Playing to packed houses at City Winery, SongCircle (formerly the New York Songwriters’ Circle), wrapped up their fifth annual songwriting contest this past Friday night. The two evening gala event featured 12 finalists each performing their qualifying song as well as a lineup of special guests.
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It was quite fitting that SongCircle, celebrating what will be their 20th anniversary this year, marked the festivities at this spectacular New York City venue. For the past two decades, they have been showcasing and nurturing some of the best songwriting talent around while continually growing and expanding.
They recently partnered with EMI Music who will provide distribution and other label services for the newly formed SongCircle Record Label. They have also launched a brand new website with state-of-the-art social networking and marketing tools along with an educational series which has added unique dimension to the already wildly successful semi-monthly showcases.
Kicking off the event with a short set was a rare performance by Garland Jeffreys, which included an intriguing lilting torch-like version of the Beatles’ “Help.” Immediately following, the 12 finalists each played the song that brought them to this point.
Artists ran the gamut from Brooklyn-based indie act Lucius to the more straight ahead piano-based bluesy/pop ballad style of Todd Alsup. The grand prize went to husband and wife pop/folk duo Barnaby Bright, also Brooklyn-based (by way of Kansas), who electrified the house with their song “Don’t Look Down.” Other special guests included 2009 finalist Reed Waddle, Keith Kane of Vertical Horizon, Mieka Pauley, 2008 finalist and winners in the international and teen categories. in the end, second prize went to Flearoy, for the song “Hey Brother,” and Lucius took third prize, for “Shenandoah Love.”
The contest also boasted a prestigious group of judges: Jake Ottman, VP of A&R at EMI Publishing; Loretta Munoz, Director of Writer Publisher Relations at ASCAP; three time Grammy award-winning producer, Russ Titelman and NY1’s movie critic Neil Rosen, just several who made up this elite coterie.
The event was hosted by Tina Shafer who has been the heart and soul of SongCircle serving as artistic director since its inception. Through her dedication and perseverance she has developed a platform for songwriters to be heard by the industry as well as creating a supportive artistic community. The showcases and contests have helped to launch the careers of artists such as Lisa Loeb, Kate Voegele, Chris Barron (Spin Doctors) and many more. Shafer is backed by a strong creative team including partner Billy Gaus (who launched the song contest idea), Allan Tepper, who handles publishing, licensing and A&R, David Chidekel overseeing business and legal affairs and Jarrin Kirksey who heads up social media and marketing.
For more information about the 2010 contest winners, other finalists and the SongCircle community visit their website at www.songcirclemusic.com.