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Arts & Entertainment Sylva native will host 4th Annual Shinefest at Fontana Village Resort

Jackson County native Matt Stillwell will be returning to the region August 19-20 to host the 4th annual Shinefest at Fontana Village Resort for what he said is “going to be a great one this year for sure.”

Shinefest started in 2008 and was created around the filming of Stillwell’s music video, “Shine.” According to Stillwell, there is something special about having no cell phone service and enjoying the beauty within the national park which surrounds Fontana Village Resort. Shinefest allows guests to enjoy the area and to interact with the songwriters and artists who all come out to enjoy “one big party.”

Stillwell chose the Fontana Village Resort in hopes of sharing with his fans the unique culture and environment that he grew up with and loves. He prides himself on exhibiting a work ethic to match his infectious talent, and Shinefest is a direct reflection of his efforts.

Although Shinefest is known for its simplicity, it has also grown to showcase some of Nashville’s top songwriters as well as several of the hottest ‘up and coming’ artists in the business.

Shinefest 2011 is featuring some of the biggest names working behind the scenes in country music. The festival will kick off Friday night with “Writer’s in the Round,” featuring a storyteller setting as writers for artists such as Kenny Chesney, George Jones, Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack, Rascal Flatts and others take center stage to perform and discuss how classic songs came to be. Guests include writers such as Dean Dillon, (“Tennessee Whiskey”), Tammy Kidd, (“Probably wouldn’t be this way”), Lynn Hutton, Mickey Jack Jones and David Bourne.

Recent Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Lauderdale will be joining Shinefest to offer an inside look into some of his materials including hits from his new release, Reason and Rhyme. Lauderdale will also perform a solo set on Saturday.

Along with performances by Stillwell and his band, The Wolfpack, Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke, a band growing in popularity, will also perform for fans on Friday and Saturday nights. Also performing Saturday, is Best American Album by the Independent Music Awards nominee Black Lillies, led by Cruz Contreras.

Saturday night’s line up will also include winners of this year’s Rise and Shine contest; the fan voted Rise and Shine contest was a 16-band contest held at Wild Wing Café locations in Asheville and Knoxville in June. Asheville’s winner, Too Far Gone and Knoxville’s winner, Fairview Union are both set to perform.

Whenever possible, Stillwell returns to Sylva to visit his family; Grandmother Polly Wilson, brothers Jeff and Luke, and parents Madge and George Stillwell are all residents of Jackson County. While receiving national attention for his rowdy, party atmosphere performances, Stillwell has an amazing ability to stay grounded and true to his grassroots culture.

Stillwell’s mother Madge is proud of all of her son’s accomplishments, but she is most proud of the fact that fame hasn’t changed him. “My favorite song Matt has written is “Take it all in,” which is on several of his albums,” she said. “Even though he wrote it a while back, I don’t think he has ever strayed from the fact that he loves his family and loves the mountains he grew up in.” Madge also noted, “Whenever he is home, he’s just the same old Matt who works extremely hard at making his career successful.”

Stillwell is often recognized by his fans because of the efforts he puts into meeting as many of them as possible. He believes that everything he has accomplished is due to his fans and wants to repay them in every way possible, which is another reason Madge is so proud of her son. “I am proud of many things Matt has done, but one of the things I am most proud of is the way he always takes time to talk to anyone at his shows,” she said. “He makes each one feel special and ‘works the crowd’ very well.”

Matt StillwellA former Catamount baseball player, Stillwell graduated from Western Carolina University in 1998 with a Bachelor’s degree in business management. Shortly after college, Stillwell moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music. Currently signed by Average Joe’s Entertainment of Nashville, Stillwell is working on a new album that he hopes will be released next year. “I’ve been in the studio writing a lot and on the road,” said Stillwell. “We are about three-fourths through with the new album. It should be released early next year.” Between writing and planning Shinefest, Stillwell has still found time to tour with label mate Corey Smith. “All the shows with Corey have been great and it’s been a lot of fun to be on the road with them.”

Stillwell has also been headlining his own country-wide tour with his band, the Wolfpack, focusing on playing big festivals which included several Aquapaloozas. The first Friday in August, Stillwell played with Justin Moore. “He and I have been friends for about four years now. We did a lot of acoustic radio shows together when Shine came out, so it was good to be playing with him again.”

Along with providing feel-good music, Stillwell and Shinefest’s sponsor, Troy & Sons Distillers’ of Asheville, are teaming up to benefit The Shine Foundation.

According to Stillwell, Troy & Sons are donating a 30 gallon barrel of moonshine to be raffled off. “We will be selling raffle tickets at Shinefest. The winner will be chosen, and has to be present at Shinefest,” said Stillwell. “They will receive 30 gallons of shine and a party at Troy & Sons Distillers’ in Asheville, where I will perfom.” The contest, which is valued at $10,000, will go to The Shine Foundation, which benefits ALS, Crohn’s and Colitis and Juvenile Diabetes.

Shinefest has grown to be one of country music’s biggest festivals and thanks to Stillwell’s love of the region and passion for music, will be returning to The Great Smoky Mountains for another excitement-filled weekend.

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

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