SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The Mississippi Songwriters Festival is held in September, but organizers say their effort to keep the music going all year long has paid off.
Many businesses owners and music fans starting asking how they could get involved, so organizers decided to create a nonprofit group called the Mississippi Songwriters Association.
Taylor Craven says the Mississippi Songwriters Festival has built a bridge between aspiring local songwriters like himself, and the pro writers with hit songs.
"I know some collaborations have occurred between those established writers. As far as locally, we have several people who have stepped up with cuts and publishing contracts," said Craven.
Over the years, more musicians have shown interest in performing in the Ocean Springs festival. Five years ago, there were only 40 writers. Now, the lineup is more than 100.
"Last year, we had attendance of about 4,000 people. The first year was like maybe 400, so it's really blossomed into a beautiful festival to really showcase what Mississippi is all about. That's the birthplace of America's music," said board member Kelcey Allison.
"Also, this year with our festival, we're expanding to 12 venues, and we're going to be in Pascagoula for the first time ever," said board member Scott Stradtner.
While the Mississippi Songwriters Festival is a three day event in September, every week there is a showcase of songwriters performing somewhere in South Mississippi because of the importance of keeping the momentum going all year long.
"It's kind of out of sight, out of mind. We just had a homegrown show a couple of weeks ago at the Hard Rock that is kind of tied into the Mississippi Songwriters Festival, so we just continue that and keep it growing and growing. By popular demand it's picking up steam, the weekly events, the monthly regional events," said Allison.
Organizers say they formed the Mississippi Songwriters Association, because so many people want to be involved in promoting Mississippi music.
As a 501-3c, the association can take donations, offer businesses a tax write off and do more educational programs with seminars and school outreach.
"In Mississippi, our culture reaches so deep. The best way to keep that alive and to keep the Mississippi music culture going is through the youth. So we do outreach in our schools. You always hear about funds being cut in schools for music and what we're trying to do in some way is to supplement that and preserve the heritage that we have here in the state," said Scott.
Mississippi Songwriters Association leaders say in the past the festival has largely focused on country music. At this year's festival all genres will be welcomed.
The association puts on weekly showcases at Woody's Roadside Grill as well as the Julep Room in Ocean Springs.