Guest Blog: John Lennon Songwriting Contest Winner Jonas Friddle

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Jonas Friddle (standing) and The Majority

Old Town School of Folk instructor Jonas Friddle won Song of the Year in the 2012 John Lennon Songwriting Contest with “Belle De Louisville.” Below, he share the song’s origins.

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I wrote “Belle De Louisville” shortly after moving to Chicago. My wife and I were feeling a little out of place and homesick. It seems like that’s the story for a lot of folks in Chicago. The song kind of mixes that story up with the image of the Belle of Louisville, a hundred year old steamboat that still runs on the Ohio River. Driving the roads from Carolina, through my wife’s home in Kentucky, and on to Chicago would always take us over the bridge where you can see the boat. Then you knew you were leaving the South.

The music was composed on my banjo. I had just purchased a beautiful banjo built by Chuck Lee, so I was spending a lot of hours getting to know it. The way banjos roll phrases into each other so easily made it the perfect instrument for a song about a steam boat, like the big wheel rolling around.

It was a special honor to have this song chosen by the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. It’s a song that means a lot to me personally, and it’s good to see that it can also resonate for other people. I’ve been writing and performing music for a while, and I think most musicians know what it’s like to wonder if what they are putting out into the world actually connects with folks. The JLSC award is a huge encouragement to me. The contest is run by a kind and genuine group of people and offers songwriters a chance to be heard. I’m very grateful for that chance.

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