"I woke up one Saturday morning thinking about this, thinking it would be a good idea to start a songwriters group to bring original music to Cartersville," said Owens, a vocalist/guitarist for The Owens Bros. Band. "I had met some other songwriters and I thought it would be good just to get it out there so people could see just how much talent there is in Cartersville."
Along with providing networking opportunities, Owens said the CSE's meetings offer a fun, supportive atmosphere; constructive criticism; and discussions about the music industry. While there is no charge to attend the weekly meetings and quarterly seminars, there is a $35 annual fee to also perform at the group's quarterly In the Round showcases, and be featured on the CSE website and CSE compilation CDs.
The group's members represent a wide array of ages, experience levels and music genres. From teenagers to musicians in their 60s, the CSE offers an outlet for lyricists, songwriters and musicians to develop their songwriting abilities.
"I've seen songs actually change week to week," Owens said. "When someone would suggest something, the writer would go home and work on it and try it and bring the song back and say, 'These are the changes I made.' I've seen that sort of thing happen.
"If I can help one person progress in their writing somehow, that's really what it's all about for me. And it's important to me to get the music in front of the general public. I want people in Bartow County to be aware that we have this much talent and I want them to take part in it."
On Wednesday from 7 to 11 p.m., the CSE will be expanding its offerings with the Open Mic Mania contest at The City Loft, 72 S. Railroad St. in Cartersville. In the first-come, first-served competition, 24 participants will vie for three slots to perform later in the semi-annual Open Mic Mania Blowout.
"We came up with the idea of an open mic event to create exposure and awareness for the Cartersville Songwriters Exchange," said Chris Hereth, marketing and promotions director for the CSE. "When I got on board to help Randy promote and market the CSE, the first order of business was to find a public venue that was centrally located, and fortunately for us the owner of The City Cellar and Loft, Bob Smith, said we could use The Loft for our weekly Wednesday night meetings/gatherings. Due to the fact we now had an incredible venue at our disposal -- and with Bob being as supportive as he is -- we felt that we were in a position to offer something more than just a weekly meeting for our songwriters. So after some brainstorming, we came up with Open Mic Mania.
"However, this isn't a typical open mic night. This is an open mic contest. On the third Wednesday of every month, contestants compete for cash prizes, with three finalists chosen at the end of the night. These three finalists advance to the semi-annual Open Mic Mania Blowout, where they have a chance to win the grand prize, which includes free studio time, free replicated CDs, free music gear and more."
To compete in Open Mic Mania, musicians must pay an entry fee of $10 and perform their original songs live with acoustic instruments, if needed. Contestants need to confirm their participation with CSE representatives by 6 p.m. Wednesday. There will be a $5 cover charge for non-contestants.
For more information, visit www.openmicmania.com or www.cartersvillesongwriters.com.