Tim Nichols, Grammy award winner and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, is just one of the performers scheduled to attend the inaugural 97 South Song Sessions in Penticton on Aug. 1-2. (Contributed)

Experience the music at the 97 South Song Sessions in Penticton

Songwriters Tim Nichols, Jimmy Yeary, Jessica Mitchell and Bob DiPiero to perform intimate concert

The upcoming 97 South Song Sessions in Penticton is planning to take attendees deeper into the music than ever before.

Established by the B.C.-based company 97 South Holdings Inc., the inaugural festival takes place Aug. 1 at 1775 Winery in Naramata and Aug. 2 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort. Tickets for the first night are already sold out, and tickets for the second evening are available on Eventbrite.

“This has been an idea in the making for several years. We own a home in the Naramata Bench and have been in love with the valley for so long, so we tell everyone about it,” said Robin Ott, president of 97 South. “My husband (Robert Ott) has been in the music industry for 30 years now and we attended songwriting festivals as part of his music business, and we were so in love with the intimate nature of it. And there’s lots of concerts out here, but nothing like that.”

Ott said their hopes for the festival is to promote the beautiful area and the local wines and tourism, while instilling an appreciation of composing and songwriting in the audience. She added that the company already plans to extend the festival next year, adding more songwriters from various genres to the lineup and more venues for audiences to catch the show.

Tim Nichols, Grammy award winner and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, is just one of the handful of critically-acclaimed songwriters who will be giving this year’s audience an inside look at the songwriting process, as well as an intimate concert experience.

Also scheduled to attend and perform are Grammy award nominee Jimmy Yeary, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Bob DiPiero and 2017 CCMA Songwriter of the Year nominee Jessica Mitchell.

Nichols said it will be his first time visiting the Okanagan, but he’s excited to make the trip after hearing descriptions of the area from his friends, the Otts. He added that he is a photographer and will be sure to pack his camera to take in the scenic views.

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“They’ve been telling us about the area for the past several years, I’ve seen pictures and heard all about it, but I’m sure they don’t do it justice because I’ve heard it’s amazing,” said Nichols.

The Nashville-based singer/songwriter is probably best known for his work co-writing the hit country song Live Like You Were Dying that many mistakenly believe to be the work of the singer Tim McGraw. He said it can be commonplace to assume that popular singers such as Reba McEntire, Kenney Chesney and Tim McGraw write their own music, when in reality there is usually a handful of songwriters working for them, crafting the music they give a voice to.

Nichols lives by the mantra “you must be present to win” when it comes to songwriting, in that you can’t just wait for inspiration to strike, you need to make time for composing and work with what comes to you at the time. He adds that not every day of songwriting will lead to that hit single or album, but you will never grow as an artist if you don’t put the perspiration in.

“It all starts with showing up — you have to show up. A typical day is two or three writers will get together and make small talk, then it gets down to ‘What ideas do we have? Who has an idea?’ and then we kind of toss them all out on the table and pick whichever one hits us the strongest — that’s the one that we chase,” said Nichols. “Those ideas can come from literally anywhere and everywhere.”

“The song Live Like You Were Dying that I wrote with Craig Wiseman has probably been the biggest song of my career, Craig’s career and Tim’s career, and the day we wrote that song we did not have a clue that we were going to write it,” said Nichols. “It was a ‘must be present to win’ moment, because it started out like any other day and ended up like no other day.”

He used another one of his hit songs, Heads Carolina, Tails California, as an example of inspiration coming from places you least expect, stating that he got the idea from a “terrible audio book” that he kept listening to, despite his inclination to turn it off or pick another one.

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“It’s about input, whether that be through books, or movies, or travel. I’m all about experiences that I haven’t had before, because I want to run those experiences through my song writer filter so to speak, since you never know where a song might come from,” said Nichols.

Nichols said songwriters festivals are common in Nashville, due to the city’s strong connection to the country music industry, and most of the people he meets through these festivals always proclaim they are more worthwhile to go to than some of the more popular tourist attractions in the city — even when they aren’t country music fans. One of the most famous places renowned country artists will visit in North America to discuss and play their music is the historic Bluebird Café in Nashville.

“What happens at these festivals, and what will happen at this one, is songwriters will go around one after another and play their songs—sometimes old classics or sometimes new ones they’ve just written—and tell the story behind them, where the idea comes from and how they get recorded,” said Nichols. “It’s very intimate and a really cool peek behind the scenes of the music business. There’ll be times where you’re laughing, times where you have to wipe the tears away, and others where you are just shocked because you never thought of something in a different perspective before.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

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