“We give people an opportunity to hear the stories behind the song,” says Bud Tower, a professional songwriter and the founder of the New Orleans Songwriter Festival, which returns for its second year December 3-6. At last year’s festival, Jimmy Webb told the story of playing Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” for Glen Campbell. “Glen ended up leaving Jimmy’s house with Allen Toussaint’s record, and a month later it was on the radio,” Tower says.
Toussaint, who headlined last year, is featured again this year, along with Don Schlitz and J.D. Souther. Souther is known for penning several hits for the Eagles including “Best of My Love” and “The New Kid in Town,” while Schlitz wrote over a hundred cuts, including Kenny Rogers’ iconic hit, “The Gambler.”
The festival showcases some of New Orleans and America’s premier songwriting talent, and hopes to shine a light on the people and the process of how the words in popular song come into existence and to prominence. It is also expanding to include more venues and an educational element in the form of songwriting panels. It has also added a hip-hop component which, Tower says, was long overdue. “We would be derelict if we didn’t include hip-hop. For cripes’ sake, Lil’ Wayne and Juvenile are from here,” he says. “We are featuring the first ever panel, headed by Al Kapone, where young artists can come learn about the craft of constructing a rap song, and learn what producers expect of you once you make it into the studio.”
Also included on the bill is an open mic night, along with performances from some of the city’s rising musicians, including Andrew Duhon, Glasgow’s Sam Craft and John Michael Rouchell of MyNameIsJohnMichael. The fest even includes a return for former Saint Kyle Turley, who has started working on a music career in Nashville.
Tower has high hopes for the festival going forward, and the plan for next year is to add a jazz component to the fest, to better encompass all genres of music produced by New Orleanians. Right now, he just wants to take a page from the boys in black and gold. “Like the Saints, we just want to take it one game at a time, and make sure we win the one in front of us,” he says. “But we are excited about the future of this festival.”
For a schedule of events, go to NOSongFest.com.