Songwriter fest starts on-island, ends on Fort Myers Beach
More than 100 songwriters will participate in the fifth annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, “Cheers to Five Years,” that opens this weekend including artists Midland and LOCASH.
The festival kicks off on Captiva on Sept. 21 and runs through Sept. 23, before hopping to downtown Fort Myers from Sept. 24-27. It finishes on Fort Myers Beach on Sept. 28-30. A new feature this year is the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest app, available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.
Island Hopper Producer Amanda Auer said the free app is “your go-to for the festival.” All of the songwriters, schedules, maps, venues, hotel deals, coupons and information is available in one spot. Individuals can also purchase tickets through the app.
“We have our own iHeart Radio streaming station,” she added.
Auer said festival goers can build their own customized schedule on the app, so they do not miss who they want to see.
“The best thing is it does not require internet access, or mobile data,” once it is downloaded, she said.
VCB Communication Director Francesca Donlan said last year’s festival dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and this year it will deal with such water issues as red tide and the blue-green algae. She said they are partnering with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation for the Southwest Florida Cares Fund.
“They are raising money for the people in this community who are businesses, anyone in the tourism industry that has been impacted by current water issues,” she said.
“This year’s Island Hopper Fest will again help support local businesses and lift people’s spirits.
“Music lifts people up. It’s going to lift people up again,” Dolan said.
There are more than 30 songwriters, out of more than 100, who are playing at the festival for the first time this year.
“That is pretty neat,” she said.
Although there are no headline acts coming to Captiva, Auer said they have some really exciting songwriters making appearances.
“Captiva is very different from downtown (Fort Myers) and Fort Myers Beach, you really get to know the songwriters, get autographs and photographs. They are so welcoming,” she said.
Heidi Newfield, who is new this year, as well as Big Al Anderson, who is one of the top 100 guitar players of all time, will perform on-island.
Auer said one of her personal favorite duos, The Sweetheart Deal, comprised of Emily Kinney, who played Beth on “The Walking Dead,” and Paul McDonald, an American Idol contestant, will have performances on the island.
Some really neat performances inside beautifully donated rental homes, courtesy of American Realty of Captiva and the Captiva Island Inn, will also be included in the festivities.
“We are going to be hosting house parties,” Auer said.
The American Realty of Captiva “Captiva Star” will feature Earl Bud Lee and Wynn Varble on Sept. 22 from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.
“They are free, but only a limited number,” she said.
The other performance, Captiva Island Inn’s “Harbour House,” will feature Aaron Barker and Phil O’Donnell on Sept. 23 from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. It is also a free with a limited number of tickets.
“How often do you get to see two top singer-songwriters literally playing in the living room of a home on a tropical island,” Auer asked. “It’s something very unique to Island Hopper. We’ve done that every year.”
For downtown Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach, there are some amazing headliners making a stop.
Auer said they confirmed LOCASH as the second headliner for the festival at Pinchers at the Marina at Edison Ford. LOCASH is known for such hits as “I Love This Life,” “I Know Somebody,” “Feels Like A Party” and “Ring on Every Finger.”
“Pinchers is one of the sponsors for the festival again,” she said.
LOCASH will perform on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
Midland will close out the festival on Sept. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. poolside at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door until sold out.
Auer said Midland is a country trio from Texas. They are up for three CMA awards including Vocal Group of the Year, New Artist of the Year and Single of the Year for “Drinking Problem.”
“We are excited to welcome Midland to Fort Myers Beach,” she said.
In addition to live music, downtown Fort Myers is offering a Songwriter Dinner & Wine Pairing at the Barrel Room on Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m., as well as a Songwriting Workshop, also at the Barrel Room, on Sept. 27 at 11 a.m.
Tickets can be purchased for both events on the app.
Auer said the festival is hosting the first “Girl Power” show at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Women in a Round will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 27.
“We are also taking a female approach. Eight women singer-songwriters are performing in a round,” she said.
In addition to Midland, there are other new songwriters traveling to Fort Myers Beach.
A trio, the Bass Brothers, from the United Kingdom, will perform, as well as Lee Thomas Miller. Auer said Miller is the president of the National Songwriters Association and is well known for his song, “The World,” by Brad Paisley.
“We are super excited to welcome Wendell Mobley. He has written a ton of hit songs as well,” Auer said, which includes “Fast Cars and Freedom,” by Rascal Flatts.
Other fan favorites include Trailer Choir, Danny Myrick and Bob DiPiero, who has more than 15 No. 1 hit songs he has written.
The festival is made possible due to the partnership between the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, iHeart Radio, Cat Country 107.1 and BMI. Auer said it is a very strategic partnership.
iHeart Radio and Cat Country 107.1 are the media partners, while the Convention Bureau is the marketing arm. BMI represents all for the songwriters for the festival.
“The songwriters write the song and then it is picked up by the artist and then played on the radio. Without the radio playing those songs BMI wouldn’t be able to pay the songwriters for their song,” Auer said. “Without one of those branches, the festival would not work.”
For more information, visit www.island-hopper.fortmyers-sanibel.com.