When 19 year-old Lillian Glanton took the stage the night of Oct. 25, the air was teeming with anticipation. She shimmered under the spotlight in a dress she had spent days planning to wear. The crowd was filled with patrons triple her age wondering what this young woman with stars in her eyes had in store. That night she was no performer, but the host of the Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival, as well as its creator. That night she risked everything, glitter and all.
The Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival took place on Friday Oct. 25 and Saturday Oct. 26 over six different locations. Ticketed performances took lace the first night at Singin' River Live. $25 was all one needed to peek into the world of hit songwriting and considerably less than that for Saturday's free performances. Lauren Raybon, a volunteer for the event and friend of Glanton's expressed her excitement for the festival.
"I remember we had met for coffee one day and [Lillian] had said [that] she bought a billboard," Raybon said. "It shocked me how she went from nothing to something; figuring out how to put on an entire festival... and doing it well."
Two rounds of shows were put on that night. First on Friday night was a group of three established songwriters all singing their hits: Clint Daniels, Troy Jones, and Mark Nesler. Jones performed a song he wrote called "People are Crazy," recorded by artist Billy Curringham and nominated for two Grammy awards in 2009.
"They called me and asked me if I'd come, so here I am just playing some songs that I wrote with some friends," Jones said. "I retired about two years ago. I did it for almost thirty years. I got to live my dream... [song-write] for a living [and I] got to hear my songs on the radio."
Next were three prospective talents in the industry today: Drew Parker, Faren Rachels and Jordan Rager. Drew Parker is an expecting father. Now 28, his biggest dream 10 years ago was to be a major league baseball player. When asked if he were offered this opportunity today, Parker replied: "I wouldn't trade this for anything."
Lillian Glanton believes that everybody has a song. That rang true in the sheer quantity of artists showcased on the second day of the festival -- over 90 acts. Dorm 11, Champy's Swampers, and 306 Back Alley Sports Bar held these performances which lasted from noon to 2 p.m. and then 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. One such artist who showcased his talent that Saturday was Tylor Harris, stage named Ty Graceu.
"I played three songs I've written entitled "Any Other Way," "Unsteady," and "Honeybloo," Gracey said. "The most personal of the three is 'Unsteady.' It refers to my experience with anxiety toward things I don't feel worthy of or prepared for as in my relationship with God, my girlfriend and my music. 'Any other Way' is just fun because all of the choruses have different lyrics, and there are four subtle key changes."
A 3 p.m. show on Saturday flashed by after the morning's gauntlet, which continued until its end at 10 p.m. Angela Hacker, James LeBlanc, Phillip White, Gary Baker, Billy Lawson, Mark Narmore and Leslie Satcher performed at the Mane Room. The latter four artists verified the event's success, declaring on stage that they would be back for next year's festival; however, none are anticipating its success more than Glanton's mother, Clarissa."
"She has told me from day one 'I want to be the keeper of the flame for Muscle Shoals music.'" Clarissa said. "I am proud of her, [and] I just can't wait to see what this evolves into. The people that tell her [that she is too ambitious] just add fuel to her fire."