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In case you were planning a trip to Key West, or even if you weren’t, plan to be here Wednesday, May 4th through Sunday, May 8th for the 26th Annual Key West Songwriters Music Festival. Five days and nights of wall-to-wall music across the island. Actually, it is more than wall-to-wall music as Key West has many open-air venues as well. 

You may want to start your musical journey on May 3rd as the opening act of the festival begins at 9 pm. The music continues through Sunday night May 8th. Come to think of it, you may want to schedule your flight back on Monday or Tuesday while you ‘recover’ in our island paradise. If you love live music, this is THE place to be.

Just walking down the world-famous Duval Street, you will be serenaded by over 200 artists, scheduled to perform during the festival. 

Some you probably know already, like Chris Young. You know Chris, he won the American Country Awards Single of the Year for “Voices” and was the breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2011. He has been nominated by the Academy of Country Music for Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Video of the Year by the Grammy’s, and by the Country Music Association. Yes, that Chris Young.

The performers range from folks who are new to the music industry, to some who may not be well known as yet, to songwriters who have collaborated/wrote hit songs for musicians who sit at the top of the music charts.

From big names to those currently unknown, (many of these unknowns will soon be well-known), here is just a taste of some of the artists who are performing, with a little background on each.

Some Awesome Performers

Kristen McNamara

Kristen was born in California but today is a true local Key West favorite. She first discovered Key West when she attended the 2010 Songwriters Festival. Kristen fell in love with the people, the ambiance, and the pulse of the island and now makes South Florida her home. She is releasing an acoustic version of her song “Duval Street” in May.

She began her music/tv career on Star Search in 2003, and was a top Finalist on Nashville Star and on American Idol with Adam Lambert. One of her songs, “We All Bleed” was featured on the TV show “KillJoys” on the SYFY network.  She has also performed with Kenny Chesney, Wynonna, Cher, and others. Kristen is a woman of many talents, one being art. She is very well known throughout the Conch Republic as an awesome local painter. 

She used to perform at venues across Key West, but now you can find her performing exclusively at ‘Halo’ rooftop lounge at the Saint Hotel on Duval Street. During the 2022 Songwriters Festival Kristen is performing at Dante’s on May 4th at 1 pm; and at Kimpton Winslow’s Bungalows at 1 pm on Saturday, May 7th.

Dylan Altman and Friends

Dylan is a native of the state of New Jersey who has been writing songs in Nashville for the last 20 years. He has been the co-writer on several #1 hits including "Watch the Wind Blow By" performed by Tim McGraw; and "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" by Jake Owen. He has also had songs recorded by Trace Adkins, the Eli Young Band, and others. 

Dylan co-hosts an annual Benefit Concert for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He is a huge supporter of Musicians On Call which brings live and recorded music to patients in healthcare facilities who are undergoing treatment or are unable to leave their beds. 

Dylan will be playing at Sloppy Joe’s at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 5th; and playing twice at the Green Parrot on Friday. At 5:30 pm he plays for the Green Parrot Sound Check, and again at 11:30 pm. 

Steve Cropper

Steve was born in Willow Springs, Missouri and his family moved to Memphis when he was nine years old. He got his first guitar at age 14 and soon was a founding member of the band Booker T & the M.G.’s which was the house band for Stax Records. The band would eventually be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. 

While playing for Stax records he co-wrote and played on the #1 hit single “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” with Otis Redding, and co-wrote “Knock on Wood” with Eddie Floyd. He left Stax records and helped set up TMI Studios and worked with musicians like Rod Stewart, Tower of Power, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon.

In the fall of 1992, Cropper appeared at the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden, performing songs by and backing artists such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, and many others. 

If you have ever seen the movie “Blues Brothers”, you know that they played the song “Soul Man”. Remember John Belushi shouting out “Play it Steve” during the song!!!! That was a shout-out to Steve Cropper!! Steve also toured with the Blues Brothers.

In June of 2005, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010 was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. 

You can catch Steve at 8 pm Wednesday, May 4th at the Ocean Key Resort Sunset Pier Kickoff Party; and at 8 pm Saturday, May 7th at the Key West Theatre. The Dylan Altman Band will be playing along with Steve at both of these venues. PLAY IT STEVE!!!!


Bridgette Tatum

Bridgette is a native of Florence, South Carolina who now resides outside of Nashville. She co-wrote the song “She’s Country”, which was recorded and released by country music superstar Jason Aldean. The song held the # 1 spot on the charts for two weeks. Bridgette has written songs performed by artists Randy Houser, Kristy Lee Cook, and Gretchen Wilson. 

She has released her own albums and her song “Loud” was chosen as the official Theme Song for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s 2010 Football season. She was named best producer in 2019 and 2020 in the Nashville Industry Music Awards (NIMA).  She has two horses that she adores Buttermilk and Jack, and loves fishing.

