NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Feb. 21, 2023 – The first of seven Tennessee Songwriters Week finalists wowed the crowd on stage at The Bijou Theatre last night, The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development announced today. Melanie LaFoy competed against 15 other songwriters to win the showcase with her original song “Rose and Gold.” Six other showcase events are scheduled this week, including at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis, Songbirds Foundation in Chattanooga, Ole Red in Gatlinburg, The Down Home in Johnson City, The Franklin Theatre in Franklin and The Palace Theatre in Gallatin.
Melanie Lafoy advanced from the qualifying round at Next Level Brewing in Knoxville. Lafoy produces unique and profound pieces that draw from her experience as a traveling folk artist, a background in classical piano, studies in poetry and the French Touch electronic scene in Nantes, France. It’s there she began writing songs for her current project, nightjar, in 2019. The Showcase, presented by Visit Knoxville and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, is promoted as an opportunity to “discover the musical story of Tennessee from the ones who are writing it.”
“It has been truly incredible to see this event grow the way it has since the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development first launched it in 2019,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “The talent that comes from the East Tennessee region is legendary. Last night’s event proves that’s still true today.”
Each of the seven finalists earn the opportunity to perform at The Bluebird Cafe during a private event in March with music industry professionals, a branded commemorative Taylor guitar, two-night stay in Nashville, $100 gift card for travel and one-year membership to Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). Songwriters performed at qualifying rounds in February at more than 50 venues, museums, attractions and cafes to advance to the showcase events.
Another popular songwriter and performer, Evie Andrus, hosted and performed at the event. Andrus serves as occasional host of the WDVX The Blue Plate Special and regular host of WDVX’s First Fridays show, Taps N Tunes, at the Visit Knoxville Visitors Center. The fiddler and vocalist also released her first album “Evie’s Great Adventure.” Judges included Mic Harrison, WDVX Host Red Hickey, visual artist, writer and radio show host Wayne Bledsoe, singer-songwriter Emi Sunshine and Erika Wollam Nichols, COO & General Manager of the Bluebird Cafe. Judges considered lyric originality, performance and connection with the audience. Additional past Knoxville showcase winners Travis Bigwood and the Lonesome Doves and Tyson Leamon also performed.
Music has always been a part of Knoxville, and the Bijou Theatre has been at the center of that legacy. The city played a large part in Ken’ Burns Country Music Documentary on PBS Country Music giants Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins and Kenny Chesney. These are only a few of the greats who were born in the region and got their starts in Knoxville, and all of those artists have performed on the Bijou’s legendary stage.
Many honed their skills in Knoxville just before moving on to major fame, including Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, The Louvin Brothers, Kitty Wells and The Everly Brothers. By combining perfect harmonies with the rock and roll genre, Don and Phil Everly made a global impact on popular music. It was in Knoxville that the brothers began performing as a duo, discovered rock ‘n’ roll - and met country music icon Chet Atkins. Many of the Everly Brothers’ hits were written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a songwriting team famous for “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” and of course, “Rocky Top” - UT’s beloved fight song.
Helmed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Tennessee Songwriters Week was established in 2019 to support music venues, celebrate songwriters with live performances in all genres of music, drive visitation and inspire travelers to experience the state’s music stories, history, attractions and venues. Since its inception, more than 3,500 songwriters have shared their original music across Tennessee stages during the annual celebration.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development partners with The Bluebird Cafe, NSAI, Taylor Guitars, music venues and local convention and visitors’ bureaus, chambers and partners across the state, all committed to make sure songwriters can share their original work onstage with other writers.
Follow the journey of these songwriters and join the fun by following @tnvacation on social media and #tnsongwritersweek.
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