Songwriters Festival brings local and national songwriters to the Coast

Jordyn Mallory
Jordyn Mallory

There will be plenty of picking and strumming in Ocean Springs this week as the city hosts the seventh annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival, starting Thrusday through Sept. 18.

The event will kick off Thursday night at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center with the live Songs & Stories Radio Show with Wynn Varble, his only appearance slated for the festival.

Then it’s on to Boots & Spurs from 9-until for socializing, networking and a performance by Jordyn Mallory

On Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight, songwriters will gather in various groupings to perform round-robin sets.

In this format, each musician shares background on their music career and then performs a song or two. Venues hosting the live shows are Boots & Spurs, Tom’s Pizza, Off The Hook, Mosaic Tapas Bar, The Julep Room, Murky Waters and Salvetti’s, all located in Ocean Springs.

This year’s performers feature some names that should be familiar to local music lovers: Marianne Allison, Derek Norsworthy, Brent Anderson, Matt Hoggatt and Brandon Green.

That’s just a few of the anticipated lineup of more than 20 who are active in the industry.

Others scheduled are Michael Garvin, Tony Mullins, Sean Gasaway, Karen Reynolds, Blue Mother Tupelo, Johnny Mire, Taylor Craven, Tricia Walker, Jim “Moose” Brown, Hannah Dasher, Jake Mitchell and Smith Ahnquist. There also will be about 80 local and regional musicians joining in the live performances.

Special performances include a Youth Showcase at Tom’s Pizza on Saturday afternoon, at a time to be announced. Also, a grand finale will be held outside Mosaic Tapas Bar on Sunday afternoon around 2. Admission to all of the venues is free.

George Cumbest, festival director, said there are some exciting first-time participants this year, including Anderson, who plays guitar for Brad Paisley and produced his hit “Buy Me a Boat;” Garvin, who also will teach a workshop; Mullins, who played with Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts; and “Moose” Brown, who plays guitar for Bob Seger. Cumbest also said it’s a boon to have T-Bone Pruitt and other musicians representing the blues genre this year.

A two-part songwriting workshop will be held Saturday at Gulf Hills. Admission is $35 per workshop or $60 for both. To reserve a spot, email

The first workshop will be presented by Garvin, who will cover technique, lyrics, melody and business. Garvin’s list of accomplishments includes No. 1 hits for Jennifer Lopez (“Waiting for Tonight”), Tanya Tucker (“Highway Robbery”), Ronnie McDowell (“In a New York Minute”), Conway Twitty (“Desperado Love”) and T.G. Sheppard (“Only One You”). The workshop is at 10 a.m.

The second workshop is at 1 p.m. and will focus on chord structure, progressions and theory. The instructor will be Delta Community College music instructor Jamey Shannon.