The Return of Steve Poltz and His BaHOOTenzie Songwriting School and Folk Fest
By Lisa Lynn Morgan
Bah-HOOT-en-zee (emphasis on HOOT)
Definition: Many blessings. Let’s go nuts!
The galvanic sparks of inspiration were so tangible you could chew them. The inaugural BaHOOTenzie Songwriting School and Folk Fest in 2022, held on the ethereal Joshua Tree Music Festival campus, caught everyone in attendance off guard – the impact was dizzying. We were fed an experience we didn’t even know we were starving for. True to its name, the days of BaHOOTenzie Song School and Folk Fest were awash with many indelible blessings, and yes, we all went a little delightfully nuts. One can’t NOT go a little nutty around Steve Poltz. His spirit is highly flammable, and the flame he and his fellow troubadours lit in our hearts is still burning. We were the lucky ones who had followed this pied piper and his partner in crime, Barnett English, to this ground zero of roots music phenomenon. This would become our annual pilgrimage, if Poltz and English made it happen again. We hoped against hope that they would, and they did.
With the announcement of BaHOOTenzie’s return May 2-6, 2023, calendars have been cleared, and tickets purchased for a portion, if not all, of this life enhancing music-centered experience. If you love the craft of lyric-based songwriting and acoustic performances, I strongly suggest that you do the same soon. There are limits to the number of Songwriting School attendees, as well as the seating for the Folk Fest.
ABOUT STEVE POLTZ
The prolific songwriter and witty consummate entertainer who spent many of his most formative years here in the desert is widely known for his co-write with Jewel, “You Were Meant for Me.” He has a multitude of albums under his belt. The energy and light that emanates from Poltz’s performances, whether he’s being incredibly vulnerable or wildly funny, is elvish in nature, and deeply endearing. Fellow Nashville singer/ songwriter, Tim Easton, describes Poltz as follows: “…I met different kinds of travelers and people with big hearts and wide-open minds. Some attempt to shine a light, surround hate, and force it to surrender. They must, or else spend the day in the dark. Mr. Steve Poltz is one of those lights. He doesn’t need tattoos, HE IS TATTOOS. He tattoos his mental DNA on everyone that comes within earshot of his voice. He’s doing it right now, maybe in Tasmania.”
When asked where his light energy comes from, Poltz confesses, “I’m not sure. It’s all magic. I seriously don’t really understand it all. I sorta found my bliss, as in this is what I love to do. I still marvel at the fact that I get to do this. If someone had told 12-year-old me that I’d be doing this as my job, I would’ve said, ‘Sign me up now!’ It all seems like a scam and someone’s going to find out and ring the bell of, ‘No More Fun.’ But it still hasn’t happened, and I’m flummoxed that this is my ‘job.’ It gives me energy. I still get excited when offers come my way. I’m the least jaded of most of my peers. I’m a glass is half full guy. Obviously not always, but I’d say most of the time. There are definitely down days, hurdles, obstacles, and potholes I need to navigate. The travel can kick my arse. But the shows always remind me of why I do this. They’re a booster shot. It’s pretty cool. It all started from doing a show, and that show led to another show, and that led to another. It’s all organic. A spark started it. I followed the energy, and now here I am at 63 years old. Yikes. It all goes by so fast.”
For Poltz, Folk music can be anything. “I’m not one for staying in my lane and genres and such,” he explains. “Labels don’t really come into play in my organizational structure of my grey matter. But it seems like people like to know what things are, and I totally understand that. For me, it’s all music. I love a song that takes me on a journey. It can be anything as long as it holds my interest – an instrumental or a story song or just a good hook. So, I guess folk music is music for the folks. Maybe I learn something from the song, a different point of view, or one that reinforces mine.”
The idea for BaHOOTenzie developed from a show at the Joshua Tree Music Festival grounds during the pandemic. “Everything seemed topsy-turvy, inside out, and upside down,” explained Poltz. “I played a show in Joshua Tree. It was one of those outdoor socially distanced shows where people sat in their pods not too close to each other. It was a beautiful evening. The stars were out, and the moon was shining. I casually mentioned in the middle of my show that it would be fun to have a folk fest; I had a lot of musical guests, and it seemed like a mini festival. Everyone was happy, and the music set a mood. Barnett English heard me suggest the festival. He called me the next morning and said, ‘If you were serious about throwing a little folk fest, then I think we should talk this through, because I’d love to be a part of it.’ The rest, as they say, is history.”
