Josh Hudson wins third Don Gibson Songwriting Contest award

On April 1, North Carolina singer/songwriter Josh Hudson won first place for the third time in four years in the Don Gibson Singer Songwriter Symposium in Shelby, NC. The Sandy Ridge resident took the top prize in 2020 and 2021, second place in 2022, then returned to first place this year for his original composition, Old Too Quick, Wise Too Late.

2023 offered some stiff competition.

“This year, in my opinion, was probably one of the better years we’ve ever had,” stressed Hudson. “It was so good, in fact, that when it came down to pick the top twelve, there were two so closely tied they let them through. There were 14 finalists instead of 12 this year.”

Darin and Brooke Aldridge served as judges, and told us that it wasn’t a simple task.

“It’s always hard judging a competition where there’s so much incredible talent. We were honored to be asked to judge again this year, and thrilled for Josh Hudson to take home the win. His song was well written and had deep meaning that made you want to hear it over and over again.”

Hudson shared, “After the competition, there was a little impromptu jam with Darin and me on stage. We did Oh, Lonesome Me and I Can’t Stop Loving You. They wanted everyone to sing along on a couple of Don Gibson songs. “

“It was pretty cool to play with Darin. I grew up one county over from him. We played a lot of shows before they got their record deal. We knew each other, but hadn’t had any close contact in the last fifteen years. It was nice to jam a little bit again.”

The Don Gibson Singer Songwriter Symposium encourages the development of singer/songwriters and honors Gibson, a Shelby native who was a member of the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The contestants were judged on composition, vocal quality, showmanship, creativity, and audience response. First prize was $1,000.

The 42-year-old Hudson is a prolific composer. He has written around 350 songs.

Hudson shared his inspiration for this year’s award-winning tune.

“Christina and I have had a couple of major deaths in our family in the last few months. We thought our most precious commodity as human beings is time. You don’t know how much of it you have. You can’t buy any of it. Once it is gone, you can’t get it back. Youth is wasted on the young. If you listen to our elders, you can get some real wisdom out of them. Those conversations between us lead us to you really get ‘old too quick and wise too late.’ It’s a pretty common, universal theme, but it’s one that bears repeating again. 

Honestly, there was one sentence that came to me and the rest of the song was written around it: ‘We’re all only ashes that haven’t blown away.’ In the last of the second verse I say, ‘Be sure to count your blessings because we’re all only ashes that haven’t blown away.’ I’m a pretty big guy in real life, but when you put it into perspective, I just boil down to a bunch of ashes and dirt like everybody else. It’s a humbling, respectful thought to have.

I wrote the song in January because of some of the life events around us. I haven’t even had a chance to record it. I’ve just been playing it out at my live shows, feeling out what people thought. People’s response is what led me to submit it into the songwriter competition this year.

I wanted to test it, but honestly, it was pretty much a light bulb came on over my head immediately. This is one of the more personal, but also more commercial songs that I have ever written. It speaks to all ages, all groups, and all creeds. It was a no-brainer for me to enter. I was really blessed to write it.”

Hudson explained how his prize song came to fruition.

“To describe the songwriting process is difficult. There is no formula, and everybody does it a little differently. Mine have always literally seemed to come out of the blue. I credit it to Divine Intervention. I think the Lord gave me this and wants it put down on paper. It’s something someone needs to hear for the common good. I’m not inflating myself. I’m actually decreasing myself when I say that because I’m just happy to be the guy holding the pen. Anyone could have these thoughts, but I have them so it can’t be a coincidence. 

The melody comes right along with the lyrics. When I’m done writing the lyrics, I pick up my guitar and the structure is already there. Overall, the song is already 80-90% finished by the time I get to that point. It’s hard to explain, but so glad that I get to experience it.”

His award-winning tune came quickly.

“It might have taken 15 minutes to write it down. My wife and I were watching TV and I grabbed my pad and pen.”

Christina Hudson offered to mute the sound of the program, but Josh indicated that it wasn’t a distraction.

“It’s coming fast,” he told her. “I wrote the first two verses and the chorus. I took a break long enough to get a soda. I came back, wrote the third verse and the tag line and it was done. I said, ‘Mute that now, let me play you this. I think we’ve really stumbled up on something good here.’ It’s one of those things where the feeling, the words, and the melody hit me all at one time. It’s not something that I’ve earned. It’s just part of my makeup for whatever reason. I’m truly blessed to have it.”

Hudson wants his songs to be heard. His tunes are available if artists are interested in recording any of his original material. The father of four doesn’t want to hit the road at this stage in his life, but would love others to perform his thought-provoking music.

“I just want to continue to push my own rock up the hill,” he concluded.

Interested in new material? Contact the songwriter by email.

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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.