Merlefest 2016: Jim Lauderdale Talks About the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

Some of Americana’s greatest contemporary songwriters, including Gillian Welch and Tift Merritt, began their careers by winning the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest held each year at Merlefest.

Acoustic Guitar is a sponsor of the contest, and I sat down with the contest’s chairperson, Grammy-winning songwriter Jim Lauderdale, on Friday behind the Doc Watson Stage at Merlefest for a chat about the importance of such competitions.

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You’ll also get a peek at one of the winners: Sarah Sample of Sheridan, Wyoming, whose “A Heart That Falls Apart” took first place in the general category.

Other winners:

Bluegrass
1st Place – Aaron Bibelhauser (Louisville, Ky.) – “Blue Collar Dreams”
2nd Place – Courtney Rorrer (Madison, N.C.) and Asa Gravley (Beckley, West Va.) – “Midnight Tears”
3rd Place – Cindy Giejda (Farmingdale, N.J.) – “Jail Break”

Gospel/Inspirational
1st Place – Marcy Each (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) – “On the Cross Built for Me”
2nd Place – Austin Stanley (Nashville, Tenn.) – “The Face of God”
3rd Place – Corey Smith and Allen Smith (Fayetteville, N.C.) – “The Road”

Country
1st Place – Buddy Guido (Mohawk, N.Y.), Paul Kelly (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Willie Scheollkopf (Buffalo, N.Y.) – “This Livin’ May Be Killing Me”
2nd Place – Sarah Morris (Shoreview, Minn.) – “I Go Back”
3rd Place – Meris Gantt of Handlebar Betty (Blowing Rock, N.C) – “House of Cards”

General
1st Place – Sarah Sample (Sheridan, Wyo.) – “A Heart That Falls Apart”
1st Place – Adam Bonomo (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – “Redshifted”
2nd Place – David Morris (Gaithersburg, Md.) and Chris Dockins (Burke, Va.) – “Weeds”

Mark Kemp
Mark Kemp

Former AG editor Mark Kemp is the author of Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South (Simon & Schuster, 2004; University of Georgia Press, 2006).

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