Songwriters, perk up your ears, get your pens ready and let those creative juices flow. It’s time for the semester’s Songwriter Showdown.
From October 18 through 20, local musicians are coming together to compete in a songwriting competition at Provo’s own Muse Music Cafe.
The competition is held over three nights; the first two nights are elimination rounds. Every artist gets the chance to play one round, and the judges will deliberate and eliminate until there are two finalists for each night. On the third night, the four finalists compete head to head for the chance to win the grand prize. According to the website, the winner receives, “a four-song EP recording/mixing package, a guitar set-up courtesy of Great Salt Lake Guitars and a two-hour business, marketing or merchandising consultation courtesy of DAP Music Marketing.” The winner is determined by judges and an audience vote.
Brady Parks, of Brady Parks and the IndiAnns, is a previous winner and judge of the showdown.
“When I competed, I didn’t know what to expect,” Parks said. “At that time I was just a solo artist and had never played for a big group before. Being on the stage was a confidence booster; knowing I was playing songs people liked.”
Parks recounted a story that happened after the competition that has stuck with him ever since. Stuart Maxfield, of Fictionist, was judging and came up after the show and offered Parks valuable advice.
“He told me to get lost in the music,” Parks said. “He could tell I was so nervous and that was causing a lot of my emotion to be left out. He said that it was okay to miss a note if the passion was there. If I had to cry on stage to let it out, then so be it. His advice is the best advice I’ve ever received, and I think about it every time I play. It really molded my performing style.”
When Parks went on to judge the following showdown, he put Maxfield’s advice to the test. He looked for songs that stood out, as well as and where the passion was obvious.
Last semester’s winner, Lexi Lyon, will be a guest judge at this event on Thursday night.
“I want to see musicians show off their skills,” Lyon said. “Obviously the melody is important, but I’m a lyrical person. Lyrics can be very moving or even just silly. I’m looking for some kind of perk and variety that separates them from everyone else.”
Lyon has been writing songs since the age of 11, and she definitely knows the meaning of the cliche, “practice makes perfect.”
“My first song was based off the first chords I learned, and it was awful,” Lyon said. “After years of doing it, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it.”
Lyon has learned through experience that improving her songwriting takes both practice and dedication. She receives inspiration from a myriad of sources. Her biggest inspiration for songs comes from personal conversations, but she doesn’t limit herself. She writes songs about love and frustrations and even zombies. She said inspiration can’t be pinpointed or limited — it can come from anywhere.
“You just have to know you’re going to write a lot of crappy songs,” Lyon said. “You’ll throw a lot away, but that’s how you get better. I just want to keep on writing and expanding my capabilities.”
Lyon is a 2D studio art major, and she is always trying to find a way to combine her talents in that department with her skills as a songwriter. For her, it’s all about perseverance and staying creative.
“I was very flattered when I was asked to be a judge,” Lyon said. “It’s a big compliment to my ability. It encourages to me to keep up my writing.”
Debby Phillips, co-owner of Muse, said the showdown is a great opportunity for budding songwriters to perform their compositions and get constructive feedback on their songwriting skills as well as performance experience.
“This is a competition that (former owners) Justin and Colin created that we feel is a great part of the community feeling of Muse,” Phillips said. “We hope to continue to hold it three times a year.”