Local songwriters circle provides creative outlet


Lifestyle Reporter
Ty Dillon performs a song on Jan. 28 at Cheatham Street Warehouse during Kent Finlay's Songwriters Circle.

A local songwriters circle gives San Marcos artists the chance to play, listen and learn in an intimate setting.

Kent Finlay’s Songwriters Circle at Cheatham Street Warehouse offers a night when all participating members are encouraged to closely listen to other artists to gain as much knowledge as possible. The circle is a tradition started by Finlay, founder of Cheatham Street, and has taken place every Wednesday since 1975.

It is the one event that could be known as “the nucleus” of Cheatham Street and has kept Finlay from closing the warehouse.

“It is a open mic night for songwriters here,” said Blaine Moore, head bartender at Cheatham Street. “Everybody plays three songs, but they have to be original songs. That is the only rule. We do not have any pool tables, no talking, and everyone just sits around and listens to everyone’s music.”

Moore said the songwriters circle has helped famous artists get started. Country singer Randy Rogers got his start at Cheatham Street.

The experience becomes a very personal tradition for some of the singer-songwriters who participate, Moore said. The artists look forward to attending the circle in order to have a good time and sing.

“I had always heard about Cheatham Street, and I was trying to find open mics and saw they had one there, and I wanted to check it out,” said Ty Dillon, performer. “It was very intimate. It is about listening to the artwork each performer displayed, and I kind of fell in love with that aspect of it.”

Dillon said he has been singing since before he could talk. He later progressed to performing in a church. Dillon continued pursuing music by drumming in a rock band in high school.

Dillon goes to every songwriters circle and likens it to having a family right around the corner.

“I moved here about two years ago from Baytown, and Cheatham Street is actually the reason I came here,” said Robert Cannon, performer. “It has so much history, and George Strait is one of my biggest influences, and he started there along with Stevie Ray Vaughn.”

Cannon said he started getting into singing and songwriting by composing lyrics in high school. His ultimate goal is to be a Texas songwriter with recognized music.

Cannon explained he started coming to the songwriters circle about a year ago and loved it. He said it is a therapeutic source of songwriting inspiration.

“I have been to other songwriter circles, but there is something intimate, especially toward the end when everyone circles up,” Cannon said. “No one is plugged up, and we are all just singing together, and it is amazing.”