MerleFest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest to Accept Entries for 2020


MerleFest will begin accepting entries for 2020’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (CASC), starting October 1.  The notable contest has a reputation for launching careers and bringing new talent to the forefront. CASC categories include bluegrass, gospel, country and general, and is considered to be one of the highest acclaimed contests of its kind. Winners will be chosen in each category for 1st through 3rd places with cash prizes being given to the winners. The festival is scheduled to take place April 23-26, 2020 at the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC. 

Volunteer chairperson, Grammy winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale, will oversee a panel of Nashville music professionals for the 28th annual event. Online entries will be accepted at, or by mail at MerleFest/CASC, PO Box 120, Wilkesboro, NC 28697. Early entries in October and November will receive a discounted price of $25 per entry. Regular rates of $30 will go into effect in December. Entries must have lyrics that are written in English, and no instrumentals qualify. 

Finalists will compete for the final round of competition on Friday, April 24th. First place winners will receive $600 cash and will be invited to play a performance on MerleFest’s Main Stage Friday night as well as a 12-13 minute set on Saturday. 

“We are extremely proud of the career successes achieved by many CASC alumni. Among these are Gillian Welch (1993), David Via (1997, 2001), Johnny Williams (1998, 1999), Tift Merritt (2000), Becky Buller (2001), Michael Reno Harrell (2003), Adrienne Young (2003), Martha Scanlan (2003), Sam Quinn (2006) and Jeanette Williams (2007),” said Stacee Whitley, coordinator of MerleFest’s CASC. “More recent alumni include Lara Lynn (2011) and Gary Alan Ferguson (2014). Other recent discoveries from the contest are Melody Walker of Front Country and Joseph Terrell of Mipso. I encourage all songwriters to put the final touches on your masterpiece and submit it to the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest!”

  CASC 2019 Winners


1st Place: Anya Hinkle (Asheville, NC) – “Ballad of Zona Abston”
2nd Place: James E. Woolsey (Petersburg, IN), David Foster (Petersburg, IN) – “Sugar Ridge Road”
3rd Place: Wyatt Espalin (Hiawassee, GA) – “Light Coming Through”


1st Place: Andrew Millsaps (Ararat, NC) – “Ain’t No Genie (In a Bottle of Jack)”
2nd Place: Hannah Kaminer (Asheville, NC) – “Don’t Open Your Heart”
3rd Place: Shannon Wurst (Fayetteville, AR) – “Better Than Bourbon”


1st Place: Alexa Rose (Asheville, NC) – “Medicine for Living”
2nd Place: Bryan Elijah Smith (Dayton, VA) – “In Through the Dark”
3rd Place: Wright Gatewood (Chicago, IL) – “First”


1st Place: Russ Parrish (Burnsville, Minn.), Topher King (Savage, Minn.) – “Washed By The Water”
2nd Place: Ashleigh Caudill (Nashville, Tenn.), Jon Weisberger (Cottontown, Tenn.) – “Walkin’ Into Gloryland”
3rd Place: Kevin T.Hale- (Brentwood, Tenn.) – “We All Die to Live Again”

Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith - Founder and Editor
Stephanie has been involved in the music scene for over 10 years as a photographer and writer. She has written for websites such as Bandzoogle, BandMix, as is the current Director for South Carolina Music Guide. You can usually find her at local hot spots in Charleston. However, she likes to explore and has found a favorite second home in Costa Rica.


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