The picture is partially loosely based on English folk song collector Cecil J. Sharp who is characterized in the film as Professor Cyrus Whittle (Steven Sutherland). The movie is also partially loosely based on the musical work of Olive Dame Campbell, who was the Founder of "The John C. Campbell Folk School" in Brasstown, North Carolina.
According to website Wikipedia, "the film's score was written by David Mansfield, who also assembled a roster of female country music artists to perform mostly traditional mountain ballads. Some of the songs are contemporary arrangements, and some are played in the traditional Appalachian music style. The artists include Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Maria McKee, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch and Patty Loveless. Singers Emmy Rossum, Iris DeMent, and Hazel Dickens, who appeared in the film, are also featured on the soundtrack. The soundtrack album inspired the 2002 follow-up album by Vanguard Records, Songcatcher II: The Tradition That Inspired the Movie, that compiled recordings of some of the songs selected for the film as performed by authentic Appalachian artists. The recordings are mostly from the 1960s, out of the Vanguard vaults."