By Zach Collier
Tonight, Muse Music will be hosting their annual Songwriter Showdown. Started by Colin Hatch and Justin Hyatt, the primary owners of Muse back in 2011, the tradition has been carried on by current managers Darcie Roy and Debby Phillips. “Debby and I thought it was a really cool idea, so we continued it when we took over. As far as I know, it’s a one-of-a-kind event,” Roy told Reach Provo.
The Songwriter Showdown consists of two phases: a preliminary competition and a final competition. Preliminaries are tonight and tomorrow night. In the preliminary rounds, chosen songwriters will each play one song each. After the performances are over, a panel of judges break and decide which songwriter will be eliminated that round. Songs are scored on lyrics, melody, chords, and song structure. The process is repeated until only four songwriters remain – two from each night.
On Saturday night, the top four songwriters will take the stage in a two hour concert. Their playing order is determined by a random draw. Winners are chosen based on scores from the panel of judges as well as an audience vote. Whoever wins will receive prizes, including recording time with H2 Audio, a music marketing consultation with DAP Music Marketing & Merchandising, some gifts from local businesses, and cash. Sounds pretty intense.
Despite the high stakes scenario and a grueling elimination process, Muse hopes to foster a spirit of collaboration and friendship, not division. “Some people aren’t keen on the whole competition thing, but just like our annual Battle of the Bands in the fall, Muse’s events are about so much more than that,” says Roy. “A ‘winner’ gets to wear a crown for a while, but after six months or so, no one really cares – it looks cool in a press kit, but really, what else do you get from it? But the relationships encouraged and formed among peers, as well as the helpful feedback our judges provide, that’s invaluable. Prizes are great, but skills are critical to a songwriter’s success.”
The panel of judges participating in the event is a talented group. Stephen Cope (Officer Jenny/Studio Studio Dada), Cody Taylor (Native/Tongue), Chris Bennion (Coral Bones, Bone Shack), Tess Bybee (Batty Blue), Elizabeth Holden (Violettas), Catherine Leavy (New Shack, Bone Shack), and Matt Skaggs (The Cold Year) make up this year’s panel. The most recent Songwriter Showdown winner, My Fair Fiend’s Callie Crofts, will also be joining the panel. Roy is excited about the group’s diversity. They represent various genres and songwriting styles, and should be able to make fair, balanced decisions.
“The talent this year is great,” Roy said when asked if the talent this year was difficult to select. “Debby and I sat down and listened to all the submissions and wrote each name down under ‘yes,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘no’ columns. After the first run-through, we had only one ‘no’ and one ‘maybe.’ That says something, I think. I’ve actually booked shows for a number of these folks before, and I’ll likely be booking most of the others in the future.”
The beauty of the Songwriter Showdown is that audience members are able to experience a larger variety of local talent in an approachable way for people with different tastes in music. The added drama of the elimination process also makes for a good show. The list of performers is varied, representing the musical diversity that is developing as Provo’s music scene continues to thrive.
Tonight’s contestants are Mel Soul, Doug Lane, Paul Travis, Michael Barrow, Rob Tanner, and Kylie Kap. Tomorrow night features Andrew Wiscombe, Chris Hurley, Taylor Woodward, Tate Sexton, James Junius, and Katie Mahree. “Everyone seems to have a really positive experience,” says Roy. “I love that people stick around after the show to mingle and compliment each other. That’s how a music scene should be.
Come to the Muse Songwriter Showdown! Admission is $5 on both Thursday and Friday night, and $7 on Saturday for the finals. Doors open at 8PM every night. Follow Muse Music on Facebook to keep up with shows and future events. While you’re waiting for this show to start, check out “Sad Song” by Michael Barrow below.