“I didn’t want it to just be a festival. I wanted it to be a song school too,” Poltz continued. “I thought it would be cool to have a bunch of folks come out early, hopefully learn about writing songs, and hone their craft. I wanted it to be all levels, where everyone was welcome.” The result according to Poltz and the participants was “truly magic.”
“People wrote songs and played them for others to hear,” Poltz recalls. “We had song circles every night where we’d pass the guitar around and sing songs. We had four teachers including myself. We were like lifeguards. We were available to help folks scratch that songwriting itch. There were people there that had never ever even written a song before. It was truly amazing to watch them develop and hone their craft. Then they all stuck around for the folk fest. Many of us camped out under the stars and soaked in the desert energy. It was more than I could’ve hoped for.”
When asked about his desert roots, Poltz replied, “It truly is a homecoming of sorts for me. I moved to the desert in 1969 when I was about 9 years old. I went to St. Theresa’s Catholic School in Palm Springs. I also went to Cahuilla Elementary and Nellie Coffman Junior High and eventually graduated from Palm Springs High School. I had a paper route and delivered papers by bicycle for The Desert Sun. I was pretty active in school; I was in concert choir, The Madrigals, drama, the hiking club, ran cross country, and was also on the wrestling team. The pull of the desert runs deep in my veins.”
“My father died during the pandemic,” explained Poltz, “so he wasn’t able to attend the festival. But his spirit was there! The festival is named after him. BaHOOTenzie is a word my dad made up. He said it means many blessings, let’s go nuts. It’s my favorite word! I loved my Ma and Pa and they’re both gone now, so I like being able to return to the desert and honor them.”
“I just want folks to know that they’re all welcome,” Poltz added earnestly. “Come create and hear some music. Camp out. Rent an AirBnB or hotel. Let your freak flag fly. Most of all, let’s have some fun.
ABOUT THE SONGWRITING SCHOOL:
All levels of writers, players and music lovers are welcome. Even if you’ve never written a song before, you will! You’ll learn from experienced songsmiths, Steve Poltz, Tim Bluhm, Amber Rubarth, and Maya de Vitry. These dedicated artists are committed to mentoring aspiring musicians and writers, and they’ll help you take your songwriting skills to the next level. Over 16 hours of small group instruction in a magical outdoor setting, delivered with the ideal blend of encouragement, creativity, and kindness. The SongSchool schedule can be found below.
Here’s what’s in the BaHOOTenzie SongSchool mix:
Learn from true masters of the craft
Discover lyrical, rhythm, melody and harmony techniques
Step by step approach to crafting a song
Get feedback on songs you have written or are developing
16 hours of workshops / instruction
Collaborate with other attendees
Perform your songs in front of peers
In depth advice on the craft of songwriting
Explore methods of inspiration
Creative writing exercises
Individual and small group mentoring
Exploration of the co-writing process
Hone your established skills
Take creative risks
We camp together at the Joshua Tree Music Festival venue. Tent/car camping is included with your ticket, or book one of our cozy camper trailers. There are also plenty of nearby AirBnB or hotel options and RV hookups available next door at the Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground. The JTMF venue has multiple outdoor shaded stages and nooks and cabanas for the Song School workshops, hot showers, outdoor dining area, room to roam, brilliant night sky viewing, and sweeping desert views surrounding.
Song School Fee of $1195 includes:
All instructional classes and activities in the schedule
8 Yummy meals (TUE dinner, WED & THU breakfast, lunch and dinner, FRI breakfast)
Ticket to the BaHOOTenzie Folk Fest on May 5 & 6
Space for tent or car camping during Song School & Folk Fest (5 nights)
Access to showers and restrooms on site
7 instructional & performance sessions totaling 16+ hours
3 yoga classes
ABOUT THE FOLK FEST May 5-6:
Enjoy Steve and some of his WILDLY talented friends (Keller Williams, Rainbow Girls, Lisa Sanders, Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket, Tim Bluhm of Mother Hips, Amber Rubarth, and Maya de Vitry) for 12 performances over two days and nights in the magical Mojave. Camp on site at the Joshua Tree Lake RV Campground (RV hook ups available), rent a cozy camper trailer (w/ AC) right backstage via Casagogo, or stay nearby in an AirBnB or Hotel. The Joshua Tree Music Festival venue has sweeping desert views, plenty of shaded spaces, and lots of room to safely gather outdoors. The festival site was created with the live music experience in mind!
FolkFest tickets are $150 for two days and nights of music (single day tix are $85). Schedule TBA.
For Tickets and more information go to
To discover more about Steve Poltz, go to