Don Schlitz, making his first trip to Balsam, is among the most influential and beloved songwriters in the history of country music.
His chart-topping songs — among them “The Gambler,” “On the Other Hand,” “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”, “The Greatest,” and “When You Say Nothing At All” — are touchstones and inspirations. His works have been recorded by Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, The Judds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tanya Tucker, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss, and many others.
His fifty Top Ten singles include twenty-four Number One country hits. He has won three CMA Song of the Year awards, two Academy of Country Music Song of the Year prizes, two Grammy Awards, and four consecutive (1988-91) ASCAP Country Songwriter of the Year trophies. Schlitz was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame in 1993, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Bob Seger and Gordon Lightfoot) in 2012.
RB Morris is a poet and songwriter, solo performer and band leader, and a sometimes playwright and actor from Knoxville, Tennessee. He has published books of poetry including Early Fires (Iris Press), Keeping The Bees Employed, and The Mockingbird Poems (Rich Mountain Bound), and music albums including Spies Lies and Burning Eyes, and his most recent solo project Rich Mountain Bound. He wrote and acted in The Man Who Lives Here Is Looney, a one-man play taken from the life and work of James Agee, and was instrumental in founding a park dedicated to Agee in Knoxville. Morris served as the Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence at The University of Tennessee from 2004-2008, and was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2009. He currently lives in Knoxville with his wife and daughter.
Senior music writer at The Tennessean in Nashville and senior lecturer in country music at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Peter Cooper has also worked in the studio as a performer, producer or session musician with Tom T. Hall, Todd Snider, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Patty Griffin, Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Chesney and many more.