2018 Chris Austin Songwriting winners announced at MerleFest

Friday afternoon at MerleFest, the finals were held for the 2018 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Finalists had been announced earlier this month, chosen from among the hundreds of submissions received during the eligibility period. Yesterday the writers performed their songs before a panel of judges that included Rodney Crowell, Andrew Marlin, and Johnny Williams.

And the 2018 winners are…


  1. Vickie Austin (Fall Branch, Tennessee) – Can’t Hold On To Much
  2. James Woolsey (Petersburg, Indiana) – Lights of Home
  3. Frank D. Ray (Hillsboro, Missouri) – False Hearted Love


  1. Beth Lee (Black Mountain, North Carolina) – Sacred Song
  2. Bob Hight (Greensboro, North Carolina) – Heaven Will Be Mine
  3. Andy Owens (Boone, North Carolina) – The Truth of Love


  1. Amanda Fields, Tom Buller (Nashville, Tennessee) – Whiskey Ain’t Got Nothing on You
  2. Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, Utah), Daniel Young, Kiki Jane Sieger (North Salt Lake, Utah) – These Walls (May Never Come Down)
  3. Cliff Westfall (Highland Park, New Jersey) – More and More


  1. Cliff Ritchey (Markleville, Indiana) – Honey Baby
  2. Bryan Smith (Dayton, Virginia) – Nothing Left
  3. Zander Melidis (Clawson, Michigan) – Born Again

First prize winners in each category received a $600 cash award, two boxes of D’Addario strings, and a chance to perform on stage on this afternoon. Second place winners earned $300 and one box of strings, and third $100 and the strings.

Congratulations to this year’s winners!

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John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.