from Baton Rouge and now lived in Nashville back home to perform their new material.
That desire for original tunes and an up-and-coming downtown scene was all she needed to kick off Baton Rouge's own festival in 2015. Since then, the popularity of singer songwriters in the Capital City as well as the downtown scene has only gotten stronger.
"I think our population wants to hear more original music live," she said. "That scene has grown like crazy. It's a lot more than two or three years ago in the city."
Key to that development, McHenry Solar said, are the Sunday songwriter rounds at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar. There, she has seen numerous songwriters not only perform but start new bands.
"We have so many talented people right here in Baton Rouge, and a lot of them have been brought together with those Sunday afternoon shows," she said. "They meet (at Jolie Pearl) and start writing together. That's where we find a lot of the local folks who are playing in the festival."
Songwriters with a few No. 1 hits to their names will also be in attendance at the Saturday night showcase at Manship Theatre.
"I've got eight singer-songwriters with 25 No. 1 hits between them," McHenry Solar said of the Saturday concert.
Those hit writers include Wynn Varble, who's had songs recorded by Lee Ann Womack, Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks; Jim McCormick, who wrote "You Don't Know Her Like I Do," recorded by Brantley Gilbert; and Charlie and Dana Hunt Black, who have written songs for George Strait and Reba McEntire.
"At that show, people will hear the story behind the song," McHenry Solar said. "They'll hear the thought process, how they came up with that."
In addition to the rounds and concerts, the festival offers songwriter workshops and industry panels. It's all part of a larger effort, connecting Baton Rouge talent with Nashville's popular scene. You might not know the names now, but you could be hearing their songs in a few months.
"We're getting national and up-and-coming songwriters at the festival," McHenry Solar said. "Some of these people will hear these songs for the first time, and maybe, it will come out on someone's record in a month or two."
Third Street Songwriters Festival
WHERE: Various locations downtown
COST: Prices vary per event
10 a.m.: NSAI Songwriter Workshop at The Watermark; participants must register to attend
8 p.m.: CJ Solar & Nashville Band of Bros. at Red Dragon Listening Room. $20-$30.
11 p.m.: “Tennessee Whiskey” late night show with songwriter rounds at Huey's; free
9:30 a.m.: Industry and Listening Panel at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar; free to attend
1 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Songwriter rounds at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar, Hotel Indigo, Driftwood Cask & Barrel, Happy’s, The Draft House, Lava Cantina downtown, and Milford’s On Third
4:30 p.m.: Moonshine & Music featuring music from Nicole Johnson (from The Voice), Todd O’Neill, Brinley Addington, Michael Hardy and Dale Dodson as well as a five-course meal from Stroubes at The Gallery at Manship. $75 per person, limited seating.
7 p.m.: Hit Writer Showcase, featuring Justin Ebach, Rick Huckaby, Brent Anderson, CJ Solar, Wynn Varble, Jim McCormick, and Charlie & Dana Hunt Black at Manship Theatre. $50-$60.
10 p.m.: After party meet ’n’ greet at Hotel Indigo
11 p.m.: Wine down after party with music from Barry Hebert and friends at Blend
11 a.m.: Songwriter rounds at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar