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St. Petersburg songwriters festival announced for November

Bill DeYoung

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Tim James performed his song "Love Like Crazy," a No. 1 hit for Lee Brice. Photos: Crackerjack Media.

Mayor Rick Kriseman was among those announcing the inaugural Downtown St. Petersburg Songwriters Festival Thursday morning in the atrium lobby of the Mahaffey Theater.

“A hundred free concerts, folks, in venues all over the city,” Kriseman enthused. “That’s incredible.”

The event, Nov. 1-3, will indeed include more than 100 live, acoustic performances by American songwriters, from all genres, at various locations downtown.

“If you can’t tell how excited I am about this festival,” said Rick Kriseman, “you haven’t been listening.”

The festival is a partnership between Cox Media Group, Funky Buddha Brewery, the City of St. Petersburg and BMI, which handles publishing and royalties for songwriters.

Neither the performers nor the participating venues were announced.

Although there will be a small number of headliner concerts, the festival, explained Cox Media representative Dan Connelly, will focus on the songwriters – the men and women behind the hits – who’ll perform, and tell the stories behind the songs.

Thursday’s announcement included a performance by Tennessee scribe Tim James, who proceeded to tell (a version of) the story of his own career arc, which has included hits for artists including Chris Stapleton, George Strait, Rodney Atkins, Toby Keith and Lee Brice.

“Some guys were in music all their life,” James said as he strummed an acoustic guitar. “Some guys, like me, were not. I got kicked out of a college and flunked out of another. Then, never having been on an airplane, I got on a plane and went to L.A. And after a very short-lived career at Chippendales – no, I was actually in pharmaceutical sales. I sold Robitussin. I’m not making that part up.”

Kriseman stressed both the cultural and economic potential of the festival.

“In St. Pete we talk a lot about arts and culture,” he said. “And I believe there is no question we are a true city of the arts.

“I believe it’s a critical component of our economic development strategy. And that’s why I am so excited about this songwriters festival. Similar festivals around the country have had a profound economic impact on the communities where they are hosted.”

A portion of the proceeds from the headliner events will benefit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Music Therapy Department.

New information will be released through DTSPSongwritersFestival.com.

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