There are a number of ways for songwriters to get their songs into the hands of artists these days. From demo tapes to writers’ nights at local cafes, many folks have tried it all. However, something that seems to have increased in popularity in the last few years is the songwriting contest, often held in conjunction with a music festival of some sort. One upcoming opportunity for songwriters will take place as part of the Richard Leigh Songwriters Festival, held May 26-27 at Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, Virginia.
The Richard Leigh Songwriting Festival Songwriting Contest is open to emerging and independent songwriters who are not signed to a major label or publishing company. Writers can enter in a variety of categories, including bluegrass, country, Gospel/inspirational, pop/rock, folk, and lyrics only. Youth under the age of eighteen are also welcome to enter in a separate category. Contestants are welcome to enter more than one song; however, there is a limit of three songs per person.
The festival and contest are held in honor of Richard Leigh, a songwriter who graduated from Virginia Highlands Community College in 1973. Leigh has been a popular Nashville songwriter since the mid-1970s, writing hits for artists like Reba McEntire (The Greatest Man I Never Knew), Steve Wariner (Life’s Highway), and the Dixie Chicks (Cold Day in July). His big break came when Crystal Gayle recorded his song I’ll Get Over You, taking it to number one on the Billboard country chart and earning him a Song of the Year nomination from the CMA. Gayle recorded another of his songs in 1978 – her signature number, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue, for which Leigh received the CMA Song of the Year and the Grammy for Best Country Song.
Contest entries will be accepted until 5:00 p.m on Friday, April 28. Entries may be submitted via mail or email or dropped off in person at Virginia Highlands Community College. Finalists in each category will be invited to perform on the first night of the festival, and category winners and an overall winner will be announced on the evening of May 27. First, second, and third place will be awarded in each category. The overall winner will receive $300 and an opportunity to perform at the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville.
For more information on the contest and festival, visit them online or call (276) 739-2507. Entry forms and full contest rules can be accessed on the festival website.