An article by Johnny Cole & Connie Gibbs
Photos by Stephen Anderson
There is something very special about the connection between a song, its songwriter and those of us who embrace the music. It is one of the wonderful things that make songwriter inspired events both memorable and valuable. In the last few years, we at The Southland Music Line have enjoyed attending the annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival – this year celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event took place on September 19 -22 at locations in Ocean Springs, Gautier, Moss Point and Biloxi, Mississippi and featured over 120 songwriters from multiple genres.
This year’s account of the festival is divided into three sections: “The Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction of Paul Overstreet” by Connie Gibbs, “Festival Photos” by Stephen Anderson, and begins with “Festival Highlights and Memories” by Johnny Cole.
Highlights and Memories by Johnny Cole
There is a reason I arrange my travel schedule to be on the Gulf Coast for this particular weekend each September – the Mississippi Songwriters Festival is one of my favorite events to attend because of its array of talent, variety of genres on full display, welcoming spirit of the Gulf Coast community, and the amazing people that work hard to bring us this yearly festival.
After enjoying the Hall of Fame induction of Paul Overstreet on Thursday, The Southland Music Line made our way around the festival throughout the weekend leading up to Sunday’s Grand Finale. Starting off with the KneeOn Sisters (music artists recently featured in an October article at The Southland Music Line) and continuing through many songwriter music rounds, we stayed busy taking in as much as possible. A sample of those songwriter/artists enjoyed: Barstow Revival, Blue Mother Tupelo, Buddy Jewell, Doug Stepanek, Dustin Steen, Joe Sims, Judy Blank, Katie Jones, Kevin Reynolds, Lisa Mills, Melissa Summersell, Morgan Tyler and Sarah Peacock to name a few. We even slipped into a packed Boots & Spurs to see Paul Overstreet again. Another highlight was Saturday’s youth songwriters showcase at Murky Waters featuring a great group of inspiring young talent.
Top Photo: Paul Overstreet at The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center; above photo: Sarah Peacock at Mississippi Songwriters Festival in Ocean Springs, MS
This year brought us some definite songwriting notables including Jerry Salley, whose songs have been recorded by Elton John, Loretta Lynn, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chris Stapleton, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley and others. Salley’s over 500 songs recorded have contributed to him earning numerous songwriting accolades; Wood Newton’s penned songs “Bobbie Sue” by the Oak Ridge Boys and “Twenty Years Ago” by Kenny Rogers both received awards for a million performances by BMI. Wood’s list of artists to record his songs is quite impressive; and then there was also Rafe Van Hoy, whose history as a songwriter is mind-blowing. His songs have been on records selling well over 50 million copies. Of course, this is just a sample of the many talented songwriters the Mississippi Songwriters Festival attracted in 2019.
Moving about a festival of any size has its benefits, including an outstanding discovery of someone new to us. A good example of this was Chaislyn Jane from Baton Rouge who we had to see more than once. Chaislyn isn’t only a great songwriter, but her voice is amazing. Please, be on the lookout for her. The former Bayou Idol winner and American Idol contestant left quite an impression on us and will likely do the same for you.
Chaislyn Jane at the Mississippi Songwriters Festival in Ocean Springs, MS
As much as we enjoyed the music at the venues, we additionally enjoyed the food at several locations. On side note, we also met Val from New Orleans with his Muffaletta and Hot Tamale vending business – Wow! He invited us into his vending trailer as he prepared our delicious food and told us some fascinating stories.
The festival’s Grand Finale on Sunday is always special and the 10th Anniversary edition was no exception. Once again, it took place at Mosaic’s in downtown Ocean Springs with a nice breeze on the day before the official start of autumn.
Set 1 – Mark Sherrill, Derek Norsworthy & Bo Roberts
Set 2 – Blue Mother Tupelo & J Edwards
Set 3 – Mark Muleman Massey, Dean Johanesen & Troy Martin
Set 4 – Karen Reynolds & Tricia Walker
Set 5 – Sean Gasaway & Brandon Green
Set 6 – Sera B & Rod Stokes
Set 7 – Tommy Barnes & Chris Wallin
Troy Martin, Tommy Barnes & Buddy Jewel at the Mississippi Songwriters Festival in Ocean Springs, MS
Yes, it was another memorable few, all-too-short days of enjoying great music by talented songwriters while marking a sensational 10th year anniversary.
“Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction of Paul Overstreet”
by Connie Gibbs (Paul Overstreet’s cousin)
Thursday, “9/19/19” was a special night for me. I spent a month looking forward to the Induction of Paul Overstreet into the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame. Paul is a hometown hero. He hails from the small town of Vancleave, a community in which I was born, raised and reside to this day. He and I are a part of a very big family. His Dad and my Mom are siblings; two of twelve siblings, in fact. If my math is correct, he and I share fifty-five first cousins on that side of our family!
The night was electrifying! Along with state and local dignitaries, Paul’s family, ranging in age from ten to eighty-eight, were well represented. Many other friends, former classmates and fans of Paul peppered the audience at the Mary C. O’Keefe Art and Cultural Center, too. Paul’s performance was, as is usual for him, equally entertaining for young and old alike.
This year’s Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee “Paul Overstreet”
It was evident immediately that everyone in the room knew many of his songs and knew them well. Numerous times during his performance, he backed away from the microphone and allowed his audience to sing to him! I sang along with delight, to songs like, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, “Some Beach”, “Seein’ My Father in Me”, “Diggin’ Up Bones” and, of course, “Forever and Ever Amen”! His performances of those and other songs were stellar. Paul has an amazing voice and is a very accomplished guitarist as well. As good as his performances were the stories he told. Paul has quite the sense of humor and the reputation as a storyteller who can have the audience in stitches. This night was no exception. He told of how certain songs came to be, of embarrassing moments for him while accepting awards on television and even included a few stories of other famous artists. His songs and stories were each met with thunderous applause.
When he told the audience that he was humbled by the honor of being the very first inductee of this Hall of Fame, I could tell he meant it. He spoke of his excitement about the future of the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame and looks forward to other well deserving songwriters being blessed with the same honor. He also promised to make himself available to up and coming songwriters with a sincerity that I firmly believed. What an awesome night it was. I made memories that I know I will never forget.
Final Thoughts by The Southland Music Line
The Southland Music Line thanks the Mississippi Songwriters Alliance, the festival organizers and associates, the many venues and, of course, the songwriters. We look forward to next year and all the events coming up until then, including the monthly “Songs & Stories” live shows at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs.
Our congratulations to Paul Overstreet, the first inductee of the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame.
KneeOn Sisters at Mississippi Songwriters Festival in Ocean Springs, MS
Click Here to check out our recent article about the KneeOn Sisters.
- Drew Howard of Barstow Revival, Kay Khoury, and Jay Megginson of Barstow Revival
Click Here to check out our recent article about Barstow Revival
Page designed and edited by Johnny Cole
Additonal editing by Brenda Germany
© The Southland Music Line. 2019. All rights reserved