Andrew Morris acknowledges that he's just starting out on his musical journey, but he's happy how far he has already traveled.
Morris, 23, will be among the performers Saturday at the second annual Deerfield Beach Country Music Festival, held at the city's beach parking lot. The 2008 graduate from Monarch High in Coconut Creek says he has been playing seriously for about five years.
"There's just something about playing music. People love it, and people listen, which is gratifying," he says.
Morris, who moved to Deerfield Beach from Jacksonville with his mother when he was 14, says his interest in music accelerated after a friend from South Florida relocated to Nashville.
"My granddad, who raised me on George Jones and all the classic stuff, had given me an old guitar when I was 13. But I had put it down," he recalls. "But I picked it up again, and started teaching myself."
Morris says he has also learned plenty from his band members, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s and played professionally before settling down to start families.
"It's that saying, 'If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room,' " he says. "My playing has become stronger because I'm hanging around guys who know what they're doing."
He also has improved his stage presence.
"I've always naturally been a shy person," he admits. "I can stand there and sing in front of people I've never met, but I'd have a hard time talking to them or giving a speech."
Deerfield Beach's festival is growing, says Phil Biscomer, the city's community events liaison. About 10 food vendors and 25 art vendors are expected this year, almost double from last year.
Biscomer says he's also happy to center the festival on local performers. Maggie Baugh (noon-1 p.m.) is a 14-year-old from Boca Raton. County Line Road (1:30-2:30 p.m.) hails from Loxahatchee. Uproot Hootenanny (3-4:30 p.m.) is from Deerfield Beach. Tom Jackson (7:30 p.m.) grew up in Lake Worth. Morris will perform at 5:15 p.m.
"They all have local followings, and their fans are very loyal," Biscomer says.
The festival has added a side stage, which will feature locals Erica Morgan (1 p.m), Jess Taylor (2:30 p.m.), Ashley Briggs (4:30 p.m.) and Bailey Callahan (6:45 p.m.).
The Deerfield Beach Country Music Festival will take place from noon-9 p.m. Saturday at the main beach parking lot. Admission is free. Free parking and trolley pickups will be available at the Cove Shopping Center, 1500 E. Hillsboro Blvd. Go to Deerfield-Beach.com.