MerleFest 2015 Chris Austin finalists

MerleFestMerleFest has announced the finalists in their 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, an invitational competition being held for the 23rd time this year during the festival on April 24.

Three finalists are selected in four categories from among the hundreds of entries recevied, to vie for cash, prizes, and acclaim. The songwriters are invited to perform their songs live on stage before a panel of judges including, Jesse Bellamy, Peter Rowan and Bruce Robison.

First prize winners in each category will receive a cash award of $500, and a second $500 to professionally record their winning entry. Pinecastle Records will offer each a one-song contract, and will create a CD with all four first prize songs, which will be distributed widely to radio.

Chosen for 2015 were writers from 10 different states, and one from Australia. Each will receive free admission to the festival as well as lodging for the weekend. They will also be hosted at a special songwriting workshop with the judges.

The 2015 finalists are:


  • Donna Hughes – Blackbeard
  • Buddy Guido and Paul Kelly – Deer in the Headlights Look
  • David Morris, Mitch Matthews, and Dawn Kenney – Something About A Train


  • Robert Holthauser and Rick Pardue – Brother Paul
  • Benjamin Lauckhaupt – Oh, Lazarus
  • Dave Herring – Though I Walk


  • Hunter and Suzy Owens – It Would Be Easier
  • Savannah Smith – Mississippi
  • Carri Smithey, Josh Coe, Ryan Burgess, and Keith Ingalls – No More


  • Kristen Grainger – Doris Dean
  • Laura Kaufman – Through the Grave
  • Carter Sampson – Wild Bird

Congratulations to all the finalists, and best of luck in this year’s competition!

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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.