Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival Recap

The Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival presented by Marriott Shoals took place November 5 - 6. The 2nd annual songwriters event, which featured music royalty financing firm Sound Royalties as the Premier Partner, was two days of back-to-back performances, showcases, and after-parties in legendary venues across Muscle Shoals, including knockout solo acoustic sets by CMT’s 2021 Artist of the Year, Walker Hayes and a sold-out VIP party at FAME Recording Studios.

The festival also featured the Muscle Shoals Music Awards Ceremony at the Marriott Shoals Ballroom. Among this year’s winners were GRAMMY Award-winning Alabama songwriter Chris Tompkins, who received the 2021 George Jackson Contemporary Songwriter Award.

(Grammy-Award Winning Alabama Songwriter Chris Tompkins receives the 2021 George Jackson Contemporary Songwriter Award at the Muscle Shoals Music Awards during the festival Credit: Lisa Adkins Photography)

In addition, two Muscle Shoals legends were honored with the Dan Penn Lifetime Achievement Award. Born and raised in The Shoals, Walt Aldridge worked for 17 years at FAME Recording Studios. He has dozens of #1 hits, including "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me" by Ronnie Milsap, “'Till You're Gone” by Barbara Mandrell, and "Holding Her and Loving You" by Earl Thomas Conley.

(L to R: Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival Founder Lillian Glanton, Walt Aldridge (Winner of Dan Penn Lifetime Achievement Award), Rodney Hall (Owner of FAME recording studios) Credit: Lisa Adkins Photography)

Legendary singer-songwriter, producer, and musician Dan Penn is the co-writer (with Lincoln “Chips” Moman) of such hits as Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street.” As a songwriter for FAME and its predecessor, SPAR Music, during the early 1960s, Penn was instrumental in the development of the Muscle Shoals music scene.

(Dan Penn at Muscle Shoals Music Awards receives “Dan Penn Lifetime Achievement Award” Credit: Lisa Adkins Photography) 

Sound Royalties was on site all weekend conducting interviews with top-talent songwriters in the Sound Royalties Video Lounge to be featured in Sound Royalties’ Green Room Sessions and Between the Notes series. Past guests on both series have included Sonia Leigh, Steve Dorff, Steven Williams, Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, Angela Hunte and many more.
More than 90 songwriters took part in this year’s festival including GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter, producer, and guitarist Curt Chambers, who gained notoriety for his blending of rock, soul, country music and hip hop.

(Songwriter and MSSF Performer Curt Chambers with Shoals Legend Spooner Oldham Credit: Butler Studio Photography)

Other highlights included performances by GRAMMY Award winner Emily Weisband and hit songwriter Emily Shackelton.

(Hit Songwriter Emily Shackelton at MSSF 2021 Credit: Butler Studio Photography) 

In the two days leading up to the festival, the Shoals Songwriter Workshop took place, offering up a variety of networking opportunities, songwriter panels, a music publisher Q&A, mentorship sessions, a breakout jam session and more. Workshops featured Courtney Allen, Creative Director of BMG Music Group, GRAMMY-award winning songwriter Cliff Goldmacher, hit songwriters Phillip White and Brice Long, among others.