Nashville - GRAMMY U: Think You Can Write? Songwriter Contest
On Tuesday, April 11th, 90 people filled The Country in Nashville, Tennessee to hear original songs sung by their writers in the Nashville Chapter’s third annual GRAMMY U: Think You Can Write songwriter contest. Several months prior to this event, all GRAMMY U Nashville members were invited to submit one original song and a lyric sheet to the Nashville Chapter for review. The Education Committee, comprised of Nashville board members, then selected the Top 8 finalists for this contest using a scoring sheet and rating the songs on Originality, Lyric Quality, Melodic/Rhythmic Quality, and Overall Song. These 8 finalists were next invited to perform these songs for a panel of seasoned songwriters.
Our judges consisted of board member Jennifer Hanson, who has penned hits such as “Leave the Pieces,” by The Wreckers, “Let Me Down Easy,” by Billy Currington, and the title soundtrack for the Gwenyth Paltrow movie, “Country Strong.” Our second judge was Seth Mosley, head of Full Circle Music, who has worked with everyone from TobyMac, Ricky Scaggs, Newsboys, Switchfoot, and has earned numerous Dove, SESAC, Billboard awards, as well as a GRAMMY for his production work on for KING & COUNTRY. Our final judge of the evening was hit songwriter Victoria Shaw, who has had cuts from Garth Brooks, Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and has won several ASCAP, SESAC, and CMA awards. The judges used the same scoring as the Education Committee did to finalize our Top 8 and also gave constructive criticism to the songwriters!
Our wonderful host of the evening was our Nashville Chapter President, GRAMMY, Emmy, and Dove-award winning producer, Shannon Sanders, who engaged with every songwriter who was performing that night, asking them questions about their life and their craft.
The first round of four writers consisted of Tasji Bachman, Julianna Zachariou, Blake Rackley, and Bryce Drew. Tasji Bachman, a freshman at Belmont University, is a Country/Pop artist from Illinois, singing her original, “Everything I Was.” The judges mentioned how hard it is to perform first at a round and they all celebrated her unique melodies and catchy chorus, The second writer, Julianna Zachariou, a Nashville native, described her style as Jazz/Folk/Alternative Rock. She performed her song, “Things I’ll Never Know” which was described by the judges as very poetic. The judges commented on her strong artistic identity. Blake Rackley, the third performer, sang his soulful Pop creation “Never Enough,” which was his take on events that happened with a girl back home in Texas. Judge Seth Mosley loved the “hooky chorus and lifted melody,” while host Shannon Sanders joked that “we never get to hear the guy’s side of the story anymore.” The final performer of the first round, Bryce Drew, a Pop/Soul writer from Miami, had what Judge Jennifer Hanson described as “amazing dynamics” with her jazzy original, “That Dress.”
The second round of this contest was just as talented as the first! Gracie Schram delivered her Indie Folk/Pop song “Anywhere You Go,” which she described as her favorite song because her parents dance to it! Schram has opened for artists such as Ingrid Michaelson and David Archuleta, and the judges loved her confidence and joyful personality. Songwriter Ashleigh Ellis, who describes her style as if “Christina Aguilera grew up in Nashville” sang her Country Pop song, “Scared of the Dark,” which helped judges critique her strong lyric concept and overall Pop-star performance. Texas-born Brad Blackburn sang “Spoke Too Soon,” which Judge Victoria Shaw commented, “You’re done. Put a fork in it! You’re so ready!” Blackburn was the 2015 ASCAP Songwriting Scholarship recipient, and won the 2016 ASCAP Foundation Leon Brettler Award and describes his genre as Pop, Rock, and Soul. The last performer of the night was Canadian-born, Country-Vintage songstress Madison Kozak. Judge Seth Mosley commended her vocals and “very memorable bridge,” while Judge Victoria Shaw stated that she “will do great in this town.”
The winner was chosen by calculating the average of all the judge’s scores. This year’s winner was given a slot at the Bluebird Cafe open mic night, a one-on-one session with producer and songwriter Mark Bright, as well as the opening spot for the 19th Annual Nashville GRAMMY Block Party on May 2.
Brad Blackburn, writer of “Spoke Too Soon,” was given the winning title at the third annual GRAMMY U: Think You Can Write songwriter contest this year. All contestants were celebrated for their immense talent, diverse sounds and writing techniques, and overall artistic and personal confidence.