Island Hopper Songwriters Fest attracts talented artists
For Tim McGeary, the Island Hopper Songwriters Festival is the perfect atmosphere because he loves to perform while connecting with his audience.
“I love playing, I have been doing it for a long time,” the Naples EMS and firefighter said. “I like the big shows, but now I’m liking the smaller shows. You really connect with people. I really like to connect with faces. I try to play with the crowd a little bit. That’s just me doing it for a long time and having the comfort up there. People respond to it and take the energy and suck it in and I put it out there even more.”
The musician said his talents stem from a long line of musical family members. His mother was a piano player, his aunt sang opera and his great grandfather began one of the first women orchestras.
“I guess I had the gene,” McGeary said.
At the age of 5 he began taking piano lessons before turning to the drums and guitar. Early on, McGeary transformed a guitar, that was won throwing darts at a balloon, by sawing off the end to make a four string bass guitar.
He joined his first band at the age of 15 before joining other bands, one of which traveled to London to create a record.
“Here I am struggling at 22 (and this) limo pulls up and here I am traveling to London to make a record,” McGeary said smiling. “I thought this was it, we were doing it. We did a lot of touring and I have a lot of funny stories.”
The touring went from playing gigs in clubs in front of small crowds to opening for Duran Duran with 25,000 people. He said that experience, which lasted for about two years, was pretty intense.
The fast pace scene began an addiction for McGeary, a cocaine addiction he kicked 28 years ago. After becoming sober, the musician turned his life around and became a paramedic, got his bachelor’s and master’s degree and became firefighter certified.
“I was sort of not a finisher for a lot of stuff,” he said before turning his life around and focusing on positive, good things. “When you do that, you work with a positive and start making things happen.”
After 22 years, McGeary will be retiring as a firefighter, providing more time to focus on his music and creating more time to travel to Nashville.
“I’m going to continue to do it until I can’t do it anymore,” he said.
Through the transformation, McGeary became a very spiritual person who relies on “I believe. I trust and I let go.” He said he believes he is going to write a track and he trusts that it is going to manifest into something that works, all while letting go of the time.
“As soon as I’ve done that, everything opens up,” he said.
Another life changing event happened, one that is the worst fear of any parent. McGeary lost his son at the age of 18 to a car accident. He said it was 11 in the morning when his son rushed home to pick up some paper towels for his girlfriend’s dog who was sick.
“He was speeding. He was trying to help someone,” McGeary said of his son who was an organ donor.
Although the loss of his son was incredibly hard to deal with, many beautiful experiences stemmed from that tragic event.
“About 10 days later we went outside and this single white flower went up,” McGeary said of this worn path that his dog created by running to get a squirrel eating bird feed. “We see this white flower. We have never seen that in our yard before. A couple days later, the original flower closed up and there was a circle of five white flowers just like the first one. My wife calls me out to see it and then the phone rings and it was the nurse from the organ donation. ‘I just want to tell you five people’s lives were saved because of your son’s organs.”
Those experiences, he said are great for songwriting because it gave him the opportunity to bare his soul during that creative process.
“There is a curse of being a songwriter. The blessing is yes you can do it. You can write songs. The curse is you never turn it off. It goes on all day.”
McGeary will be joined by 69 other songwriters at 24 venues on Captiva, Fort Myers Beach and Downtown Fort Myers for the 2nd annual Island Hopper Songwriters Fest, which is bigger than last year. This year the Downtown Fort Myers location was added during the week following performances on Captiva.
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau Communications Manager Francesca Donlan said the Island Hopper Songwriters Fest began last year as a tremendous opportunity for hotels and other tourism partners at a time when they need it the most.
“This year we targeted it for September, so we could fill up restaurants, hotels and attractions with people who love music, (while) at the same time creating a musical, cultural event for our local community,” she said of the win-win scenario.
The unique, intimate event kicks off at South Seas Captiva Ballroom from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 with Kristian Bush of Sugarland. The other ticketed event will be held from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, featuring Parmalee, also at the Captiva Ballroom.
The remaining performances are free of charge.
Over the next three days, Friday, through Sunday performances will be held at Sunset Cruise, at McCarthy’s Marina; Crow’s Nest, at Tween Waters; Key Lime Bistro; Doc Ford’s & Captiva Ballroom at South Seas; Mucky Duck; Cantina Captiva; RC Otter’s; Royal Shell “At the Beach;” Captiva House at Tween Waters and Captiva Connection Music Event, at Jensen’s Twin Palm Resort.
“It is very special because if you love music, particularly country music, (you can listen to) the hit makers that you are hearing on the radio. You can hear the actual songwriter describe why they wrote the songs,” Donlan said. “You can do that at these small venues.”
Another returning artist, who had a blast performing during the festival last year is George Ducas.
“It’s a beautiful setting and everybody down there is so into it and appreciative. It makes it a great environment,” he said.
The singer/songwriter lives in Nashville, which he describes as “the songwriting capital of the world.”
“It is where to be if you want to be a part of the industry,” he said. “There is a whole lot of creativity going on here.”
Ducas became an artist with Capital Records in 1995 and had several top 40 hits, as well as number one CMT videos. He toured the world before becoming a father, which changed his direction to a songwriter for the next several years.
“It’s totally different than my career as an artist, but it’s really rewarding,” Ducas said.
About a year ago, Ducas released his record 4340, which was named after the number of minutes and seconds his record filled.
“It’s been fun to get on the road again . . . be an artist again,” he said.
While writing songs, Ducas said he is inspired by everything.
“Some of it comes from life lessons and life interactions with other people started by a conversation, or listening to other people talk,” he said.
For instance, one of his songs, “Breaking Stuff” stemmed from an interaction he had with a woman after he finished a workout in Texas. He was waiting in line behind an older woman who was having trouble with the creamer for her coffee.
After a few minutes of struggling, the woman turned to Ducas and asked if he could help her.
“I said sure, I would be happy to. I opened it for her and she said that was so easy for you. I said I’m good at breaking stuff,” he said laughing. “Sure enough there is an idea for a song.”
The song shares the message that everyone makes mistakes in life, whether it is doing something stupid breaking an arm, or breaking a promise.
“It became a really cool song,” Ducas said.
Throughout his career, he has also had the pleasure of writing hits for such other artists as George Jones and the Dixie Chicks.
“The fact that you write the song and it winds up in someone else’s hands, that is an awesome compliment and potential money maker,” Ducas said.
For more information about the festival., visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/island-hopper/.
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