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From NYC to AVL: NewSong music performance & songwriting competition features WNC roots

NewSong Music/Citizen Vinyl

On Saturday night lyrical and pop folk musician Reece Sullivan will take the stage with seven other musicians at in the 22nd annual NewSong Competition.

Although he now lives in Louisiana, Sullivan said he appreciates that the event takes place in Western North Carolina- a region where he has several ties.

“I love the mountains there,” he said. “I love Black Mountain, which is where I lived, and I'm excited to be back.”

For years, the event took place at the Lincoln Center in New York City, but Gar Ragland, the event’s co-founder, brought it to Asheville in 2019.

“After having lived here for a number of years and falling in love with this community and wanting to support it, I felt that it was time to relocate the new song music competition from New York City here to to Asheville,” Ragland said. “One of the things that I've always loved about Asheville, even before moving here, was how passionate members of this community are about the arts and music in particular. This town has such a supportive community of music fans.”

The eight aspiring songwriters from different genres will compete on the Asheville stage for a fully-funded EP, plus 500 vinyl records pressed at Citizen Vinyl.

Winning the competition can be a springboard in the industry and it has helped launch the careers of musicians like Ingrid Michaelson and Meghan Trainor.

Finalists were selected from advanced online submissions from across North America.

Jimmie Griffith, an artist also known as MaisCéu, will compete on Saturday.

MaisCéu is based in Western North Carolina but hails from the mountains of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He said his music is influenced by both American and Brazilian cultures.

“There is value in the experiences that I have living in a smaller place, being more local,” he said “And there's also that connection to Brazil that I'm able to bring to Western North Carolina… so it is exciting.”

MaisCéu won another local and high-profile music competition this year, the LEAF songwriter competition.

He said being the hometown contestant and hailing from a different country is both intimidating and exhilarating.

“ I am really surprised at how much talent is coming from the outside, and sometimes it can be overwhelming being considered sort of the local person competing against all these folks coming from other places,” he said.

The 22nd annual NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition takes place on Saturday, November 18 at Citizen Vinyl in Asheville.

Editor's note: BPR is a sponsor of the NewSong competition.

Jose Sandoval is the afternoon host and reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio.
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