Tell readers a bit about the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival’s inception. 

In the fall of 2017, the Canopy Walk Condo Association hosted a songwriters event featuring Thom Shepherd and Coley McCabe-Shepherd. Thom Shepherd and I thought Palm Coast could be a great place to host a Songwriters Festival such as those held in other cities throughout the United States, and with the help and support of David Ayres and John Walsh, the concept for the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival began.  This led to the first festival in May of 2018 with 9 HIT Songwriters from Nashville coming to town to share the stories behind their songs and performing them.

Wrapping year four, you have fine-tuned this event into a near science. How does the model of small venues help maintain the intimacy of the original concept?  

The audience gets to experience a very unique music entertainment event, with the feel of the writers sitting in your living room and sharing the story behind the song and then performing it.   Both our Amphitheater Show at Daytona State College Palm Coast Campus, along with our restaurant based settings like European Village, Oceanside Beach Bar & Grill, and JT’s Seafood Shack provide for great intimate setting.

This year was poignant with the fundraising element for two very special charities. Why were they selected and how did you do on fundraising? 

We always wanted to make this event something that would also give back in some shape or form.  Early on and over the past year we identified the Daytona State College Foundation as one of the organizations we would support, and then last year we added the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.  This year we added the Gold Star Mentors Foundation.  We actually are in process of identifying two local families with the help of our County’s Veterans Support group to provide two guitars to help them cope with the loss of a loved one who served our Country.  In total, between these organizations we will have raised nearly $20,000.

People often forget it’s relationships that help create the magic behind successful events like the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival. How has your relationship with Thom Shepherd grown through this process?

Thom and I have been great friends for over 25 years. The way he helped us identify great songwriters in year one, and they in turn referred other great writers to us since that time shows the power of brotherhood. I joke with Thom often that he is my brother from another mother.

Many don’t know this but during COVID in 2020, he single handedly put together a YouTube Channel for us that put Palm Coast on the map nationwide and in Canada, and it featured 19 songwriters doing videos from their homes telling stories about their hits and performing them so we still had a festival in 2020 of sorts.

Talking just a few days ago, you’ve already sold out a third of the reserved under cover tickets for next year. What does this say about the excitement for the festival, to you? 

It truly is amazing that we have this much momentum already for next year.  Combined with more local residents knowing what this festival is about now and that these are HIT songwriters from Nashville coming here, plus the 16 states and growing that represented a part of our ticket sales this past year, we are excited about the future of our festival.  As one writer said to me a few weeks ago, it is amazing how quickly we have grown our festival. Most take 10 to 15 years to get where we got in 4 years.

Cover Image courtesy Dr. Steve Davidson

Palm Coast Songwriters Festival Chair Garry Lubi and Country music artist Thom Shepherd. Photo: VisitFlagler

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