Nashville Unplugged is a unique musical experience that was created and produced by Aaron Benward, one of the co-founders of the Park City Songwriter Festival. It’s an evening of intimate performances, storytelling and frivolity by singer-songwriters — many of whom hail from Aaron’s hometown of Nashville. The shows are staged at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and The Rockwell Listening Room in Park City, a venue that’s owned by Scott “Scooter” Thomson, one of Aaron’s fellow Park City Songwriter Festival co-founders.
To complete the trio is Ben Anderson, who shares a similar musical background with Aaron. “Our dads were both gospel recording artists and we both used to sing and play with our dads at revivals like Billy Graham,” says Ben. Aaron often weaves stories from his gospel music days into his Nashville Unplugged performances, which, by the way, are about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.
Aaron’s experience staging intimate live performances by singer-songwriters with Nashville Unplugged was a key component in the creation of the Park City Songwriter Festival. Aaron says philosophically, “It’s one thing to dream about something, it’s another thing to find the beauty of the camaraderie, the collaboration, and the different giftings that the process can bring.”
After years of being an artist and playing many unsatisfying music festivals, Aaron dreamed about a festival where people could touch, taste, and see the spirit of music and the stories behind the songs.
For the first Park City Songwriter Festival, Aaron says he and his partners had two really big goals: First, they wanted the experience for the festival goer to be unique. “We wanted them to leave saying ‘I’ve gotta come back next year because I’ve never experienced anything like that before,’” he says. And second, they wanted the experience for the artists to be top-notch. According to Aaron, songwriters aren’t really shown the appreciation they deserve for creating the soundtracks of people’s lives. “So, to be able to perform onstage at a place like The Rockwell Listening Room and
have a captivated audience listening to their songs and stories is oftentimes more rewarding than maybe even a hit song on the radio,” he explains.
Aaron also stresses the Park City Songwriter Festival’s supportive
aspect. “It’s more than just music,” says Aaron. “We’re mission-minded.”
Of course, music is the vehicle with which artists like Aaron tell their stories, but a key part of the festival’s mission is letting people know help for mental illness and addiction is available. “I personally don’t deal with that, but I have people in my family and my life who do, and that has effected me,” says Aaron. Thanks to the Park City Songwriter Festival’s partnership with the Send Me A Friend foundation, they’re able to merge music and social responsibility.
“We want to bring people together and make them feel welcome, no matter what issues they’re dealing with,” says Aaron. “Hey, we’re all family. And the way we bring this family together is through music.”