MerleFest Announces finalists for Chris Austin Songwriting Competition

MerleFest has announced the finalists for its annual Chris Austin Songwriting Competition. This year’s finalists each fall into one of four categories:

Videos by American Songwriter


Wyatt Espalin (Hiawassee, GA): “Light Coming Through”

Anya Hinkle (Asheville, NC): “Ballad Of Zona Abston”

James Woolsey (Petersburg, IN) and David Foster (Petersburg, IN): “Sugar Ridge Road”


Hannah Kaminer (Asheville, NC): “Don’t Open Your Heart”

Andrew Millsaps (Ararat, NC): “Ain’t No Genie (In A Bottle Of Jack)”

Shannon Wurst (Fayetteville, AR): “Better Than Bourbon”


Wright Gatewood (Chicago, IL): “First”

Alexa Rose (Asheville, NC): “Medicine For Living”

Bryan Elijah Smith (Dayton, VA): “In Through The Dark”


Ashleigh Caudill (Nashville, TN) and Jon Weisberger (Cottontown, TN): “Walkin’ Into Gloryland”

Kevin T. Hale (Brentwood, TN): “We All Die To Live Again”

Russ Parrish (Burnsville, MN) and Topher King (Savage, MN): “Washed By The Water”

This year, the event will be judged by Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, better known as The Milk Carton Kids, Cruz Contreras of The Black Lillies, and Texas-troubadour Radney Foster. Jim Lauderdale will host the competition and Mark Bumgarner will return as emcee for the finalist contest taking place at MerleFest’s Austin Stage on Friday, April 26th at 2:00 p.m.

All three finalists in each category will have the chance to perform their songs for the judges on MerleFest’s Austin Stage before category winners are ultimately decided on Friday.

Brad Armstrong Dredges “Fishing Pole” Up From The Vault