Wilkesboro (North Carolina), USA – MerleFest 2007 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, 2007. 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 2007 on April 27 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 www.merlefest.org/SongwritingContest.htm. 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 judged.
Contestants may also enter the 2007 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: www.sonicbids.com/chrisaustinsongcontest.
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.
Sarah Lee Guthrie, Jason Harrod, Dave Wilson, and Holly Lowman judged the finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, which attracted a record 1172 entries, 18 more than 2005. First round judging from submitted recordings produced twelve finalists who competed with the following results. General Category: 1st: “Short Time Here” by Scott Pearce, Winterville, NC; 2nd: “Under My Skin” by Maura Fogarty, Bronx, NY; and 3rd: “Rather Have Sooner” by Billy Deiz, Portland, OR; Bluegrass Category: 1st: “Rita Mae” by Connie Leigh, Newport, AR; 2nd: “Guns, Coins, Jewelry & 2nd Hand Hearts” by Timmy Massey and Rick Pardue, State Road, NC; and 3rd: “That’s As Close to Lonesome” by Jimmy Moore, Marlboro, NJ;. Country Category: 1st: “Losing Faith” by Audrey Auld Mezera, Stinson Beach, CA; 2nd: “Light at the End of the Bottle” by Megan Laurie, Lubbock, TX; and 3rd: “12 Gauge Education” by Wake Eastman, Polk Shelton, Jay Cook, and Jill Gilliam, Hamptonville, NC. Gospel Category: 1st: “Hallelujah Time” by John Milroy and C.J. Milroy, Ferndale, MI; 2nd: “Truth Cries Out” by Mary James with Dan Barker, Lakeside, CA and 3rd “A Little Deeper” by Paul Kelly with Salvador Guida, Jr., Santa Fe, NM.
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 27, at MerleFest 2007. Songwriters selected by lot from on site registrants on site will share the stage with singer-songwriters performing at MerleFest.
MerleFest, a tribute to the memory of Merle Watson, has continued to evolve, grow, and improve since 1988, becoming one of the most important annual events in the Southeast. In so doing MerleFest has defined and led the way for the emerging field called Americana music. MerleFest offers a generation and genre crossing mix of traditional and contemporary roots music, bringing together the very best of bluegrass, contemporary acoustic, Celtic, blues, folk, old-time, Cajun, jazz, and singer-songwriter musics, along with traditional dance and crafts.
Over its 19-year history, MerleFest has contributed $7.28 million to Wilkes Community College, while some fifty non-profits organizations net around $350,000 at MerleFest each year. Using guidelines recommended by the College of Business at Appalachian State University, the total regional economic impact of MerleFest 2006 is estimated at more than $16,000,000.
More information at www.merlefest.org.