“You need to talk to C. Lynne Smith. She has a great story,” John Harris exclaims when asked about the local performers being spotlighted at this year’s Singer-Songwriter Weekend, taking place Friday and Saturday, March 24 to 25, at Congress Hall in Cape May.
Harris, the organizer of the weekend-long convention that includes talks and keynotes from music industry experts, as well as performances by everyone from local to internationally-acclaimed musicians, both at Congress Hall and at nearby bars and restaurants, has seen plenty of memorable musicians in his line of work. But it’s Smith who stands out to him.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Smith is now based primarily in Cape May, where she says there is a “very driving and eclectic music scene.” However, Smith, who will open for Jonatha Brooke at Singer-Songwriter Weekend, 8:35 p.m. Saturday, March 25, wasn’t always public about her music. She started off working with computers, then later became a nurse, all the while growing as a musician by practicing and playing at home.
“I’ve kind of always been a musician,” Smith says. “I grew up in a musical family, and music has always been a serious part of my life. I didn’t really think about becoming a musician.”
A casual singer, multi-instrumentalist and poet, writing lyrics seemed to be a natural fit for Smith. However, she didn’t get serious about music until troubles in her personal life and a broken back slowed her down.
“Basically everything in my life kind of broke, including my body. When I was recovering, part of my healing process was writing lyrics,” she says. “I’ve just been on that path ever since. I started singing for friends and family and they said, ‘why don’t you sing for other people.’”
Overcoming physical injury and a fair bit of stage fright, Smith released her first album “Real” in 2006 and has been a participant in Singer-Songwriter Weekend for three years now.
Along with opening for Brooke, she and her duo partner Marlene Babbert will perform from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at Congress Hall’s Brown Room, where they’ll debut some new original songs.
For Smith and other area musicians, the annual Singer-Songwriter Weekend brings invaluable advice and music industry exposure to Cape May.
“It’s a great place for independent singer/songwriters,” Smith says. “To get to network and take whatever workshops you’re drawn to is great. For musicians there are discussion panels about music and the music industry, vocal coaching, and the keynote speakers get to tell you a little bit more about themselves before their show.
“But, you can also just come down here to listen to music. If you’re a songwriter or musician, it’s great on that side, too, because you get the chance to spotlight original music. People appreciate that. It’s nice because originals can be heard as opposed to covers ... At any given moment you’re listening to live original music.”
Highlights of this year’s convention are a keynote speech and performance by Jim Boggia at 5:15 and 9:15 p.m., respectively, Friday, March 24, in the Grand Ballroom, as well as Jonatha Brook’s keynote and performance at 5:15 and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, March 24, in the Grand Ballroom.(tncms-asset)4e6a42f4-0a8b-11e7-8ce7-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
As Singer-Songwriter Weekend is entering its 10th year, Harris has gone all out on talented and reputable keynote speakers, while still maintaining the boutique, small-town feel that attendees of Singer-Songwriter Weekend have come to expect.
“This is a little festival of new music. This isn’t Austin or New York. We feed off that. It’s more musicians and people who want to be in the music industry and learn about the business aspect of it. It’s intensive and it’s mostly free,” Harris explains, adding with a laugh, “We’re alcohol fueled, as well, so that makes it fun.”