The inaugural April songwriting competition drew entries from across Michigan, with Traverse City’s Trillium Groove snagging runner-up honors. Get details and listen to the winning songs.
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Southwest Michigan singer-songwriters Payton Carter and Annabelle Fuerst have won the grand prize in the first-ever New Moon Songwriting Challenge that encouraged artists to collaborate on new songs. ‘
Traverse City’s SkyeLea Martin and Trillium Groove, meanwhile, were named runner-ups in the contest that drew entries from 84 Michigan artists who submitted 38 songs covering a wide ranges of genres.
“Although the shock hasn’t worn off quite yet, I’m so extremely full of excitement, pride and gratitude for winning this competition,” said Fuerst, a junior at Kalamazoo’s Loy Norrix High School, who grew up in a musical family (with her parents performing in the band The Corn Fed Girls).
“It feels so incredible to be recognized and praised as a songwriter by prominent figures and organizations in the local music community, and to have the privilege to participate in a competition filled with so much talent makes it feel all the more special. The amount of opportunities presented through the grand prize alone are absolutely huge for the two of us, and I can’t wait to see where this takes us.”
Added Carter, a senior at Otsego High School: “I am shocked that our song took first place out of many other very talented artists. Along with feeling surprised, I’m really proud of our hard work. Winning first place is a great motivator for us to keep working toward the album we’re writing. We have been writing songs for the past year without much recognition, so winning affirms to us that we are doing great things.”
Carter and Fuerst, who met after joining the Kalamazoo Academy of Rock in 2021, plan to continue busking this summer on the Kalamazoo Mall and in downtown South Haven.
As grand prize winners, the high school duo will receive a session to record the winning song at Ryan Jamgotch’s Electric Moon Studios in Grand Rapids, a promotional photo shoot with Chelsea Whitaker Photography, a showcase performance opportunity with Kalamazoo’s Sounds of the Zoo, led by Jennifer Hudson-Prenkert, and a music business consulting session with Crooked Tree Creative.
Carter and Fuerst hope to release their winning song as a single after recording it at Electric Moon Studios. Follow the duo on Instagram @paytonandannabelle.
Organized by Sounds of the Zoo, Crooked Tree Creative, photographer Chelsea Whitaker and Electric Moon Studios, the inaugural April competition was designed to “get local artists’ work in front of a manager, agent, festival director and other artists, but also an excuse to create something new with another artist.”
Elle Lively of Crooked Tree Creative said Carter and Fuerst’s winning song, “Projection,” “perfectly painted a vision of a naturally evolving relationship between mother and child through earnest and powerful observations.”
She added that “despite different musical backgrounds and tastes, this song managed to unite everyone all in a way that was truly remarkable,” leaving an indelible imprint on listeners and serving as a catalyst to push their artistry to the next level. Watch a video of the duo’s performance of the song here.
VIDEO: Payton Carter & Annabelle Fuerst, “Projection”
A RUNNER-UP SONG THAT’S ‘NOTHING SHORT OF BREATHTAKING’
Lively called the runner-up song, “Mindfuzz,” by Trillium Groove and SkyeLea Martin “nothing short of breathtaking” with “the sheer power and emotion that emanate from their work” a testament to their talent.
Trillium Groove, an all-girl trio based in northern Michigan, features SkyeLea Martin on vocals, guitar and ukulele, Keagan Kalbfleisch on vocals and percussion, and Ruby Bardenhagen on piano and backing vocals. All three are studying Audio Technology at Northwestern Michigan College, where they met and formed the band.
“All of Trillium Groove is super-excited,” Martin said. “This is the first original we’ve collaborated on as a band (but) felt like the song had potential to be something special. We only became a trio in February, but there has been talk of a Trillium Groove album ever since we started sharing our music with each other.”
Trillium Groove has performances lined up this summer in and around Traverse City, with the band posting social media updates @trilliumgroove. Watch a video of their winning song here.
VIDEO: Trillium Groove, “Mindfuzz”
Open to all ages and genres, the New Moon Songwriting Challenge is featuring the song entries in a social media post with all participating artists receiving a 10-percent discount on services from selected sponsors. Organizers hope to stage the competition annually.
“The genius and creativity left the team in awe,” Lively said of those entering the contest, adding that they were “honored to have discovered so many talented artists from across Michigan.”
Other entrants included:
Lane Ellens & Anneke Taylor Lehmann, Madelyn & Logan Kibler, Sammie Hershock & Kate Skidmore, Sarah Ve & Alex Austin, Clem Turner & Bayli Brook, Ryan Gladding, Lissa Moaiery & The Incantations, Robyn Gordon Schopp & Katie Romig, Pink Sky & Irreplica, Mar Ellen & LVRS, Pretanova Band & Austin Ruhstorfer, Cameron Blake & Nathan Walton, Audrey Mason, Millicen Lu & Zinnia Dungien, Grace Theisen, Kate Pederson & Jillian Linklater, Liv Depuali & Pocket Combo, Ellie Wimbush, Jeremiah Micah & Kayla McLean, Kyle Rasche & Annie Bacon,
Jackson Beelen & Jeffery Niemeier, Dean Chittenden & Gavin Brown, Luke Woltanski & Dalton Sala, The Daniel Staggs Band & Samone, JB & Macrae Stone, Jonathan Stoye & Cody Robert DeWindt, V & Tuchis, Ben Steer & Joey Gaydos Jr., Shrink the Band, Ken Edwards, Kate Skidmore & Lori Laviolette, Rachel Gerson, Evan Follmar & Ed Stanley, Brian Koenigsknecht & Abe Savas, Spencer Oppermann & Jake Allen, Caitlin Cusack & Brendan Vincent, Dede Alder & Josh Holcolmb, Brooke & Zosette Guir, Baylie Rajter, Taylor Rajter & Jeremy Rajter, Erin Zindle & Dylan Charles, Tess Clark & James, Pretty Sure Band & Nate Johnivan.
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