Annual Song Contest held by the Dallas Songwriters Association to provide a benchmark for popular songwriting competency. Winners in each category, plus grand prize winners.

CATEGORIES AND JUDGES:Finalists in each category will be judged by music industry professionals from record labels and publishing companies; Grand Prize winner will be chosen by A&R and/or industry professionals of Broadjam.com



Sunday, January 19, 2020




1Daughter of the KingTimSharpTomballTexasUS
2Dream of YouDeDeWedekindKingwoodTexasUS
3A Thousand LivesArthurRevechkisStamfordConnecticutUS


1UnlessDamStasi, Kickbend and MesusWillow SpringsILUS
2Grace Sets the TableMattStemmeCastaicCaliforniaUS
3YOU ARE MY AMAZING GRACEDebra MGussinLos AngelesCaliforniaUS


1When Angels Sang (In My Back Yard)RexPoindexter,
Craig Lackey
West HollywoodCaliforniaUS
2Making Memories That Last ForeverTommyPattersonComancheTexasUS
3Twenty Dollar BillRexPoindexter,
Craig Lackey
West HollywoodCaliforniaUS


1Special FeatureIngvi ThorKormakssonReykjavikNon USAICELAND
2Fading lightsLarsWallenStockholmStockholmSWEDEN
3The Devil WillingCharlesCarterDallasTexasUS

Love Songs/Easy Listening

1Thank You For Loving MeLouieCate, John Monno, Casey DuganAlexandriaVirginiaUS
2OUR TIMEDebraGussin and Dale EffrenLos AngelesCaliforniaUS
3Enduring LoveIngvi ThorKormakssonReykjavikNon USAICELAND


1Desert ChristmasKevinReardonRiversideConnecticutUS
2LOVE IS NOTDebra MGussin and Don GradyLos AngelesCaliforniaUS
3It's Gonna be AlrightBillMartinDallasTexasUS


1TO FALL IN LOVEM'LynnMusgroveDallasTXUS
2Euphoria LouieCateAlexandriaVirginiaUNITED STATES
3Just an HourPhilIpsanNew YorkNew YorkUS


1TO FALL IN LOVEM'LynnMusgroveDallasTXUS
2Should've Known BetterJulieLudgateBasingstokeEnglandUK
3Living and DyingStephanieSammonsDallasTexasUS

Grand Prize Winners

1Unless  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=444966422937309DamStasi, Kickbend & MesusWillow SpringsILUS
2A Thousand Lives

Debra MGussin and Don GradyLos AngelesCaliforniaUS

Young Songwriters - Ones To Watch

TKBrown Gun Barrel CityTX






Best Songs of The Monthly Meeting

Song of The Year

1The Story of Bonnie and ClydeBarbeMcMillenDallasTX

2Watering HoleHarryHewlettDallasTX


Songwriter of The YearHarryHewlettDallasTX

Winners were announced January 18, 2020 at the Historic Sons of Hermann Hall. Here is a link to the video of the event recorded by Don Wall Productions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69Ov2xo-Acs

And there are oodles of photos on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/dallassongwriters/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2883673535018186

Pdf of the Awards Program: https://drive.google.com/file/d/12U21eMdAYS13sS4Z5smSL3AD059xYUVt/view?usp=sharing

