An eager group of budding artists from across the Northeast US descended upon the shores of New Jersey this past weekend for the 8th Annual Cape May Singer/Songwriter festival. Headlined by keynote speeches and performances from Patty Larkin and Dan Navarro, the two-day event included seminars, song critiques, showcasing, mentoring and, for most of the attendees, the all-important networking with fellow musicians for gigs and collaborations.
Discussion topics ranged from the new paradigm of using social media to build awareness, recording music on your own, making money from licensing and touring, producing, branding, vocal tips and more. While the majority of the performers were from the Southern Jersey and Philadelphia area, some, including Nashville artists Sean Patrick McGraw and Pete Mroz, and Bostonians Kate Diaz (a former AS Daily Discovery pick and Songspace Pub Deal finalist) and Jenna Paone made the event one of their tour stops. Highlights of the nightly showcases included the sweet laidback sound of ‘70’s throwback Dan Barry, energetic jam-band Stolen Rhodes and the sunny, feel-good vibe of trop-rock stalwart Gary Phillips.
Navarro, whose songs have been recorded by Pat Benatar, Keb Mo’, Dionne Warwick and others, gave some great advice during his keynote, sandwiched in between performing an obscure Billy Idol song and one of his songs: “If you can own a song, whether it’s yours or a cover, you will draw a listener in. If it’s filtering through you and is honest, you can play any style of music.”
It’s an age-old adage that success takes work and that in fact was the general takeaway from the various mentors throughout the weekend. Producer Jason Rubal of Seventh Wave Studios, who has worked with Amanda Palmer and many indie acts, discussed the importance of staying true to your craft, and building and maintaining a fan base. “There are thousands of bands vying for a fan’s attention. You have to stand out. It’s work.” Bill Pere of the Connecticut Songwriters Association echoed those sentiments during his songwriting tips panel. “ Writing a song is easy. Crafting a song people will want to listen to over and over is work.”