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Two Don’t-Miss 30A Fest Acts

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John Gorka. More at

Wyatt Edmondson. More at

By Nikki Hedrick


Every year, the 30A Songwriters Festival brings a colorful smorgasbord of musicians, songwriters and legends to our beach community. And every year is a different experience, down to the swings in Florida weather, the venues that participate, and, of course, the array of performers.


John Gorka returns for this year’s event. “I was there, I think it was 2014,” he says. “I really liked it. It was nice to be on a beach in Florida in January.”


Gorka says the thing he likes best about folk music in general is “it could be about any topic, not necessarily the easiest to sell. It could be noncommercial or about any aspect of a person’s life.”


Being focused on where inspiration leads, Gorka has the freedom to explore musical ideas. As he eloquently puts it, “My favorite place to be is in the middle of a song.”


Jack Hardy, who was at the forefront of the Greenwich Village folk music scene, had a methodical take on songwriting. “He was the first person I met who wrote songs on a schedule,” says Gorka. “I think his general routine was to try and write a song a week. I knew novelists would write like that, try to get to a certain number of pages a day. But I didn’t know that songwriters could do that.”


Hardy viewed waiting for inspiration to strike as a cop out. And Gorka took on a similar challenge, aiming to write a song a month, which eventually turned into a two-a-month goal. “I did that a bunch of years until having kids,” he says. “That kind of changed everything, and now I write whenever I can.”


Gorka likes writing first thing in the morning “when you are halfway between the dream state and full logical reality. It seems like those are the most productive times for songs.” He is quick to warn about destructive times as well. “If I try to work on a song at the wrong time, the feel doesn’t come back and I just see all the flaws and none of the potential.


“Sometimes they will come fully formed, but sometimes they can take years,” Gorka says of his songs. “Each one kind of has it own process of being born. I try not to force the idea of song into any sort of box before it is what it wants to be. I try to get out of the way.“


First time 30A Fest performer Wyatt Edmondson takes methodical songwriting a step further—turning to word lists to stay tuned into a concept. “As far as should lyric come first, should melody come first, or should you just sit there and struggle and see what happens…for me, I find it helps more when I have a clear idea of the concept,” he says.


“I try to make sure whatever I’m doing, I’m feeling it.”


The young singer-songwriter from Montgomery found a mentor in composer Robert W. Smith, and is part of Troy University’s music program. Nearing the end of his academic career, he has dreams of heading to Nashville while continuing to write for himself and collaborating with others.


Even though Edmondson’s songs are acoustic oriented, his isn’t afraid to move outside that box. He recently produced a hip-hop single and embracing EDM remixes of his songs.


Edmondson has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which his grandfather also has. “He’s actually a piano tuner and is fully blind. It is progressive blindness, I have it, and my younger cousin has it. What is interesting is all three of us are musically inclined.”


While the degenerative eye disease means Edmondson sometimes struggles in dark settings, he keeps a positive outlook. “It’s a part of my daily life and probably even inspired me to pursue music.”


Edmondson is grateful for the opportunity to be in this year’s festival lineup. “To be able to be a part of something like this is one of the greatest things I could ever ask for.”


He recently released Lovers Lake, with artwork by his sister Joanna. Edmondson will be accompanied by guitarist-vocalist Jack Binkerd during his festival performances.

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