Lewes’ Garrison ready for Smyrna at Night

Sara Ann Garrison, a recent graduate of Cape Henlopen High, has a new EP and a host of concerts and festivals throughout the summer and fall, including tonight’s Smyrna at Night event. (Submitted photo)

SMYRNA — For most, the period right after high school graduation can be a time to relax and reflect on a job well done.

Not so for Sara Ann Garrison.

After graduating from Cape Henlopen High School on June 6, the Lewes country singer was in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 8 performing at the CMA Music Festival.

She was there to give a series of concerts and promote her new EP “Livin’ A Dream.”

The slate of shows served as a kickoff to a busy summer and fall of concerts and festivals, including tonight’s free Smyrna at Night. She will perform on the outdoor stage on Main Street in front of Odd Fellows Cafe starting at 6:40.

She joins 27 other acts in nine venues around town, some with two stages, during the event which gets underway at 5:15 p.m.

No stranger to Music City, Ms. Garrison was the 2014 winner of Nashville Universe’s Shooting Star of the Year Award, made the top five in Nashville Universe’s Rising Star of the Year in 2015 and was a 2016 Fresh Face of Renegade Radio Nashville.

“It’s always really cool to get to go down there,” Ms. Garrison said this week.

“I did a few shows in a few days, signed some autographs and had a great time.”

Now that she has graduated high school, Ms. Garrison has more time to concentrate on her music.

“I’m going to put college aside for a while. For the longest time, I had to juggle school and music with writing during the week and then doing concerts on the weekend,” she said.

“Now I can put my full force behind the music career.”

Performing since age 3 and writing music since she was 13, it was always a tricky task balancing the books with her burgeoning career, especially in the run-up to writing and recording her latest work.

“I would end up coming home from school, relaxing for a little bit and then start co-writing with someone else or writing by myself or practicing the songs,” she said.

For “Livin’ a Dream,” she got the tutelage of other, more experienced songwriters who helped her with some of the songs.

Two of the five songs she wrote by herself.

“It was a real learning experience,” she said of her co-writers arranged through her label, Heart Songs Corporation.

“It was cool to get different ideas as to how to write a song.”

She still remembers the songs she wrote when she was 13 although she doesn’t perform them anymore, adding they might resurface at some point.

She says the songs that she writes now are more “mature.”

“They tend to be more connectible to some people and easier to understand and identify with,” she said, adding that she finds herself writing a great deal about love and relationships these days.

In her young career, Ms. Garrison has opened for such established country stars as Sam Grow, Chasin’ Crazy and Jon Pardi and performed on the Next From Nashville stage at the 2015 Delaware Junction country music festival in Harrington.

On Sept. 30, she will play the Garden State Festival in Atlantic City, New Jersey, opening for Dan & Shay and the Eli Young Band.

She enjoys the exposure that opening for major acts brings.

“You always know you have new potential fans who may have not heard you before,” she said.

Other highlights this summer include Wilmington’s Lady Bug Festival in Wilmington on July 20 and the Wicomico Festival in Salisbury, Maryland on Aug. 20.

She will also play Dover’s Concerts on the Green Series on Aug. 3.

Those who attend tonight’s Smyrna at Night show can expect a mix of her new songs and some covers.

“For those who don’t know my music completely, I like to mix it up and throw a Taylor Swift song or a song by another artist in there,” she said.

“Livin a Dream” is available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play. Physical copies will also be available at her concerts or at saraanngarrison.com.

‘So much value’

Smyrna at Night, now in its fourth year, has been getting bigger every year both in terms of attendance and attractions.

“There’s really so much value for zero admission,” said Jeremy Hebbel, co-owner of Gable Music Ventures.

Smyrna at Night is a production of Strongpoint Marketing in association with Gable.

Internationally touring blues musician Vanessa Collier will play the main stage at Smyrna at Night tonight at 9. (Submitted photo)

Last year’s event drew about 3,500 people with 4,000 expected this year.

“Weather is always the wild card. But ignoring that, there does seem to be a buzz about Smyrna at Night with people tagging other people about how it has gone the last three years and new people saying they have to go this event,” Mr. Hebbel said of the rain-or-shine festival.

Headlining Smyrna at Night this year is international blues musician and saxophonist Vanessa Collier, Nelly’s Echo, who performed on Season 3 of “The Voice,” and Dover’s own Hoochi Coochi.

Mr. Hebbel said he’s proud of the eclectic lineup and of the headliners.

“Vanessa was by far the most buzzed-about act at Ladybug last year,” he said.

Gable produces both Smyrna at Night and the all-female Ladybug Festival, which this year will take up two days in downtown Wilmington, July 20-21.

“She is someone who has been nominated for blues awards, travels the entire world performing and graduated from the Berklee School of Music,” he said.

Hoochi Coochi, an indie blues quartet, has been “blowing up over the last year,” said Mr. Hebbel, adding that Hoochi Coochi will also headline Ladybug this year.

Aside from blues, music genres this year include country, rock, folk, big band, drum and bass and contemporary Christian.

“We did lots of brainstorming with town officials to make sure we had the right balance of genres and also local acts,” Mr. Hebbel said.

“When you discover a type of music that you didn’t know you liked, it can be a real game changer.”

Due to popular demand, Mr. Hebbel said that festivalgoers should look for an increase in food trucks this year, with 14 set to roll in.

The evening will also include a children’s play area and a beer garden.

5:15-6 p.m. – The Joe Trainor Trio, Piano-based rock
6:15-7 p.m. – Hoochi Coochi, Indie Blues
7:30-8:30 p.m. – Nelly’s Echo, Pop/Soul
9-10 p.m. – Vanessa Collier, Blues/Soul
5:30-6:30 p.m. – Single Origin, Indie Neo Soul
6:45-7:45 p.m. – The Susquehanna Floods, Blues/Southern rock
8:15-9:15 p.m. – FaithWorX, Contemporary Christian
5:25-6:25 p.m. – Cecilia Grace, Pop duo
6:40-7:40 p.m. – Sara Ann Garrison, Country
8-9 p.m. – Bryan Russo, Indie Blues
5:15-6:15 p.m. – Tyler Greene Music, Psychedelic rock
7-8 p.m. – Forsaken, Hick Hop
6:15-7:15 p.m. – Ali Sperry, Americana
8-9 p.m. – Alvin Clayton Pope, Multiple genres
5:30-6:30 p.m. – Keith Kenny, Rock/Blues
7:30-8:30 p.m. – Jason Ager & the Golden Eagles, Blues/Soul
6-7 p.m. – Orion Freeman, Folk
8-9 p.m. – Sam Schmidthuber, Country
5:30-6:30 p.m. – The Rose Project, Indie Americana
6:45-7:45 p.m. – Shane Palko, Folk
8-9 p.m. – Hot Breakfast!, Acoustic dork rock
6-7 p.m. – Trap Rabbit, Instrumental drum and bass
7:30-8:30 p.m. – Megan Knight Trio, Americana
6, 7:30 and 9 p.m. – Big Ric Rising (three sets), Party dance band
5:15-6 p.m. – Matt Sevier, Singer-songwriter
6:15-7 p.m. – Britton Brothers, Multiple genres
7:15-8 p.m. – Matt Sevier
8:15-9 p.m. – Britton Brothers
9:15-10 p.m. – Matt Sevier
4-7 p.m. – Bryan Scar, Singer-songwriter
7-10 p.m. – Rocket 88, Blues/Rock


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