The judges for the 2021 American Songwriter Lyric Contest have been announced, and this year’s panel of jurists includes some of the best singer-songwriters in the game today.
Read about our team of industry titans below, and be sure to enter the current lyric contest here!
Art Alexakis from Everclear
Art Alexakis is best-known as the singer-guitarist and sole songwriter behind the iconic alt-rock outfit Everclear, which was formed by Art Alexakis in 1991 in Portland, Oregon. Some 29 years into his career as a recording artist, Art has enjoyed a lengthy career spanning 12 studio releases, numerous videos, thousands of shows and accolades that include a 1998 Grammy nomination for So Much For The Afterglow. Everclear remains active today and tours extensively.
Since scoring a worldwide smash with her debut album Eye To The Telescope in 2004, which went on to sell over 5 million copies, KT Tunstall has remained at the forefront of UK singer-songwriter talent. KT followed up that early success with albums Drastic Fantastic, Tiger Suit and Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon keeping the platinum sales rolling and cementing the Scottish singer-songwriter’s reputation as a major recording talent, as well as a mesmerizing live artist.
The last few years have seen something of a creative rebirth for Tunstall. Upon relocating to the west coast of the USA, she was accepted as one of six annual fellows for the Sundance Film Institute’s Composers Lab and has since scored music for short and feature films. She has also been awarded the Inspirational Artist gong at the Women In Music Awards and was chosen as the first-ever female Grand Marshal (following the likes of Sir Sean Connery) to lead April 2018’s annual New York Tartan Week parade. In May 2018 she and Mike McCready, of legendary multimillion selling Pearl Jam, released a cover of Tom Petty’s huge hit single “I Won’t Back Down” with proceeds going to Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation. The first single from her latest release, “The River,” was named one of Rolling Stone’s “Songs You Need To Know.”
Signed to BBR Music Group’s Stoney Creek Records, platinum-selling recording artist and songwriter Jimmie Allen has already made history as the first Black artist to launch a career with two consecutive No. 1 hits on country radio – the first being his debut single “Best Shot” – which claimed the No. 1 spot for three weeks – and second being his latest single “Make Me Want To” off his debut album Mercury Lane, released fall 2018. His latest project Bettie James, released in July 2020, is a star-studded collaboration EP featuring Brad Paisley, Charley Pride, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Nelly, Cyrus, The Oak Ridge Boys, Rita Wilson, Tauren Wells and Tim McGraw. Bettie James has garnered 55+ million streams since release, along with critical acclaim for the music, the historic nature of various collaborations, and its subsequent place in country music history. Allen is currently nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 54th Annual CMA Awards.
The Milk Carton Kids (Kenneth Pattengale & Joey Ryan)
The Milk Carton Kids are a three-time Grammy-nominated American indie-folk duo from Eagle Rock, California, consisting of singers and guitarists Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, who began making music together in early 2011. The band has recorded and released six albums.
Eric Earley from Blitzen Trapper
“Some of my earliest memories are of my father playing and singing folk songs, fingerpicking on his old acoustic,” Eric Earley said. “I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t write songs; narrative songwriting was always my obsession. I spent years dabbling in various pursuits—painting, mathematics, even a short-order cook, but I always felt pulled back toward songwriting. I had played in bands growing up and eventually was blessed with a career in music, touring and writing as Blitzen Trapper for over a decade, with many of my songs appearing in films and TV, sharing stages with some of my childhood heroes.”
Lauded as “one of the most exciting and talented young artists in country music” (Forbes), Lindsay Ell is a triple threat: accomplished musician, unique vocalist and awe-inspiring songwriter. The Calgary native learned to play guitar while traveling with her father to country-bluegrass camps as a young girl. Ell honed her craft as a musical stylist and songwriter after being discovered by BTO and The Guess Who’s Randy Bachman (“American Woman” / “Taking Care of Business”) who discovered her at the age of 13. The multi-instrumentalist was soon touring alongside the likes of Luke Bryan, Buddy Guy, and Keith Urban.
Ell also shared the stage with the distinguished country group, Little Big Town, along with other powerhouse female artists in one the biggest moments of the 2019 CMA Awards where she was also nominated for Musical Event of the Year. Ell’s nominations do not stop there. She has been nominated for New Female Artist of the Year in both 2019 and 2020, in addition to her 2020 ACM nomination of Music Event of the Year. Ell also won the 2020 CCMA Interactive Artist or Group of the Year for the second year in a row. These wins and nominations are well earned after Ell exhilarated audiences as part of Keith Urban’s Graffiti U World Tour, Brantley Gilbert’s Not Like Us Tour and Brad Paisley’s Weekend Warrior World Tour. Ell’s first full-length album The Project debuted at No. 1 on the Country Album Sales Chart and was named Billboard’s “Best Country Album of 2017. “What Happens In a Small Town,” Lindsay’s duet with Brantley Gilbert, claimed the top spot at country radio, marking her first No. 1 in the US. Her new single “wAnt me back” is out now from her recently released sophomore album, heart theory.
