Last weekend, Park City Song Summit founder Ben Anderson took the stage under a starry western sky, holding court for the creators. He shouted into the evening chill, his voice echoing through the Utah high desert peaks, proclaiming that they are changing the musical heritage and culture of the mountain. Ivan Neville, Eric Krasno, and Anders Osborne were among the artists in attendance at the second rally, which featured deep conversations and “labs” where artists discussed the universal stories behind their songs. The unique music festival values mental and physical health as much as the music being created.
Anderson poses the question, “Why not flip the whole script and say what matters most? Who are musicians as humans?” He believes that by truly listening to who they are, they can be better protected as individuals and as contributors to the canon of American music. This year’s gathering featured a lineup of diverse artists, including Bobby Weir & The Wolf Brothers, Celis, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Adia Victoria, Matisyahu, Chuck D, Joy Oladokun, Grandmaster Flash, Lukas Nelson, and more. The festival aims to support artists in a way that prioritizes their mental health, recognizing the challenges they face in the industry.
Depression, suicide, and substance abuse have long haunted the music industry due to the constant stress and pressure of the creative process and touring. Personal trauma also plays a role in the creation of music. Anderson emphasizes the need to support artists in their struggles, whether it be with drugs, trauma, social justice issues, or the challenges faced by women and the LGBTQIA+ community. The deaths of Neil Casal and Jeff Austin in 2019, along with the pandemic shutting down live music, sparked a conversation for positive change in how artists are expected to navigate their careers.
Eric Krasno, who experienced the loss of his friend Neil Casal, is no stranger to the trials and temptations faced by artists on tour. As a touring musician, he is still learning how to prioritize his health and acknowledges the vulnerability required to ask for help. Krasno also attended the unveiling of his ensemble, King Canyon, formed during the pandemic through collaboration over Zoom. The band’s first live performance occurred at the Song Summit in Park City.
Taking the stage at Canyons Village Amphitheater, Daniel Ponder, an R&B/soul singer from New York, delivered a powerful rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Ponder emphasizes the importance of telling human stories and reflecting honesty in her music. As a former lawyer who gave up a stable career, she believes in acknowledging struggles rather than pretending everything is fine. She hopes that by acknowledging our struggles, we can create a world filled with more love and empathy.
The Park City Song Summit seeks to evoke, create, promote, and perpetuate this sentiment. It aims to support artists in being the best versions of themselves, showing them love so they can spread more love. The festival will be held from September 5 to 7, 2024.