Announcing The 2017 Lyric Contest Judges


2017 will mark the 33rd year of the American Songwriter Lyric Contest, and with it comes a brand new panel of judges. This year’s group includes judges from various fields across the music industry. Click here to enter the January/February contest. Read a little bit about the new judges below.

Seymour Stein - Headshot - 053013

1. Seymour Stein

Chairman, SIRE Records

VP, Warner Brothers Records

Seymour Stein is a music industry veteran and visionary who co-founded the influential Sire Records. Sire ushered in Punk and New Wave in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Stein has been the label’s driving creative force since its origins as an independent label and through its tenure as one of the most important imprints within the Warner Bros. Records label family.

Stein’s unique ability to anticipate musical trends, and to discover and sign the greatest artists within those movements, has left an indelible mark on pop culture and helped to launch and nurture the careers of some of music’s most memorable artists. One of those groups was the Ramones, the New York City band that fueled the punk movement. Stein first saw the band in 1975, and was immediately drawn to black leather ethos, angry chords and one-of-a kind loud and fast melodies that are their hallmark. “It was like sticking my hand in a live electric light socket,” Stein recalled of his first exposure to the band. “The jolt went right through me.”

The Ramones’ eponymous first album was recorded for less than $10,000 and released on Sire in 1976, and to this day remains one of the seminal albums in rock and roll history. In addition to The Ramones, Stein signed the likes of Madonna, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Ice T., Talking Heads, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Wilco, My Bloody Valentine, SpaceHog and Uncle Tupelo.


2. Neil Mason (The Cadillac Three)


Neil Mason is a founding member of the band The Cadillac Three as well as a songwriter with Revelry Music Group & Kobalt Music. His songs have been recorded by artists Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen, Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, Frankie Ballard & more.


3. Randy Rogers (Randy Rogers Band)

Recording Artist/Songwriter

Randy Rogers is a pioneering spirit in music and in business. With 10 albums, Randy Rogers Band is “a well-oiled machine” (No Depression) and one of the biggest names in the hard-ticket touring circuit, consistently selling out venues including The Troubadour in Los Angeles and Terminal 5 in Manhattan. The six-member group has performed together without a lineup change since 2002, playing as many as 200 concerts per year and steadily building a following beyond the Texas border. Each of the Randy Rogers Band’s past four discs reached the top five on Billboard‘s country albums chart, including 2016’s independently released Nothing Shines Like Neon. Additionally, Rogers has released two albums with friend and fellow Texan Wade Bowen, 2015’s Hold My Beer, Vol. 1 and this year’s live set, Watch This. Rogers recently expanded his already diverse entrepreneurial profile consisting of Whitewater Amphitheater, Cleburne Baseball and various real estate properties with the launch of Big Blind Management, named for his commitment to being in the game and consisting of Rogers himself as a solo artist, Seth James, Jamie Lin Wilson and Red Shahan.

Sean McConnell-press1

4. Sean McConnell

Recording Artist/Songwriter

Although Sean McConnell’s new self-titled Rounder album will serve as his introduction to many listeners, the personable young artist is actually a seasoned, distinctive songwriter and an experienced performer with a quartet of D.I.Y. indie releases to his credit. Having built a substantial grassroots fan base through tireless touring and old-fashioned hard work, McConnell is primed for a mainstream breakthrough.

ford brothers

5. Michael Ford Jr. & Ben Ford (Airpark)

Recording Artists/Songwriters

Active in the Nashville music scene since 2005, Michael and Ben have performed across the USA, Canada and Europe in support of multiple LPs. Their new project Airpark is marked with instinctive melodies and family harmonies coupled over a groove-oriented, alt-pop fingerprint. Expect new music from these former members of The Apache Relay in early 2017.


6. Andrew Combs


Andrew Combs is a songwriter, guitarist, and singer who lives in Nashville. Originally from Dallas, Combs is inspired by the great tradition of Texas songwriting exemplified by Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Mickey Newbury. Using his gifts for lyricism and wry observation, Combs weaves tales of love, sin and redemption, in a style that brings together classic country and contemporary pop. His third record, Canyons of My Mind, will be released March 31st, 2017 via New West Records.

