Music Meets the Beach at Southwest Florida’s Island Hopper Songwriter Festival


Just off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida is Captiva Island – an exquisite island populated by extraordinary wildlife, white sandy beaches, delicious food, and a rich music scene. The island is home to the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest. This 10-day music event introduces a wide range of top-tier composers to emerging musicians looking to break into the industry.

Country Now got to see how the award-winning festival transformed the quaint town into a vibrant atmosphere and why it quickly became a must-see place for songwriters.

Captiva, Florida. Photo by Brian Tietz

Music lovers, for example, also travel near and far to sip refreshing beach-centric cocktails while praising the men and women behind their favorite radio hits. The beloved festival is divided into three locations – Captiva Island, downtown Fort Myers and the Fort Myers beaches. The star-studded festival hosted by The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, BMI, IHeartMedia and Cat Country 107.1 has concerts in different locations as they seek to give vacationers and even locals a taste of what the Southwest of Florida has to offer.

“This offers a new opportunity not only for residents, but also for visitors to come in and listen to a lot of new voices and music,” says a festival regular who has been attending this heavenly event since 2014. “You are seated the. listening, and all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Oh my God… did you write that song? It’s like a # 1 hit! ‘ One of the best things is when you can actually sit down and listen to each songwriter tell the story, ”he says of the personal and close experience.

Throughout the 10-day event, music lovers have the luxury of heading to intimate outdoor restaurants and beach bars to enjoy sets and jam sessions from talented songwriters. In every laid-back venue, the organization pairs a promising composer with a notable name. As tourists and locals alike embrace the free concert, the budding artist is given a unique opportunity to choose the mastermind of the seasoned artist next to them.

Island Hopper Songwriters Festival
Island Hopper Songwriters Festival

“All of a sudden, your fantasy world is colliding with your reality right now,” Texan songwriter Leighton Fields said of his experience alongside Aaron Barker, the man who wrote several # 1 songs for George Strait, Willie Nelson and Lonestar. .

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without this festival because being a local artist and then meeting writers who are your heroes and who treat you as equals makes you feel like you can do it and you can. to win. It’s a tough game to play, and we didn’t choose an easy job, ”Keefe Klug, a rising artist from Fort Myers, included in the conversation about the fierce stigma of being a starving songwriter.

As emerging writers turn to veterans of the songwriting space for valuable advice, the creative minds behind iconic tracks such as “The Good Ones” for Gabby Barrett, “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do “for Brantley Gilbert, or” My List “for Toby Keith attend the festival to learn from growing artists to meet the ever-changing demands of the music industry.

Chloé Caroline and Jim McCormick at Island Hopper Songwriters Fest
Chloé Caroline and Jim McCormick at Island Hopper Songwriters Fest

“I take advice from them, and it’s really a two-way street because it’s so easy to sit down, and the more success you have, the easier it is to try and ride on that success. . And here are these young songwriters with all this new language, these rhythms, these new thought processes, and if they are willing to share that with an old man like me, my music and my sound will appear to be more contemporary, ”a declared the legendary writer Aaron Barker. . “There are some things that can be very helpful in writing. You know, the techniques and the tips, so as not to take away the originality. However, I think we help each other a lot, ”he adds.

Barker wasn’t the only seasoned professional to bless festival-goers’ ears with his honest writing and honky-tonk sound. Hall of Fame lyricist Steve Dorff performed smash hits he created throughout the week for Whitney Houston, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and Eddie Rabbit. Fans were lucky enough to line up and receive an autograph from the three-time Grammy nominee during his little paid concert and book signing.

Photo by Brian Tietz
Photo by Brian Tietz

Before the festival opened to the public, songwriters and the press mingled at a VIP evening under the palm trees. While getting closer to what makes a “great song,” the performers walked over to the mic to share some catchy tunes. For example, multi-platinum writer Jim McCormick gave the enthusiastic crowd chills with his male rendition of the CMA-nominated hit “The Good Ones”. In the middle of each private performance, everyone mingled to draw which series of mini-concerts to visit along the coast.

During the downtime, music lovers had the opportunity to hop in a kayak to explore Buck Key Mangrove, to travel to Cabbage Key by boat to enjoy a juicy cheeseburger from the local restaurant that inspired the classic tune Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger In Paradise,” or even jet ski surfing with Sunny Island Adventures, which was quickly accessible on-site at the South Seas Island Resort.

To cap off the 7th Annual Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, platinum record artist Jimmie Allen took center stage in Fort Myers Beach on Sunday, September 26, at the Pink Shell Pool Party. Before RaeLynn, Kristian Bush and Maren Morris became the stars we know today, they left their mark on the respected festival. Their influence on the industry leaves the aspiring musicians who attended the event hopeful for their future in the exciting yet competitive world of music.


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