DSA 2019 Songwriting Competition Grand Prize Judge Roy Elkins Comments
This was an interesting year in judging the DSA contest. There were 23 songs to evaluate and after the first listen, it was about a fifteen-way tie for first. It seems that every year the songwriters are “upping” their game and the entries are getting better and better. Most years, it is difficult to pick a winner. But this year, 7 or 8 different songs could have walked away with the title. So what does a judge do in this situation?
If I have listened to the list many times and still can’t come up with a winner, I read the list of song titles and ask myself, which songs do I remember? This always helps me clear it up. Good songs are memorable. Well there were still 7 or 8 that could be the winner.
If I still don’t have a winner, then I rank the top candidates in each category. Lyric, Melody, Hook, Structure, Truth and Originality to aid in the decision. I do place a score from 1 to 10 on all songs for these categories, but ranking them in order helps break the ties. That helped a little in this year’s contest.
In this group, there were many strong hooks, like Unless, Euphoria, Grace Sets The Table, Love Is Not and A Thousand Lives. And so many engaging melodies, like Unless, Love Is Not, Dream of You, Special Feature and To Fall In Love. And some very good lyrics like A Thousand Lives, Living and Dying, Twenty Dollar Bill, When Angels Sang, Daughter of a King, Love is Not and Unless.
So, here are the winners:
  1. Unless
  2. A Thousand Lives
  3. Love Is Not
  4. Euphoria
  5. Just An Hour
When listening to a song, I hear something new and different each time. Below I have offered some brief thoughts on many of the songs. 
All the best to everyone at the Dallas Songwriters. It’s always an honor to be part of this excellent contest.

