The singer and songwriter at first said "I'm sorry" then went silent while he lowered his head to his chest causing his fellow musicians to think he was just taking a break while on stage, it has been claimed.
"He was very still, sitting upright with his guitar on, wearing the coolest hat and a handsome rust suede jacket". I was sitting next to him in the round, had been so honoured and looking forward to getting to trade songs with him and Scott Miller.
Doctors in the audience attempted to revive him but were unable.
He wrote: "Last night we lost David Olney, one of the finest songwriters I have had the pleasure of playing with and knowing".
In the 1980s, Olney formed the rock band The X-Rays, which inked a label deal with Rounder Records, resulting in the 1981 album Contender.
"David was loved and highly respected by all who knew him, including his fellow musicians and his multitude of fans", Russell Carter, co-producer of the 30A Songwriters Festival, wrote on Facebook. Olney, a fixture on the Nashville scene for almost 50 years, produced more than 20 solo albums and wrote songs covered by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Del McCoury, and former roommate Steve Earle, among others. In this moment, I can't find the right words for what it means to me that our last recorded song was called "Death Will Not Divide Us".
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Harris, in particular, brought attention to Olney as a songwriter with her covers of "Jerusalem Tomorrow" in 1993 and "Deeper Well" on her essential 1995 album Wrecking Ball.
Olney was giving his second festival performance of the day.
Olney was performing an evening set with Amy Rigby.
Olney, a Rhode Island native, moved to Nashville in 1973 after briefly studying English at the University of North Carolina. Outside of performing his own material, Olney appeared at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival in shows like a contemporary updating of "As You Like It", and he was known to write his own sonnets.
In a statement posted on Olney's website, Emmylou Harris, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, paid tribute to the singer's ability to tell "marvellous stories with characters who cling to the hope of enduring love".
Olney was married to Regine, and they had one daughter, Lillian, and a son named Redding.