MerleFest Announces 2018 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Finalists

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WILKESBORO, N.C. (April 3, 2018) – Today, the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest announces the 2018 finalists that will perform at MerleFest. The final round of the competition will take place Friday, April 27; first place winners will receive $600 cash and a Friday night performance slot on the Cabin Stage. Now in its 26th year, CASC is an extraordinary opportunity for songwriters to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of Nashville music industry professionals, under the direction of volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. MerleFest, presented by Window World, spans from April 26-29 in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, at Wilkes Community College.

The following twelve talented writers were selected from over 1021 entries and will compete Friday, April 27 on the Austin Stage:


Frank D. Ray (Hillsboro, Missouri) – “False Hearted Love”

James Woolsey (Petersburg, Indiana) – “Lights of Home”

Vickie Austin (Fall Branch, Tennessee) – “Can’t Hold On To Much”


Andy Owens (Boone, North Carolina) – “The Truth of Love”

Beth Lee (Black Mountain, North Carolina) – “Sacred Song”

Bob Hight (Greensboro, North Carolina) – “Heaven Will Be Mine”


Amanda Fields, Tom Buller (Nashville, Tennessee) – “Whiskey Ain’t Got Nothing on You”

Cliff Westfall (Highland Park, New Jersey) – “More and More”

Marie Bradshaw (Centerville, Utah), Daniel Young, Kiki Jane Sieger (North Salt Lake, Utah) – “These Walls (May Never Come Down)”


Bryan Smith (Dayton, Virginia) – “Nothing Left”

Zander Melidis (Clawson, Michigan) – “Born Again”

Cliff Ritchey (Markleville, Indiana) – “Honey Baby”

This year’s competition will be judged by 2018 festival headliner and Grammy-award winning artist Rodney Crowell; acclaimed vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange; and previous CASC winner Johnny Williams of the Jeanette Williams Band. All finalists will also get to take part in a songwriting mentoring session with Lauderdale, Marlin, and Williams.

The first round of the CASC takes place in Nashville, Tennessee, where applicants were narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general, and gospel/inspirational. The first-round judges included Grammy-nominated bassist and Watson family collaborator T Michael Coleman; noted artist Ken Tizzard, bassist of The Watchmen; former CASC winner and critically-acclaimed songwriter Aaron Burdett; and 2018 MerleFest performer CJ Lewandowski of The Po’ Ramblin Boys.

Net proceeds from the contest support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the scholarship has awarded over $41,000 to deserving students. To learn more details about the contest, visit

The complete 2018 lineup may be viewed at and is now available on the MerleFest mobile app.

Tickets for the festival may be purchased at or by calling 1-800-343-7857. MerleFest offers a tiered pricing structure and encourages fans to take advantage of the early bird discount. Early Bird Tier 2 tickets from February 19 to April 25. Tickets will be sold using Tier 3 pricing at the gate during the festival.

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