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WROTE A SONG FOR EVERYONE: First Oklahoma Songwriter’s Festival puts songsmiths in spotlight

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Nashville songwriter and Ada native Zac Maloy, former leader of The Nixons.
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Nixons frontman Zac Maloy returns to Oklahoma City, "dancing on the stage, of memory" at inaugural Oklahoma Songwriters Festival

OKLAHOMA CITY – Over the past decade, Oklahoma as seen a renaissance in singer-songwriters, from local luminaries such as Samantha Crain, John Moreland and JD McPherson to Okie-born Nashville talents pumping out hits for Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and so on.

Tired of standing in the shadows, the first ever Oklahoma Songwriter’s Festival turns the spotlight on the talent behind the tunes. Founded by Zac Maloy, former frontman of the cult alternative band The Nixons and now a hugely successful songsmith for artists like Tim McGraw, Jake Owen and 3 Doors Down, he said that he started this event in order to “create momentum and broader relationships for the Oklahoma music community, while at the same time providing a unique set of shows not commonly available to the local music fan in Oklahoma.”

“The music and the music scene in Oklahoma is healthy and historical, going all the way back to Woody Guthrie and then up to all the one names: Garth, Carrie, Blake, Vince, Reba…that’s not a problem,” Maloy said. “The concept is "How can we generate a little bit of excitement around the music business?" I’m a songwriter, so I signed in a few Nashville-based songwriters to sit and run with some Okies and write some songs.”

Some of the talent the Ada native is bringing with him to the stage include Jim Beavers, who co-wrote “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith and “Watching Airplanes” by Gary Allan; Marcus Hummon who co-wrote “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts and “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks; and Marti Frederiksen who co-wrote “Jaded” by Aerosmith and “Undo It” by Carrie Underwood, among others.

“A great song will always break through,” Maloy said. “I’m encouraged when I look at the landscape of music, and maybe this is going to make me sound schizophrenic, but what Chris Stapleton is doing, and Adele, and then if you slide on over even to the band fun., that was a pop group but they were making real songs, or Ed Sheeran with just one tiny guitar, they’re good songs. It’s changing what the singer-songwriter looks like, but for me a great song can always break through.”

The festival will kick off at The Blue Door on Thursday, April 28th, with a 9 p.m. show featuring up and coming Oklahoma singer/songwriter Kierston White and long-time Blue Door regular Michael Fracasso. VZD's Club on N. Western Ave. will also be a venue for live music featuring the visiting songwriters on Friday night, April 29.

Oklahoma native JD McPherson will also participate in a “writer’s round” session and will join the other aforementioned songwriters for the Oklahoma Songwriters Festival Writer's Showcase Concert on Saturday night, April 30th at the ACM@UCO Performance Lab in Bricktown. And, if that weren’t enough, Maloy is letting Red Dirt Report readers in on a special surprise he has in store for fans of his former band, The Nixons, which had a breakthrough album - Foma - in 1995, along with the Top 10 mainstream rock song "Sister" the same year.

A poster of The Nixons, at the height of their mid-1990's fame, on the wall of Red Dirt Report. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

“At the finale event, a bunch of these guys I’m bringing in from Nashville are going to perform some songs they’ve written, and then, at the end, John (Humphrey) and Jesse (Davis) from The Nixons are going to jump up and we’re going to do a few songs,” Maloy said. “Call it a little mini-reunion, but we get offers to play all the time—John is in the band Seether and tours like crazy and I have a pretty big production schedule—but, you know, never say never. It’s the first time in 15 years all of us have been on stage together. It’ll be short and sweet, but it’ll be fun.”

At the height of their fame, the Oklahoma City-based band was a touring monster, touring with everyone from KISS to Soul Asylum, having started out in Norman, contemporaries of Chainsaw Kittens and The Flaming Lips. Following Foma, the band released The Nixons (1997) and Latest Thing (2000), before breaking up. This Sarasota Herald-Tribune article from 1995 offers interesting insight into the band just as they were breaking out.

A complete schedule of the day’s business panels and the evening’s events, as well as tickets, can be found at Fans are advised to move fast as spots are quickly filling up fast for this first-time musical event.

“If you’re a music fan at all, Saturdays night’s show is going to be magical,” Maloy added. “I just played a show like this at The Bluebird here in Nashville and it reminded me all over again how cool it is just to sit and be a fan. We’re going to have a lot of fun with this.”

Andrew W. Griffin contributed to this article.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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