Chris Austin Songwriting Contest | MerleFest
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Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

Music. Moments. Memories.

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2019 Chris Austin Songwriting Winners



1st Place- Anya Hinkle (Asheville, N.C.) – “Ballad of Zona Abston”

2nd Place- James E. Woolsey (Petersburg, Ind.), David Foster (Petersburg, Ind.) – “Sugar Ridge Road”

3rd Place- Wyatt Espalin (Hiawassee, Ga.) – “Light Coming Through”


1st Place- Russ Parrish (Burnsville, Minn.), Topher King (Savage, Minn.) – “Washed By The Water”

2nd Place- Ashleigh Caudill (Nashville, Tenn.), Jon Weisberger (Cottontown, Tenn.) – “Walkin’ Into Gloryland”

3rd Place- Kevin T. Hale- (Brentwood, Tenn.) – “We All Die to Live Again”


1st Place- Alexa Rose (Asheville, N.C.) – “Medicine for Living”

2nd Place- Bryan Elijah Smith (Dayton, Va.) – “In Through the Dark”

3rd Place- Wright Gatewood (Chicago, Ill.) – “First”



1st Place- Andrew Millsaps (Ararat, N.C.) – “Ain’t No Genie (In a Bottle of Jack)

2nd Place- Hannah Kaminer  (Asheville, N.C.) – “Don’t Open Your Heart”

3rd Place- Shannon Wurst (Fayetteville, Ark.) – “Better Than Bourbon”

MerleFest offers songwriters the opportunity to have their original songs heard by a panel of professional songwriters and others from the Nashville music industry by participating in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the WCC Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the Chris Austin Scholarship has helped 93 students and awarded over $39,100. The 2019 judges were Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, better known as The Milk Carton Kids, Cruz Contreras of The Black Lillies, and Texas-troubadour Radney Foster. Mr. Americana Jim Lauderdale was host and Mark Bumgarner was emcee for the 2019 competition. We are excited to announce Jim Lauderdale and Mark Bumgarner will again host for 2020.

1st Place 2020 Winners Will Receive

  • Winning song performance on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest on Friday night
  • Perform a 12-13-minute set on the Cabin Stage on Saturday
  • $600 cash

2nd Place 2020 Winners Will Receive

  • $300 cash

More prizes to come…

3rd Place 2020 Winners Will Receive

  • $100 cash

More prizes to come…