2020 30A Songwriter’s Festival Recap

Remembering Two Musical Legends from the 2020 30A Songwriter's Festival

The 2020 30A Songwriter’s Festival marked 11 years of extraordinary talent from some of the most influential songwriters in music, with up-and-coming and seasoned artists performing at 25 venues.

The 2020 headliners included Tanya Tucker, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, and Chris Stills, son of Stephen Stills. The honorable John Prine performed what would be two of his last shows in his lifetime after unfortunately passing away a few months later. Prine, sharing the stage with his son and wife for a few heartfelt ballads, made the weekend memorable with his trademark humor and insightful commentary at an intimate performance held at Grayton Beer Tap Room. The running commentary touched on the essence of what songwriting is really about—storytelling that encompasses the good, the bad, and possibly the incriminating. Prine also played an outdoor set on Saturday, where he and Tanya Tucker performed a pas de deux rendition of his biggest hit, “Angel from Montgomery.”

David Onley
Photo copyright John Partipilo

John Prine
Photo copyright johnprine.com

Zac Brown Band bassist, John Driskell Hopkins, along with songwriting partners, Wyatt Durrette and Levi Lowrey, gave an electrifying performance at Shunk Gulley to a packed crowd for a show lasting nearly three hours. The Indigo Girls, Shawn Mullins and Michelle Malone, impressed audiences all weekend with folk-rock acoustic sessions to loyal fans. Americana singer Lindsay Lou, a Michigan native, made her debut with soulful renditions of “Hot Hands” and “Southland.”

The 30A Songwriter’s Festival is simply about experiencing the transcendence of music. Local record stores, coffee shops, and back porches of bars become impromptu stages, allowing fans a unique connection to the music and its creators. Benefitting the Cultural Arts Association as the largest charity event on the Emerald Coast, the festival directly funds leadership, advocacy and education in the arts, and provides needs-based scholarships to students and continuing education grants through their “Arts for All” program.

The weekend took a tragic turn when singer-songwriter and mentor, David Olney, passed away while sharing the stage with Amy Rigby and Scott Miller at the WaterColor Boathouse. The acclaimed 71-year-old folk artist wrote songs recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Emmy Lou Harris, and Steve Earle. With a career spanning 20 albums over five decades, his humorous storytelling style made him a key figure in the Nashville music scene. Fellow musician and friend, Townes Van Zandt, once said Olney was the best songwriter he’d ever heard. The artist is survived by his wife, Regine, and two children, Redding and Lillian.