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Chris Austin Songwriting Contest finalists announced

Article Published: Apr. 10 | Modified: Apr. 28
Chris Austin Songwriting Contest finalists announced

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale returns as chairman for MerleFest’s annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Finalists have been selected for the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2014. Now in its 22nd year, the contest is an opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of music industry professionals, under the direction of this year’s volunteer contest chairman, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

MerleFest 2014 takes place from April 24 to 27 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro.

Writers of the following 12 songs, selected from more than 567 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 25:

• Josh Crews (Boone) – “Crossties”
• Paul Harrigill (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Amber Nugent (Ferriday, La.) – “I’m Blue”
• Chelsea McBee of The Random Assortment & the Christian Lopez Band (Shepherdstown, W.Va.) – “Gone-A-Rye”

• Gary Alan Ferguson (Alexandria, Va.) – “Time to Praise the Lord”
• Frank Hurd (Raleigh) — “Light”
• Allen Smith and Corey Smith of Ash Breeze (Robbins) – “Without Love”

• Dan Buehner (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Ben Childs (Oxford, Miss.), both of Hollering Pines – “Cadillac”
• Kelsi Robertson-Harrigill (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) – “If You Never Let Me Go”
• Becky Warren (Nashville, Tenn.) – “Call Me Sometime”

• Clint Alphin (Dunn) - “Nobody Knows My Name”
• Sarah Potenza and Ian Crossman (both of Nashville, Tenn.) – “My Turn”
• Joseph Terrell of Mipso (Chapel Hill) — “Angelina Jane is Long Gone”

Each of the 12 finalists will enjoy admission and lodging for three nights at MerleFest and receive a mentoring session with Lauderdale. In addition, the first-place winners will receive a performance slot on the Cabin Stage on Friday night of the festival.

The first-round judges were: singer, songwriter and musician Tift Merritt, Claire Armbruster of Planning Stages, Ashlee-Jean Trott of Music City Roots, John Tumminello of Musicians Corner/Music City Unsigned, Judy McDonough of JEMMedia, Megan McNair of Sugar Hill Records and Whitney Holmes of the Americana Music Association. Merritt won MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in 2000 and served as a second-round judge at MerleFest 2013.

Distinguished songwriters Darrell Scott, Charles Humphreys III (Steep Canyon Rangers) and Niall Toner will be among the second-round judges that determine this year’s winners.

Judging is based on a song's originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The contest is open to those whose primary source of income (50 percent or more) is not derived from songwriting or publishing.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the scholarship has awarded more than $38,000 to 79 students.

For more information about the contest, visit
MerleFest hosts more than 130 artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

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