A rap melody with great flow juxtaposed against a fantastic chorus. The peaks and valleys in this are amazing. This is a rare rap song that could be delivered on acoustic guitar, solo piano or orchestrated like it is here. The song has a strong religious message and could be a CCM or pop radio hit.
A line that stood out, “More rooms for the homeless isn’t really what we need, more rooms in our heart is the way we conquer greed.” This is an outstanding line. This entire song makes you think, and clearly protests the world as it is. Every line is the truth and most listeners will agree and connect with it. This is truly a very strong lyric.
Intro is 43 seconds long, which would eliminate the song from most commercial radio consideration. If it was my song, I would start the rap at 23 seconds or cut out the first 23 and bring it back later in the song. Piano part is tasteful and may be more effective later in the song, but the intro is too long. 
Production note: Re-record this with a live band and I believe it will go to another level. 
A Thousand Lives
Songs don’t necessarily have to be commercial to be good. On my judge’s scoresheet, there isn’t a category titled “commercially viable.” With that said, in today’s homogenized industry, it might be difficult for this unique song to cut through. But that’s why I like it. A Thousand Lives isn’t commercial, but it’s a strong and powerful folk song that is believable. Overall, the chord changes, melody and feel of the song are as good as it gets. 
Specifically, on the word “All” in each chorus, I love the change as it is unique and unexpected. Although I do like the opening line a lot, I would be curious to hear the first and second verse switched around.  My other thought with this song would be to re-title it to the hook, “Second Saddest Thing of All.” I do understand why the writer titled it after the opening line, as it is very strong.
This is a simple song that is very well-written. My guess is that this songwriter has a few commercially viable songs as well. I love this and would like to hear more from them.
Love Is Not
This song is all around good. Very, very strong lyrics. Great structure and vibe, although a little long for commercial radio. Well organized and the truth of this would hit home with every listener. Uniquely original with a strong chorus. The hook “Love Is Not” is rock-solid and easy to sing along with. I found myself liking this more with each listen.
The intro is a little long. If it was my song I would start the song at 8 seconds or start the verse at 9 seconds. If it is shopped, an industry listener might not get past 20 seconds. Get to the verse as quickly as possible, it is one of the strengths of the song.
Great feel to this song. In a club setting, this would pack the dance floor. At 1:05, we hear the hook, “Euphoria.’ The end of the chorus caught me by surprise, “only one word……I feel.” It made me smile as I was anticipating the chorus was done at this point and would jump right back to the verse. I liked this song more each time I heard it. Very current and contemporary.
Production and arrangement notes: Not sure the bridge at 2:43 is even necessary, it seems to break up the song when the groove is so infectious. Intro too long, 35 seconds before the verse begins.
Just An Hour
I absolutely love the structure of the vocal on this. This entire song is filled with creative and innovative lines like “I’ve reached the end of making amends”. One could argue that some of the lines might not make sense with the theme of the song. But that is the magic as the writer is rambling and hoping to spend “Just An Hour” with someone. I believe the song is about a parent, but the fact that I don’t really know makes it even more mysterious. Great work on this and I would love to hear more from this writer.
Production note: If this was my song, I would hire a really good producer and let them perform their magic. Also, a live band, especially a real drummer, would take this to a whole different level.
Daughter of a King
If there is a song in this competition that is dead center in it’s genre, it’s this one. I can easily hear and see The Carter Family, The Stanley Brothers or more contemporary acts like Trampled By Turtles or The Old Crow Medicine Show performing this. The song lends itself to interpretation as well. A great lyric where every daughter sees her dad as a king, but more importantly, the dad is writing about his princess. Every time I listened to this song, it moved up the list. If I had another week, it may have moved up further as it grew on me. A well-crafted lyric probably written by someone who has done it many times before. I would love to hear more from this writer.
Enduring Love
Simple lyric, nothing inventive or new. But what I liked about it is the marriage of the lyric to the melody. An example, “like the sun adorns the heavens” is sung at the high end of the scale. And the rest of the phrase walks back down to the starting point. I love this kind of phrasing and especially the structure of this vocal. I don’t consider the production when evaluating a song, however it is clear this singer either wrote the song or she is a phenomenal interpreter and should get a writing credit. Her delivery certainly enhanced the melodic brilliance of this piece.
Living and Dying
Nice song. I liked this song a lot and thought it was really well written. The phrase “anybody save me” at 1:14 is a real nice marriage of the lyric, vocal and progression. “Another year of breaking hearts, I’m getting good at brand new starts” is a good opening to the second verse.
Note: Try increasing tempo 6 – 10 BPMs as it feels like the singer might be struggling to stretch the vowels. 
Desert Christmas
Very good melody, especially in the hook where the vocal builds “This will be a Desert Christmas…”. 
Dream of You
Very nice melody in the chorus. Strong hook.
Fading Lights
Very tasteful and soft melody. I love the change at 1:29. It might work well with a lyric on top of this. I think the melody could soar with a lyric on it. 
Grace Sets the Table
A great chorus. Very unique and innovative. When I first read the title, I was curious. And that in itself is the magnet for this song. It is one of the best literal hooks in the competition. More than any other song in this competition, I feel this has the most potential because of the chorus. Again, it’s strength is a unique and innovative hook that is very good.
A key to a great song, especially in this genre, is that every line should set up the chorus. I didn’t think the verses were as strong as the chorus. If this was my song, I would re-write the verses and bridge to support the hook. If the writer is struggling with this, then find another writer and offer a co-write. This a extraordinarily strong hook to work from.
The bridge in the song, while performed with love and passion, has no direct literal relationship to the chorus or the verses. I realize the love of Jesus is the theme. But to make the song great, work on the delivering words in a way that no one has ever done before. The chorus does this well and if the rest of the song measured up to the chorus, it would certainly be one of the best I have ever heard in this genre. Please note that I generally offer more critique on songs that I believe have strong potential. I am excited about the possibility for this song.
It’s Gonna Be Alright
Good hook and a positive outlook.
Making Memories That Last Forever
Very good melody and some strong lyrical phrases. “If his brown eyes don’t get you, her blue eyes will,” “And I wouldn’t trade this moment for nothin,” “Making memories that last forever.”  Very good structure and melody. I kinda like how the melody “whines.” Could be the vocalist, but when I tried it, I came up with the same feel. Good melody.
The strong lyrical segments are contrasted by lines such as “I walk into the house,” “I reach out to open that refrigerator door,” “She’s gettin’ hungry…..snack, “etc. These sound like “filler” lines and although they rhyme, they come across a bit contrived which affects the “truth” of the song. If this was my song, I would re-write and make sure that every line is supporting the hook. If that is done, it will go from good to great.

