On a perfectly clear and somewhat warm Friday October day in Nashville, the Songster Bus Finale was held at Belcourt Taps.
Anticipation was in the air as the finalists mingled in the artistically decorated restaurant waiting for their turn to perform. They were focused and listened attentively to the judges as they introduced themselves in short biography stories to the audience. First to perform was a team from the Atlanta bus, which was mentored by the Atlanta based singer/model/actor and producer Rod Michael. Michael also played guitar for them in their groovy song titled "Toxic Love" and the team performed it with harmonies and cool arrangement to toe tapping and hand clapping from several members of the audience. Next in line were the country Songster Bus writers who were mentored by Bernie Nelson. After energetically interacting with the audience while introducing themselves, they sang and played their creation "Heroes Bridge". A very creative use of the theme words "Hero" and "Connection". After each performance, the music professionals and judges Roger Ryan, Darryl Worley, Stone Stafford, Karen Staley and Dave Brooks provided feedback and helpful advice to the songwriters/artists. "Don't think about a song as a writer, but as a listener", was one of Roger Ryan's recommendations. Helpful and insightful advice about songwriting and songwriting tips were given to every team , and also advice on singing and performing. But there was a team that definitely did not need any advice on performance and that was Kaleena Harper's mentorees. As one judge put it: "You are already stars". The song they had written was called "Hero", and they had not only memorized it but sang and performed with lots of confidence and showmanship. On a little more laid back note team Dave Gibson took the stage. The description laid back is appropriate, since their song was soft, tender and very emotional in the setting of a husband and wife saying goodbye. The title was "You're My Hero".
After deliberation the judges came back jokingly trying to attribute the responsibility of the decision on one sole member of the panel. They said the decision had been difficult and that it had been close, but the winner was announced and team Kaleena now owns the title of being the Songster Bus Songwriting Contest Winners of 2015.
Shelley Ridge for Country Music News International Magazine