Matt Stillwell to ‘shine’ in Maggie Valley

By Jessi Stone Guide editor | Aug 06, 2013

Up and coming country singer Matt Stillwell will be returning to his home of Western North Carolina on Aug. 10 to perform at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

Originally from Sylva and a Western Carolina University’s all-star baseball player, Stillwell decided to trade in his bat for a guitar to pursue a music career. Living in Nashville since 2000, he is working hard to build his audience from the ground up. The hard work seems to be paying off since his single “Shine” debuted at No. 59 on the Billboard Charts.

Stillwell was originally booked to play at Lucky Jake’s in Maggie Valley but had to find a bigger venue once securing major sponsor Ole Smoky TN Moonshine and

Once Toby Keith, Management and Nashville labels showed interest in hearing him. The outdoor venue will be a perfect choice to showcase his talents and he is excited to return home.

“I grew up in the house my parents still live in, just on the bottom side of Balsam,” he said. “I love WNC and have developed an even stronger love and respect for the area, its beauty and people since I left.”

While he always sang in church and the school choir, music didn’t become a serious priority for him until later in college when he picked up the guitar. He started playing at places like O’Malley’s, the Rusty Lizard in Sylva, Kingston Alley in Knoxville and several festivals.

“My family isn't musical, and I was really only into sports my entire childhood,” he said. “Music was in there, it just didn't rear its head for a while.”

Stillwell said he has definitely taken the long route to get to where he is today because he knew he wanted to do it for years to come. To help pay the bills, he began opening for bigger artists at The Orange Peel in Asheville, Smith's Old Bar in Atlanta, and other original venues across the Southeast.

“Making the step from a patio/cover performer to an original artist takes awhile and a lot of free shows,” he said. “I've made sure that I write with writers better than me like Dean Dillon, Lynn Hutton, etc., and that getting the music right is the most important battle.”

He has made a point to be very involved in his business to be able to grow his business on his own. While he enjoys his independence, he said he knew at some point he’d need to partner with a label that can get him national exposure.

“… I've done my own thing and tried to build my business so that I can do this forever and so that a record company would want to be a part of what I'm doing and not the other way around,” he said. “If that means driving the bus, selling my own merchandise, booking my shows, creating my own schedule, that's what I've done.”

Stillwell said his new album, “Shine Deluxe,” showed growth from his last album “Shine” in terms of writing, singing and choice of songs. He writes a lot of his own songs but also records songs from other great songwriters.

“Sometimes other people say what I want to say better than I do. For example, ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ on my Shine album was written and recorded by Ryan Adams,” he said. “Ryan just said what I wanted to and I believe every word of that song and that particular song translates that way for me to listeners when I sing it.”

Stillwell also covers Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" in what he describes as “a crazy bluegrass way.” He describes his music as having elements of traditional country and bluegrass with an edge of rock and pop. His influences include Ryan Adams, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, a lot of bluegrass and southern gospel, and a lot of songwriters he works with. He said his live show has something for everyone.

“We have a really high energy show and I have a great band. We have fun.  My main job is to entertain and that's what I try to do every night,” he said.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 at Lucky Jake’s or at Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the Buchanan Boys will be the opening act. Stillwell will perform at 9 p.m.