Introducing the 2023 American Songwriter Lyric Contest Judges

American Songwriter 2023 Lyric Contest Judges

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The judges for the 2023 American Songwriter Lyric Contest have been announced, and this year’s panel includes some of the best award-winning songwriters and industry champions of songwriting around. Read about our panel of industry titans below.

Lyric Contest Judge

Pam Sheyne (Artist/Songwriter)

Pam Sheyne is a multi-platinum selling songwriter, vocal producer, singer and mentor. Her songwriting career has achieved success on a global scale and includes international hit records and song placements in numerous films and TV shows around the world. With 50+ million record sales, 100+ platinum sales, she is also a prestigious Ivor Novello Award-winning songwriter and a 7-time BMI Radio Play Award recipient.

Best known for co-writing the No.1 breakthrough single, “Genie In A Bottle,” for Christina Aguilera, Sheyne’s songs have been covered by a number of international artists, including Camila Cabello, Demi Lovato, Lindsay Lohan, Corrine Bailey Rae, Seal, Sinead O’Connor, The Backstreet Boys, Jessica Simpson, Cece Winans and The Saturdays. As a singer, Sheyne has performed, toured and recorded with artists that include The Pet Shop Boys, Elton John, Celine Dion, Tom Jones, Lulu, Daryl Hall, Cyndi Lauper, Laura Pausini Dave Stewart, and more.

Lyric Contest Judge

Shelly Peiken (Artist/Songwriter)

GRAMMY Award nominee Peiken has been a force in the music business for more than two decades. She is best known for penning culturally resonant, and female-empowerment anthems such as Christina Aguilera’s No. 1 hit, “What a Girl Wants” and Meredith Brooks’ smash, “Bitch.” Additionally, Peiken has had hundreds of songs placed on albums, and in TV and film. Her audio book, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, earned her a second GRAMMY nomination for Best Spoken Word Album. The memoir chronicles her journey from a young girl falling under the spell of magical songs to writing hits of her own.

Lyric Contest Judge

Dave Bassett (Artist/Songwriter)

Dave Bassett is a GRAMMY nominated, multi-platinum, award-winning songwriter and producer with more than a dozen No.1 hits to his name, topping the charts with songs ranging from Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” and Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” to Vance Joy’s “Saturday Sun” and Shinedown’s “Second Chance”. 

Bassett is also a go-to-guy among the music supervisor community for TV, film and advertising campaigns. His songs and scoring have appeared in national spots for the likes of Toyota, Target, T-Mobile, Dunkin’ Donuts, Google, Nissan, Victoria’s Secret, Best Buy, FIFA, the Olympics, as well as many major films, including Sing, Cars 3, Pitch Perfect 3, Ghostbusters, The Judge, The Muppets Most Wanted, Runaway Bride, and TV shows, such as Suits, the Royals, Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville, Royal Pains, CSI Miami, just to name a just a few.

Lyric Contest Judge

Sharon Vaughn (Artist/Songwriter)

Sharon Vaughn’s versatility as a songwriter is exceptional. It’s hard, not to say impossible, to find another person who has written both classic country songs and international pop hits, songs for musicals and even reached success in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC).

Her first hit as a songwriter was “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys,” recorded by Waylon Jennings in 1976, and four years later recorded by Willie Nelson. In 2019 Vaughn was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame after being nominated three times earlier.

Vaughn’s songwriting is boundless, both geographically and musically. In 2021, she became the first songwriter to have three songs from three different countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, representing Estonia, Moldova and Greece

Lyric Contest Judge

Sarah Siskind (Artist/Songwriter)

Mary Chapin Carpenter calls Sarah Siskind’s latest release, Modern Appalachia, “heart-stoppingly GREAT.” The musicians she chose for the album were the perfect vehicle for this distinctive sound with guitar-giant Bill Frisell and luminary Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) both guesting.

Siskind is widely known for her songwriting on the hit TV show Nashville (“A Life That’s Good”, “Sanctuary”, among 19 more) and has been covered by artists like Alison Krauss, Wynonna, Randy Travis, Bon Iver, and more. An NPR favorite and regular, Huffington Post has this to say: “Siskind has been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Brandi Carlile, but in my humble opinion, she’s incomparable.”


Adam James (Artist/Songwriter)

Adam James was raised on a farm in central Illinois. As a child of ’90s country radio, he always dreamed of making music in Music City. Now, James currently writes for Universal Music Publishing Group and his songs have been recorded by Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown Band, just to name a few. He recently achieved his first No. 1 hit with Chesney’s “Knowing You,” which was also nominated for ACM Song Of The Year.

Lyric Contest Judge

Loretta Muñoz (ASCAP I Associate Vice President, Membership  + Special Projects)

An established leader in songwriter advocacy, ASCAP’s Loretta Muñoz combines artistic empathy, an uncanny gift to spot and nurture talent, and a deep working knowledge of the industry to achieve her goals. As part of ASCAP’s Membership Group and Special Projects, she recruits and maintains member relationships while championing creator’s rights. In this ever-evolving world, Muñoz is constantly developing and creating new platforms and opportunities for both up-and-coming and established artists alike.

Muñoz established and continues to produce ASCAP’S highly regarded Music Café at the Sundance Film Festival. An annual cornerstone event, one of Sundance’s most popular and respected draws. It is a showcase for emerging and established artists and where independent filmmakers can meet and interact with film composers and songwriters, often sparking memorable collaborations. Muñoz has produced similar concert programs at Sundance/London and the Tribeca Film Festival., among others.

Lyric Contest Judge

Judy Stakee (Publisher, Mentor)

With over four decades of music experience, Judy Stakee has earned an industry reputation as the champion of the songwriter. During her 20 years as Senior VP of Creative at Warner Chappell Music, Stakee signed, developed, and managed their star roster, including Grammy award-winner Sheryl Crow, Michelle Branch, Jewel, Gavin DeGraw, John Shanks, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, Julian Bunetta, Kevin Kadish, and Franne Golde.

Before joining Warner Chappell, Stakee worked with legendary record producer Clive Davis at Arista Music and acted as General Professional Manager at Screen Gems Music, where she signed and developed the songwriting careers of Rick Nowels and Grammy-nominated songwriter Scott Cutler. She also looked after Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil, whose catalogs were housed at Screen Gems. She has garnered hundreds of BMI and ASCAP awards for her writers and numerous Grammy, MTV, CMA, and AMA awards.

Lance Carpenter Lyric Contest Judge

Lance Carpenter (Artist/Songwriter)

After winning the 2010 American Songwriter Lyric Contest, Lance co-wrote the #1 song “Love Me Like You Mean It” with Kelsea Ballerini, got a publishing deal, started a music coaching company, and performed with huge artists like Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Justin Moore, Randy Rogers Band, and more.

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