2016 will mark the 32nd 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 contest. Read a little bit about the new judges below.
John Paul White (The Civil Wars)
Co-founding partner, Single Lock Records; singer/songwriter/producer
John Paul White is a Grammy-winning musician. He is currently producing projects for Single Lock Records, a label he co-founded, in Florence, Alabama.
Sarah Zimmermann (Striking Matches)
Recording Artist, Songwriter
Sarah Zimmermann, a Philadelphia native, moved to Nashville eight years ago to play guitar and write songs. Zimmermann is one half of Capitol Records/I.R.S. Nashville duo Striking Matches and has had eight songs on ABC’s hit drama, Nashville, along with numerous other television syncs and placements. Striking Matches released their debut album, Nothing But the Silence, produced by T-Bone Burnett, in March of 2015 and is currently touring the US and the United Kingdom.
Jonny Fritz is a real storyteller with a lot to say. He most recently co-wrote the title track to Dawes’ latest release, All Your Favorite Bands. His advice to writers has always been to write simply and on the level of the listener, to stay away from cliches and try to say what you need to say as quick as you can and get out of there. There are few people who care more about songs than Jonny Fritz.
A&R Manager, Big Machine Label Group
Laurel Kittleson is currently the A&R Manager of Big Machine Label Group where she oversees all aspects of the recording process, scouts for potential artists and songwriters, screens songs for signed acts and handles BMLG’s master audio catalog. Previously, Kittleson held the position of Publishing Coordinator at Elevation Music Publishing, and acted as the personal assistant to Rivers Rutherford. She then moved to Show Dog-Universal Music, where she worked as Production Coordinator/Assistant to label president, Mark Wright. Kittleson is originally from a small town outside Seattle and graduated from Belmont University in 2008.
Matraca Berg is an icon in the Nashville songwriting community who is currently a staff writer at Patrick Joseph Music, led by veteran music publisher Pat Higdon. She’s a Hall Of Fame songwriter, having penned over two hundred cuts and has had thirteen number one Country songs. Matraca is a Nashville native where she still resides with her husband, Jeff Hanna.
Artist, Singer, Songwriter
Gabe Dixon is a piano-based singer/songwriter who since 2002 has released acclaimed albums for both a major label (Warner Brothers) and a large indie label (Concord Music Group). He’s played piano and other instruments, and sang background vocals, on several Paul McCartney albums. With his honest, heartfelt approach to songwriting and newly found independence from the record label structure, Dixon is set release his new LP, Turns To Gold (set for release Nov. 15), featuring the single “Holding Her Freedom.” His music has been placed in the TV shows Parks and Recreation, One Tree Hill, Beauty and the Beast and NY Med, among others. His songs have been recorded by artists such as Better Than Ezra, Dave Barnes, Gordon Mote and John Waite.
GM, Creative, ole Music Publishing
John Ozier is ole’s General Manager, Creative in Nashville. Ozier brings a wealth of experience in operating publishing and record label businesses to the role.
Ozier has been responsible for No. 1s by Rodney Atkins (“Take A Back Road”) and Lee Brice (“A Woman Like You,” “Hard To Love,” and “I Drive Your Truck,” which won ACM Song Of The Year”). He is also a hit songwriter, having co-written Lee Brice’s multi-week No. 1 and Platinum single, “Hard to Love” and Tyler Farr’s No. 1 and Gold Single, “Whiskey In My Water.” Ozier is a member of the ACM, CMA, and The Recording Academy. He was recently elected to the Board of the AIMP. He is a graduate of the Scarlett Leadership Program at Belmont University and graduated from Leadership Music in 2012.
Creative Director, Creative Nation
Jeff Skaggs is the Creative Director at Creative Nation, a leading publishing and management company helmed by Beth and Luke Laird in Nashville, Tenn. On the publishing side of the company, Jeff focuses on securing co-writes and cuts on behalf of the roster and helps manage the careers of their hit songwriters and artists – Luke Laird, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Lori McKenna, Native Run, Maggie Chapman, Steve Moakler and Tyler Johnson. In addition to working in the creative and songplugging aspect of Creative Nation, Jeff manages the career of artist Steve Moakler, who was recently noted as an “Artist to Watch” by several national outlets.
Director of A&R/Marketing, Dualtone Music Group
Will McDonald is a graduate of Belmont University and has worked at Dualtone Music Group for the last eight years. Will was instrumental in the signing of much of the label’s roster, including The Lumineers, Shovels & Rope and Shakey Graves, and is involved in the marketing and project management of all the label’s releases. He also wrote this.
Singer/Songwriter, Recording Artist
This year, modern day troubadour and road warrior Griffin House will release his 10th full length album. His first album, Lost and Found, was released over a decade ago to much critical acclaim; however, House just now seems to be hitting his stride. Be sure to stay tuned in 2016 for his best record yet. Additionally, his songs have been placed in TV shows such as Army Wives, One Tree Hill, 90210, Without A Trace and Brothers and Sisters.
Partner/GM, Writer’s Den Music Group
Bobby Rymer is a partner/general manager in the Nashville based music publishing company Writer’s Den Music Group, originally started in 2007 with Rymer at the helm. Among the cuts secured are multiple songs by Alan Jackson (including the 2013 Grammy nominated song, “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”, Alabama, Chris Stapleton, The Steeldrivers, Lee Ann Womack, Ricky Skaggs, Trace Adkins, Randy Owen and Joe Nichols, plus the critically acclaimed song “Not Cause I Wanted To” on the 2013 Grammy winning album, Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt. Currently signed to the roster are Ben Cooper, Melissa Fuller, Robert Earl Keen, Jerry Salley and NSAI Hall of Fame writers Thom Schuyler & Don Schlitz.
Co-owner, The GreenRoom PR
A native of Springfield, Tenn., Kristie Sloan has over 10 years of experience in the PR field. She is currently the co-owner of The GreenRoom PR, whose clients include Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Thomas Rhett, Kip Moore, Kix Brooks, Tucker Beathard and Live Nation Entertainment.
Sr. Director Creative, Big Deal Music
Raleigh NC native Greg Gallo grew up listening a wide range of music. Gallo got his start consulting for Deep South Entertainment. While working for Deep South, he met Bruce Burch and the two started a songplugging/creative consulting firm, Burch-Gallo Music. Their clients included Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Linde, Ash Street Music, EMI Music Publishing, and Universal Music. After a stint as a creative at Craig Wiseman’s Big Loud Shirt, Greg went on to become a founding Partner of Revelry Music Group and Gallo & Landers Music. Writers included Neil Mason, Jessie Jo Dillon, Anthony Smith, Parmalee and others. Gallo is now the Sr. Creative Director at Big Deal Music and proud to represent such writers as Brett Beavers, Brad Tursi, Ray Lamontagne, Steph Jones, Jared Mullins, and many more.
Singer/Songwriter, Recording Artist
Sunny Sweeney is a singer/songwriter who lives in Austin, Texas. She has been writing songs and performing for 15 years. She is best known for her country roots. Rolling Stone said her record, Provoked, “is loaded with equal parts humor and heartache. It’s also brutally honest and straight ahead country, both of which are completely on purpose.
Editor-in-Chief, American Songwriter
Caine O’Rear has written about music and the music business for ten years. He has served as editor-in-chief of American Songwriter since 2010. He is also the creator of online radio drama “Lawn and Order.”
Click here to enter the Lyric Contest.