THE ISSUE: Famous singer-songwriters discussed their feelings after having performed at the Harvest Fest the same weekend that the Las Vegas massacre occurred.
LOCAL IMPACT: The weekend directly after the shooting, Ascension Parish held its first-ever country/rock n roll music festival featuring artists who were near the shooting the weekend prior.
The Flambeau Festival has much to speak about after Sunday, but someone should shine a light on the singer-songwriter stage for a sec.
By the time I made it to the tent, I was treated to the trio of Greg Barnhill, Joanna Cotten, and Dennis Matkosky. Since I'm a former college radio deejay, often times my music snobbery gets the best of me. Other times I am delighted to learn things I did not know. I hope that never changes.
For instance, Matkosky, from Brooklyn, N.Y., who was playing the keys with the trio actually co-wrote the song "Maniac" from the movie Flashdance. Holy cow! When I interviewed them together after their first set, Barnhill called me out for not doing my homework. He was right.
"I've been doing it for a long time," Matkosky said. "I've actually sold about 80 million records, and I've had hits in multiple genre's. I've been lucky enough to kind of bounce back and forth."
That made me think they were a perfect group of songwriters to perform at the festival, since the festival blurred the line between rock and country music.
Barnhill is a New Orleans native from Slidell. He said he moved to Nashville many years ago. He co-wrote "Walkaway Joe" for Trisha Yearwood. Also written by Cotten and Matkosky is "Some People," performed by LeAnn Rimes. Matkosky also co-wrote "You'll Think of Me," sung by Keith Urban.
"Dennis's hits go on and on," Cotten said.
Cotten, who also performs as a backup singer for Eric Church, said on stage that she was bringing an element known in Memphis, Tenn. as "Funkabilly." I don't think I've heard that one before. But I liked it, kind of an amalgam of funk and soul, according to Barnhill. But Cotten added to that it's a mixture of dirt roads and southern biscuits and the muddy Mississippi.
Leave it to songwriters.
"I've seen a lot of festivals along the way, but I don't see the real songwriters represented very often," Cotten said.
Moreover, Cotten, originally from Forrest City, Ark., said she was with Church at the Harvest Festival in Las Vegas the prior weekend. They performed on Friday, just two days before the shooting took place.
"We were gone before everything happened but it's still pretty eerie to think that you were standing on the very stage that all that happened just two nights prior," she said. "Really makes you feel lucky to be standing here.
"I don't think it will ever be the same for any of us, that we will not think about it before we walk on a stage, but I refuse to back down from an evil act like that because this is what we're here to do, is music. And we're not going to let that stop us.
"I thought about it for this weekend. It will definitely cross your mind. But the chances of something like that happening in the first place were great [sic]. The chances of it happening a second weekend, is what I'm telling myself to just kind of get me through, is even greater [sic]. So, it's just a horrific tragedy to an amazing group of people that come out and follow religiously.
"You know, the country music fans are probably the most loyal fans I've ever seen. They come--I've seen them all year long with Eric--same people over and over again, and to think that there was such terror in their world just to try to enjoy music gave me chills from head to toe when I turned on the news on Monday morning."
Let that sink in.
Next on the agenda for these three is something for music education in St. Tammany Parish schools, according to Barnhill. They are involved in a November 2 fundraiser kickoff for the Ozone Songwriter Festival, said to be happening in 2018.
"This area got overlooked back in the day as a music center," Barnhill said.
Their new project is looking to help kids grow into the music industry. Not just as musicians, but also as music engineers and producers. They sort of collectively agreed that not only great musicians, but great literary artists come from this region in the country, and that it's ripe.