14th annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival taking to venues in Ocean Springs, Gautier this weekend

JACKSON COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - The sweet sounds of local music will drift throughout the Coast this weekend.

Organizers in Ocean Springs and Gautier are preparing for the 14th annual Mississippi Songwriters Festival, and they say this year is bigger than ever.

“We’re going to have more writers with us this weekend than we ever had in Ocean Springs. Over 100 local and regional writers, about 20 to 25 pro guys from Nashville,” Board Director Darwin Nelson said.

The four-day event kicks off Thursday with the Mississippi Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Arts Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the show starting at 7 p.m.

At the ceremony, five new members will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, including Don Poythress, Elsie McWilliams, Jimmie Rodgers, Jim Weatherly and Bo Diddly.

Don Poythress is also one of the featured professional performers this year, along with Jim McCormick, William Michael Morgan, Tommy Barnes, Wynn Varble, Steve Azar, Clay Mills and so many other talented names.

“There’s nothing like seeing the guy that wrote the song singing a song that you know of as a hit on the radio. You’ll be like that guy is singing a Blake Shelton song, well no, that guy wrote the song that Blake Shelton is singing,” Nelson said. “Sometimes it may not be like you hear it on the radio, but again it is in its raw presentation.”

Organizers are not the only ones preparing for the weekend-long party. Businesses all over downtown Ocean Springs are preparing to host musicians and large crowds.

“You can hit any of the spots around here just about and find some great songwriters and maybe hear some of the songs that you hear on the radio performed by the actual people who wrote them,” Murky Waters General Manager Iris Baria said.

After the Hall of Fame ceremony, the fun will continue at Neon Moon where people can enjoy the Mississippi Songwriters Festival Kickoff Party.

“At Neon Moon, you will hear a lot of great music by many tremendously talented musicians across the spectrum. Great songwriters, great singers, great musicians,” Owner Kenny Williams said.

For local songwriters who want to get involved in the event, two workshops will be hosted Saturday at the Mary C. The first, from 10 a.m. to noon, features award-winning songwriter Clay Mills and highlights ‘8 ways to improve any song now.’ You can sign up for that priceless experience HERE.

Starting at 2 p.m., there’s a workshop all about licensing. The free workshop, titled ‘Breaking Down the Bankroll: Getting Your Fair Share” is hosted by The Mechanical Licensing Collective in partnership with the Mississippi Songwriters Fest.

For a complete list of artists hitting stages in 12 venues across the Coast this weekend, click HERE.

And, if you are a songwriter yourself, you can join the Mississippi Songwriters Alliance HERE to stay up to date with future events, vote on future Hall of Fame nominations, receive exclusive swag and several other privileges.

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Leslie Rojas

Leslie Rojas

Leslie Rojas comes to WLOX from the Los Angeles area where she earned her degree in Journalism from California State University Long Beach.

Flora Dedeaux

Flora Dedeaux

Flora Dedeaux was born and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi State in 2022 with a communication degree, concentrating in broadcast and public relations and minoring in marketing.