New York | Nashville | Los Angeles

MerleFest 2018 Announces Winners of
Chris Austin Songwriting Contest
WILKESBORO, N.C. (April 27, 2018) – Today, MerleFest festival goers flocked to The Austin Stage for the 26th Annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. MerleFest, presented by Window World, congratulates the following 2018 winners, chosen from 1021 entries :

1st Place – Vickie Austin (Fall Branch, Tenn.) – “Can’t Hold on to Much”
2nd Place –   James Woolsey (Petersburg, Ind.) – “Lights of Home”
3rd Place – Frank D. Ray (Hillsboro, Mo.) – “False Hearted Love”

1st Place –   Beth Lee (Black Mountain, N.C.) – “Sacred Song”
2nd Place – Bob Hight (Greensboro, N.C.) – “Heaven Will Be Mine”
3rd Place – Andy Owens (Boone, N.C.) – “The Truth of Love”

1st Place – Amanda Fields (Nashville, Tenn.), Tom Buller (Nashville, Tenn.) – “Whiskey Ain’t Got Nothing on You”
2nd Place – Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, Utah.), Daniel Young (North Salt Lake, Utah.), Kiki Jane Sieger (North Salt Lake, Utah.) – “These Walls (May Never Come Down)”
3rd Place – Cliff Westfall (Highland Park, N.J.) – “More and More”

1st Place – Cliff Ritchey (Markleville, Ind.) – “Honey Baby”
2nd Place – Bryan Elijah Smith (Dayton, Va,)– “Nothing Left”
3rd Place – Zander Michigan (Clawson, Mich.) – “Born Again”

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest is a unique opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under
the direction of the volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter
Jim Lauderdale .

The on-site judges for this year’s competition included 2018 festival headliner and Grammy-award winning artist Rodney Crowell​ , previous CASC winner Johnny Williams​ of the Jeanette Williams Band, and acclaimed vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin​ of Mandolin Orange, who said, “Sitting as a judge for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest has taught me I still have a lot to learn about songwriting.”

All finalists were given the chance to take part in a songwriting mentoring session with Lauderdale, Marlin, and Williams. The first place winners in each category received $600 cash from MerleFest, a Friday night performance slot on the Cabin Stage, and an opportunity to perform a set on Saturday on the Cabin Stage.

Judging is based on a song’s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The contest is open to those whose primary source of income (50 percent or more) is not derived from songwriting or publishing. 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​; 2018 MerleFest performer CJ Lewandowski​ of The Po’ Ramblin Boys; Nathan Nicholson, Head of Creative at Thirty Tigers Music Publishing; Ashlee Jean Trott Lurgio, Senior Producer of Music City Roots; and Whitney Holmes, buyer at Ernest Tubb Record Shop.

Net proceeds from the contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship​. Since its inception, the scholarship has awarded over to 87 deserving students. Previous winners of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest include Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via and Johnny Williams.

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 stores nationwide . Founded in 1995, the company sells and installs windows, siding, doors and other exterior products, with a total of over 15 million windows sold to date. Window World is an ENERGY STAR® partner, and its window products have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal for eleven consecutive years. Through its charitable foundation Window World Cares® , the Window World Family provides funding for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, where it was given the Organizational Support Award in 2017. Since its inception in 2008, the foundation has raised over $8 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. To begin your exterior remodeling project today, visit or call 1-800 NEXTWINDOW. For home improvement and energy efficiency tips , décor ideas and more, follow Window World on Facebook and Twitter .
For more information about the contest , visit .

For more information about the festival , visit .

To access high-resolution courtesy photos of performing artists, visit:

MerleFest Media Contacts :
The Press House
Maria Ivey

Sarah Bennett

Facebook: MerleFest
Twitter: @MerleFest
Instagram: @MerleFest
Hashtag: #MerleFest