MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Thousands of fans are filling the old Pavilion site this weekend to hear some of their favorite country stars, but organizers of the Carolina Country Music Fest also made it a goal to give local artists exposure.
Several of the local and regional talents for the event were discovered through the Battle of the Bands competitions located in Charlotte, Raleigh and here in Myrtle Beach. The organizer of the event says they pick local bands themselves and they also scout in Nashville to see whose up and coming or who would seem to be a good fit for CCMF.
But while there's big names to headline like Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean, event staff says the festival is all about giving local acts publicity.
There are 10 solo acts and 2 bands all based from around North and South Carolina.
Shawn Bilton is one of the local artists performing based out of Myrtle Beach. He is known for his gritty, acoustic country rock blend with a unique edge. If you haven't heard the passion in his voice as he story tells with every song, you'll want to look out for him this weekend.
"Growing up my dad was a manager at a major country station in my hometown back in Manning, and ever since then I got to meet a lot of artists growing up and see the whole things," Bilton said.
That's when he picked up the guitar and never turned back since. Bilton has traveled around the country performing, and even had opportunities to open events for names like Florida Georgia Line and Cole Swindell.
To him, performing at CCMF is mind blowing.
"It's something you could never have even imagined and it's just an honor I'm blessed for sure," Bilton said.
He says it gives him a chance to be included with country singers he looks up to.
"It's inspiring to be kind of build my career like they have it takes patience and perseverance and I just don't give up so we just gonna go after it," Bilton said - something he advises others who are trying to build a name for themselves in the business too.
"There are up and downs, but when you're going after your dreams you just can give up no matter what someone tells you no matter how you feel you just can't give up," Bilton said.
While Shawn is excited to perform so he can continue reach people and establish himself, he also has some favorites he's excited to see.
"Darius is a fellow Gamecock, so that's exciting to me," Bilton mentioned. "I grew up listening to Hootie, love seeing him perform and Kenny Chesney - just all-time favorite - I've just grown up listening to his music and always loved it."
Bilton will perform Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Coca-Cola Stage, and then again Sunday at 4:00 p.m. at the Blue Moon stage.
If you're not going to CCMF this weekend, you can catch Shawn every Saturday night at the Kingston Plantation Embassy Suites from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. all summer long.
He is also working on a new album.