Caroline Spence Looks Back on Her Lyric Contest Grand Prize Co-Write

Caroline Spence_photo by Marge Curtis
Caroline Spence
2013 Grand Prize Winner
Co-write with Lee Brice

Looking back, I’d say winning the 2013 Lyric Contest was one of the first major validations in my career. I’d been in Nashville for a few years at that point, quietly writing in my bedroom and just starting to tour. When I finished writing “Mint Condition,” I knew I had never written anything like it before. I had labored over the third verse for about three months and finally found the right words on the very day that I serendipitously got an email about the lyric contest with just a few hours left before the July/August contest deadline. It was one of those “why not?” moments and I’m really glad I followed that impulse.

It was a surreal feeling to be the Grand Prize winner for 2013. Co-writing with Lee Brice was something I thought I’d never do and an experience I’ll never forget. It was really validating to know that I could hold my own when being put into a “next level” scenario.

I brought him a chorus and a couple verse lines and he liked it. I couldn’t believe he was saying things like “killer melody” or “let’s not change that.” It was very strange to have someone at his level telling me that my instincts were right. It was also an eye-opening experience to write with someone from the pop-country world (a world I don’t consciously write for) and to write a pretty poppy song together but really feel like it was personal and well crafted, but also commercially and universally appealing.

After writing with him, I realized maybe I had some preconceived notions about the genre he’s in, and therefore him. Without a doubt, Lee knows the craft and was a really great writing partner. He was forthcoming with his ideas but sometimes, when we would settle on a line, he’d say, “Can we say that better?” and we’d push it. That’s how I often am in co-writes and it was nice to be challenged. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised and to stand corrected.

One of the big differences between this contest and others, besides the amazing prizes, is that the people at American Songwriter treat you like a professional from the get-go. They really value what you’ve created and it is apparent with every interaction with any member of the team. They didn’t make me feel like I’d drawn the golden ticket; they made me feel like I’d earned it, that I was a songwriter they were proud to support. Judging art is always subjective but I’ve been a reader of American Songwriter since I started writing in high school so getting that stamp of approval from them meant a lot to me. I think it’s safe to say that my little victory was what initially fueled my fire and helped me stand a little taller so I could get to where I am today. – CAROLINE SPENCE

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