20150120

Judges Announced for Chris Austin Songwriting Contest!

Image635573258776370806MerleFest, which takes place April 23-26, 2015, has assembled a distinguished team of songwriters – critically-acclaimed Americana artist Jesse Bellamy, famed Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison and legendary bluegrass icon Peter Rowan– to judge the on-site final round of this year’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

And things just got more interesting for the winning songwriters: renowned label Pinecastle Records will present a one-song contract to each of the first place winners in all categories - bluegrass, gospel/inspirational, country and general categories. This includes:

  • Winners will each receive $500 to record their winning songs.
  • Pinecastle Records will manufacture a four-song compilation CD of the winning songs and distribute it to radio stations across the United States and Canada.
  • Each winning song will receive worldwide digital distribution.
  • Winners will receive the standard mechanical royalty rate for each sale.
  • A print advertisement will be placed in American Songwriter Magazine promoting the first place winners and their winning songs.

“This is such an extraordinary opportunity for this year’s winners and the first time the contest has ever collaborated with a record company,” said Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, development and community resource specialist, who coordinates the contest. “The festival is very excited about our partnership with Pinecastle Records and possibilities this opens up for the first place winners.”

The deadline to enter the contest is February 1, 2015. Aspiring songwriters may submit entries to the contest using the   or by mailing entries to: MerleFest/CASC, PO Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC 28697. Submissions require a $30 fee per entry.

Pinecastle Records was created nearly 25 years ago in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina and has since grown into a legendary label with nearly 250 releases in its catalog including titles from some of the most influential musicians in the bluegrass genre such as Eddie Adcock, The Osborne Brothers, Jim and Jesse, and Charlie Waller & The Country Gentlemen. Pinecastle has always placed an emphasis on fostering the talents of bluegrass up and comers. Pinecastle is committed to finding new and innovative artists as well as working with established names and is positioned to branch out into other related genres. Pinecastle is owned by businessman and medical doctor, Lonnie Lassiter. The executive leadership of the company is comprised of Ethan Burkhardt, chief executive officer, and Matt Hood, chief operations officer. Burkhardt and Hood both have music degrees from Millikin University in Decatur, IL.

Now in its 23rd year, the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is an extraordinary 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 chairperson, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale.

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. Noted songwriters David Mayfield, Jason McKinney, Tift Merritt andMipso’s Joseph Terrell will be part of the team of industry experts assisting during this preliminary round. Finalists are then invited to the final round of the competition, which takes place April 24 during MerleFest on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $38,000 to 81 deserving students. To learn more details about the contest, visitwww.MerleFest.org/ChrisAustinSongwritingContest.

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, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. 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 a diverse mix of artists on its 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. 

About Chris Austin:

Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, 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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