Merlefest Announces 2006 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

Wilkesboro (North Carolina), USA – MerleFest 2006 organizers have announced that composer and
recording artist Jim Lauderdale will again serve as Honorary Chairperson of the
Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Entries on for the Chris Austin Songwriting
Contest must be received by March 4, 2006. Lauderdale will empanel a group of
Nashville music industry figures that will evaluate all the entries. This panel
will choose three finalists in each of four categories: bluegrass, country,
gospel, and general. The finals will take place at MerleFest 2006 on April 28 on
the Chris Austin Stage, sponsored by ASCAP and No Depression. Songwriters
performing at the festival will judge the finals. At MerleFest finalists will
receive 4-day all access credentials and lodging, underwritten by Fishman
Transducers, and compete for prizes include cash prizes, sponsored by Thomas
Fisher, First Vice-President, Morgan Keegan, Durham, NC, and Epiphone Guitars
from Gibson. Additional prizes and support come from Acoustic Guitar Magazine;
SonicBids, and D’Addario strings. The first place contestants will perform for
the main stage audience.

Entrants have a choice in how to enter the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.
They may continue to enter the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest by mail for an
entry fee of $25 per song using the entry form from the contest brochure
(available by calling 800-799-3838) or printed from
All entries by mail must be submitted on tape or CD with entry fee and an
official entry form to The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest; PO Box 121855;
Nashville, TN 37212. Entries without completed entry form and fee will not be

Contestants may also enter the 2006 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest on line via
Sonicbids. In business since 2000, Sonicbids is quickly becoming the standard
way for people in the music business to send and receive press kits online.
Sonicbids currently has more than 1,800 partners, including prominent North
American events such as CMJ, Folk Alliance, and the Billboard Song Contest. New
Sonicbids members may enter one song and obtain a six-month Sonicbids membership
for $29.95. Additional entries and entries by existing Sonicbids members are
$25. For more information:

A then unknown Gillian Welch was one of the winners of the initial Chris Austin
Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 1993. Word quickly spread about her talents
from there. Other winners have included Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell,
Adrienne Young, David Via, and Martha Scanlan. Steve Fishell, Caroline Herring,
Hayes Carll, and Darrell Scott judged the finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting
Contest, which attracted a record 1154 entries, 250 more than 2004.

First round
judging from submitted recordings produced twelve finalists who competed with
the following results:

General Category: 1st: “Living in the Good Ol’ Days” by
Zane Williams, Nashville, TN; 2nd: “Lay On The Tracks” by Stephen Simmons,
Nashville, TN; 3rd: “Please Love My Baby” by Connie Leigh, Newport, AR

Bluegrass Category: 1st: “T.V.A.” by Sam Quinn, Johnson City, TN; 2nd:
“Behind Those Big Closed Doors” by Connie Leigh, Newport, AR; 3rd: “Old #9” by
Randy Barrett, Falls Church, VA.

Country Category: 1st: “Hurry Home” by Zane Williams,
Nashville, TN; 2nd: “Traded My Diamond” by Korby Lenker, Bellingham, WA; 3rd: “O.K.C.”
by Paul Kelly with Salvatore Guido, Jr., Santa Fe, NM.

Gospel Category: 1st:
“That First Stone” by Mike Finders, Iowa City, IA; 2nd: “Lessons of the Book” by
Lorraine Jordan, Garner, NC; 3rd: “Start with Amazing Grace” by Zane Williams,
Nashville, TN.

Pete Fisher, then of WarnerSongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole
Opry, and Kari Estrin, then Associate Coordinator of MerleFest, initiated the
contest to honor the memory of Chris Austin, a northwestern North Carolina
native. A Warner-Refuge writer, Austin spent several years in the band of Ricky
Skaggs, who scored a Top 5 hit with Chris’ “Same Ol’ Love.” On March 16, 1991,
only a few hours after Skaggs recorded the song, Austin, 27, was killed in a
tragic plane accident near San Diego along with other members of Reba McEntire’s
band. A solo record, Firm Believer appeared posthumously on Warner Brothers.

The popular Songwriters’ Coffeehouse, sponsored by AccuCopy, again happens on
Friday evening, April 28, at MerleFest 2006. Songwriters selected by lot from on
site registrants on site will share the stage with singer-songwriters performing
at MerleFest.