Introducing American Songwriter’s 35th Anniversary Song Contest Judges

Ziggy Marley (Artist/Songwriter): An eight-time GRAMMY winner, Emmy winner, author, philanthropist, and reggae icon, Ziggy Marley has released thirteen albums to much critical acclaim.

Ziggy Marley (Recording Artist, Tuff Gong Worldwide)

An eight-time GRAMMY winner, Emmy winner, author, philanthropist, and reggae icon, Ziggy Marley has released 13 albums to much critical acclaim. Now with his own label, Tuff Gong Worldwide, and publishing company, Ishti Music, Marley has complete control of his master recordings and publishing. His early immersion in music came at age 10 when he sat in on recording sessions with his father, Bob Marley. As front man to Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, the group released eight best-selling albums that garnered three GRAMMYs, Ziggy’s first solo album, Dragonfly (RCA), was released in 2003. His second solo release, Love is My Religion (Tuff Gong), won a GRAMMY in 2006 for “Best Reggae Album.” His third solo studio album, Family Time (Tuff Gong), scored a 5th GRAMMY for “Best Children’s Album.” Ziggy’s fifth solo studio album, Fly Rasta, was released to mass critical acclaim in 2015, and earned his 7th GRAMMY for “Best Reggae Album”. 2016 marked the release of Marley’s self-titled album, which garnered his 8th GRAMMY. He is currently in the studio, preparing for a new family album, slated for a September release.

grace potter american songwriter 35th anniversary song contest judge

Grace Potter (Recording Artist, Fantasy Records)

Over the course of her acclaimed career, Grace Potter has carved out a flourishing yet unconventional place among the best songwriters and singers in rock and roll. The Waitsfield, Vermont native has released seven albums, guested with everyone from Kenny Chesney to The Rolling Stones, created her own music festival (Burlington’s Grand Point North) and become one of the most admired live performers in contemporary music. Her latest solo album Daylight, produced by her husband Eric Valentine (Keith Urban, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5), was released on October 25th, 2019 via Fantasy Records.

matt nathanson 35th anniversary song contest judge

Matt Nathanson (Recording Artist, Acrobat Records)

Based in San Francisco, Matt Nathanson has evolved into one of the most applauded songwriters and engaging performers on the music scene today. His 2007 album, Some Mad Hope, yielded his breakthrough multi-platinum hit “Come on Get Higher.” His 2013 release, Last of The Great Pretenders, debuted at #16 on the Billboard Top 200 while hitting #1 on iTunes’ Alternative Albums chart. Nathanson has performed on The Howard Stern Show, Ellen, CONAN, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Dancing with the Stars, Rachael Ray, and The CMA Awards to name a few.

Mickey Guyton american songwriter 35th anniversary song contest judge

Mickey Guyton (Recording Artist, Capitol Records)

Texas native Mickey Guyton began singing in church at a young age and was drawn to a variety of artists with big voices including Dolly Parton, Cece Winans, Whitney Houston and LeAnn Rimes. Signed to Capitol Records Nashville, Guyton has been focused on her songwriting the last few years and is working on an album that will include the honest and unapologetic “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”, which she co-wrote with Karen Kosowski, Victoria Banks and Emma-Lee.  Variety called “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” “…exquisitely sung, moving and brilliant.” Mickey has been featured by CBS This Morning’s Gayle King twice and has performed on ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today Show.  She has also been spotlighted in People magazine’s American Voices feature, Billboard magazine as one of Country music’s “female game changers,” and Entertainment Weekly as one of the “new queens of country music.” Her latest single is a stirring cultural centerpiece, “Black Like Me.”

walker hayes american songwriter 35th anniversary song contest judge

Walker Hayes (Recording Artist, Monument Records)

Walker Hayes is a Monument Records (Sony imprint) artist. His latest album, boom, was released in 2017 and produced by multi-GRAMMY Award winning producer and songwriter, Shane McAnally. The album includes the RIAA certified Double Platinum Top 10 hit, “You Broke Up With Me,” as well as “Craig,” which was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2018 AIMP Nashville Awards. During the fall of 2018, Walker headed overseas with Old Dominion for his first-ever European tour. Hayes has joined the likes of Kelsea Ballerini’s Unapologetically Tour and been on the road with Dan + Shay, Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion and more. In January 2019, Walker set out on his headlining (Dream On It) tour. His songs have been recorded by Kid Rock, Lindsey Ell, Colt Ford, Rodney Atkins, Emerson Drive, Ty Herndon and others. His major label debut on Capitol (2013), Reason To Rhyme, is available for stream/download, and Walker’s latest single, “Trash My Heart,” is out now.

