Write by the Sea: Part “The Real World,” Part Star-Studded Co-Write

You may not know their names, but it’s likely you know their work. For they are the songwriters, the ones who birth the songs others soar upon, and create the soundtracks and themes for our movies and TV shows. They might not receive much acclaim, if any, yet they are the lifeblood of the industry.

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Steve Everett, Bradley Rhodes, Shannon LaBrie, Michael Logen, Ethan Mentzer and Todd Wright all reside in that category. Collectively their works have appeared on TV shows like “Suits,” “Nashville,” “Parenthood,” “One Tree Hill” and “Heartland.” Their songs have been recorded by artists from Kelly Clarkson to Susan Tedeschi. They’ve played on tour with artists like The Originals, Switched at Birth, Cassadee Pope, Sister Hazel, Maroon 5, Zac Brown Band, Jason Mraz and more. 

Multi-instrumentalists. Singers. Songwriters. Suffice it to say, this group is pretty damn special.

Culled by the Florida non-profit Rock by the Sea, this six pack of star-studded songwriters were brought together (some meeting for the very first time) for a songwriter retreat. Thrown together in a beach house on St. George Island, Florida, they settled in for a week to write and record the album Write by the Sea, Vol. 2

What they created in that magical week is a smooth, well-rounded collection of songs that include a variety of genres such as folk, rock, pop, soul, and Americana. Even better, they did it all in the name of brain cancer research.

“I’ve never experienced such a beautiful collaborative music project,” gushed LaBrie, whose music has appeared on “Army Wives” and “The Client List” and most recently were recorded by Gabe Dixon.

“Writing and recording on the beach, with the windows open and the sound of the gulf mixing in with my voice…it’s an experience that changed my life.”

Quick history lesson; for the last fourteen years, Rock by the Sea has been hosting music events with the sole purpose of assisting deserving charities who provide direct services to those in need. Made up completely of volunteers, this 501c3 organization has no employees. Instead it is a community of volunteers, musicians, charities and fans of music all donating their time, talents and dollars in pursuit of making a difference while having a great time. 

The UF, The Pediatric Brain Tumor Program, Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program, Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Program, Franklin County (FL) Humane Society, Feed the Children, the Down Syndrome Association of Tallahassee, Refuge House (Tallahassee), and various other deserving charities have all received donations and service hours from Rock by the Sea. 

While the album Write by the Sea, Vol. 2 will be available on June 26th, American Songwriter is proudly giving the song “This Love of Mine” its exclusive premiere.  With the full ensemble in the mix on this track, the song can best be described as island beach with soul. Tasty guitar licks, a super smooth groove and vocals provided by the coterie of talent in the house, “This Love of Mine” rides loosely along the lines of Jonathan Edwards 1971 classic “Shanty” or Keb Mo’s “I See Love.”

“The ‘hive effect,’ getting a group of people together to live and create in the same space, creates a powerful atmosphere of inspiration and collaboration,” explains Grammy-winning, multi-platinum-selling songwriter Michael Logen, “Standing in the kitchen at 1am talking about song ideas, kicking around lyrics, it all contributed to an extremely enjoyable and productive experience of making this album. I was honored to be a small part of it.”

Bradley Rhodes, who formerly fronted the alt-rock band Melodime on vocals and rhythm guitar and has since formed the duel-baritone duo Elevado, is also a fan of the hive. “As a traveling musician, it’s not often I’m afforded the opportunity to unplug on a quiet island and spend a full week writing music. Add in the fact that I was surrounded in a house with a group of extremely talented writers, musicians and producers to collaborate with. This was, without question, one of the most inspiring creative experiences I’ve ever had.”

The Rock by the Sea mission started in the mid-2000s and over a span of 14 years, has made life changing successes as their network of volunteers, musicians, and fans have collaborated to raise nearly $800,000 for meaningful causes. 

Brian Fechino, who has played live and in studio with a host of acts, including Pat McGee Band, Josh Kelly, Ed Roland of Collective Soul, Sister Hazel, Hootie and the Blowfish and Blues Traveler produced the project. Even with a resume such as his, he credits this experience as another in a long line of special things he’s been part of in his musical career.

“Sitting in the producer’s chair for Write by the Sea, Vol. 2 allows me to see the incredible chemistry of all the artists in and out of the writing rooms. This group really had fun and brought the magic which you can hear in the songs. I felt very lucky to be there.”

As much as he was moved by the music, Logen was moved even more by the cause and what their music was being put out into the world to do. “The knowledge that everything we created during this week was going to support healing and helping people added a dimension of beauty and inspiration to this experience for me.”  

You can learn more about Rock by the Sea by visiting RockByTheSea.org.

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Excerpts from ‘What Is It All But Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man’ by Art Garfunkel