"Somebody told me about it and said, 'Look up this [group] on Facebook, that they have this meeting on Wednesday night.' I was really thrilled," said Smith, a Cartersville resident who joined the CSE in June. "I'm also a writer so ... I was looking for clubs with other people who write books so that's helped us a lot, too. But in music, you need it just the same. [Whether] you're writing a book or if you're writing a song, you need other people to hang around with who do the same thing [for] inspiration, encouragement and just advice.
"We have a subject that we pick each week," she said about the group's meetings. "[Randy Owens] ... picks a subject then he e-mails us and says, 'Bring the lyrics to the saddest song you've ever heard or the bring the lyrics to the most confusing song you've ever heard.' [However] it's not just about lyrics. There was one week that we talked about why do you put a bridge. Why is a bridge important in a song? I know a lot of members had not even thought about using a bridge until that night. So we've got interesting conversations on interesting subjects that he brings up for us all to talk about. And we spend about 30 minutes talking in a meeting per se before we all take turns and sing a new song."
For a $5 cover charge, the public will be able to hear Smith's musical talents at The City Loft as she will be competing against 11 other finalists at the CSE's Open Mic Mania Blowout on Saturday from 8 p.m. to midnight. Joining Smith will be Sam Holloday, Rick McKee, Debbie Gaines, Allen Hicks, Marc Lawson, Adam Stidham, Tim Nugent, Shawn Haney, Ernie Palmer, Gavin Powell and Ron Caird. Selected by a panel of judges, the winner will receive prizes, some of which are free CD duplication from Second Encore Productions, free studio time at Chateau Electro Recording, free music gear and a gift from Southern Guitars.
"I will be singing a bluegrass song called 'Run Away' and it is a Bonnie and Clyde type of song that I actually wrote for a Bonnie and Clyde festival in Louisiana [last year]," Smith said. "I've just had many compliments on 'Run Away' so that's one song that I know I will be singing. I've been rehearsing that one over and over. It's a song about Bonnie and how she should have ran away from Clyde. ... I'm a bluegrass singer and I'm also a ... cowgirl type of singer.
"I do a lot of western stuff. And what's so great about this is I'm the only one up there that sings this type of music, but then you have a jazz singer who's the only jazz singer in there. We have a couple folk singers and some pop singers and blues. We've got a variety of people. No one sounds alike. They've all got their own style. We're not in competition really with each other because we all have our own style of music."
Formed by Cartersville resident and musician Randy Owens in early 2010, the songwriting group is drawing about 16 people to its weekly gatherings on Wednesdays from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The City Loft, 72 S. Railroad St. in Cartersville.
Along with providing networking opportunities, the meetings offer the members a supportive atmosphere, constructive criticism and discussions about the music industry. While there is no charge to attend the weekly meetings and quarterly seminars and showcases, there is a $35 annual fee to also perform at the group's seminars, showcases and Open Mic Mania contests, and be featured on the CSE website and compilation CDs.
The group's members represent a wide array of ages, experience levels and music genres. From teenagers to musicians in their 70s, the group offers an outlet for lyricists, songwriters and musicians to develop their songwriting abilities.
Due to the CSE's increased membership, some of which has been credited to exposure from the Open Mic Mania contest, the group will be embarking on its next venture in February. Held each month, the first offering of Songwriter Showcases will be held at The City Loft Feb. 19 from 8 to about 11 p.m. The performances will feature four CSE members, singing original songs with acoustic instruments. There will be a $5 cover charge.
"We're going to do Songwriter Showcases, which is originally what we wanted to do ... [Starting in February], it's going to be an in-the-round format with four of our members each time doing their own material in round," said Patricia Owens, who helped her husband, Randy, organize the group. "You'll have four musicians sitting there. The first ones are going to be Cindy Smith, David Patterson, Jeff Putnam and Allen Hicks. So the four of them will be sitting in a circle with the audience around them. This is the way they do it at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. So let's say they'll do Cindy's song first. The other guys will play along on Cindy's song. Cindy will do her song, then they'll go to the next person and they'll do one of their songs and everybody will play along with them. And they will keep going around the circle doing their own material.
"What we were hoping, and it did happen, is that [the Open Mic Mania] would pique people's interest in our group. We just started this group in March of last year so we were trying to get the word out that we existed. So in order to do these in-the-round competitions we had to have members. So the Open Mic was to originally let people know that we were out there. We just didn't want our thing to turn into just another Atlanta open mic because there is 100 of them in Atlanta. So we're wanting to offer something different. We're wanting to [provide] an outlet for songwriters to show people their songs because a lot of times when these songwriters go out and sing -- when they're hired by a club to do a show -- they have to do covers."
For more information, visit www.cartersvillesongwriters.com and www.openmicmania.com.