Park City Song Summit Celebrates the Craft of Songwriting

From Sept. 7-10, musicians and fans will gather in the mountains of Park City for the 2022 Park City Song Summit. What exactly is the Park City Song Summit? It’s not quite right to call PCSS a music festival or a conference or an artists’ residency, though it has elements of all three.  Founder Ben Anderson says his brainchild has been compared to South by Southwest, TED Talks and the musical equivalent of the Sundance Film Festival. During the day, panels of musicians, media personalities and other industry figures will lead moderated discussions in Summit Labs, while artists will share the inspiration behind their own songs in intimate Songwriter Rounds. “We wanted to choose people who had a wonderful story to tell about the things that inspire them and the things that ignite them,” Anderson says. In the evenings, headliners will perform at venues throughout Park City in settings more intimate than your typical mega-festival. 

With PCSS, Anderson aims to curate a four-day celebration of music that he says will be “something very, very different,” both for fans and artists. Anderson says the Summit is founded on “tried and true principles of love, music, connection, community, great musicianship and wonderful conversations.”

Father John Misty (Photo by
Emma Tillman)

For Anderson, PCSS is a longtime dream. A retired trial attorney, Anderson is also a lifelong music lover who has performed as a singer and bassist. As a self-described “old Deadhead” who followed The Grateful Dead on tour for years, Anderson’s own fandom taught him how powerful the connection between artists and listeners can be. “That entire experience was a very spiritual, religious experience to me, in terms of the community and the connection and creating something that’s larger than the band or the audience put together,” he says. 

Summit Labs are in many ways the heart of PCSS. “We feel [our labs] are our great differentiator amongst other events in the country,” Anderson says. “These are people who we believe are far more than just performers and far more than just entertainers. These are humans that have a heart and a soul and a story to tell.” Both the guests and the topics of the panels are wide-ranging. Musicians Jason Isbell, Margo Price and Warren Haynes will join moderator Jay Sweet, Executive Director of Newport Folk & Jazz Festival, to discuss the legacy of county legend John Prine. Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen will share his experiences in both music and comedy. Dave Manheim—who hosts Dopey, a popular podcast about substance abuse and recovery—will record an interview with singer-songwriter Langhorne Slim live for the podcast. The lineup of performers is similarly eclectic. Headliners include Darryl McDaniels of the pioneering hip hop group RUN-DMC, Americana rocker Anders Osborne and indie darling Father John Misty. Anderson wanted PCSS to bring together artists of diverse backgrounds and genres, celebrating all kinds of songwriting.   

Along with discussions about music and the craft of songwriting, many Labs will also focus on addiction and mental health. Anderson, who hopes that PCSS will be a forum to openly discuss these issues and destigmatize reaching out for support, will be partnering with various nonprofits, including Park City Community Foundation, Backline and The Phoenix. For Anderson, these topics are personal. He struggled with addiction and mental illness and is now celebrating 15 years of sobriety. “15 years ago, I was in a place in my life where I was literally ready to give up because I didn’t feel like I could overcome my addiction and my mental health demons that I was afflicted with,” he says. He is now in a healthier place and hopes that PCSS will encourage musicians and those around them to care for their own mental health. Many artists struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, and the demands of fame, constant touring and a competitive industry can make these challenges even more difficult. “It was accepted as a part of the music industry for so long—the sex, drugs and rock and roll thing. And we’ve lost a lot of artists because of that type of mentality,” Anderson says. 

Fred Armisen
Fred Armisen (Photo courtesy Park City Song Summit)

Leah Song, who performs in the duo Rising Applachia with her sister Chloe Smith, will both be sharing her musical experiences at a Summit Lab and performing a set at O.P. Rockwell. Rising Applachia’s diverse array of musical influences is a natural fit for PCSS’s genre-spanning lineup. Song says that their music “doesn’t exist as a clean cut square, put-in-a-box kind of genre, which has been problematic for the music industry, but wonderfully creatively inspiring for us,” Describing their sound as “global soul,” the group draws from musical styles around the world and the traditional folk music of their childhood. During their Summit Lab, the duo will discuss, among other topics, the role political activism has played in their art. “A lot of our earlier work came from frontline protests,” Song explains. She seeks to find a “cathartic space” where politics and music come together, and her lab with Smith will detail how social movements influence their art.

Ahead of the Summit, Song looks forward to watching performances from other musicians, as well as performing her own material. “The best part of our job is when we get to witness the art forms of other musicians, and you don’t get to do that when you’re headlining your own tour,” she says. After canceling last year’s Song Summit because of the pandemic, Anderson is excited to finally welcome musicians and fans to gather in Park City. “These are some of the greatest artists in the country right now, and a lot of people may know some of them, but not all of them,” he says. “I believe it’s going to be great for this community and the larger community.”

For more information about Park City Song Summit and to purchase tickets, visit their website.

Josh Petersen
Josh Petersen
Josh Petersen is the former Digital Editor of Salt Lake magazine, where he covered local art, food, culture and, most importantly, the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. He previously worked at Utah Style & Design and is a graduate of the University of Utah.

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