2022 Don Gibson Singer Songwriter Symposium results

1st prize winner Lindy Bryson with Stan Lowery at the Don Gibson Theatre – photo by Gary Hatley

On April 2, the 12th Annual Don Gibson Singer Songwriter Symposium was held in the late country singer’s hometown of Shelby, NC, inside a theater named after the artist. Gibson was a gifted songwriter and singer having penned such memorable hits as Oh, Lonesome Me and I Can’t Stop Loving You, who passed away in 2003.

Stan Lowery, Executive Director of the Don Gibson Theatre, stated, “We had 36 songs submitted by 34 participants. Everybody plays their songs in the preliminary round in the afternoon. The field is narrowed to the top 12. They performed their songs again for final judging that night in the theatre.”

Darin and Brooke Aldridge served as judges in the final round.

Winners for this year’s contest were:

  1. Lindy Bryson
  2. Josh Hudson
  3. Pistol Hill and Nick Washburn (tie)

Bryson, an 18-year-old senior at nearby Crest High School, took the top prize for her song, Muddy Waters.

The young songstress explained her motivation for the song. “When I was 12, I was baptized in the Broad River. Jesus was baptized in a river, so was my family. The song is about being baptized that day.”

The teenager has only been composing tunes for the past two or three years. 

“I was very surprised. I didn’t expect to win.”

Lowery agreed. “It was a big surprise. She was amazing.”

This was Bryson’s first songwriting competition.

“I love to minister to people. I just sing to minister and hope my songs will touch somebody.”

Bryson is headed to Gardner-Webb University in the fall to major in ministry and music.

Second place was Josh Hudson of Sandy Ridge, NC, who had taken the first place slot the two previous years. This year’s winning song was I’m Still Here, addressing the struggles with Alzheimer’s disease. The song was written in memory of Hudson’s paternal grandmother, Lizzie Mae Hudson.

“The song is super personal. I grew up on the same piece of property (beside my grandparents). I was the youngest grandchild of their youngest son. It allowed me a lot of time to be influenced by my grandparents.”

Hudson shared some details. “My grandmother was a seamstress. She made my overalls and shirts. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 87. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s since about 2005. There were times when she did not know my dad or me, but we cherished the good days. She never forgot how to sing the Gospel songs.”

“It is meant to be a healing song, showing pride and respect. The words from the chorus say it all, ‘Even when you don’t see me, I’m near.’ There’s no way to separate her from me.”

Third place was a tie between 27-year-old Pistol Hill of Shelby and 39-year-old Nick Washburn of Boiling Springs. 

Hill’s composition entitled Damn It, was written in Illinois. 

“The snow was falling and I was sleeping in my car after playing a gig. My wife sent me a video of my three-month-old daughter rolling over for the first time. Being a Christian man, I tapered it down. I wrote it in about 20 minutes.”

The young music man has been traveling and performing since age 19, playing 30 states a year. He won the songwriting contest when he was 18 in 2012, and decided to make music his career.

“Music is my livelihood,” Hill stated.

Tying Hill’s was Washburn’s song, Jesus, Family, and Rodeo. A licensed contractor who owns his own construction business, he plays guitar, and loves singing, music, and church.

“I help with Rodeo Polkville. A church has a rodeo to bring in money for the community. It is mission-based. This is its 22nd year. When it first was held, there were a few hundred people. In 2021, 5000 people a night showed up. They had to turn people away because it was too congested.”

Working with the rodeo gave Washburn the inspiration for the tune. “I had an idea for a cowboy song. If Chris LeDoux, Dean Dillion, and Alan Jackson ever wrote a country-western song with a Gospel message, this would be it!”

Washburn will perform at the rodeo for the first time on June 17 and 18. Using a full band, he wants to convey a message.

“It’s Jesus first, then family, and then rodeo.”

Judges, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, shared, “The creative process is a beautiful thing. It allows a person to go anywhere or experience anything regardless of whether they’ve lived something first hand or not. Brooke and I were honored to be judges of the Don Gibson Song Writing Contest in Shelby, NC a few weeks ago. We got to hear songs of faith, life, love, and nature. We got to feel a bit of what inspired the writer to create a story in some moment of their life. And we got to see that they were brave enough to share these sometimes very personal experiences with all who were there to listen. It was inspiring. Each contestant that stepped into the spotlight brought a uniqueness that captivated the room, every time. We’re so proud of all the contestants, but we want to offer special congratulations to 17 year old Lindy Bryson for taking home the big win.”

First prize came with a check for $1,000, with $400 for second, and $200 for third.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.