Mackenzie Porter (Artist/Songwriter): Three-time

MacKenzie Porter (Recording Artist, Big Loud Records) 

Singer-songwriter MacKenzie Porter is a rising Country talent whose sound knows no borders. Since moving to Nashville in 2014 from her native Canada, she’s developed a radiant Country style which threads the needle between traditional heart and modern energy, often collaborating with songwriting mainstays like Nicolle Galyon, Craig Wiseman, Natalie Hemby, and Tommy English. Signed to Big Loud Records, Porter is surging now with debut single “These Days” and an arsenal of new music produced by Joey Moi (Jake Owen, Morgan Wallen).  Her “mesmerizing vocals and hook-driven songs” (Billboard) have sparked a list of headline-worthy accolades, including a prestigious nomination for Country Album of the Year at the 2015 JUNO Awards and three Female Artist of the Year nominations from the Canadian Country Music Awards. Making her mark, Porter became the first female artist to have back-to-back #1 singles at Canadian Country radio in 22 years with “About You,” and “These Days” in early 2020, following Shania Twain in 1998. She’s toured extensively on her own, sharing the stage with Kenny Chesney, Rascal Flatts, Chris Lane, Blake Shelton and Dallas Smith, and co-starred in the Netflix series, Travelers.

eric hurt 35th anniversary song contest judge

Eric Hurt (VP of A&R, EMPIRE)

Eric Hurt moved to Nashville from East Texas in 1996 to finish a degree in music at Belmont University. After graduating, he began working in the music industry. Hurt spent the bulk of his career working in music publishing; repping artists, writers, and producers for country, pop, and film/tv markets.  Most recently he was with Black River Entertainment as Senior Director of Creative in music publishing. After signing a publishing deal with genre-bending, EMPIRE artist Willie Jones at Black River, EMPIRE sought out Hurt to launch its Nashville division.  In the summer of 2019, Eric left Black River to become EMPIRE’s newest VP of A&R, where he was tasked with growing the label’s country division.  He continues to work with Willie Jones as well as signing other artists including Tim Montana and a unique project from Bear and a Banjo which involves star talent Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Jared Gutstadt, Dennis Quaid, & T Bone Burnett.

john strohm

John Strohm (President, Rounder Records)

John Strohm is president of Rounder Records, a 50-year-old independent record label specializing in a variety of American roots music genres based in Nashville, TN. Prior to joining Rounder in 2017, John’s background includes a decade as a professional musician and a member of the well-known alternative rock bands Blake Babies and The Lemonheads. After leaving full-time music-making, John became a music industry lawyer in Nashville with a specialization in artist development. In his law practice, he advised a wide range of musicians including Bon Iver, Sturgill Simpson, Alabama Shakes, and The Civil Wars. John and his family live in Franklin, Tennessee.

BJ Hill (VP of A&R, Warner Chappell Music): Hill's been with Warner Chappell since '05. He works with, among others, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum.

BJ Hill (VP of A&R, Warner Chappell Music)

