The sound of singer-songwriters perfecting their craft used to fill the lobby in Jacobs Hall at Brenau University. But after the man behind the event, Bruce Burch, moved away, “The Sofa Sessions” couldn’t continue.
That was until Doug Harrell, who used to take part in the local event, got together with his friend Ken Forrester, who needed to raise money for an organization he was on the board of, and started “Songwriters Night @ the Barn.”
This year’s event is set for 7-9 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at Jaemor Farms. Tickets are $20. All proceeds from the event will go to Gospel Missions Now.
“This just gives another platform for songwriters to be able to get their music out there,” said Harrell, a real-estate agent in the area. “And it’s a good way to raise the funds for the mission organization.”
The first year Harrell and Forrester organized the event was in 2016. It was held at the Martha Hope Cabin in Gainesville and they only had about six weeks to make it happen. But the event sold out.
Harrell said most people just bought tickets to help raise funds for Gospel Missions Now, but after it was over, they were all asking when the next event would be.
“We were sitting elbow to elbow and we had such great reviews,” Harrell said.
But it was really the idea of Forrester that got things started. He had been donating to Gospel Missions Now, which travels to Moldova in eastern Europe to help with different needs. The organization needed more money because plane tickets weren’t cheap and getting materials there wasn’t, either.
So Forrester did what he knew best: play music. He decided to get some people together to put on a concert to raise the money, and he has continued to do so since.
“It’s just to give local songwriters an opportunity, and a chance to share their music with people,” Forrester said. “But unfortunately, we’re not able to pay people to come and do that because we just don’t have the money in the budget to do that.”
Every artist who has ever performed at the event has done it voluntarily. And the same will be the case this year. Forrester and Harrell will perform, but they’ve also brought along a few other locals, all of whom Harrell met at “The Sofa Sessions.”
Ethan Phillips, just 21, will be one of the artists. Harrell said he’s “incredible” and has been getting some radio time in Northeast Georgia. Emmy Law also will perform. She’s been attending open-mic nights around Atlanta and has done well in some competitions.
Another performer is Carly Burruss, who played with country singer Keith Urban in Atlanta several years ago and at festivals with other well-known artists like Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt. She had a No. 1 song as a songwriter in Australia.
Even though she’s been on big stages, Burruss said her music is best in more intimate settings, which is why she’s excited about playing at “Songwriters Night @ The Barn.” It’s also close to home, which is an added bonus.
“Mostly anything that’s on the homefront is definitely something I want to do,” Burruss said. “And also because it’s raising money for missions work, and as a believer, I’m definitely all for that.”
She said the laid-back atmosphere and more acoustic arrangement of the songs she’ll play will help the audience hear the lyrics and understand the stories behind her music. For her, it’s kind of like a “breath of fresh air.”
“I find it outstanding that they want to give up their time and their craft to help out,” Forrester said.
Harrell and Forrester are happy to see how the event has grown and will even sell tickets at the door because of the expected response. They hope to draw about 200 people, but even if they don’t reach that number, they’re happy to raise money for a good cause.
“Our love for music helps a lot,” Forrester said. “We can kind of get this off the ground and we hope some day to see ourselves being a big event drawing hundreds of people.”