MerleFest 2010 Announces Finalists for Chris Austin Songwriting Contest


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Lisa Torres of Antioch, Tennessee, was chosen in the Country genre for her song “Alive.”

MerleFest 2010 has announced the finalists of the 18th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Held from April 29th – May 2nd at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, MerleFest hosts the competition among the finalists. Veteran singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale, this year’s volunteer chairperson, will preside over the contest festivities. The writers of the twelve songs will compete for the number one spot in each respective genre on Friday at 2:00PM on the Austin Stage. Many of the previous winners of the prestigious contest—who include Gillian Welch, Adrienne Young, David Via, Johnny Williams, Martha Scanlan, Michael Reno Harrell and Tift Merritt—have gone on to distinguished careers in songwriting and performing. The finalists for this year’s contest are:

“New Love” by Josh Pickett; Cana, VA
“Whisper Sweet Goodbyes” by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
“Carolina Dust” by Brink Brinkman; Pickerington, OH

“On the Winning Side” by David Tew; Turkey, NC
“Amen” by Jo Ellen Doering; Los Angeles, CA
“I Had A Little Talk With Jesus” by Richard Henry; Houston, TX

“You Opened My Eyes” by Mark Wayne Glasmire; Arlington, TX
“It Ain’t Over” by Julianne Ankley; Fort Gratiot, MI
“Alive” by Lisa Torres; Antioch, TN

“Rush” by Liz Longley; Downingtown, PA
“Get It Right” by Shay Lovette; Purlear, NC
“Opening” by Chris Ayer; McLean, VA

Judging for the Chris Austin contest is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. This year’s entries were judged by a stellar panel of music industry veterans from diverse backgrounds, including songwriters, publishers, A&R directors and booking agents. This year’s on-site judges will include Wyatt Durrette, Laurelyn Dossett, and Rory Feek. For the first time in the contest’s history, all of the finalists will participate in a group mentoring session with Jim Lauderdale.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest submission process, open from mid 2009 through late February 2010, accepts entries through a number of third parties, including American Songwriter’s own music platform, Three of this year’s finalists submitted their works through Jo Ellen Doering, Lisa Torres and Shay Lovette.

The first place winner in each genre receives a performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest and a check for $300. Additional prizes from the contest sponsors include a Big Baby Taylor guitar, two boxes of D’Addario Strings and one-year subscriptions to Acoustic Guitar and American Songwriter. Each genre winner will receive an additional media promotion through American Songwriter via a special “Sessions” interview and recording segment of the winning song, held on-site during the festival. The segments will run on during the two weeks following MerleFest. In addition, American Songwriter will have an exhibition booth in the MerleFest shops area.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest go to the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship has provided over $30,000 to 69 students since its creation. To generate revenue for the college and as a memorial to Eddy Merle Watson, MerleFest’s founding in 1988 has brought in funds and people for a celebration of “traditional plus” music. Ticket prices range from $225 to $250 for four-day reserved seating, $130 to $150 for four-day general admission, and $35 to $55 for single day admission. Appearances by Doc Watson, the Avett Brothers, Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band, Elvis Costello and the Sugar Canes, Jim Lauderdale, Steve Martin and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage are in store. For more information for this year’s complete line-up of over 100 acts on 15 stages, please visit

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