In 2017, a new music festival brought songwriters and music executives from around the world -- plus some 2,800 fans -- to Bentonville to celebrate the art of songwriting and support the I'll Fly Away Foundation. Coming into its second year, the festival's approach has shifted just slightly, says organizer Betsy Brumley.
"So we learned last year that we need to remember why we're doing it," shares the granddaughter of Albert E. Brumley, writer of the most recorded song in history, "I'll Fly Away." The festival serves as a fundraiser for the foundation's "You Can Fly" school songwriting program -- influenced by Brumley's own experience with dyslexia and the difference music made in her life.
Power of Music Festival
WHEN — April 26-29
WHERE — Venues across Bentonville
COST — Free to $199
INFO — 696-9876, illflyawayfoundation.org/pomfest
The Power of Music
Steve Dorff is a 2018 inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s tallied over 40 BMI awards with hits like Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years,” George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart,” and Eddie Rabbitt’s “Every Which Way But Loose.”
Farewell Angelina is a country group with four powerhouse vocalists, dynamic songwriters and badass multi-instrumentalists. Their stellar blend of harmonies over blazing double violins and guitars has earned soaring praise.
Making Movies combines a bold mix of sounds: psychedelia, experimental rock, son cubano, cumbia and more. The foursome explores the stories of immigrants in their latest album with forbidden rhythms and spiritual themes.
SaulPaul’s songs are based on his colorful life experiences. With rapping, singing, beatboxing and percussive guitar, SaulPaul’s music is totally organic, totally from the soul and serves as a raw snapshot of his artistic evolution.
Northwest Arkansas native David Starr owns a thriving guitar store in the heart of Cedaredge, Colorado, yet he believes his most compelling instrument is his voice – a strong, beautiful baritone that is the cornerstone of his sound.
"The children actually write the songs about what they're learning. We don't come in and teach them songs," Brumley explains. "They're learning songs and don't realize that they're learning."
"The cause is close to my heart because the linking together of children and music I think is very important," offers songwriter and record producer Roger Cook. Cook returns to the festival for an April 28 show with fellow Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees Dennis Morgan and Richard Leigh. "[Children] can't write about love in the way an old man can, that's for sure. But they know what love is. They know what family [is]. And there's other things very important to kids that we don't cover anymore as songwriters because we've grown out of them, we've grown beyond that.
"It's a very sociable thing to get together with another writer, sit down and trade thoughts until you've got a song on paper. I think it must be very nice for kids to be able to do that," he muses.
That spirit of collaboration and exchange of ideas is another pillar of the festival. In addition to performances, the Power of Music Festival also hosts an industry conference -- two days of master classes, panel discussions and expert speakers on topics like music publishing, performing rights organizations, social media and more. Brumley says the hope is to establish a healthy ecosystem everyone in the music community of the area -- and the region -- can benefit from.
"We knew that we could build an economic driver with this festival, and make it into something that would bring people to visit Northwest Arkansas. When you start adding people, it's amazing the knowledge that comes with people, even when they just visit," she enthuses. "You have a conversation and ... take these little nuggets of information that come from all over the world and start developing those ideas and working with each other and collaborating. By using the relationships we've built, bringing those into Northwest Arkansas, introducing these folks to other people and letting them start to work together, we can build a really unique music scene here."
"This whole thing, all of it, is about synergy, and it's about other people," adds Dennis Morgan, another of the Songwriters Hall of Fame inductees scheduled to perform. "Because you can play a brand new song for somebody, and that song will speak to you that it's either good, it's finished, it's average, it needs more work or it's really, really good, you know? And it's not always about the singer. Sure, that helps -- wrap it up in a real pretty package. But it's about that song, and it's about other people."
Highlighting the songwriters and the artistry of songwriting gives the festival its foundation for honoring Brumley's grandfather, creating a means of furthering the local industry through education and carrying on the tradition with its support of the school program.
"I bet you most fans of great music cannot walk away from most of today's music and sing it. That's the test. We have a desire to communicate, and sometimes I don't think communication is an art that's being practiced too much right now," Morgan says of the decline in the craft of writing, an impression echoed by Cook:
"As a generation of songwriters, we wrote songs for other people back then. But people tend to write records now rather than melodic songs. That's the difference basically," he says. "I'm very pleased for the songwriters who have success now because this is a very tough business and where [you're able] to get into charts and be successful, jolly good luck. But I do feel there's a lack of really strong melodies these days."
Despite their laments, both songwriters express hope for the future of the discipline.
"Everything [creative] is a challenge right now," Morgan offers. "So like these festivals, they bring people together. They do inspire hope and spread good vibes around. That's what all it's about -- enjoying your life, sharing your talents and learning something."
"These creators are very important," Brumley concludes. "We have to remember that these [people] are able to write down words that in a matter of three minutes touch you so deeply they stay with you, and every time you hear it, it transports you back to a memory. I mean, that is magic."
NAN What's Up on 04/22/2018
Print Headline: Music Is Magic