ST. PETERSBURG — Aspiring songsmiths and composers with a lyrical bent are putting the finishing touches on homemade CDs and MP3's — with competitive juices flowing as they dash to address envelopes to City Hall.
The reason? The City Song Contest is under way and contestants have until Oct. 26 to turn in melodic tunes that officials hope will result in an auditory logo whose catchy beat will undoubtedly make every listening ear immediately think of this fine city by the bay.
"It's a great unifier," said Elizabeth Brincklow, St. Petersburg's arts and international relations manager. "It just seems like a really fun great project to bring people together. That's what music does."
Brincklow ticked off the cities that have their own songs, from San Francisco to Miami, Seattle and Chicago. She had just popped on earphones and listened to the 11 submissions thus far for what will become the city's anthem.
The deadline for submissions has recently been extended to Oct. 26. Brincklow said she is excited about what she has heard thus far. The winning composition will be performed at Ribfest in mid November.
Tunes have included a full pipe organ to solo guitar and portrayed the city through a lens tinged by the blues to a tropical, Jimmy Buffett-like feel. The Tampa Bay Rays, the Pier and staples like the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and local parks are mentioned.
"It's an opportunity for musicians to express their feelings about St. Pete, the culture and their favorite landmarks," Brincklow said. "It says that the writer has a real love for St. Pete and it comes out in the music."
A love for the city in which he was born and raised is what drove 19-year-old Kyle Wyss after he learned about the contest three weeks ago on the city's Web site. Wyss wrote The Sunshine City about downtown and a day downtown ending with a beach sunset.
Although Wyss and his band, Blind Man's Colour, have experienced success locally and signed to a record label thanks to a plug from Kanye West, he said the contest drives him.
"I thought this would be the next step," said Wyss, who plays guitar, piano and sings on the cut. "It's all about the lifestyle and tropical living and it has sort of a modern song structure."
The pride Wyss shows in St. Petersburg is one of the reasons Mayor Rick Baker has pushed for a city song for years. Baker pointed to increased civic pride during the past decade that should be recognized.
"I think a lot of great cities have great songs that help publicize the city and promote the city and they help the people who live here develop a grater sense of pride in the city," Baker said. "What we have seen in the past 10 years is more and more people are proud of living in St. Pete and I think we should promote that."
For 58-year-old St. Petersburg native Bob Jacobs, the song contest is also a chance to again promote a piece he previously wrote about the city. Jacobs and his cousin Bruce wrote I'm Off to St. Pete 10 years ago in the key of G. They were reworking it in the easier-to-sing key of C this summer when they heard about the contest.
Jacobs, who added new lead guitar parts and embellished the harmony, is eager for his effort to be heard by the three judges who will pick a winner.
The CDs, per the contest's exact guidelines, made it to Brincklow's desk.
"I was going to send it MP3 but the problem they had is they require the musical notes and I have no way to send that electronically so I submitted four copies of the CD and lyrics and chords and four of the melody line," he said. "I wanted to make sure they go it."