Arts & Entertainment

Park City Song Summit 2022: Touch the Magic

PARK CITY, Utah — In four days, September 7-10, the long-anticipated inaugural Park City Song Summit permanently altered the musical experience. The Lodges at Deer Valley transformed into a hub of hope, raw emotions, and truth. At the Song Summit Labs, musicians, songwriters, and producers bravely shared the rough and beautiful path of an artist. The conversations revealed an essential truth; the music that moves and sustains fans is created by people who feel, struggle, and seek inspiration,  humans all cut from the same cloth.

Ben Anderson, the Park City Song Summit founder, beamed throughout the event as he witnessed the realization of his dream. “I hope people walk away with a new-found appreciation and connection with our creatives and what they go through in their lives and their work,” Ben explained in an interview leading up to the 2021 event (canceled in light of a resurgence of Covid-19 in Park City).

John Prine Lab (left to right Jay Sweet, Jason Isebell, Warren Haynes) – photo: Erika Goldring

Through the Song Summit Labs, Anderson’s vision became a reality. The folks in attendance gained a new perspective about entertainers, from human-to-human interactions that cast artists in a new light, illuminating their lives beyond performing.

Lab presenter and acclaimed photographer Jay Blakesberg began his conversation about capturing moments of music, particularly decades of Grateful Dead shows, with a quote that rang true for Park City Song Summit attendees. “We dreamed that somehow, somewhere in our lives, we would touch the magic.”

The vulnerability and truth in the conversations with the artists in the Labs set an undertone of humility and gratitude. Overwhelmingly, the artists pointed to other musicians as sources of inspiration, presented the conflict of monetizing art, and bravely shared hardships.

“A lot of the greatest songs come from people who are alone,” Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule said in a Lab about the prolific songwriter John Prine. The audience glimpsed the songwriter’s often coarse path through the Labs as the artists themselves cut down the pedestals of fame.

In a Lab hosted by musician Katie Pruitt about “A Southern Gothic,” Adia Victoria’s 2021 album, Adia shared, “Blues legitimized my life… Blues legitimized my lineage… It gave me back to myself… Blues gives people breathing room to be just a human.”

Lab with Celisse (left) and Adia Victoria (right) – photo: Erika Goldring

In a Lab hosted by Adia Victoria, master of the guitar, Celisse echoed a similar sentiment. “It all starts with the blues, and the blues comes from black people,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have found a way to express myself. Learning the guitar and electric guitar connects me to my lineage.”

“I can see you aren’t alone holding the guitar,” Adia responds to Celisse. “The black experience in America is that we have a heritage…. That turned into the blues.”

Adia honors her lineage with reverence. “When I go on stage, I am holding church. It’s holy,” she explained in a Lab hosted by Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie.

In the Lab hosted by Marissa R Moss about “Maybe We’ll Make It,” Margo Price’s soon-to-be-released book, Margo describes the inspiration behind her musical process. “The purest thing you can do is make art because you love it. It doesn’t matter if it makes any money,” she said.

Sisters Chloe and Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia explained to the Lab host JK McKnight that their music grows from roots of activism. Before launching Rising Appalachia, both sisters poured their time into leading political battles. They turned to music as an alternative source of activation. “You don’t have to argue to experience the catharsis of music,” Leah explains.

Chloe and Leah found the courage to begin a life of making music with the strength found in their community. “One lone badass man believed us,” Chloe explains. And Leah adds, “Our entire project was built on other people’s faith in us. Not our faith in ourselves.”

Through the Labs, one truth continued to shine through, its love of art, expression, and hope for humanity that feeds musicians and songwriters. As Anderson says, “If love is the answer, and music is love, then music is the answer.”

In a Lab hosted by Joe Pug, Devon Gilfillian shared a similar sentiment. “I’m here to spread the love. That’s the purpose of music.”

And, of course, the Labs rallied around the focal point of performed music. During conversations, musicians often picked up an instrument inspired by the moment. Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie had people heartily laughing as he sang and played the piano while balancing and dancing on one leg. At that exact moment, in a different Lab space, Andrew Bird and Adia Victoria collaborated to make goosebumps melodies.

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie – photo: Erika Goldring

Ben Anderson explained that after attending the Labs and getting to know artists on a personal level, listening to their music will never be the same again. This was especially true during the evening performances. The intimacy between husband and wife Jeremy Ivey and Margo Price on the OP Rockwell stage Thursday night carried weight and depth untouchable before Margo shared her story. When Rising Appalachia played “Resilient,” what Leah describes as Chloe’s Magnum Opus, the hope through their music brought forth tears and dancing. When Bonny Light Horseman performed at OP Rockwell on Friday, the ancient acoustic ballads that inspire their music came to life.

Ben opened one of the last Labs on Saturday with an address to the audience. “Thank you for being part of the Song Summit,” he said, “We can move the human experience forward a little bit with our voice.”

He’s right, and that’s what happened; art, hope, and meaning.  The connection to the truths of human oneness dissolved cultural barriers; people came together to learn and listen in a way so novel it was magic.

Ben Anderson laughing with Chloe and Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia – photo: ©Jay Blakesberg

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