Lee Krabel

7. Lee Krabel

Senior Creative Director, SMACKSongs

A Belmont University graduate, Krabel  has worked in music publishing for eight years with stops at Sea Gayle Music and HoriPro Entertainment Group. Currently working at SMACK songs with a roster of 10 writers that includes Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. In the past he has worked writers such as Chris Stapleton, Dean Dillon, Ryan Beaver and Lee Thomas Miller.


8. Brent Cobb


Georgia-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Brent Cobb released his debut album Shine on Rainy Day in 2016 after 10 years of searching for the right sound, vibe and producer. He found all of these in the work of his cousin Dave Cobb, who produced the 10 tracks on Shine on Rainy Day and released the album on his Elektra Records imprint Low Country Sound. Cobb is an accomplished songwriter with multiple cuts from top Nashville recording artists, including Luke Bryan’s “Tailgate Blues,” Miranda Lambert’s “Old Shit” and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t It.” Shine on Rainy Day captures the sounds and stories of an idyllic childhood spent growing up in rural southwestern Georgia in a musical family. Cobb wrote or co-wrote nine of the 10 songs on Shine on Rainy Day.


9. John Strohm

Entertainment Attorney, Loeb & Loeb

John P. Strohm is a music industry attorney with the firm Loeb & Loeb in Nashville, primarily representing recording artists and songwriters. Prior to becoming a lawyer, John played, composed, and produced music professionally as a solo artist and a member of bands The Lemonheads and Blake Babies.

hannah shoemaker wilson

10. Hannah Showmaker Wilson

Creative Director, Big Loud Shirt

A native of Charleston, Missouri, Hannah Showmaker Wilson moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University where she majored in music business with a minor in public relations. Upon graduation in 2012, she joined Parallel Entertainment working in both management and publishing. Four years later, she joined the Big Loud Shirt team as the Creative Director.


11. Rachael Yamagata

Recording Artist/Songwriter

Rachael Yamagata is a Woodstock, New York based independent artist and runs her own label, Frankenfish Records.  Previously signed to RCA and WB Records, she now works with Thirty Tigers and recently released Tightrope Walker.  She’s a worldwide touring artist, new producer, can’t dance and loves hot sauce.


12. Jack Ingram

Recording Artist/Songwriter

Throughout a recording career that has spanned more than 20 years, Jack Ingram has maintained a reputation for uncompromising songs and energetic performances that has earned him prominent stature in a prestigious tradition of iconoclastic singer-songwriters. After a seven year hiatus, his eighth studio album Midnight Motel, was released in August 2016 (Rounder Records). It is his most authentic, touching work to date and reflects the self-assuredness Ingram has gained over the course of a celebrated career. Over the years, his music gained recognition and he has become a regular on both the Americana and Country charts.


13. Lydia Schultz

Manager, Creative Services, SESAC

Wisconsin native Lydia Schultz grew up loving country music. She moved to Nashville in 2010 to attend Belmont University. After graduating from Belmont Lydia took a job working in Legal and Financial for the Broken Bow Record Music Group. She then went on to work as the Creative Coordinator of Magic Mustang Music. Lydia is now a Manager of Creative Services with SESAC.


14. Ellis Paul

Recording Artist/Songwriter

Ellis Paul is a traveling songwriter with 5,000 shows and 25 years of road miles under his wheels. He’s produced 20 albums of his own music, written songs for Grammy winners, had songs on television and in movies and has written books for adults and children. His songwriting retreats and classes are well regarded for elevating the work of the participants. He also loves his job…


15. Caine O’Rear

Editor-In-Chief, American Songwriter magazine

Caine O’Rear has written about music and the music business for nine years. He has served as Editor-in-Chief of American Songwriter since 2010. During his time at the magazine, he has read tens of thousands of lyrics as a judge for the lyric contest. He believes the Lyric Contest encapsulates everything that is great about the American Dream.