MerleFest 2008 - Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

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Have your songs heard by a panel of professional songwriters and other music industry professionals from the Nashville Music Community as well as earn the chance to perform at MerleFest, the Americana music celebration, by entering the 16th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. MerleFest now involves more than 80,000 participants including some 100 artists and bands that perform on one or more of the festival's thirteen stages. All 2008 songwriting competition finalists will receive lodging for 4 nights at MerleFest, with first place winners receiving a performance at the Cabin Stage at MerleFest. All finalists will receive cash and other prizes for their winning entries (see prizes below). The Chair of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is Jim Lauderdale.

Entrants must submit songs in one of four categories – country, bluegrass, gospel, and general. We received 1,088 entries for 2007. The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest invites three finalists in each category – based on judging by panels of Nashville music industry professionals, to come to MerleFest for the finals on April 25, 2008.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is open to those whose primary source of income is not derived from songwriting or publishing. First place winners during the past five years may not re-enter in the specific category in which they won. Co-writers are subject to the same eligibility requirements as the entrant.


Lodging for 4 Nights at MerleFest

All Access MerleFest credentials for three

One box of D’Addario Strings

One-year subscription to Acoustic Guitar magazine


A performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest

A check for $300

An additional box of D’Addario Strings


A check for $250

A slot in the Songwriter's Coffeehouse at MerleFest


A check for $50

A slot in the Songwriter's Coffeehouse at MerleFest

A then unknown Gillian Welch was one of the winners of the initial Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 1993. Recent winners have included Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via, and Johnny Williams. Sarah Lee Guthrie, Jason Harrod, Dave Wilson, and Holly Lowman judged the finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, which attracted a record 1172 entries, 18 more than 2005.

First round judging from submitted recordings produced twelve finalists who competed with the following winners:

  • General Category: “Am I Still” by John & Michelle Law & Regie Hamm;
  • Bluegrass Category: “Enough of You” by Jeanette Williams;
  • Country Category: “The Roadkill Bill” by Brant Miller, Dave Woodward & Don King;
  • Gospel Category: “Blessed by the Day” by Korby Lenker.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest go to support the mission of Wilkes Community College.