BJ Hill grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan playing drums in blues bands, but he got the bug for country music while in high school and moved to Tennessee to study the recording industry at Middle Tennessee State University.  After a handful of internships at studios and publishing companies, he landed a taperoom job in the summer of 2000 at High Seas Music in Nashville.  BJ is now Vice President of A&R for Warner Chappell Music, Nashville.  Except for a one-year stint working in the A&R Department of Universal Records, BJ has been with Warner Chappell since 2002.  From 2016 to 2019, BJ also joined Jesse Frasure to start the new Rhythm House venture with Roc Nation.  That venture has already produced singles from Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Lauren Alaina, Billy Currington and they’ve signed hit songwriters Cary Barlowe and Steven Lee Olsen.  Back full-time with Warner Chappell he continues to sign, develop and work with some of the best songwriters in Nashville. Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds, Wendell Mobley, Laura Veltz, busbee and Marv Green are couple of the multi-#1 hit songwriters that he’s had the pleasure of signing or working closely with along with a handful of very talented developing artists and writers.  His most successful signing, thus far, include Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of the thriving trio, Lady Antebellum and Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney of Dan+Shay.  He’s also secured outside cuts and singles on records by Blake Shelton, Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Eli Young Band, Chris Young, Jason Aldean, Lee Ann Womack, Lonestar, Martina McBride, Lee Brice, Keith Anderson, Jimmy Wayne, Montgomery Gentry and others.  Currently, BJ is also excited about working with Warner Music artists Michael Ray and hit songwriter and singer from Old Dominion, Matt Ramsey.

John Allen (President, New West Records): Allen has more than two decades of industry experience and brings an extensive knowledge of music publishing, rights management, licensing, songwriting and A&R expertise.

John Allen (President, New West Records)

As President of notable independent label New West Records, New West Independent Music Publishing and its developing artists imprint, Normaltown Records in Athens, GA, Allen opened New West’s first Nashville office. Allen joined New West from BMG Chrysalis (via Bug Music) where he was Vice President. Allen has had a longstanding relationship with New West for more than a decade as publisher to many of the label’s artists that include Buddy Miller, Ben Folds, Rodney Crowell, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Los Lobos, The Devil Makes Three,  Sara Watkins, Steve Earle and Nikki Lane.

Michael Franti (Artist/Songwriter): Aside from earning Billboard No. 1’s with several hits, Franti self-directed an award winning documentary “Stay Human”, and started a wish granting non-profit with his wife, Sara, “Do It For The Love”

Michael Franti (Artist/Songwriter)

Throughout his multi-decade career, Franti has earned Billboard No. 1’s with triumphantly hopeful hits “Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You),” and his current single, “I Got You”, is sitting Top 5 at AAA with hopes of taking home another #1 this summer. The song was recently featured on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna in support of his new album Work Hard & Be Nice (Thirty Tigers), available now. Work Hard & Be Nice, Michael’s 11th studio album, came out in June 2020 topping the charts with hit songs like ”I Got You,” “I’m On Your Side,” “How We Living,” and “Start Small Think Big.” During the crisis of COVID-19, in an effort to continue to bring music and positivity to his fans, Michael has begun hosting monthly paid interactive livestream events which have brought together thousands of dancing fans for unforgettable nights of music. In January 2019, Franti released his self-directed documentary “Stay Human,” which won an array of awards at film festivals worldwide and influenced his writing for the album Stay Human Vol. II (Thirty Tigers), which debuted at No. 1 on both the Americana and Independent Album charts and received critical acclaim from USA Today, Billboard, Associated Press and Paste. Michael Franti continues to foster the community both on and off stage with a wish granting non-profit, Do It For The Love, founded by Franti and his wife, Sara. Do It For The Love brings those with life threatening illnesses, veterans, and children with severe challenges to concerts worldwide, fulfilling over 3,300 wishes and touching the lives of over 12,000 people to date.

Clay Cook (Artist/Songwriter) Spending 20 years as a songwriter, studio musician, live performer, producer, and engineer, Cook wrote and performed with John Mayer and is a longstanding member of Zac Brown Band.

Clay Cook (Artist/Songwriter)

Clay Cook has been weaving his way through the musical landscape in multiple ways over the past 20 years as a songwriter, studio musician, live performer, producer, and engineer. From his early career writing and performing with John Mayer, to performing with Sugarland & Shawn Mullins, producing albums for Blackberry Smoke and The Wood Brothers, and being a longstanding member of Zac Brown Band, Clay has a unique perspective on putting songs together. Since Zac Brown Band isn’t currently touring, Clay is working on records for others in his newfound time at home.

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  1. Hey all y’all. Do we submit a new song every month or can we continue submitting the same song? Is there a way to get feedback? I need to edit the hell outta my song, it’s like “Hotel California” long! I’ve tried modifying the bridge and cutting a out a chorus. Ggggrrrrrr… 🙄😳🤯🤬

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