Inaugural Park City Songwriter Festival is more than lyrics and music |

Inaugural Park City Songwriter Festival is more than lyrics and music

Anders Osborne will be among the headliners at the inaugural Park City Songwriter Festival that will run Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14 in various venues on Main Street.
Photo by Brandt Vicknair

A lot of music lovers know who Garth Brooks is, whether they like country music or not.

But they may not know Kent Blazy, who wrote Brooks’ hits “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Till the Sun Comes Up)” and “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”

Ben Anderson hopes to remedy that as he, along with O.P. Rockwell co-owner Scott Thomson and Nashville Unplugged producer Aaron Benward, present the inaugural Park City Songwriter Festival on Friday, Sept. 13, and Saturday, Sept. 14.

“We want to impress people with the fact that these songwriters are hardworking people who have written songs for Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum; and they rarely get the acclaim they deserve,” Anderson said.

The two-day event will take place at the Rockwell Listening Room, The Cabin, Flanagan’s on Main and The Spur Bar and Grill. It’ll feature in-the-round acoustic performances by Blazy and other award-winning songwriters and keynote speeches by industry movers and shakers.

The topics addressed will include tips about songwriting techniques, singing to record labels and how to get songs distributed broadly, said Anderson, president of the local music nonprofit, Mountain Town Music, which produces more than 400 free concerts every summer in Summit County.

The festival will also focus on providing information about resources within the music community for people who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, he said.

Some of the artists will tell their stories during the performances.

“As it so happens, a lot of the artists who are participating in the festival are in recovery, as are many of our speakers,” he said. “Each one of the performing groups will have at least one artist in recovery who will tell their story as they perform.”

Some of the keynote speeches and other presentations throughout the festival will also address recovery, Anderson said.

A few of the Friday presentations will be given by Anders Osborne, founder of Send Me a Friend, a nonprofit music support group for recovering touring musicians who has made appearances in Park City in the past, and Harold Owen, the senior medical director of the Grammys’ Music Cares Foundation, who has been involved in helping artists such as Joe Walsh, Ivan Neville and other performers get on the road to recovery.

“Anders is a longtime friend of mine,” said Anderson, who is a Send Me a Friend board member. “And his inspiring story about how hard it is to stay sober on the road will both make you laugh and cry.”

Owen will not only tell his story, and do a Q and A but also do a Lifeshop presentation with Grammy president, award-winning songwriter Paul Williams.

“During the Lifeshop, the two will tell their stories about experience, strength and hope of recovery in the music industry,” Anderson said.

Saturday’s schedule will include a speech by Paul Worley, a Nashville-based producer who discovered the Dixie Chicks and worked with Lady Antebellum.

“Paul is also in long-term recovery, and he will talk about his experiences,” Anderson said. “He has faced his demons and is now living a normal and healthy life.”

Anderson, Benward and Thomson came up with the Park City Songwriter Festival last year after Thomson introduced Benward to Anderson.

“Scott thought that we could collaborate on some new cool music events here in Park City,” Anderson said. “Since Aaron was already producing Nashville Unplugged in Las Vegas, we started with bringing those to the Rockwell Listening Room nearly every month.”

Nashville Unplugged is an intimate, usually acoustic performance by songwriters, Anderson explained.

“As we talked more about Nashville Unplugged and Park City, I told him that my wife Paige and I have been coming to Park City since the late 1990s, and we wondered why there wasn’t a music festival on Main Street,” Anderson said. “It seemed like the perfect place for a festival that would not only showcase some great music, but also fill the bars and restaurants, and help retailers with their businesses.”

In addition to the Main Street performances and presentations, the Park City Songwriter Festival will feature an under-21 stage from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Treasure Mountain Inn.

Songwriter Steve Seskin, founder of Kids Write Music, a nonprofit that uses songs and songwriting to address and raise awareness of anti-bullying, will perform with some local students.

“Steve will already be in town the week before the Songwriter Festival to work with Park City School District kids,” Anderson said. “So during the performances on the Under-21 Stage, Steve and the kids will talk about their works and songwriting. We may even send some of our other musical guests to join them.”

During that time frame, music industry executives Judy Stakee, Jonathan Watkins and Paul Worley will talk respectively about how to write songs, how to get songs into films on TV and into advertising, and how to make money in the music business during the age of streaming, according to Anderson.

The presentations will be hosted by Mountain Town Music and ASCAP, he said.

That night, after more in-the-round performances, Keith Stegall, Even Stevens and Aaron Barker, who are respective members of the Country Music, Nashville Songwriters and Texas Heritage Songwriters halls of fame, will perform.

In addition to the long list of Nashville professionals, the Park City Songwriter Festival will include performances by local singer-songwriters, including Alicia Stockman, Shannon Runyon, Sophia Dion, Bryon Friedman and DJ Logic, to name a few.

“We invited a few local musicians, and would have liked to have invited more,” Anderson said. “But if we invited all who we wanted, it would have been impossible to schedule anything else.”

The festival will wrap up with a concert by John Popper of Blues Traveler at O.P. Rockwell.

“We feel the festival will only get bigger and more wonderful from here,” Anderson said.

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