Following a last-minute pivot to a virtual presentation in 2020, the Third Street Songwriters Festival returns Saturday as an in-person event.
Founder and producer Kay McHenry Solar, adapting to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has trimmed the festival from three days to one. She’s also moved it from the usual indoor venues along downtown’s Third Street to the greenspace at Pointe-Marie, a planned community on River Road.
“It’s a lovely space,” Solar said of the sprawling grounds. “And it’s such a huge space that people can feel comfortable being outdoors.”
The seventh annual festival runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 14200 River Road. The day begins at 10 a.m. with a ticketed Songwriter Workshop in Pointe-Marie’s screened-in pavilion.
From noon to 5 p.m., the public is invited to attend free singer-songwriter performances on the lawn. Solar anticipates six to eight songwriter circles running throughout the day.
“It allows a large number of songwriters to play, to network and hear each other’s songs,” she said. “People attending can bring their blankets and chairs, listening to music and being socially distanced.”
Festivalgoers also can browse the festival’s first arts market. Food trucks will be on-site throughout the day and a cochon de lait, ticketed at $100, begins at 5 p.m.
The Songwriter Showcase, admission $20, starts at 7 p.m. with performers and contest winners, continuing at 8:30 p.m. with C.J. Solar, Blake Griffith and Rick Huckaby.
Nashville-based Baton Rouge native C.J. Solar has co-written two No. 1 songs, Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” (featuring Florida Georgia Line) and Jameson Rodgers’ “Some Girls.” Jason Aldean and Jerrod Niemann are among the other artists who’ve recorded Solar’s songs.
Based in Grand Cane, Griffith has written songs recorded by country star Tim McGraw.
Huckaby, another Baton Rouge native based in Nashville, composed Top 20 hits for Trace Adkins (“Muddy Water”) and Thomas Rhett (“Beer with Jesus”) and album tracks for Adkins, Tracy Lawrence, Craig Morgan and Frankie Ballard.
Last March, when the pandemic prompted shutdowns through the world, Kay Solar moved the Third Street Songwriters Festival online. Among the first festivals to go virtual, it featured a songwriter every 30 minutes via Facebook Live.
“It went without a hitch, except one person was slightly late,” Kay Solar said.
She chose to proceed with the 2021 festival this month in part because she didn’t want to compete with the many festivals rescheduled for fall. She also wanted to meet pent-up demand for in-person music.
“The songwriters and the people miss live music,” Kay Solar said.
This year’s attendance inevitably will be less than usual.
“Up in Nashville,” Kay Solar said, “songwriters are still working from home and doing Zoom-writes. People aren’t traveling like they normally would.”
Nonetheless, the producer expects singer-songwriters from Nashville, Florida and throughout Louisiana.
In 2008, Kay Solar and her son, C.J., attended the first 30A Songwriters Festival in South Walton, Florida. The experience inspired her to create the Third Street Songwriters Festival. Kay Solar told herself that, although Baton Rouge doesn’t have a beach, the new restaurants and bars opening downtown could accommodate songwriters’ performances.
The 2019 Third Street Songwriters Festival drew 150 performers from 13 states. Expanding from its original Manship Theatre location, the event spread to bars and restaurants along Third Street.
“People loved coming in because everything was right there,” Kay Solar said. “They would stay at the hotels and walk to all of the venues.”
From the start, Kay Solar envisioned an educational opportunity for songwriters as well as performing and networking. C.J. Solar and Griffith will lead this year’s songwriter workshop, an in-person and virtual event. Topics include radio and social media promotion for songwriters and the art and craft of songwriting.
Third Street Songwriters Festival
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
Free and ticketed
Pointe-Marie, 14200 River Road