McMillan said she has participated in songwriter festivals in other areas and has enjoyed them more than anything else she’s ever done. That’s why she wanted to bring one to Tuscaloosa.
“The whole idea of the songwriter rounds that make up the festival started in Nashville,” she said.
A songwriter round is made up of three or four writers who are on stage together. During a round, each songwriter will play a song they wrote and then share the story behind the song. After each writer performs three or four songs, the group moves to another venue, and other writers take their place for the next round.
“Somebody in the audience can see nine to 12 songwriters in one venue, or they can follow the songwriter that they want to see to different venues,” McMillan said.
“It’s very personal, because it’s a side of the song and the performance that you don’t see otherwise. The whole round itself is very intimate. It’s like a storytelling performance. The stories are just as good as the songs, sometimes even better.”
While the performance rounds will be held in bars and restaurants, McMillan said audience members shouldn’t expect a party atmosphere.
“We’re going to promote listening-room environments. People will come in, get a drink, and listen to the songs. It’s not a party environment. It’s an environment where you pay your respect to the songwriter, who is telling their story.”
Audience members with a particular music preference will be able to hear their favorite genre as songwriters in country, folk, rock, blues, and even psychedelia are scheduled to appear. There is no charge to attend the performance rounds.
The festival begins with a welcoming party at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21 at Black Warrior Brewing Company. Tommy Barnes, who wrote the song “Indian Outlaw” recorded by Tim McGraw, will perform.
On Friday, June 22 the performance rounds begin at 4 p.m. at Black Warrior Brewing Company, and Band of Brothers Brewing Company.
Barnes, along with hit songwriters Troy Martin and Steve Leslie, will perform at Government Plaza at 6 p.m. Other songwriters will perform at Rhythm and Brews, Green Bar, Copper Top, and Billy’s Sports Grill in Northport beginning at 6 p.m.
Leslie, a Grammy Award-winner, who has written songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Mark Chesnutt, George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, and others, will hold a workshop for anyone interested in learning about songwriting on Saturday, June 23 at 10 a.m. at Hotel Indigo. The cost for the workshop is $25.
“Anyone interested in the Nashville songwriting process should come to the workshop,” Leslie said. “I’m going to talk about how we do it here, what we do once the song is written, and how much money can be earned.”
Saturday’s performance rounds begin at 2 p.m. at the breweries and 4 p.m. at the other locations.
The festival will conclude for the public on Saturday night, with the final round being held at the rooftop terrace at Hotel Indigo at 7 p.m. A farewell brunch for the songwriters will be held on Sunday, June 24.
During the weekend, an app for smartphones will be available to help audience members find where specific songwriters are performing. Schedules can also be picked up in the Hotel Indigo lobby or found on the Druid City Songwriters Festival website.
McMillan said songwriters and their followers have a passion for these types of music festivals, and she expects many visitors from outside Tuscaloosa. She had to turn away some artists who applied because this year’s festival just couldn’t accommodate them.
“I was really blown away by the amount of talent, and people from different states that applied, especially with this being our first year,” she said.
“We didn’t have anything to tell these people, but that we were doing a festival, and they’re coming in from all over just for the opportunity to do a festival like this.”
Leslie said he is glad Tuscaloosa is starting a songwriters’ festival.
“I love the idea,” he said. “The more opportunities available for people to hear and understand what it is we do the better! Also, inspiring younger songwriters is the best part of this job for me.”
“I want people to come out and give it a shot,” McMillan said, “because I really believe people are going to love it.”
For more information about the Druid City Songwriters Festival, visit druidcitysongwritersfest.com or @DCSF18 on Facebook.