The Write Stuff

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Article Published: Aug. 8, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 8, 2013
The Write Stuff

Finalists in the 2013 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest pose with judges Matraca Berg, Lynda Dawson and Chris Smither and host Jim Lauderdale at MerleFest 2013.

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MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is back for its 22nd year.

Beginning Aug. 1, aspiring songwriters may submit entries to the contest through Sonicbids at As an early-bird incentive, all throughout August, all Sonicbids entries for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will receive an early entry discount price of $25 per entry.

Mail-in entries for CASC will be accepted Nov. 1 and will close on Feb. 19, 2014.

The Chris Austin Songwriting 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 returning volunteer contest chairman, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale. The 27th annual MerleFest takes place April 24 to 27, 2014.

The first round of the CASC competition takes place in Nashville, Tenn., and is narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general and gospel-inspirational. Finalists are then invited to the final round of the competition, which takes place during MerleFest on the campus of Wilkes Community College.

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 $37,000 to 77 deserving students.

To learn more details about the contest, visit

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, Calif. 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.

About Sonicbids

Sonicbids is a matchmaking site for emerging bands and music promoters. Its community of 325,000 registered artists uses the site to connect with 25,000 music promoters — ranging from some of the world’s largest music festivals and conferences to clubs, colleges, music supervisors and other people looking to book or license music.

When entrants submit a song for CASC, they receive a free trial for the service, plus 30 “tokens” to submit to “30 Token Gig Listings” at no additional cost. Previous Sonicbids members can reactivate their membership for only $1. For additional details, refer to the Sonicbids’ CASC page at

About MerleFest

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson, who died May 29, 2012.

MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles.

The festival hosts more than 90 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.

For more information, visit

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