When you’re also known as “The Emerald Coast,” it’s no wonder that so many people leave Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A with lasting impressions. For many, it goes beyond just simple influence and memories. Artists and musicians find inspiration in 30A’s charming beach towns, its sugar-white coastline, and its overall vibe, writing songs about their memories of the area.
30A has become a creative hub of songwriting, not only attracting artists with its breathtaking natural landscape but a major annual singer-songwriter festival as well. Additionally, 30A provides excellent venues for musicians to perform live including Red Bar, Red Fish Taco, AJ’s, The Bay, Old Florida Fish House, Shunk Gulley Oyster Bar, the Big Chill 30a and many more.
Musicians routinely flock to 30A’s scenic coastline and communities, including Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Luke Brian, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and countless others over the years.
The songs and albums below are just a snapshot of the immense creative energy 30A inspires in its residents and visitors. This is not to mention the large community of painters, visual artists, sculptors, and photographers who are very active here, complementing the inspired music that it also produces in great quantities.
The list below represents only a small sample of what will undoubtedly be many songs inspired by the beautiful 30A area.
2021 was defined by COVID lockdowns including live music venues which seriously impacted the livelihood and mental health of many artists. While some of the music made then reflected those darker times, artists like Brian Kelley released the opposite – upbeat, optimistic music to create new, happy memories to. Aptly titled Sunshine State of Mind, Kelley’s debut solo record resonates 30A energy on songs like “Beach Cowboy,” “Made By The Water,” “Party On The Beach,” and the final song, “Florida Boy Forever.”
During the pandemic restrictions, Kelley and his wife Brittany decided to make Walton County their home. Kelley is also one half of the massive country duo Florida Georgia Line, which is on “indefinite hiatus,” allowing him to focus on his solo work. Last year, he also held a 20-show fall residency in Santa Rosa Beach. Sunshine State of Mind encapsulates that buoyant, inspiring energy that makes the 30A landscape and people so special.
Earlier this year, Grand Ole Opry member Chris Janson released the perfectly titled Soundtrack to the Summer 2023 which, as you might guess, gives us non-stop, feel-good tunes for the hot months when memories are made. One of the singles from the record is “All I Need Is You,” a song about spending time with the one you love in places that you love like “a beach house down on 30A” with “the Gulf of Mexico sittin’ right in my backyard.”
It says a lot that he chose 30A as the setting for a song that perfectly encapsulates the Florida beach vibe.
Tennessee singer-songwriter Thomas Rhett is more literal about his love for 30A in his hit “Sand” which was written by Rhett as well as Jesse Frasure and fellow country artist Hardy.
“With those eyes, creeping in like that tide, getting me a rooftop 30A high,” he sang in the 2019 song. “No plans, just tan, sun kiss, loving it, covered in sand.”
Appearing on his #1 album Center Point Road, “Sand” mentions several of his favorite sandy escapes including St Pete and the Florida Keys. However, it’s clear in this song that 30A has a special place in his heart, vacationing with his family in the area. While his other songs about summer and Florida have a lighter feel and tone (“Goodbye Summer,” “Vacation”), “Sand” is much more pensive, signifying a deeper connection to 30A.
In 2017, some of you might remember that an album came out called Come Away to 30A, which was described as a “collection of songs written and recorded to celebrate the sights, sounds, and people of the legendary Highway 30A.” On it, local musicians contributed songs inspired by 30A, including Jamie Kent, who contributed the track “30A Sticker” to the sunny compilation of beach songs by local artists.
With so many 30A stickers adorning bumpers all over the world (including atop Mt. Everest!), it was only a matter of time before the idea got “stuck” in someone’s mind.
The iconic 30A sticker has become almost ubiquitous with good times on the beach resonating with Kent as well as country star Morgan Wallen. Right away in the first verse of his song “Somebody’s Problem,” Morgan Wallen gets nostalgic about 30A:
“A ‘Bama red 4Runner pulled into the party
With a 30A sticker on the back windshield
Two-tone tank top slippin’ off her shoulder
Kinda girl when she steps out, the world stands still”
For such a personal, poignant song, including the 30A detail in the opening lyrics and words says a lot about the successful musician – it says that the impression of the sticker is forever imprinted in the artist’s bank of important memories.
Even though it was written on Tybee Island, about 20 miles east of his hometown of Savannah Georgia, Billy Currington’s hit “Seaside” is all about “runnin’ ’round with a Rum Runner” in the water, sunshine, and moonlight of 30A. Released as a standalone single in the summer of 2020, “Seaside” can be almost any beautiful beach with your loved one, but for some reason, the 30A seaside resonated with the singer-songwriter for this hit which has nearly 500,000 views on YouTube.
Up-and-coming singer-songwriter Jake Mason released his catchy single “30A” in 2020 and like the other music mentioned in this list, capture the summertime vibes of 30A perfectly, repeatedly singing, “I got a feeling like there’s something like me and you can happen, it’s classic, like a 30A summer vacation” – in other words, nothing is better than a 30A holiday.
The young artist has only released a handful of songs, but if “30A” is any indication, he has a bright future of writing catchy, summertime anthems like this one.
A popular face and voice in the 30A music scene is Will Thompson whose band plays several times a week at various 30A venues and locations. A fifth-generation musician, Thompson also holds the annual Panama City Songwriters Festival which raises money for the Bay Youth Music Association. His music, such as his most recent single and video “Checklist,” is full of references to the 30A area where he was born and raised. But diving deeper, you will discover Thompson skillfully incorporates a tapestry of references to 30A, the cherished birthplace and backdrop of his upbringing, throughout his musical repertoire. Upon closer exploration of his discography, listeners are immersed in a wealth of vibrant imagery that vividly portrays the essence of 30A. Songs such as “Ask Me,” “This Time Of Year,” “Brand New Day,” and “Sunday Funday” (With this beach blonde 30A, Sunday Funday…) showcase the allure of the area, while the enchanting narrative of “Come Away” beckons listeners to walk the sandy beaches, witness the setting sun, and envision the possibility of making 30A their forever home.
Luke Bryan does not need any introduction so it was quite the honor for 30A and Panama City to be the romantic setting of his song “Roller Coaster” which is about a man who falls in love/infatuation in Panama City. Referencing Thomas Drive, “Roller Coaster” is an intimate look at the area through his “twisted” ruminations of a woman he never saw again. The song was inspired by the Miracle Strip Amusement Park which was the scene for many summer memories for Bryan, as well as co-songwriters Cole Swindell, and Michael Carter had visited on summer vacations. Additionally, the video for “Roller Coaster”
was appropriately filmed in the area with many scenes and images that will be familiar to locals.