Music Features

Classic City Rotary Presents Sixth Annual Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Awards

2021 winners WesdaRuler, Cassie Chantel and Louie Larceny

Aiming to amplify voices within the local music community, the Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Awards spotlights individuals who share honest, creative and distinct perspectives through song. 

Its name honors Vic Chesnutt, a prolific Athens musician who released 17 albums over the course of his career and continues to be an inspiration to many artists around the world. The annual competition, now in its sixth year, is presented by the Classic City Rotary, a civic and service organization that supports the local arts as well as a wide variety of other endeavors. Recognizing songwriters across musical genres, past winners have included Cassie Chantel and WesdaRuler ft. Louie Larceny (2021), Jim Willingham (2020), Lydian Brambila (2019), Linqua Franqa (2018) and Andrew Huang (2017). 

This year’s finalists are Bo Bedingfield, Gabriella Delliponti and Hunter Guess, Elijah Johnston, Michael Wegner and Trvy (Trevor Wiggins), each of whom were nominated based on a recorded work released in 2021. After reviewing a pool of nominations submitted by community members, these finalists were determined by an all-star panel of judges: producer John Keane, “Athens 411” radio host JoE Silva and musicians Dave Marr, Trina Meade and Amy Ray (Indigo Girls). Each finalist will receive $250, while the top winner earns $1500 as well as studio recording time from Amplify at Nuçi’s Space and a Team Clermont publicity and radio promotion package valued at $5,000.

The awards ceremony will be held at the 40 Watt Club on Thursday, Apr. 28 at 6:30 p.m., and can be live-streamed on Facebook Live, YouTube Live and The night kicks off with a performance by East Nashville musician Ben de la Cour, who participated as an instructor in the program’s recent songwriting seminar and workshop series, as well as local artist Sarah Zúñiga, a finalist in both 2017 and 2020 who plans to cover Vic Chesnutt’s “Flirted With You All My Life.” In addition to 2021 winner Cassie Chantel, all five of this year’s finalists will perform.

Below, the finalists share reflections on their songs. 

Bo Bedingfield, ‘Beautiful World’ 

“I wrote ‘Beautiful World’ in January 2021 in the state of high anxiety and existential angst that most of us were living through at that time. Like a lot of folks, I was spending a lot of time with my young kids, thinking about the world, and wondering what I should be doing. The Wydelles recorded it quarantine-style from our respective homes, mixed together and made magically whole by David Barbe at Chase Park.”

Gabriella Delliponti and Hunter Guess, ‘Monsters’ 

“‘Monsters’ was written when all of a sudden we had an insane amount of time to finally confront the thoughts that shape you. As empowering as it is to know you’re changing, it also is kind of scary to wonder if you are changing and growing in a way that is ultimately good. This song was written as a way to process the ‘demons’ people have that sometimes cloud your judgment and make you keep your walls up.”

Elijah Johnston, ‘Molly Haskell’ 

“This is a love song I wrote a few years ago sort of romanticizing the reckless abandon you have when you really like someone. I was staying up late every night talking on the phone to someone I was with and sleeping through my morning film classes, especially when I had to read essays by Molly Haskell, a 1970s film critic who used lots of dry language. I hope she can forgive me!”

Michael Wegner, ‘Seriously’

“My nominated song, ‘Seriously,’ is technically a love song, but from the vantage point of a long-term marriage. The focus is on things like conflict resolution and healthy communication, and also maintaining a sense of humor. I wrote it while noodling around on a guitar at a neighbor’s campfire about a year ago. Most of my song ideas sit around for months or years (sometimes decades) before being finished and recorded, but this one I completed, recorded and released in about a week.”

Trvy (Trevor Wiggins), ‘Shield’ 

“The title is a play on the idea of a ‘coat of arms.’ The last line of the chorus is, ‘I put that on my shield,’ and to me, it wraps up these promises of not letting anyone stand in the way of what you know is right for your path in life. Throughout the song I’m expressing the idea that people on the sidelines of your journey will try to call the plays for you, but when you are ‘in the game’ you have to know what to do for yourself. There are themes of attacking my own self-doubt and owning that I can be the leader of my own journey because I’m often my own antagonist in my music. The end of the verse is ‘I only wanted to learn how to cope, now they don’t got enough for what I want,’ which is my full-circle moment of owning the journey for myself.”

WHO: Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Awards
WHEN: Thursday, Apr. 28, 6:30 p.m. 
WHERE: 40 Watt Club