Dallas Davidson, country songwriter and an Albany native, will be assisting in the Southwest Georgia Music & Arts Festival in Albany slated for Oct. 12-14.
ALBANY, Ga. - Of all the movers and shakers who've gotten on board in the weeks since businessman Sam Shugart announced plans to hold a massive three-day music and arts festival here the week of Oct. 12-14, perhaps none has been as significant as that of country songwriting sensation Dallas Davidson.
An Albany native, Davidson instantly brings several additional layers of legitimacy to the festival. He also provides an extra something money can't buy: influence.
Leave it to Shugart to succinctly sum up Davidson's impact on the fledgling event: "What country music artist in his right mind is not going to take a phone call from Dal Davidson?"
And Davidson, who has writing credits for 13 No. 1 country songs -- including "Just a Kiss" by Lady Antebellum, "That's How Country Boys Roll" by Billy Currington and "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" by Leesburg's Luke Bryan -- said he has no problem wielding his influence on behalf of the Southwest Georgia Music and Arts Festival.
"I've been friends with (Albany musician/restaurateur) Bo Henry forever, and he told me about the festival," said Davidson, taking a little break from recent beach time with family and famous friends that included Bryan. "I told him I'd love to be a part of what they were doing, and it just worked out.
"So I just jumped in and partnered up. One thing I bring to the table is a knowledge of who in Nashville is going to put heads in the auditorium."
Who better than Davidson to reach out to the current crop of country music stars, many of them, like him, Georgia born and raised? He's written hit songs for the likes of country royalty such as Bryan, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw, Montgomery Gentry and Hank Williams Jr.
"I've already started talking to some of my artist friends, telling them this is going to be one of those really, really big events," Davidson said. "I hope that in the next week or two we'll be able to announce the names of some giants who will be playing at the festival.
"This is a really big deal, and it's an opportunity for me to give back to my home community. I figure since all the good folks back in Albany had to put up with my ass over the years, the least I can do is bring them some big-name entertainment."
Shugart, who with Henry and other members of a core festival team has been methodically putting the pieces of the SOWEGA Fest together, said he expects to start announcing the more than 40-artist lineup for the festival as early as Friday.
"We're not going to throw names out there and not deliver," he said. "We're very close to finalizing the lineup, and when we do we expect there to be an immediate response. When we're ready to release the names of the performers, we'll also release ticket prices and points of sale for tickets.
"It's definitely all coming together."
Davidson said Shugart's decision to make the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, whose Macon museum site was closed last year due to a lack of funding, the primary nonprofit benefactor of the festival gives him another selling point as he talks with Georgia artists about performing at the Albany festival.
"It's really amazing the number of Georgia artists who are hot in Nashville right now," Davidson said. "Nashville today is all about Georgia. One of my goals with the festival -- if not this year then soon -- is to make it at least all Georgia headliners. And those Georgia artists who are huge right now -- Luke, Lady Antebellum, Travis Tritt, Zac Brown, Sugarland, Billy Currington, Alan Jackson, Brantley Gilbert -- those are the folks I'm talking to.
"I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions to bring the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to Albany on a permanent basis, but I can't think of a better permanent home than the birthplace of Ray Charles and other Georgia music giants."
Shugart mentioned in an article that ran in The Albany Herald last week the possibility of bringing the Hall of Fame artifacts that are currently being stored at the University of Georgia in Athens to a permanent site in Albany. Lisa Love, the chairwoman of the Georgia Music Foundation, responded to that article in an email to The Herald:
"In response to the article that ran Friday, I appreciate the opportunity to provide some clarification," Love wrote. "The addition of the Southwest Georgia Music & Arts Festival is an exciting development for Georgia and can bring cultural and economic benefits to the region and the state. However, the article implied that the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority and the Georgia Music Foundation are one and the same, and in fact they are not.
"Although the two are, understandably, often confused, these two entities are very different. Any decision regarding the Georgia Music Hall of Fame rests exclusively with the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority, and to my knowledge the Authority has not been contacted by anyone from Albany.
"I serve on the board of the Georgia Music Foundation Inc. along with Dallas Davidson. The Foundation did work with the Hall of Fame for 15 years to cultivate and provide stewardship of the collection of artifacts at the Hall of Fame, but following the Authority's decision to close the museum last June, the Foundation remained committed to its mission of preserving and promoting Georgia music and exploring new ways to fulfill that mission."
Love further wrote: "The Foundation publishes 'Georgia Music' magazine and is establishing partnerships with institutions including the University of Georgia and the University of West Georgia on projects that preserve and document our state's rich musical heritage. The Foundation is also exploring initiatives to help publicize and promote musicians and music-related businesses statewide with all fundraising activities supporting these programs exclusively, and not, as erroneously reported, for locating a future Music Hall of Fame.
"Any questions regarding the future of the Hall of Fame should be directed to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority.
"Again, we applaud the establishment of the Southwest Georgia Music & Arts Festival and its valuable addition to Georgia's creative and cultural landscape."