MerleFest Announces 2018 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Finalists

Today, the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest announces the 2018 finalists that will perform at MerleFest. The final round of the competition will take place Friday, April 27; first place winners will receive $600 cash and a Friday night performance slot on the Cabin Stage. Now in its 26th year, CASC is an extraordinary opportunity for songwriters to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. MerleFest, presented by Window World, spans from April 26-29 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, at Wilkes Community College.

The following twelve talented writers were selected from over 1021 entries and will compete Friday, April 27 on the Austin Stage:

Bluegrass:

Frank D. Ray (Hillsboro, Missouri) – “False Hearted Love”

James Woolsey (Petersburg, Indiana) – “Lights of Home”

Vickie Austin (Fall Branch, Tennessee) – “Can’t Hold On To Much”

Gospel/Inspirational:

Andy Owens (Boone, North Carolina) – “The Truth of Love”

Beth lee (Black Mountain, North Carolina) – “Sacred Song”

Bob Hight (Greensboro, North Carolina) – “Heaven Will Be Mine”

Country:

Amanda Fields, Tom Buller (Nashville, Tennessee) – “Whiskey Ain’t Got Nothing on You”

Cliff Westfall (Highland Park, New Jersey) – “More and More”

Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, Utah), Daniel Young, Kiki Jane Sieger (North Salt Lake, Utah) – “These Walls (May Never Come Down)”

General:

Bryan Smith (Dayton, Virginia) – “Nothing Left”

Zander Melidis (Clawson, Michigan) – “Born Again”

Cliff Ritchey (Markleville, Indiana) – “Honey Baby”

This year’s competition will be judged by 2018 festival headliner and Grammy-award winning artist Rodney Crowell; acclaimed vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange; and previous CASC winner Johnny Williams of the Jeanette Williams Band. All finalists will also get to take part in a songwriting mentoring session with Lauderdale, Marlin, and Williams.

The first round of the CASC takes place in Nashville, Tennessee, where applicants were narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general, and gospel/inspirational. The first-round judges included Grammy-nominated bassist and Watson family collaborator T Michael Coleman; noted artist Ken Tizzard, bassist of The Watchmen; former CASC winner and critically-acclaimed songwriter Aaron Burdett; and 2018 MerleFest performer CJ Lewandowski of The Po’ Ramblin Boys.

Net proceeds from the contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the scholarship has awarded over $41,000 to deserving students. To learn more details about the contest, visit www.MerleFest.org/CASC.

The complete 2018 lineup may be viewed at www.MerleFest.org/lineup and is now available on the MerleFest mobile app.

Tickets for the festival may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. MerleFest offers a tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take advantage of the early bird discount. Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from February 19 to April 25. Tickets will be sold using Tier 3 pricing at the gate during the festival.

About Chris Austin

Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time, he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including “Blues Stay Away from Me,” “I Know There’s a Heart in There Somewhere” and “Out of Step,” Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in “Same Ol’ Love,” recorded by Skaggs in 1991. On March 16, 1991, Austin’s life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, as well as her tour manager, crashed near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warner Songs and former general manager of The Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, previous “Pickin’ for Merle” video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin’s memory.

About MerleFest

MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including old-time, classic country, bluegrass, folk and gospel and blues, and expanded to include Americana, classic rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. MerleFest has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Foundation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

About Window World

Window World, headquartered in North Wilkesboro, N.C., is America’s largest replacement window and exterior remodeling company, with more than 200 locally owned offices nationwide. Founded in 1995, the company sells and installs windows, siding, doors and other exterior products, with a total of over 14 million windows sold to date. Window World is an ENERGY STAR partner, and its window products have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal for 10 consecutive years. Additionally, through its charitable foundation Window World Cares, the Window World family provides funding for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which honored the foundation with its Organizational Support Award in 2017. Since its inception in 2008, Window World Cares has raised over $7 million for St. Jude. Window World Inc. also supports the Veterans Airlift Command, a non-profit organization that facilitates free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families. For more information, visit www.WindowWorld.com or call 1-800 NEXT WINDOW. For home improvement and energy efficiency tips, décor ideas and more, follow Window World on Facebook and Twitter.

 For more information, visit www.MerleFest.org.