Cindy Wilson performs at the Local Songwriting Award Launch Event | Arts & Culture
Nomination season for the Vic Chesnutt Award for Songwriter of the Year 2022 officially began Wednesday night at Hendershot’s. The award launch event opened with strumming guitars and applause from attendees as the night filled with performances from Cindy Wilson, past finalists and award winners began.
The Vic Chesnutt Songwriter of the Year Award was established in 2016 and is presented by the Classic City Rotary Board. The award is named after the late James Victor Chesnutt, a singer-songwriter from Athens and recognizes local songwriters for their talent – honoring Chesnutt and giving them a chance to pursue their craft.
At the launch event, local artists Lydian Brambila and Bo Bedingfield performed, along with a joint performance by Wilson and his son, Nolan Bennett. They all performed raw and original songs and told the stories behind each.
Together, B-52 founding member Wilson and Bennett performed a mix of covers and original material. One song in particular, “Conditioner”, was written by Bennett about a funny memory when he was staying in Nashville, Tennessee, and found a bottle of hotel conditioner in his pocket, hence the title of the song.
When Brambila took the stage, they immediately engaged the audience with mesmerizing guitar strums. One of the standout songs they performed was about a ballerina losing her ability to dance, and the dark, eerie tone of the folk-inspired melody captivated the audience and drew everyone closer.
The last song performed by Brambila was inspired by their transition and their experience of high profile surgery. “The songwriting process allowed me to gather all the things in my life and put them in some sort of bowl, and hope that they would mean something to me later,” Brambila said. On stage, they advocated for inclusive health care for transgender people and all, and dedicated the song to this cause.
Next up was Bedingfield, and with its first song titled “Hello Texas Girls”, the mood in the room changed as Bedingfield’s songs cracked jokes – keeping the audience grinning from ear to ear throughout. of representation.
Another song he performed was “I Knew the Place Was Burning”, which was about Bedingfield slowly realizing that the Georgia Theater was going up in flames right across from his cabin job. With that, he juxtaposed fire to his relationships, while keeping the same light tone.
The final song from the launch event was dedicated to Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, who passed away last year. “Rio” was sung with passion by Wilson, a member of the awards advisory board, and Athens artist Bennett, for a fitting end to the night.
Many songs performed throughout the night stemmed from a story experienced by the performer. It showed how songwriting is used as a way to communicate anything from life-changing surgeries to fun memories of the mundane.
Nominations for the award are open through March 20 for artists living in Athens-Clarke and surrounding counties. Those who advance to the final are chosen by a panel of well-established figures in the music industry. The finalists will perform at the awards show which will take place at the 40 Watt Club on April 28. The winner will receive $1,500, studio recording time at Nuci’s Space and a promotional package from the Clermont team. This year’s awards show will be free and streamed live on Hendershot’s Facebook page.
Chesnutt’s legacy lives on through the songwriters of Athens and this award gives them the opportunity to share their works with the community and make a name for themselves.
“Music is good for the soul, but live music is really good for the soul,” said Ellen Bryson, executive chair of the award.