Our Time
One could easily hear Celine Dion, Josh Groban or someone similar knocking this song out. This is a big song and I could easily hear a slower interpretation as well. Good melody, good hook and a good message. Love the line “Crossing the line between faith and forever.” When I heard the end of the chorus the first time, “It’s our turn to shine, let’s take it,” I thought this phrase would be more effective repeating it one more time with a slight change of words and then nail the hook, “This is Our Time.” I noticed at the end of the song, a similar phrasing happened: “It’s our turn to shine let’s take it, No doubt in my mind we’ll make it.” That’s really what was crossing my mind earlier. Just food for thought. I love the song and placed with the right artist, it might generate some traction. Possibly Broadway might be avenue as well. It feels like an experienced team wrote this song and I would love to hear more from them.
Should’ve Known Better
One of the most original in the collection. Interesting melody in the verses which contrasts nicely with the chorus. You can almost feel the melodic pain from the hook.
If it was my song, I would try singing the I….I at the end of the line. Try coming out of the pre-chorus right into I should’ve known better, then sing the I…I’s. It may not work worth a try. I think the pain at the end of the phrase rather than the beginning might make it a little more effective. Another good writer other songs I would like to hear.
Special Feature
I am not sure what it is about this song, but it found myself humming the melodic hook over and over again. Very tasteful melody and the song itself is well put together. I have an attraction to this kind of jazz guitar and it’s probably influencing my ability to judge this objectively. 
Production note: If it was my song, I would lose all the additional instruments, horns, winds, etc. They are a little distracting and don’t really add a  lot. I think simplicity (George Benson style) would really bring out the best in this song.
The Devil Willing
This is a serious contender for film & TV placement. A tasteful instrumental that reminds me of David Arkenstone. He is so good with instrumentation and so is this writer/producer. This would be a great film or tv track, as it sounds more like a bed than an instrumental song. While I could listen to this over and over, the melody could be more prominent.  Between 2:20 and 2:40 it appears to drift a little from the theme. Production note: If this was my song, I would remix, tweak the aforementioned section and pitch to film and TV.  Make sure to create alternative versions with lots of stems for a music supervisor to choose from. Like to hear more from their catalog.
To Fall In Love
I really liked the performance, style and production. If this was a production contest, it would have easily finished in the Top 3. Strong melody.

Thank You For Loving Me
Good melody and arrangement.
Twenty Dollar Bill
I really like this idea. The second verse is really strong along with the bridge/third verse. Good lyric writing. Sometimes songs that are contrived can zap the truth from a song. But in this case, there is an additional message about need and greed, and it was done very skillfully and the truth shines. I am not sure that the chorus is as strong as the verses but  will probably remember this for it’s originality. Great work, and I got a feeling this is a seasoned writer. Love to hear more.
When Angels Sang In My Backyard
Excellent lyric, original and great concept. The verses in this piece are intriguing and set up the chorus well. Another song that moved up the list with each listen.
You Are My Amazing Grace
It’s a good song, good lyric and clearly well-written.


10. You can win a casio privia keyboard.

9. You can win cash

8. You can win a one year DSA membership or more.

7. You can get a free trial membership for entering online at Broadjam

6. Semifinalists get a chance to perform at the Awards or other DSA Showcases

5. Semifinalists and Winners get their names published in Songwriter Notes and the Press Release

4. Entrants can get peer review on their song

3. Winners get their songs on the awards soundcloud site.

2. Contest recognition looks good on your resume

1. We are a small contest, so you have a better chance to win.

Now in it's 30th year!

The DSA Song Contest is one of the longest running international song contests for amateur songwriters. Offering over $5,000 in cash and prizes this year, the DSA has EIGHT categories in all. See Contest Rules for eligibility.


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DSA is a 501 C-3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to providing to songwriters everywhere opportunities for learning about the craft and business of songwriting. Songwriters Newsletter is published by the Dallas Songwriters Association c/o Sammons Center for the Arts 3630 Harry Hines Blvd Box 20 Dallas, TX 75219.
Barbara McMillen, Editor, Founding President Emeritus http://www.barbaramcmillen.com