2018 SONGWRITER(s) ARTIST of THE YEAR FINAL NOMINEES
SARAH MORRIS JEROD MICHAEL THOMPSON BEN JOHNSON ZAK NORTON
SONGWRITER/S OF THE YEAR This award is for the songwriter(s). Any country music song with original words and music is eligible based upon the writer/s selections released from the 2015-2018 time period. This award is open to individual songwriters as well as songwriting partners and/or groups including bands who write their own material. This award should consider the entire body of work for the writer/s and focus on lyrics, composition, quality of recording and success of distribution.
Poppa Bear Norton hails from The Land Of Sky Blue Waters aka Minnesota. They proclaim themselves to be “America’s #1 Daredevil Country Duo!”, and would like to note that they’re also “America’s Only Daredevil Country Duo.” They have also been described as Train Wreck Country, The Funniest Frickin’ Country Band Around, one bar manager even described them as the “Penn & Teller of Country Music”. Guess what? All of these descriptions would be true. "The Singer" and "The Slinger" are a two-man act that plays original country & western style music that harkens back to the days of Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller and Hank Sr., as well as the outlaw era of Waylon, Willie and Haggard. A time when a song was written like a well crafted story and told with passion, theatrics, and musical skill. Sure this high octane two man band hit the stage and play their music as if they don’t realize they are not a full band, and yes sometimes it feels as though it could come off the rails at any moment, but that is what makes them “Country Daredevils”. They are not just a band, Poppa Bear Norton is in fact a musical act and their musical style, funny stage banter and finely crafted songs will have you laughing one minute and tearing up the next. The youngsters love them because they look wild, play fast and preform a style of country music they may have never heard before, in a way which they may have never seen. Older folks love them because their energy, music, and stage banter reminds them of something familiar, yet at the same time completely new and different and that's exactly what American Daredevil Country is.
Over the last five years, singer-songwriter Sarah Morris has earned a reputation for engaging performances, with a voice both clear and lush. Sarah hails from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where from a young age, she immersed herself in her parent’s eclectic record collection before finally falling in love with the storytelling and songcraft in country music. Spending a few years in Music City instilled a traditional songwriting sensibility that earned her 2015 album Ordinary Things international airplay, and critical acclaim. With the release of her third album, Hearts In Need Of Repair, Sarah offers 11 new songs spanning the Americana sonosphere. Returning to RiverRock Studios in Minneapolis, Sarah co-produced the album with Eric Blomquist. Longtime bandmates Thomas Nordlund, Andrew Foreman, and Zachary Schmidt joined them in the studio, laying a foundation that blends folk-rock and country influences. Hearts In Need Of Repair showcases Sarah’s signature vocals and conversational lyricism, exploring vulnerability, heartbreak, and grown-up, imperfect love.
Check out www.benjohnsoncountry.com for music, photos, show dates, and more. Look for Ben on Itunes, Spotify, and Google Play, Amazon Music, and Pandora!
Jerod Michael Thompson
Since their debut, JT & the Gunslingers haven’t looked back. These musicians individually contribute in their elite playing ability, but it is their ability to collectively contribute and create within a given song that truly makes them a top tier group. Together they unselfishly allow & encourage artistic creativity amongst themselves making the landscapes between notes resonate within the song itself. That artistic creativity paired with JT’s vocals, result in a powerful and fearless tone that could cut through razor wire. Bandleader and songwriter, former Army Ranger JT Thompson teamed up with southern Minnesota legendary guitarist Todd Owen. Their talent pool is bolstered even more by the addition of bassist James Elliott, a proven professional with appearances on Jay Leno, David Letterman & Jimmy Kimmel. Together with percussionist Jeff Stewart, they round out a rhythm section that is on par with anyone in the industry.
“If you took Southern Rock mixed with a modern day edginess…then you’ve got JT & the Gunslingers, one of the Midwest’s fastest growing bands.” Megan Kennedy, Rochester MN Post Bulletin
Following the release of PASS A BEER (ep), the band has gone on to open for acts such as Charlie Daniels, Chase Bryant, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, and Little Texas. Their first single, OUR TOWN (featuring Tim Lauer) had them performing top venues of Country Fest in Cadott, WI, South Goes North Music Festival, and Veteran’s Day Freedom Tour in Louisiana.
JT & The Gunslingers have gone on to perform & captivate audiences not only at major festivals but local and cause-driven events such as #AutismSpeaks, #SaratogaWarhorse, #FirstHOOAHMN organizations exciting honkytonks across the Midwest/South/East Coast. Their current radio single MIDWESTERN GIRLS has risen to the Top 30 on Independent Country US Charts. The band also was named a Top 100 Country Band nationally by ReverbNation, as well as, Minnesota’s Top 3rd Independent artist (as of July 2018). A follow up LP (currently being recorded) includes collaboration efforts with Del Gray of Little Texas in Nashville. The phone continues to ring with opportunities on their steady rise for these stars in the making.