The SouthSounds Music Festival was created to showcase the Southeast’s most promising up and coming acts. Over the years, the homegrown festival has featured stellar bands such as Banditos, Lost Bayou Ramblers, St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Hurray for the Riff Raff. SouthSounds has also acted as a venue for Southeastern singer-songwriters to share their brand of sonic poetry. As SouthSounds enters its third year, the festival’s organizers have decided to give one talented songwriter a very unique SouthSounds experience with the first ever Great Gulf Coast Singer-Songwriter Showcase.

The event will not only provide an artistic platform for the area’s best singer-songwriters, but it will also be a competition with a very impressive prize.

SouthSounds co-organizer Emily Hayes revealed that the competition was inspired by Iron Bowl “penny-drop” fundraisers during her elementary school years. During each performer’s set, a tip jar will be on hand to collect money from attendees. The performer with the most money at the end of the night will win a set at SouthSounds 2015 as well as what Hayes described as “the entire artist experience with hospitality and VIP treatment all weekend long.”

All money collected for the evening will go towards SouthSounds 2015. The local singer-songwriter scene has been maintaining positive momentum, and Hayes believes that this event will be a chance for the public to experience a sample of area singer-songwriters, both old and new.

“I believe there are some newer folks in the singer-songwriter game that are working on getting their names out there,” Hayes said. “We’ve got some established acts playing as well as some up and comers. Everything is set for an excellent night of great music.”

The audience can expect some familiar faces such as Gregg Fells, Lane Fisher and Leland Clay, who is a SouthSounds veteran. Clay has been honing his sound through numerous local performances and has also shared his songs to the world online. Now, he is currently in the process of “pressing” some of his electronic tracks to CD.

Garrett Thornton and Leland Clay will perform at the inaugural Gulf Coast Singer-Songwriter Showcase.

Garrett Thornton and Leland Clay will perform at the inaugural Gulf Coast Singer-Songwriter Showcase.

Clay has truly developed a versatile style of writing both musically and lyrically. From the Irish jaunt of “Bucket and Cat” to the heartfelt ballad “Restraintsylvania,” Clay has developed quite a repertoire.

“Early on all I seemed to write were dark, blue songs, sad,” Clay said. “Some of them are to people I’ve known. Others are songs to just everyone or everything. Love is a pretty huge inspiration, fear too. It’s the ways I imagine things to be, or want them to be.”

Clay will be joined by fellow SouthSounds veteran Garrett Thornton. Hailing from south Mississippi, Thornton has been performing in support of his sophomore album “Rebel Heart.” The collection reflects a songwriter who has taken great care to present certain emotions and experiences that weave its way into the hearts and souls of his listeners. Thornton finds his muses in all aspects of life and tries to catch “that spark” and translate it through lyrics and a pristine voice. Whether writing a song or making his way up the industry ladder, Thornton finds the music game can be quite challenging.

Garrett Thorton

“It’s a knife fight out there,” he explained. “I guess specific challenges would depend on the artist and their goals. For me, my biggest challenge when I sit down with a pen and guitar is still to write a good song.”

Bryant Gilley is best known for his Shifting Tracts project. Through Shifting Tracks’ performances, Gilley’s songs have been attracting attention from Mobile to Gulfport at venues ranging from Crooked Martini to Nate’s Sports Bar. However, Gilley has experienced the difficulties of maintaining an original band and trying to avoid the world of a “working/cover band.” Gilley’s faith in his music gives him the drive to continue with his original compositions.

“I view challenges like the next level on a video game, and I’m ready to level up,” Gilley said.

He will add a little indie rock to the night’s lineup. His style can best be observed through the 10 tracks (free for download) on Shifting Tracks’ official website. Tracks such as “What Would You Do?” and “Money” are powerful rock ballads. Songs such as “Sweet Surrender” and “God of USA” contrast as easygoing southern alternative rock masterpieces.

Gilley definitely has a song for every mood. His eclectic creative method might be one of the catalysts of his musical style. Some songs come into existence through melodies and chords that Gilley experiences in dreams. Otherwise, Gilley embraces a traditional creative method. His songs could be reflections of living in Mobile, or they could be fueled by “anti-war sentiments/government power grabs.”

“I think my overall inspiration for writing is to create and define a certain mindset and lifestyle of southern culture moving forward into the future,” said Gilley. “At least, that’s what I try to do with my band Shifting Tracks.”

Colquitt Brett will complete this mix of Gulf Coast singer-songwriters. This Eastern Shore up-and-comer should be a stand-out at this showcase. Many have already experienced his music through his online track “This Was a Brand New Colony (Now It’s Just Shipwrecks and Dead Sailors).” Brett’s music is riddled with punk overtones in the tradition of songwriters such as Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!). Brett fills his songs with “strange people and strange dreams, dead-end jobs and broken strings.” As far as his creative method, he finds the songwriting process to be a spontaneous action that cannot be premeditated.

“It’s kind of an ephemeral and obtuse sort of thing,” said Brett. “It’s never really the same and it never really changes. Sometimes a song takes months or years to get right. Other times it can be over and done in 15 minutes. There’s no real logic to it. It’s almost sorcery.”

Mack Lipscomb will also perform.

The Great Gulf Coast Singer-Songwriter Showcase will not be the only chance for regional artists to score a performance slot at SouthSounds. Hayes revealed that the festival will have similar events throughout the fall. In the meantime, this line-up of singer-songwriters is sure to give those in attendance some of their best work in the intimate, listening environment of The Blind Mule.

SouthSounds presents The Great Gulf Coast Singer-Songwriter Showcase
Date: Friday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.
Venue: The Blind Mule Restaurant & Bar, 57 N. Claiborne St.,
Tickets: $5 at the door