Introducing the 2024 American Songwriter Lyric Contest Judges

We are excited to announce the 2024 American Songwriter Lyric Contest judges! This year’s panel includes some of the best award-winning songwriters and industry champions of songwriting around. Read about our judges panel below!

Cassadee Pope

Cassadee Pope (Artist/Songwriter)

Over the last 15 years, Cassadee Pope has been a lot of things to a lot of people: leader of seminal pop-punk band Hey Monday. Season 3 winner of The Voice. Platinum-selling (“Wasting All These Tears”), GRAMMY-nominated (“Think of You,” a duet with Chris Young) country singer/songwriter. Ally and activist pushing for social change and a brighter future in a backward world. But through it all – the Warped Tour parking lots, tours with Fall Out Boy and Yellowcard, CMT Awards and chart-topping singles – she’s always remained fearlessly, unapologetically herself. Now, Pope returns with a tremendous sense of freedom guiding her and a forthcoming album set to once again amplify her confessional writing and redefine her place as a pop-punk mainstay, the future’s open wide in ways she previously thought impossible – leaving no doubt she’s exactly where she’s meant to be.


Levi Hummon (Artist/Songwriter)

With over 162 million global streams, genre-bending artist and songwriter Levi Hummon is continuing to gain traction via social platforms, impressive playlisting and a knack for writing hit songs. No stranger to success, Levi grew up under the bright light of fame by way of his father, Marcus Hummon, a Grammy-Award winning, Hall of Fame songwriter who penned hits like “Bless The Broken Road” and “Cowboy Take Me Away,” and mother Becca Stevens, a priest and founder of the Nashville based nonprofit, Thistle Farms, dedicated to helping women. Following in his father’s footsteps, the recent Jonas Group Entertainment signee has written songs for Steven Tyler, Tim McGraw and many more including his recent global no. 1 with over 5.7 million streams on Spotify alone, “Somebody,” recorded by K-Pop superstar D.O. from the group EXO. The cuts and his own catalog, including the multi-million streamed “Good Riddance,” “Stupid” and “Pay For It” featuring Walker Hayes, have earned Levi praise from top media landing on Entertainment Weekly’s “5 Artists Breaking Now” and “One Amazon’s Breakthrough Country and Pandora’s Trend Setters: Country. With over 1.3 million total social followers, Levi recently added to his viral success by competing in TikTok’s global music contest, Gimme The Mic, in which he placed third in the USA and fifth in the world.


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Chris Pierce (Artist/Songwriter)

In 2023, Chris Pierce was handpicked to be the special guest opener for Neil Young’s solo tour.  He co/wrote “We Can Always Come Back to This” which aired on 3 episodes of the series ’This is Us’, then went on to #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart.  Pierce has done tours and dates supporting Neil Young, B.B. King, Seal, Al Green, Aaron Neville & others.

Mae Muller

Mae Muller (Artist/Songwriter)

Mae Muller is an English singer-songwriter who first received mainstream recognition after releasing the single “Better Days” in 2021, a collaboration with Swedish music collective Neiked and American rapper Polo G. The song was a Top 10 charting hit in the US which she performed on Jimmy Fallon.

Hannah Ellis_Wine Country Press 1_Christo Collins

Hannah Ellis (Artist/Songwriter)

Curb Records recording artist and country music singer/songwriter Hannah Ellis has written songs recorded by artists, and been featured as a vocalist on songs, including: Russell Dickerson, Carly Pearce, FOR KING + COUNTRY, Emily Weisband, Cassadee Pope, Filmore, and Sidewalk Prophets. Hannah has also toured with Carly Pearce, Gavin DeGraw, Dwight Yoakam, Devin Dawson, and is one of the “CMT LISTEN UP” artists to watch for 2023.


Jensen McRae (Artist/Songwriter)

Jensen McRae is a singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. Her debut album Are You Happy Now? was released in March 2022 to critical acclaim. She has toured nationally and internationally in support of artists such as Amos Lee, MUNA, and Corinne Bailey Rae. Her work is anchored by profound, evocative explorations of gender, race, mental illness, heartbreak, and trauma. McRae describes herself as “one house down from the girl next door.

