"Never Give Up!"
CASC Allows Songwriters to Shine
Two-time CASC finalist Tonya Lowman reminds emerging songwriters, "Never give up!" This talented North Carolina songwriter is living this message as she blazes her path into the music industry.
MerleFest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest offers songwriters the opportunity to have their original songs heard by a panel of professional songwriters and others from the Nashville music industry. The contest offers four music categories: bluegrass, country, general and gospel/inspirational. First round judges in Nashville narrow the field to three finalists from each category. Those finalists are invited to perform at MerleFest in the final competition. Lowman was a 2009 finalist in the CASC with her country tune "Once Upon a Time." She was a finalist again in 2011 with her bluegrass song "Heart Wrenching Lovesick Memories." Lowman talked with CASC coordinator Laurie Brintle and others during a live Facebook chat on July 6, 2012.
"This live chat was a great opportunity for aspiring songwriters and seasoned pros to ask Tonya about her experience in the songwriting business," says Brintle.
Lowman still lives in her hometown of Lenoir, N.C., where she works as a nurse while developing her songwriting career. She began writing tunes at the early age of 8, but she did not consider it a career ambition until the mid-1990s when she formed a garage band with her brother. Her first cut was titled "When I Get Home" and was recorded by gospel singer Larry Stephenson. In 2009, four-time IBMA female vocalist of the year and one-time entertainer of the year Rhonda Vincent recorded Lowman's "Heart Wrenching Lovesick Memories," which landed No. 15 on the bluegrass charts.
Lowman says, "Dailey and Vincent and Doyle Lawson have placed holds on my songs, which means the songs could possibly be recorded in the future."
When asked what advice she would give to songwriters entering the CASC, Lowman said, "I entered the contest many times and did not make the finals. It is a great experience and confidence builder. The most important thing is to not get discouraged; the music business is tough. You have to take rejection and turn the page. Remember your craft is the most important thing. Write from the heart and strive to be better. I am still learning every day."
Currently, Lowman is getting ready to go back into the studio to record some new songs. "I am excited. I love the studio and feel good about the new material." Her upcoming album, which will be all original tunes, will be recorded in Nashville. A release date has not been set.
The CASC has opened doors for many aspiring songwriters, including Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, Martha Scanlan, David Via, Sam Quinn and Johnny Williams.
"The music industry recognizes the prestige of this contest," says Jim Lauderdale, honorary chairperson of the CASC. "I have worked in the songwriting business for a long time. Every year I am amazed by the level of talent that emerges during the final competition at MerleFest. These artists have earned their place on that stage, and they will no doubt discover success and satisfaction in the songwriting business because they are doing what they love most."
The CASC will open for electronic submissions on August 1, 2012. To enter go to www.sonicbids.com. This year the final competition will be held at MerleFest on April 26, 2013.
In addition to helping aspiring songwriters get recognition in the music industry, the CASC benefits students at Wilkes Community College. Net proceeds from the contest go to support the WCC Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception, the Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship has helped 74 students and awarded over $33,000.