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Austin Songwriting Contest deadline Feb. 18

Article Published: Feb. 11, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Austin Songwriting Contest deadline Feb. 18

The submission deadline for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2010, is fast approaching. All entries must be received by Thursday, Feb.18.

Now in its 18th year, the contest is an opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of this year's volunteer contest chairman, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale.
Contest entries are now being accepted via the following methods:

U.S. Mail - Send to P. O. Box 121855, Nashville, TN 37212
American Songspace -
Sonicbids -

Details about entry fees, eligibility and other requirements are available at To be eligible to enter, a songwriter must not derive more than 50 percent of his or her total income from songwriting or music publishing.

Once submitted, songs are judged by a volunteer panel of Nashville songwriters, publishers and other music industry professionals. Judging is based on a song's originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. Twelve finalists, three from each category, will be announced during the first week of April 2010.

Each of the 12 finalists will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest 2010. Two of the three on-site judges are Laurelyn Dossett and Wyatt Durrette, who has co-written several Zac Brown Band hits, including "Chicken Fried," "Toes," "Whatever It Is" and "Highway 20 Ride."

In addition, for the first time in the history of the contest, each of the 12 finalists will have the invaluable experience of a mentor session with Jim Lauderdale.

The contest recognizes winners in four categories-country, bluegrass, gospel and general.
First place winners in each category receive: a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest 2010 (April 29-May 2), a Taylor Big Baby acoustic guitar, a check for $300, two boxes of D'Addario strings and one-year subscriptions to both Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter magazines. In addition, CASC media partner American Songwriter will offer exclusive on-site interview and recording sessions with each first place winner.

Second and third place winners in each category receive performance slots on the Friday night Songwriters Coffeehouse, as well as cash prizes, D'Addario strings and subscriptions to Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter.

Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via and Johnny Williams.
For additional information about the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, call the contest hotline at (800) 799-3838 or Laurie Hayes, CASC coordinator, at (336) 838-6158, (

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the scholarship has awarded more than $27,300 to 70 deserving students. The 2009-10 Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship recipients are Ian Tucker Francis and Dustin Rubio-Serrano.

About Chris Austin

Chris Austin, from Boone, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time, he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract.

While releasing singles, including "Blues Stay Away From Me," "I Know There's a Heart in There Somewhere," and "Out of Step," Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in "Same Ol' Love," recorded by Skaggs in 1991.

On March 16, 1991, Austin's life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire's band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego.

Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and Pickin' for Merle video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin's memory.

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