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Mile of Music with Cory Chisel

A Nashville artist heads home each summer to support a music festival that keeps the focus on creativity.

Written By:  Melissa Corbin

Photographers:  Supplied

It’s been 50 years since the Summer of Love, and music festivals continue to celebrate creativity at its core. Grammy Award nominee and Nashville troubadour Cory Chisel saw the power in that idea while helping to create a festival in his hometown, Appleton, Wisconsin.

The young performer recalls the days when he was living in Rick Nelson’s basement while the Cheap Trick guitarist nurtured his career—along with the likes of Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, and Rosanne Cash.

“I’ve been taken in by many different people and will always look up to these people for the kindness that was shown to me. All of this is mixed in to the potion that we’re trying to do with the festival,” Chisel says.

>>> Mile of Music Podcast


Now in its fifth year, the free festival, called Mile of Music, takes place August 3 through 6 in the heart of Appleton (a mile-long stretch, of course) and showcases more than 250 acts and 900 Americana performances, including some by Nashville favorites. From indie rock and country to jazz and soul, every performance is required to be completely original with no covers.

“We have something like 78 licensed bars in a one-mile stretch. That’s just Wisconsin for you,” Chisel laughs. “The town fostered my creative spirit my entire life and career. This was another page of a love letter in trying to build something unique.”

Lamenting the days gone by when festivals like SXSW offered a more engaging experience for artists, Chisel and co-founder Dave Willems started Mile of Music in 2013 with an effort to keep the artist in mind. The festival’s creative energy seems to bubble over into the community, offering a refreshing experience for all. There are workshops and lectures, a special Mile of Music edition of the weekly Downtown Appleton Farmers’ Market, and even a Mile of Music Bus that hosts live performances. No matter if you’re attending a set at Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel, under the stars at an outdoor venue, or at one of the local breweries, bars, or restaurants, the Mile feels like a musical summer camp for grownups. (It’s kid-friendly, too.)

Chisel has also created a nonprofit organization, The Refuge Foundation for the Arts, which provides artists with free access to resources for building sustainable, autonomous careers while nurturing the powerful intersection of art, education, and environmental stewardship.

At Mile of Music, he brings all of these interests and causes to life, in a celebration of peace and love—and miles of creativity. (mileofmusic.com)

if you go

Less than two hours north of Milwaukee or a direct flight to Appleton International, Appleton is in the heart of the Fox River Valley. Stay at The Copper Leaf, a boutique hotel situated along the Mile with ample parking; dine at the farm-to-table Rye Restaurant. Also, don’t miss a visit to the iconic Wisconsin supper club, Mark’s East Side, adjacent to Chisel’s latest project, The Refuge.

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