LAKE CITY, S.C. — What do you get when you throw four songwriters, a few guitars, a truckload of stories and just as many jokes on stage in a historic bean market, smack dab in the middle of South Carolina’s tobacco country?
Well, you never can tell. And that’s exactly what makes Lake City’s Writers In The Round such a special event each year.
For those unfamiliar with what has grown into an annual tradition around these parts, WITR is more than just a concert or a musical performance.
It’s an intimate gathering of some of Nashville’s hottest songwriters, led by one of Music City’s best, Pee Dee native Frank Rogers — whose career accolades include 18 CMA Award nominations with one win, 27 ACM Award nominations with five wins, six Billboard No. 1 songs as a songwriter and an impressive 41 Billboard No. 1 songs as a producer.
Round 6 of Writers In The Round will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bean Market in Lake City.
Rogers said he puts his group together thoughtfully each year. While he knows tons of great songwriters and performers, an event like Writers In The Round is about more than just strumming and singing. It takes a certain chemistry for the evening to be a success.
“It has to be a group that complements each other,” Rogers said in a phone interview this week. “You’ve got to have some up-tempo people, some ballad guys. You can’t have two hours of all one thing. And I think you’ve got to have personalities that complement each other. You’ve got to mesh with one another. We all know each other. We’re friends, and that’s important with something like this. It’s what makes it entertaining and special for everybody.”
Rogers has brought the same line-up with him several times in the past, but he said he likes to mix things up from time to time. This year, he’ll be joined by fellow songwriters Justin Adams, Monty Criswell and Derek George. And while their names might not ring a bell, their resumes instantly will — hit songs made famous by names such as Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton and more.
“Monty’s done several of these with me, but we like to put a few new pieces in each year and change it up a bit from time to time,” Rogers said.
“This is the first time Derek and Justin have been in Lake City with us,” Rogers said. “Justin’s a little different, because he’s actually a performer who plays out every weekend with a full band. He’s the first artist I’ve brought to this event who’s actually an up-and-coming performer.
“For the rest of us, this is not our career. We just like to do these type events a few times a year for special occasions or charity events. But I’ve just finished up some music with Justin, and I think he’s going to be a superstar. I really think he’s going to do big things, and a few years from now, people who are at this Writers In The Round are going to be able to say, ‘Hey, I saw that guy first … at The Bean Market in Lake City.’”
Sound crazy? Well, it shouldn’t. Several years ago, Rogers did a similar event at Creek Ratz in Murrells Inlet and brought along another up-and-coming songwriter at that time, a guy by the name of Chris Stapleton.
“He was just an unknown songwriter at the time,” Rogers said, “and today, he’s a star. Everybody knows his name. So you never know what you might see at one of these events.”
The idea for Lake City’s WITR developed from a random conversation between Rogers’ father, Frank “Buzz” Rogers IV, and Lake City entrepreneur and philanthropist Darla Moore. The two were discussing different people who were born in the Pee Dee and went on to “the big time.”
“Darla, of course, knew about Frank and what he was doing in Nashville, but most others didn’t really know anything about Frank,” Buzz Rogers said.
“Darla said she felt like people should know more about him, especially with him having been born right here in Florence at the old McLeod Infirmary. So she said, ‘How can we make that happen?’ And that’s how Writers In The Round got started in Lake City. We did the first one, and there was such a huge response. People just love to hear the stories and the experiences that inspired these songs. There’s really no event like this anywhere in the state, not with four writers of this caliber. You’d have to go to Nashville to see that, maybe at the Bluebird Café, but even there, I don’t know that you’d see four of them on stage together. It’s truly something special.”