As the The Sound Wall opened to host its first Opelika Songwriter’s Night, a small Pomeranian named Gucci scurried toward everyone who entered to greet attendees.
The Sound Wall, an old, formerly dilapidated home built decades ago, provided the perfect setting for songwriters from all around Opelika to perform.
Songwriter Robert Cooper helped set up before the event. Having been a musician since he was young, he was excited to be at his first Songwriter’s Night.
“I remember seeing pictures of myself when I was two years old holding a guitar,” he said.
He said he would be playing the guitar at the event, but he is also proficient with the harmonica and mandolin. Cooper said even with all of his years of experience, he still gets nervous on stage with all eyes on him.
“On stage, you feel like Forest Gump’s girlfriend – all alone up there, naked with a guitar,” he said with a smile.
Soon, Jen Slocumb, one of the organizers of the event and owners of The Sound Wall, stood up to begin the show in front of the cozy room that doubled as a recording studio.
Though the room was not yet full of people, it was soon full of sound. Three musicians sat up front, Stephanie Jeck at the piano, Justin Rivers on guitar and David Mason Gentry next to him with another guitar, each of them taking turns playing.
Jeck’s music came from the heart and spoke to her fears and misgivings, a stark contrast to Rivers’s up-tempo country songs. Gentry struck a middle ground, somewhere between the vulnerability of Jeck and the bravado of Rivers.
As the riveting music echoed throughout The Sound Wall, the old home added an extra element to the experience. A long-time dream of Jen Slocumb and Rob Slocumb, The Sound Wall was refurbished over the course of a few years to provide two things: a recording studio for musicians and an apartment in the loft to give visiting musicians a place to stay.
Jen said when they saw the opportunity to make their dream come true, she and Rob pounced on it.
“We are trying to provide a whole experience, not just a place for artists to record and leave,” Jen Slocumb said. That is why they started the Opelika Songwriter’s Nights almost a year ago.
Spectator Larry Cook said he likes to support music in Opelika, and the event provided a good way of doing just that. He and his wife Sarah Cook heard that renovations on The Sound Wall had recently been completed, and the Songwriter’s Night, an event they already liked to go to when it was hosted elsewhere, gave them the perfect opportunity to see it, knocking out two birds with one stone.
During the interlude, the musicians swapped off, and the room slowly became full as people trickled in. Cooper made his way up to the stage with three others. He played first out of the group, singing a song of his called “The Old Songwriter,” a song about his mentor and favorite musician, Rock Killough. Reflective and slow, Cooper’s deeper voice offered a smooth transition into the second half of the.
As the musicians played, Gucci the pomeranian still scurried about underfoot, adding some levity to the place.
“Here they’re all just free to be themselves," Cook said of the musicians. "They’re all free to be authentic.”