John Russell Wins Guitar Center Annual Singer-Songwriter Search in Hollywood

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John Russell of Savannah, Georgia was named the grand winner by Grammy-award winning producer RedOne at Guitar Center’s Sixth Annual Singer-Songwriter Search at the Troubadour in Hollywood on March 24, 2017.

Hosted by YouTube star Clara C., and featuring performances by SSW5 Winner Kate Brady and Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, it was a night which celebrated songwriters and songs here in this historic venue where so many legendary songwriters, including James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne and Elton John, all launched their careers.

Russell, who played three originals (“Dance For Our Lives,” “On Giving Up” and “Hurricane”), was stunned by his victory.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” he said. “After my wife losing her job and friends and family encouraging me to do it, I took a leap of faith. It felt like the right time. I entered the competition because I wanted to share my story with people. Music was always a hobby of mine, but they pushed to me to pursue it.  Now, the only way to go is up – to make music with RedOne that brings hope to people. Not everyone gets this chance, and I’m eternally grateful to Guitar Center for this opportunity.”

Five finalists performed their originals songs, chosen from over 10,000 aspiring songwriters across the country who entered this competition. Three women and two men made the finals, each of whom performed for a packed and enthused crowd: Edwina Maben of Centennial, Colorado; James Jannerty of Sherman Oaks, California; Kaily Abel of Claremore, Oklahoma; Rachel Wong of Tualatin, Oregon, and John Russell from Savannah, Georgia.

The annual winner is awarded a multitude of career-launching prizes, including $25,000, a 4-song EP produced by RedOne, a one-on-one mentorship with Cody Simpson, performances on both the Jimmy Kimmel Live TV show and at the 2018 NAMM Show in Anaheim, new gear from top instrument retailers, and global distribution through AWAL.

“Guitar Center Singer-Songwriter has become a yearly highlight for our organization, as we provide a platform for talented unsigned artists to showcase their craft,” said Jake Cheung, Guitar Center’s Manager of Music Marketing and Artist Relations. “We are so proud of all of the contestants, each of them deserves to be heard and celebrated. Our five finalists are all winners in their own right, but tonight John Russell had his special moment as the latest winner of our Singer-Songwriter program. All of us at Guitar Center are thrilled to be able to support undiscovered artists while partnering with producers and artists as respected and renowned as RedOne and Cody Simpson. We congratulate this year’s finalists and grand prize winner, and we wish them all good luck with their careers.” 

Guitar Center, which has helped musicians make music for more than 50 years now, has 270 stores throughout America, and is the world’s largest retailer of guitars, amplifiers, drums, keyboards, recording, live sound, DJ, and lighting equipment.

In addition, Guitar Center’s sister brands include Music & Arts, which operates more than 140 stores specializing in band & orchestral instruments for sale and rental, serving teachers, band directors, college professors and students, and Musician’s Friend, a leading direct marketer of musical instruments in the United States.

For more information about Guitar Center, please visit

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