The first annual TrouBeliever Fest, a music festival with a focus on songwriting, is happening August 3-4 at Snowbasin Resort. Anna Wilson, an award-winning songwriter and one of the founders of the fests discussed with me how it came to be.
She and Monty Powell, who also happens to be her husband and fellow bandmate of Troubadour 77, were inspired by the Nashville songwriting tradition to create a fest that showcased singer-songwriters. The pair spent 25 years in Nashville together writing, producing, and performing music. “There’s a place there called the Bluebird Cafe. A lot of singer-songwriters who aren’t necessarily famous have written massive hits that serve as the soundtracks of our lives. This little club at the Bluebird is where [the singer-songwriters] tend to perform them. There’s always an ah-ha moment in the audience when they realize [the singer-songwriter] wrote the song.” Making sure that the writers of the songs get the platform they deserve was a top priority for Wilson. “We wanted to find a way to shine a light on the unknown artists who have written these big songs and hits who can play and sing great but aren’t necessarily marque talent, and do it in a place that is not a 100 seat club by bringing them to the festival stage.” While Wilson and Powell have a long history in Nashville, they consider the mountains of Utah to be their second home and their muse, which is why they chose Utah to be the home of the festival.
Wilson explained that there are three reasons why TrouBeliever Fest is different than other fests. The first being that artists cannot perform at the fest unless they write their own songs. While songwriters of all kinds of sounds and backgrounds will be there, they will all be singing and performing the words that they wrote themselves. The second reason why TrouBeliever Fest is truly a unique experience is the fest’s emphasis on the story behind the songs. Each artist of the festival is encouraged to share the meaning behind the songs that they wrote. As Wilson explained, “A lot of times you got to a concert at USANA or Vivint and the artist just delievers song after song, and they don’t say anything between songs. We’re encouraging our artists to create a conversation between them and the audience. We want to create an outdoor living room.” After all, TrouBeliever Fest’s official motto is “Where the songs are the stars!”
The third reason that sets TrouBeliever Fest apart from other festivals is the lineup. “It is curated in a way that you can’t find this line-up anywhere else this summer.” For example, headliner Emmylou Harris has only performed in two other festivals this summer. At TrouBeliever Fest, Harris will be performing with good friend and other headliner Rodney Crowell. Wilson says that the close connections in the songwriting industry will create exciting moments at the fest. “We all work together in the industry in different capacities and different ways. The other unique part of our festival is you never know what impromptu moment will happen because all the artists are friends.” Wilson says artists will often have other performers come on spontaneously to harmonize or help sing a song.
The fest will also offer workshops and master classes on songwriting, song evaluations by professionals for those who would like to submit their songs for critiques, a late night acoustic cafe, and a songwriting competition. Wilson hopes these activities will create a culture among fans, writers, and hobbyists. “We’re trying to create a culture where songwriters and people interested in creativity, writing, language, and songwriting can gather who would like to learn tips and tricks from artists and grow their own craft. The workshops give people an opportunity to learn something they didn’t before.”
Wilson comments why songwriting is such an important part of her life, “To me, songwriting is a way to process the world. Whether its a deeply personal experience that’s happening to me, or an experience that’s happening to the larger community. It’s a little bit like therapy.”
Wilson says the part of the fes she is most looking forward to is performing with her band and the special vignette that the event sponsor Habitat for Humanity will set up. Wilson wrote the international theme song for the charity, which she will perform at the festival. Habitat for Humanity will have a front porch installation facade where artists and festival goers can gather. The families of the Weaver-Davis chapter of Habitat for Humanity will share their stories on stage. Troubadour 77 will perform right after.
Wilson would love to see the festival expand in the future. Specifically, she would love to take the TrouBeliever Fest on the road for a ten city tour in places like Boston, Nashville, LA, Philadelphia, and Dallas. She says being able to showcase the featured songwriters around the country is the 3-5 year plan. Right now, however, she’s just focused on having a successful first year.
If you are interested in songwriting, a fan of the singer songwriter genre, or just simply a lover of music, TrouBeliever Fest will be the place for you. As Wilson put, “If we could all can be better storytellers maybe we will be able to understand ourselves and each other better.”
Admission to the festival on August 3rd is free. More info and tickets to the fest on August 4th at TroubelieverFest.com.