A month ago 10 finalists were selected from hundreds of entries received for the 2018 Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest. Saturday, May 19th the finalists competed on the United Healthcare Singer Songwriter Stage inside the Eisemann Center during the 26th Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival in Richardson. The judges awarded Eric Bettencourt (Texas), Kristen Grainger (Oregon), and Brian Pounds (Texas) as the top three finalists and the audience voted that Kyle Donovan (Colorado) should receive the Michael Terry People’s Choice Award. All four musicians received $500 in cash prize and invited to share the stage again in a Songwriting Contest Swap on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
At nineteen years young, Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest finalist Emma Walsh may be only teetering on the precipice of formal adulthood, but her music is rich in maturity and sophistication. Having recently completed her first year at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University (Percussion Performance) we caught up with Emma to learn a little more about this blossoming musical ingenue.
Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival: What song inspired you to become a songwriter?
Walsh: In second grade, my parents got me two Norah Jones albums “Feels Like Home” and “Not Too Late” for Christmas. It was while listening to these two albums non-stop that I first realized that writing songs was a thing and that it was what I wanted to do. I’ve always loved creating new things, and through songwriting I can do that. I was always intrigued by how everyone kept coming up with new things to write about and sing about in songs, this fascination then became somewhat of a challenge for myself to write songs and then I ended up falling in love.
Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest finalist, Kelly Augustine, is no stranger to song slaying competitions. Recently selected as one of 32 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Finalists for the Kerrville Folk Festival, this folk-American crooner is quickly making a name for herself within the songwriting community. The luminous lyricist graciously took pause for an interview, before traveling to Richardson, allowing us to ask the musician a short list of questions.
Describing his music style as “guitar-driven folk-pop with teeth,” it’s no mystery why we’d want to sink in deeper to this songwriter’s curious psyche. We sat down with Wes Collins, one of the top ten finalists in the 2018 Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest, in an effort to find out more about his mush-mouthed noises and how he finds the lyrics and tunes within his music.
Award-winning songwriter Eric Bettencourt is making the journey from Austin to compete as a finalist in the Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest at the Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival in Richardson. Over the years Bettencourt has released four albums, two EP’s, and collected a steady stream of national recognition and prestigious songwriting awards.
Bettencourt rested his guitar long enough to vibe through our set list of questions as we attempted to seek answers about the unique sound that labels his songwriting career.
It only takes a few moments to be completely enchanted and inspired by soulful folk-rock singer Christine Hand who was selected as a finalist in the Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest. The Americana songwriter is a native of Fort Worth, Texas and recently released her first album, The Book of the World, now available on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.
Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival spent a bit of time chatting with Christine to find out a little more about the momentum and spurring that led to becoming a finalist in this competition.
Denver-based singer and songwriter Kyle Donovan is no stranger to competition. Who is this guy, anyway? His website says he’s “a singer-songwriter based on the Front Range of Colorado. He’s also the singer and guitarist in Miles Wide, an acoustic rock band also based out of Denver, Colorado. But that’s not why he’s on our radar at the moment. He’s gained our attention because as a songwriter and acoustic folk music performer, he’s been selected as one of ten finalists in the 2018 Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest. Previously, he’s won recognition at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriter Contest and has been featured in American Songwriter Magazine.
Donovan stays pretty busy with his music, playing in several different projects in the Denver area, including Summerland Sun, The Constellation Collective, and Clandestine Amigo, as well as the aforementioned band, Miles Wide. Suffice it to say, he’s so busy these days that his hands aren’t idle long enough for him to get into any trouble.
His selection as a finalist for the Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest presented the opportunity to sit down and ask Donovan some questions about his entry into the competition, what draws him towards folk music and how he came into being a musician, as well as any formal training it took for him to get to where he is with his music today. We also inquired as to his personal musical influences and how those influences helped him to evolve his particular style of folk music, and his approach to writing what he believes is a good song.
Mia Rose Lynne has made a name for herself as an up and coming award-winning singer and songwriter. She’s originally from Novato, an eclectic upper-middleclass town in Northern California. And now, living in “Music City, USA” — Nashville, Tennessee, she’s joined the ranks of “young, progressive songwriters working outside the pop country mainstream,” according to the bio page on her website.
Lynne spent a lot of time working on both the theatrical stage as well as the music stage, honing her craft through songwriting and live performances, as well as garnering accolades for her efforts along the way, including taking home the First Place prize at the 2017 Kerrville Folk Festival, Second Place at the 2017 Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriter Showcase Contest, and the 2014 American Songwriting Awards, and more.
This year, Lynne has been advanced as a finalist in the Wildflower! Arts and Music Festival’s Al Johnson Performing Songwriter Contest, and it’s because of this that we interviewed her to get a better feel for what she’s all about: how she came to enter the competition, what her background in music is, and what inspired her to become a performer and songwriter. Lynne is fun, full of energy, and it seems she’s got the right idea about how to celebrate if she wins the contest this year.
Brian Pounds is a performer and songwriter with a lot to say about music, especially how the business side of it has become fundamentally inequitable in the way the creators – songwriters in particular – have been largely cut out of the financial loop through online sales and streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify, and other web-based music streaming platforms that are taking huge bites out of the potential revenue stream for songwriters and performers alike.
Methodist Richardson Medical Center is the WILD title sponsor of the Methodist Richardson Amphitheater Stage featuring Kool & The Gang, Gin Blossoms, Lifehouse, Goo Goo Dolls, Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, The Vinyl Stripes, Local Yoakam, Reckless Kelly, Infinite Journey and more!
They are so WILD that they are also giving away VIP passes to the 26th Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival! The winner may select to attend one of three days, May 18, 19, or 20, 2018 and the prize is valued at $125. This rock star prize package includes admission for two (2), a parking pass, and access to the VIP hospitality area that provides complimentary food and beverages. Click here to sign-up for a chance to win free passes.
Wildflower! Arts & Music Festival is a family-friendly award-winning event that includes a full line-up of bands on six (6) stages: Methodist Richardson Amphitheater Stage, Plaza Stage, Bud Light Stage, CityLine Stage, United Healthcare Singer Songwriter Stage, and Hill Hall in the Eisemann Center. General admission is $30 online or $40 at the gate and a three-day weekend pass is $65 online only. #WAMFest2018 www.wildflowerfestival.com