I rubbed my eyes and peered out the window to the tangled Sand Pines that prolifically decorate this region of the Florida Panhandle. It looked pretty much like every other morning in this pretty little corner of Northwestern Florida: sandy streets bathed in winter sunlight; whimsical little houses cuddled along cobblestone footpaths; colorful towers peeking into the blue, blue sky (remember the standard desktop from old Microsoft Windows? That kind of blue.); and then the expansive Gulf of Mexico reaching out to the horizon, mysteriously absent of any trace of the oft murmured about BP oil spill. Seaside, Florida, is indeed a charmed place.
Founded in 1981 by Robert and Daryl Davis, the town is a groundbreaking model of New Urbanism. While most of America was indulging in sprawling suburban development, the Davis’s envisioned an urban community where most necessary activities were within walking distance with attractive housing, open public spaces and protected natural areas co-existing. Covering a cute 80 acres, Seaside has been a visionary, cultural and commercial success, inspiring many similar communities to spring up across the globe.
So, what the heck is a little songwriter from Cape Breton Island doing hanging around these parts? I first discovered Seaside when I was invited to play the 30A Songwriters Festival last year. This year, I was asked back to the Festival and also invited to participate in a month-long artist residency program called Escape to Create. Along with three other artists (visual artist Judith Levy, photographer Roger Freeman, and architect/artist Dhiru Thandani), I’ve spent the month in a private cottage working on a new writing project and sticking to my New Year’s resolution to run on the beach everyday. It ain’t bad.
Seaside has a thriving and well-supported arts scene, nurtured by a community of informed, dedicated and varied non-profit organizations. 30A Songwriters Festival is a new addition to the community. This year’s line up included Shawn Mullins, Mat Kearney, Rodney Crowell, the Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers, and our own Madison Violet who I caught up with for a little chat (below). I was able to share the stage with some great Nashville types and meet a whole lot of great American songwriters.
Just when I was thinking “I could get used to this!” I received the lovely news of my album’s ECMA nominations. Ah shucks. I guess I can’t stow away in sunny Seaside forever like the reclusive writer in me so longs to do. I’ll be sure to make it home to celebrate east coast music at the 2011 ECMA’s in Charlottetown, April 13th – 17th.