Singer, songwriter, producer, and former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi wanted to give something back to young artists that was most critical to their development and knew it had to start at the root: mentorship. Through her nonprofit, Inspired Nation, and in partnership with Cover Nation, DioGuardi launched the Sing It Forward talent competition, which pairs eight independent artists with an established mentor. The virtual competition, which kicked off on May 3, will close with a winner during a livestream on May 13.
“We were thinking about what creative people are not getting right now, and they’re not getting mentorship, because they can’t go out and play shows or meet other creatives,” says DioGuardi. “That’s what I loved so much about being on American Idol, the idea that you could help young, creative, talented, aspiring artists, with a platform to tell their stories. That’s what I wanted to do with my nonprofit, open them them up with feedback, mentorship, workshops on songwriting, and continuing relationships, including access to me.”
Working around her connection with Warner Music, DioGuardi, along with fellow judges Bonnie Hayes, head of songwriting at the Berklee College of Music, and Pete Ganbarg, president of A&R for Atlantic Records, paired the eight semi-finalist with mentors Lzzy Hale of Halestrom, Ingrid Andress, Tayla Parx, Pink Sweat$, Grandson, Corbyn Besson and Jack Avery from Why Don’t We, Charlotte Lawrence, and Alex Gaskarth and Jack Barakat of All Time Low.
“I wanted to get some people who these younger artists look up to, and get them some mentorship in a time when it’s been so difficult,” says DioGuardi. “To have that feedback it’s so necessary for us to grow—-and they’ve also been in their shoes.”
Through Inspired Nation, the competition will also help raise funds to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the formation of the organization’s Youth Ambassador Academy, a collaborative, tech-based mental health advocacy effort.
“I feel like so much of what artists pull upon in their music is their emotions, what they’re going through in their lives, and that’s why it touches the listener,” says DioGuardi. “I think it’s important to really look at that aspect of their careers. It’s great to have these well-known artists giving back to make sure that aspiring artists, and youth in general, have what they need when it comes to mental wellness. I think we’ve almost normalized the conversation in the music industry on mental health now.”
The grand prize winner will receive a summer scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, an A&R advisory session with judge Ganbarg, $1,000 cash gift card, their very own livestream session broadcast on Cover Nation’s Takeover Tuesday content stream, and one year of free music distribution on Level, which globally distributes the music of independent artists across major platforms like Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, and TikTok.
To enter, Sing It Forward contestants were asked to post their own performance of an original song or cover to YouTube, TikTok, or Instagram and share why the song is important to them. Of the thousands of entries, eight finalists were chosen with a video of their mentoring session revealed throughout the competition. The Sing It Forward winner will be revealed during a livestream on May 13, hosted by YouTube music creator, Kurt Hugo Schneider.
Working on building more mobile studios for artists through Inspired Nation, DioGuardi is dedicated to giving more mentorship and resources to the next generation of artists.
“Mentorship is invaluable,” says DioGuardi. “Those few words can encourage you to really look at things that you’re doing that you could change very easily and start down another path to make your music that much more relatable, or better.”