Nashville's finest to light up Fontana

Shinefest, a two-day showcase held at Fontana Village Resort, will bring together acts from across the country world, veterans to newcomers, for a summer music experience set against the pristine backdrop of the Smoky Mountains.

The premier country music event runs from August 19-21 and will feature music from host Matt Stillwell, Nashville songwriters and full sets from some of the South’s classic live acts.

“My vision for the festival is to showcase some of the greatest songwriters in Nashville, the creative people behind my career, local and upcoming bands as well as all the musical styles that have influenced me,” said Stillwell. “The festival has grown each year and this year is looking to be bigger than ever.”

This year’s edition of Shinefest is a culmination of not only Stillwell’s work, but some of the love and desire for the country community as a whole.

“You are at a beautiful resort, surrounded by national park, with no cell service. You don’t have to leave after the show and you get to interact with the songwriters and artists while having a great time,” said Stillwell. “Sometimes it’s pretty hard to recover from.“

In its fourth year, the 2011 festival has a strong helping of music plus a few perks that the event hasn’t featured in previous years.  

Kicking off the weekend will be a Writers in the Round session. It will feature a storyteller setting as writers for the stars of country take the stage to perform and discuss how these classic songs came to fruition.

Writers include Dean Dillon (“Tennessee Whiskey” by George Jones), Tammy Kidd (“Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” by LeAnn Rimes), Lynn Hutton, Mickey Jack Jones and David Bourne.

Dillon’s songwriting resume boasts many of Nashville’s best, including George Strait, George Jones, Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings, Kenny Chesney, Lee Ann Womack, Brooks & Dunn and Alabama.

Recently inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, Nashville’s Jim Lauderdale will give an inside look at some of his material, including hits off of his new release, Reason and Rhyme. Lauderdale will also perform a solo set on Saturday.

Making their Shinefest debut on Friday night will be Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke. This regional band continues to grow, winning new fans with their edgy country rock sound. They will be performing a special acoustic set Friday night and full-on electric set on Saturday.

On Saturday, The Shinefest Pool Party kicks off the day at 12 p.m. The pool party will feature intimate sets of originals and covers from multiple artists.

Robbinsville natives My Highway will keep the party moving at 3 p.m.

Knoxville’s The Black Lillies, led by Cruz Contreras, will bring his team of pickers, players and singers to the stage on Saturday afternoon. The band is currently nominated for Best Americana Album by the Independent Music Awards.

The accommodations and restaurants Fontana Village Resort will be open all weekend.

For information about special VIP packages, weekends passes, camping options and lodging, visit


How Shinefest got its roots

When country crooner Matt Stillwell was in need of a music video to accompany his latest release ‘Shine’ in 2008, he headed to the mountains, threw a big festival, called it Shinefest and made it the backdrop of the video.

The song went on to enter the Top 5 on Country Music Television’s Pure and Top 10 on Great American Country’s Top 20 Countdown. And since then, Shinefest has taken on a life of its own, becoming a premiere country music event.

Stillwell himself is a homegrown talent, hailing from Sylva and going on to Western Carolina University, then Belmont University. A college baseball star, Stillwell gave up the diamond to chart a course to Nashville.

The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Friday, closing after midnight Sunday evening. All ages are welcome and adult day passes start at $40.

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