FLORENCE — The Shoals has long been a hotbed for performing and recording artists, drawing in countless visitors each year to soak in the area’s rich music history.
But one student at the University of North Alabama is looking to shine a brighter light on local songwriters by providing them with a place of their own to hone their craft.
Lillian Glanton, a 19-year-old sophomore from Athens, Alabama, has been writing songs for nearly half her life. After developing her skills with country music songwriters in Nashville, Tennessee, Glanton knew she wanted to give it a shot in the Shoals.
However, she soon discovered it was difficult to find the right place to write songs.
“I was discovering as I was writing songs in Muscle Shoals that there’s nowhere to write songs,” she said. “Coffee shops can be noisy, living rooms can be a distraction, so that’s the ultimate goal — to create a place where songwriters can write songs.”
Recognizing that need led Glanton to develop an idea for the Muscle Shoals Song Rooms — an idea she took to the Shoals Idea Audition earlier this month.
It landed her first place and a $5,000 prize, which she intends to put toward a stage and sound equipment for a listening room.
“Really, I just kind of did it on a whim,” she recalled. “I had no idea that I was even expected to win.”
At that point, Glanton had been working to turn a building on North Jackson Highway — about two blocks from Muscle Shoals Sound — into her dream venue.
She had been looking for months for the perfect place, and fell in love with the Sheffield property’s potential.
“I called the owner and signed the rental contract the day I found it,” Glanton said. “The owner is very supportive of my idea, and said I could build songwriting rooms inside, which I am in the process of doing now.”
The facility will house three songwriting rooms — “The Vintage,” “The Modern” and “The Classic.” "The Classic" will feature a Muscle-Shoals inspired rock theme, she said.
Glanton is aiming for a mid-November opening. Once open, she said songwriters will be able to obtain a membership by paying a monthly fee that will give them access to an online appointment calendar to book the rooms.
In addition to bringing songwriters their own venue, she’s also working to build the area’s reputation as a songwriting haven with the Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival.
Glanton started her own LLC, the Muscle Shoals Songwriters Association, in January to help bring the festival to fruition.
The inaugural run brought more than 100 songwriters to the Shoals over the weekend with next year’s already planned for Nov. 5-7.
“The songwriters festival is another entity of the Muscle Shoals Song Rooms, so being able to bring all those songwriters down this past weekend — that was really, really fun,” Glanton said. “It’s more of a passion than anything.
“It’s something about the Shoals," she said. "Even this past weekend with all of those songwriters in town, they were just going on and on about how there’s something in the water in Muscle Shoals.”
Glanton, who is studying entertainment business at UNA, added her professors and fellow students continue to teach and inspire her daily.
“UNA has really shaped me as a person,” she said. “I think college in general can really shape you as a person, but there’s something about UNA. It’s not too big, but it’s not too small. You still get that college experience, but every professor cares about you and what you’re doing, and they’re very involved with what you’re doing. That’s what UNA has definitely taught me — that everyone matters.”