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Jim Lauderdale (Artist/Songwriter)

Jim Lauderdale is an American country, bluegrass, and Americana singer-songwriter who has released 31 studio albums, including collaborations with artists such as Dr. Ralph Stanley, Buddy Miller, and Donna the Buffalo. A “songwriter’s songwriter,” Jim’s songs have been recorded by dozens of artists, notably George Strait, Gary Allan, Mark Chesnutt, Elvis Costello, Vince Gill, Blake Shelton, The Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, and Patty Loveless. 


Marc Broussard (Artist/Songwriter)

Marc Broussard is an artist with a unique gift of channeling the spirits of classic R&B, rock and soul into contemporary terms. After releasing a successful independent EP at age 20, Marc signed a record deal with Island Records. Marc’s song “Home” was successful at radio and catapulted him onto the national touring stage. Marc released multiple albums with major labels over the next 10 years but has recently returned to his independent roots having released multiple successful original and covers records.

Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna (Artist/Songwriter)

Declan McKenna is an English singer-songwriter who initially gained recognition for winning the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition. McKenna self-released the song “Brazil” which reached number 16 on the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart. He has since signed with Columbia Records releasing three albums What Do You Think About the Car?, Zeros, and What Happened to the Beach?, in February 2024.

Emily Weisband

Emily Weisband (Artist/Songwriter)

Grammy award winning singer-songwriter Emily Weisband has proven to be competitive across all genres penning pop songs like “Consequences” for Camila Cabello, “Boy With Luv” for BTS ft. Halsey, Country songs like “Sinning With You” for Sam Hunt, “Cool Anymore” for Jordan Davis ft. Julia Michaels, and Christian songs like “Thy Will” for Hillary Scott and the Scott Family; which ended up winning Emily her first Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. She has also had songs recorded and released by many other artists including Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Gabby Barrett, Chris Young, Nate Smith, Dan + Shay, Lady A., Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Thomas Rhett, Danielle Bradbery, Hunter Hayes, Lauren Alaina, Ashley Cooke, Tenille Arts, Natalie Grant, Danny Gokey, Tauren Wells, Anne Wilson, Madison Beer, Camila Cabello, Pink, Kehlani, Noah Cyrus and more. Emily’s current country singles include “Looking For You” by Chris Young, “Glory Days” by Gabby Barrett, “Jealous Of Myself” by Tenille Arts, “Can’t Break Up Now” by Old Dominion ft. Megan Moroney, & “Love You Back” by Lady A.

rick nowels

Rick Nowels (Songwriter/Producer)

Rick Nowels is an American songwriter, producer, multi instrumentalist and 2020 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee. Nowels has co written and produced over 90 hit singles with various artists including, “Summertime Sadness,” and  “Young & Beautiful,” (Lana Del Rey) “I Follow Rivers,” (Lykke Li), “Bubblegum Bitch,” (Marina & The Diamonds) “Heaven is a Place On Earth” (Belinda Carlisle) “Loud Places” (Jamie xx, Romy) “Lost In Your Light” (Dua Lipa, Miguel) and “Green Light” (John Legend, Andre 3000). Other notable artists Rick has written for include Adele, Madonna, Dido, Celine Dion, and Stevie Nicks.


Paul McDonald (Artist/Songwriter)

Paul McDonald’s voice is immediately recognizable and impossible to ignore. Often compared to legends like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, the poetic story-driven narratives and deeply catchy hooks in his music are delivered by a raspy yet refined voice reminiscent of another era yet that demands to be heard right now. He pulls off the rare feat of being a poet, visual artist, songwriter, adamant performer, and a powerful vocalist. Born in Auburn, Alabama, he was raised on southern rock, roots, country, and gospel music intertwined with the late 60’s & 70’s Laurel Canyon scene. His music is a blend of influences creating his own unique style of folk, Americana, and alternative rock. His hope is to spread peace, love, and unity through his music. Connection & community through song.

Jay Knowles

Jay Knowles (Songwriter)

Jay Knowles was born in Texas, raised in Tennessee and educated in Connecticut. Over the last 20 years, his songs have been recorded by classic singers like George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Harry Connick, Jr. as well as today’s hottest Country stars like Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, and Lainey Wilson. Also Raffi. Jay’s professional honors include Number One songs on multiple charts, a BMI Million Air Award, and a Grammy nomination for Country Song of the Year.

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.

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