Bridgette also works with The Charley Foundation which supports the critical needs of children, including children who are victims of neglect, abuse; those children with a chronic or critical illness; and those who are homeless or in poverty. 

Bridgette is performing on Thursday, May 5th at 6 pm at the Capitana Resort; and at Rock House Live on Saturday, May 7th, at 10 pm.

Craig Wiseman

Have you heard of this gentleman? You may not know the name but surely you have heard a lot of his work.

Born in Hattiesburg Mississippi, he moved to Nashville in 1985 to chase the dream of becoming a professional songwriter. It didn’t take long before Craig had his first chart success with the track “The Only One” from Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl album. In 1990 he signed with Almo/Irving Music and in 1997 he was honored as the ‘Writer of the Year’ by Music Row and the Nashville Songwriters Association. 

Craig opened his own publishing company, Big Loud Shirt, in 2003. Soon after, in 2005 they had their first hit single “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw, which won the following: Grammy for Best Country Song; Country Music Award for Song of the Year, Academy of Country Music Song of the Year and more. 

He has been named the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Songwriter of the year in 2003, 2005, 2007, and Songwriter of the Decade by the National Songwriters Association International (NSAI) in 2009. He has more than 26, #1 hits in Country, Rock, and Adult Contemporary. He and his staff at Big Loud Shirt, have worked with singers such as George Strait, Carrie Underwood, and Jason Aldean.

In 2017 Craig co-founded ‘Big Loud’ which continues to provide songs in all genres for the music industry.  It’s no wonder that Craig is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. 

He will be playing with ERNEST, at the San Carlos Institute Theatre at 8 pm on Thursday, May 5th; also playing with ERNEST and Chris Tompkins at the Key West Theatre at 7 pm on Friday, May 6th.

Mackenzie Carpenter

She may not be a household name…YET. But the Key West Songwriters are honored to have Mackenzie performing at this year’s festival. After all, that is what this festival is for, getting more exposure for up-and-coming artists, and she is definitely coming on strong.

Born in Athens, Georgia, Mackenzie is now working out of Nashville, Tennessee. She learned how to sing at her local church, her two older brothers taught her how to play guitar and her father was an inspiration for her to begin writing songs. 

A proud graduate of Belmont University, her first cut as a songwriter, ‘Villain’ debuted #1 on iTunes All Genre and Country iTunes. Mackenzie has opened for acts such as Jake Owens, Ryan Hurd, and plays at venues such as The Listening Room and The Foundry. 

With her engaging stage presence and self-described “tacky country vibe’, be sure to catch her when she performs at General Horseplay at 4 pm on Thursday, May 5th; and at Rams Head Southwest on Saturday, May 7th at 6 pm. You will be able to say you saw her first!!!!

Legendary Venues

Along with the wealth of talent that is performing at the festival, Key West has an unmatched ambiance for both performers and festival-goers. It is rare that music lovers can get this close to the artists in so many locations. While a few events have a fee, most performances are free to the public. Just walk up and enjoy. 

Stay at one location for a few hours, or in some cases all day and night. Or hop around to catch the musicians you want to hear. The weather, the island views, and the lifestyle just add to the experience. 

Here are a few of the venues, some larger, some more intimate to take in these terrific performers. 

The Green Parrot – The first bar in Key West. This is a historic and legendary location in Key West. Already known for its fine local music, this classic establishment features a huge bar, lots of tables, and seats by the open-air windows both inside and out. Gotta love their motto… ‘No Snivelling’.

Southernmost Beach Resort Beach Party – Here you can sit on the beach or at their outdoor bar/restaurant and enjoy not only the view, but the quality sounds as well. (Maybe get a tan or take a dip in the water while enjoying the music). There are also several festival events inside the resort as well. 

Rams Head Southernmost – One of the newer venues but certainly one of the best, with music going all day and well into the night, this is a terrific place to get up close and personal with the performers. Tip of the cap as well as Rams Head is one of the major festival sponsors. 

Ocean Key Resort – Sunset Pier – Speaking of a gorgeous view, be sure to stop by here for an awesome setting to listen to great music. Its sunset views are legendary, the Tiki Bar serves delicious drinks and food, and you are always close to the performers. And capture a nice sunset photo on your phone!!

The Key West Theatre – A superb indoor venue that hosts a number of community theatre events, Rams Head Promotions, and other local events. It is an intimate theatre with a small capacity so if you plan to attend one of the events here, get those tickets early. (Events here do require tickets to get in, check for pricing of each event). There isn’t a bad seat in the house!!!!

We could go on and on, there is Irish Kevin’s, The Backyard. Hard Rock Café, Rick’s Durty Harry’s, Island Dog’s, Blue Heaven, and sooooooo many more. You might hear the music playing as you walk off the airplane when you arrive. 


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