The Bacon Brothers
The Bacon Brothers featuring Kevin & Michael Bacon got their start over two decades ago. Refusing to be pigeon-holed, the brothers call their sound Forosoco, which is short for “Folk, Rock, Soul, Country.” They’ve been featured by the BBC, Associated Press, Sirius XM, Paste Magazine and The Huffington Post. They have also performed at the Wash D.C. Correspondents Jam and have hosted the very prestigious charity event, Gods Love We Deliver. They’ve released nine albums to date, most recently the 2018 self-titled release featuring the single “Tom Petty T-Shirt,” which they debuted live on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Every summer, (except in 2020) the six-piece outfit winds its way across the U.S. playing to sold-out houses of enthusiastic fans along the way.
An American gospel, soul and R&B artist from Portland, Oregon now based in Los Angeles, CA, Liz Vice has drawn comparisons to Mavis Staples, Aretha Franklin and some of the greatest gospel/soul singers of all time. Liz has successfully supported/toured with Lake Street Dive, Hiss Golden Messenger, Shawn Mullins, War and Treaty, The Wood Brothers, Joss Stone and, Mt. Joy, among others. Both her albums There’s A Light (2015) and latest Save Me (2018) debuted on Billboard’s Gospel chart.
Todd Sheaffer (Railroad Earth/From Good Homes)
Todd Sheaffer is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Railroad Earth, who recently released Live Tracks: Underground 2.29.20 this October. The band blends progressive bluegrass, folk, rock, country, jazz, Celtic and other Americana influences for their unique sound. Sheaffer is also a member of the cult favorite, hick-pop college rock band From Good Homes.
Canadian-born and Nashville-based, Tenille Townes is a two-time ACM Award-winning artist in the midst of a breakthrough year following the release of her acclaimed debut album, The Lemonade Stand. Out now via Columbia Nashville in partnership with RCA Records, the album was produced by Jay Joyce and consists of twelve songs all written by Townes. Additionally, Townes was recently named New Female Artist of the Year at the 55th ACM Awards, won three awards at the 2020 Canadian Country Music Awards and is the first female in Mediabase Canada history to achieve two #1 singles with album tracks “Jersey On The Wall (I’m Just Asking)” and “Somebody’s Daughter.” Adding to an already notable career, Townes is a MusicRow 2020 Next Big Thing Artist, an iHeartCountry’s “On The Verge” artist and has raised over two million dollars for charity through her annual Big Hearts For Big Kids fundraiser.
Mike Doughty has released 11 albums in the last decade, including Haughty Melodic and Stellar Motel, in addition to a memoir, The Book of Drugs. Under the monikers UUL and Dubious Luxury, Doughty explores electro produced tracks and his opera, Revelation, was recently staged in conjunction with WNYC. He has posted well over 150 weekly new songs for his Patreon subscribers over the past few years. And, finally, Doughty enjoys playing his new project Ghost of Vroom out now.
Eric Hutchinson is an international platinum-selling singer, songwriter and seasoned touring artist. He has performed in all 50 states and has shared the stage with acts such as Jason Mraz, Amos Lee, Ingrid Michaelson, O.A.R. and Michael Franti. His single “Rock & Roll” earned him his first gold record in the United States and the song became a #1 hit in several countries.
Caroline Jones is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 Country Artists You Need to Know” and Billboard’s “15 Country Artists to Watch.” Known for her signature country-pop sound, Jones has been mentored and has toured with some of country’s biggest names including Jimmy Buffett & the Eagles, Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, Sara Evans and Lee Brice, among other performances. Caroline first met Jimmy Buffett when the two performed together at the Trying to Reason hurricane relief benefit concert, which led to a charity single release, a distribution deal with his Mailboat Records, and ultimately the release of “Gulf Coast Girl (ft. Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, Lukas Nelson and Mac McAnally as “The Pelicanaires”).”
Similarly, following a series of tours together, Jones teamed up with Zac Brown to co-write her current single “All of the Boys,” which was released as an EP consisting of various mixes — including Dance, Country, and Coffee House — showcasing her genre-spanning influences and love of music. As the host of Sirius XM’s Art & Soul, Caroline interviews musicians about their craft and creating the perfect song, further solidifying her passion for lyricism both in-studio and onstage.
Road warrior, family man and hit songwriter John King continues to make a name for himself in country music. The 2020 Pandora Artist To Watch, who pairs drive, raw talent and savvy business sense, has garnered over 30 million all-time streams. “Easy” produced by King and his brother Andrew King was released on March 22 via Starstruck Records. The single has seen widespread support, including inclusions on some of the biggest playlists like Spotify’s Hot Country, Apple’s Today’s Country, and Pandora’s New Country. His current single, “Always Will Be,” was released on September 25th.
Last year, he released the digital track “Close,” and radio single “Trying Saying Goodbye” to critical acclaim and generous industry support. “Try Saying Goodbye” was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Country Songs To Hear Now” and scored major market radio ads that continues to solidify his career in country music. To date, it has been streamed over 15 million times. In addition, King has been entertaining fans over the past few years with countless live shows a year opening for superstars such as Florida Georgia Line, Travis Tritt, Scotty McCreery and others as well as playing major festivals such as Country Stampede, CMA Festival and Cavendish Beach Music Festival.
King has also had a celebrated career as a hit songwriter. He scored his first number one as a songwriter with Randy Houser’s “We Went,” recently co-penned “Rollin,” the first new music from Hootie & The Blowfish in over a decade, and has been awarded an ASCAP Songwriter award. King also scored a Top 40 hit on country radio as an artist with his debut single “Tonight, Tonight.”