From WCU baseball player to country singer

Western Carolina University has graduated several celebrities throughout the years, ranging from professional athletes, to senators, to comedians. We can now include a very charming Nashville recording star to the list of notable alumni.

Matt Stillwell graduated from Western in 1998 with a degree in business management. Stillwell, who currently lives in Nashville, TN, was born and raised in neighboring Sylva and attended Western to play baseball for the Catamounts. During Stillwell’s recent visit to the campus, The Western Carolinian was able to sit down and speak with the handsome, intriguing, musician about his time at Western as well as his career.

While at Western, Stillwell lived in what used to be the Leatherwood dorms; he was a part of the Southern Conference winning baseball team and played all four years of college. Stillwell credited Dr. Terry Kinnear for helping him with his song writing by teaching him to “trim the fat.” While pursuing a business management degree, Stillwell took Dr. Kinnear’s Intrapersonal Communications course; during the course, Kinnear had his students read portions from a book in class every day. The pages would normally be 3-4 pages long; after reading the pages, Kinnear encouraged students to condense the readings to a one page written summary, ultimately teaching Stillwell to learn to “trim the fat,” or make his writing more concise.

When asked what the biggest change he saw at Western since he attended was, Stillwell laughed and replied, “The parties.” He continued by saying, “Now all the fraternity houses are on campus, which is completely different from when I was here. Tailgating is a lot different too. When I played baseball it was expected for students to tailgate behind the dugout; the Pike’s brought their fire truck and everyone else was up on the hill with kegs. It was awesome! We really enjoyed them being there while we played, but I guess that’s different now too.”

Matt was also responsible while at Western.

Stillwell was extremely active in the club “Athletes in Action” while attending Western. “Athletes in Action” is an organization similar to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The organization focuses on maintaining and promoting Christian values and moral responsibility.

Stillwell was adamant in acknowledging the roll his time at Western has played in the success of his career. Being a business management major has helped him tremendously. When starting out in Nashville, Stillwell established and built his own record label from the ground up. Even now when he has people working for him, Stillwell still plays an active roll in the management and production of his own record label. Stillwell believes that without his fans he wouldn’t be as successful as he is, which is why it is so important for him to run his own Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter sites. Stillwell said that he responds to all of his fan’s messages and everything that is posted on the sites is written by him.

Being a resident of Nashville, Stillwell was affected by the recent flooding. He said, “Our condo is up on a hill, so I wasn’t affected directly, but my producer had to move his entire studio because of the damage.” Stillwell also recalls seeing areas around his home being 3-6 feet under water, and seeing cars in a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot being completely submerged because of the flood.

The successful star has a busy summer ahead of him. Stillwell headlined at the Orange Peel in Asheville on May 29 and on July 10 will perform in Austin, Texas at Aquapalooza. Stillwell said he was especially looking forward to this event because it is a huge annual show that features The Brad Paisley tour this year. On August 13 and 14 Stillwell will be at the 3rd annual Stillwell Shinefest in Fontana Village, NC. Stillwell is also anticipating the release of his new album, titled Shine Deluxe, on June 15. Stillwell also encourages his fans to download his new, free, application for the I-Phone, I-Pod or I-Pad. The application is basically a website with information about Stillwell, his music, and upcoming performance dates. Information and updates about the singer can also be found on his website,

Stillwell doesn’t currently have any visits scheduled for Western, but said he would love to perform on campus again soon. Stillwell’s last performance was fall 2009 for Homecoming weekend on the UC lawn.