Every spring since 1996, the sleepy little town of Buellton, California, nestled in the Santa Ynez wine country is awakened with music as the Durango Songwriters Expo comes to town for its annual conference.
Despite a conflict with this year's Country Radio Seminar that forced the cancellation of several of the scheduled speakers and critics for the multiple listening sessions, the Expo kicked off on Thursday with a plethora of musical talent, both creative and business.
Beginning with an Orientation, the almost packed house listened to founder Jim Attebery explain the goals for the weekend, and talk about which industry people would be in attendance. He mentioned that usually this Expo is about 70-30 percent Pop/Country, but this year it was almost 50-50.
He also explained how they selected artists for the two Songwriter Showcases, and that not everyone got to perform. Consequently, they have an open mic after the Showcase each night so that those not selected can have a chance to shine.
The Thursday night Showcase was incredible, although I couldn't stay for the entire show. But what I did experience was amazing. Kudos to three teenagers - Jamey Geston, Sophie Rose and Zoe Z - for presenting three very diverse and interesting songs.
The evening began with an incredible duo, Rolf Gehrung and Emily Smith, who blew me away with their song, Missed. They set a very high standard for the rest of the night, and those that followed did not disappoint.
I was thoroughly impressed with a Colorado-based band, Frequency. The two guitars laid the perfect soundtrack for the lead singer's soaring vocals - it was a magical moment. Other great performances came from Jeff Zacharsky, currently also producing the new album for Kris Angelis, Laura Evans from Wales by way of Los Angeles, Paul Kelly and Nicolette Hayford, daughter of Expo staff member Jack Hayford.
If tonight was any indication, this is going to be an incredible weekend.