Oklahoma Songwriters Festival goes virtual this weekend
A version of the story appears in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Songwriters Festival goes online in fifth year
Like so many other musicians, Zac Maloy missed out on plenty of opportunities during this year's coronavirus pandemic.
But he was determined to keep the fifth annual Oklahoma Songwriters Festival on the calendar, even if it meant adopting a new virtual format.
- Related to this story
- Article: Here's what faith leaders say Oklahomans should do to stay safe from COVID
"We always knew we were gonna make this happen. It’s just too important to me, this event: Celebrating what I do for a living, songwriting, in my home state, which I’d put right up there with the most musically talented state there is," Maloy said in an email interview.
"At first we’d held out hope it could be a regular show with full audience. Then, came the realization that’s just not happening in 2020. So, this new format is the path we’re taking."
Presented by the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee, this year's Oklahoma Songwriters Festival is set for Saturday and will include a free morning songwriting Zoom panel and a ticketed evening Songwriter Showcase that will be live-streamed via the platform veeps.com.
"The festival has developed dramatically. It’s now an event I get people here in Nashville hearing about and talking about. This year I feel we would’ve had our biggest audience. And I guess, weirdly, because of the online format, we might actually hit our biggest viewership yet. Again, not where we wanted to be, but I’m just happy we’re able to bring some kind of show ... seven months after the original date, but here we go," Maloy said.
Zooming in on songwriters
An Ada native who has been based in Nashville, Tennessee, for the past decade, Maloy created the Oklahoma Songwriters Festival in 2016 to highlight songwriters and the art of songwriting. Along with fronting the Oklahoma-based alt-rock band The Nixons - who rose to fame in the 1990s on the strength of hits “Happy Song," “Wire" and the smash "Sister" and reunited in 2017 - Maloy is a songwriter who co-wrote country music superstar and fellow Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood’s chart-topper “Temporary Home," Christian rock band Skillet’s No. 1 hit “American Noise" and rock outfit Shinedown's latest chart-topper "Atlas Falls."
Normally a spring event, Oklahoma Songwriters Festival, initially planned for April before it was postponed due to the pandemic, annually brings acclaimed Nashville songsmiths together with local songwriters.
"Getting Nashville writers in the room with Okies over that last few years has been really cool. And a lot of those relationships have stuck," Maloy said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made the collaborative songwriting sessions typically offered at the festival impossible this year, the virtual event will still include a chance to gain insight from award-winning Nashville scribes.
This year's virtual festival will open at 11 a.m. Saturday with the free Songwriting Zoom panel featuring Maloy and two other Nashville songwriters: Lee Thomas Miller, who served as president of the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International for five years and has charted 15 years’ worth of singles - including seven chart-toppers - for country music superstars Brad Paisley, Trace Adkins, Tim McGraw and more, and Blair Daly, who has written songs recorded by Underwood, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Il Divo and more, including No. 1 hits for Kelly Clarkson and Rascal Flatts.
The Zoom panel will be moderated by Curbside Chronicle Editor (and former The Oklahoman staffer) Nathan Poppe and sponsored by the Oklahoma Film + Music Office.
“As it remains a core focus for our office to build a more sustainable music industry in Oklahoma, we encourage anyone inspiring to elevate their songwriting craft, pivoting in to the music business or if you’re just a music fan, to join us at our sponsored virtual event Songwriting Zoom,” said Oklahoma Film + Music Director Tava Sofsky, Maloy's sister, in a statement. “We look forward to celebrating year five in this new innovative platform."
Putting on a show
The festival will conclude with a ticketed virtual Songwriter Showcase at 7 p.m. Saturday. The showcase will be live-streamed via the platform veeps.com from the Grand Casino main stage with no audience. The stream will be available for a week after it debuts.
At Grand Casino, Maloy and fellow Nashville songwriter Marcus Hummon will share the stage at a safe distance to host the live-stream and perform songs they’ve written. A Grammy Award winner, Hummon's credits include Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road," Sara Evans' "Born to Fly," Wynonna Judd's "Only Love" and more.
The showcase also will cut to live at-home performances by several other singer-songwriters, including Oklahomans Graham Colton and Abbey Philbrick.
Other songwriters who will be participating remotely include Oklahoma native and new Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Brett James, who co-wrote Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel," Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All" and more; Tulsa-born David Hodges, a former member of Evanescence whose writing credits include Clarkson’s “Because of You,” Underwood’s “See You Again" and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years"; Songwriters Hall of Famer Desmond Child, whose hits include Bon Jovi's “Living on a Prayer,” Ricky Martin's “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and Aerosmith's "Angel"; nine-time No. 1 songwriter Jim Beavers, whose credits include Oklahoman Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” and Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer"; and Bowling For Soup frontman Jaret Reddick, who co-wrote the band's gold singles "High School Never Ends" and "Girl All the Bad Guys Want."
"I was introduced to the platform veeps a few months ago to do a Nixons show. We spoke with them, and they felt they could help us weave a cool show together," Maloy said.
The festival will cap a 2020 of ups and downs for Maloy, who signed this year a new publishing deal with Round Hill Publishing. In summer, the previously unreleased song Atlas Falls, which he penned with Shinedown a few years ago, topped the rock charts after the band opted to release it in partnership with the nonprofit Direct Relief to help raise funds to provide essential equipment to frontline medical workers both in the United States and overseas. He said the song has raised more than half a million dollars to help during the coronavirus pandemic.
Three years after The Nixons first reassembled for an Oklahoma City show, the rock band dropped in May "Sonic Boom," a five-song EP that represented its first new release in 20 years. But Maloy and his bandmates - guitarist Jesse Davis, bassist Ricky Brooks and drummer John Humphrey, who is also the drummer for Seether - had to cancel the massive nationwide tour they had planned this year.
So, Maloy said he is excited to put on a show - even in live-stream form - at the Oklahoma Songwriter Festival.
"I hope people buy a ticket and log on virtually and are entertained. That’s the point. It’s a show and a unique show. Fans of country, rock, pop and even fans of comedy are going to love it," he said.
Virtual Oklahoma Songwriters Festival
When: Songwriter Zoom at 11 a.m. Saturday and Songwriter Showcase at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets, streaming and information: www.oklahomasongwritersfestival.com.