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Cotton District songwriting winners announced


Michael Hardy won first place in the CDAF songwriting competition.

Michael Hardy won first place in the CDAF songwriting competition. Photo by: Courtesy photo


Jan Swoope



It can happen anywhere. Michael Hardy was in a deer stand during Christmas break a year or so ago when inspiration hit. 


"I wrote 'In a Can' on my phone in that deer stand," he laughed, talking by telephone from Nashville, Tenn., where the Philadelphia native lives now. What he didn't know that cold December day was that his parody about "all the good things that can come in a can" would be the first song he'd ever enter in competition. It would also win first place. 


When the Starkville Area Arts Council announced the winners of the 2013 Cotton District Arts Festival Songwriter's Competition this past week, Hardy was at the top of the list. Second place was awarded to Mississippi State senior and Kosciusko native J.R. Crowell; third place went to Kelsey Collins of Caledonia.  


"Twenty-eight phenomenal songwriters submitted entries to the McReynolds Orthodontics Songwriter's Competition; it was a tough decision, but the winners are in," said Angella Baker, CDAF publicity chair. 


"It was a very nice surprise to learn I'd won," shared Hardy, who is in the process of signing his first publishing contract, with Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Dennis Matkosky, affiliated with Kobalt Music Publishing America. Hardy looks forward to being in Starkville April 20 to perform his contest entry at the Cotton District Arts Festival, as will Crowell and Collins. 


Crowell draws his inspiration from personal experiences, a fact reflected in his submitted song, "Southern Place." 


"I want my songs to have a personality, a sense of feeling," said the MSU student whose influences include John Prine, Randy Houser and The Band, among others. "When people hear one of my songs I want them to relate to what I was thinking at that moment." 


Crowell has had two songs demoed in Nashville, and both have been in rotation at a local radio station. 


Collins is a frequent performer at North Mississippi festivals and coffee houses. The Itawamba Community College freshman, who began penning songs when she was only 10, chose her "Best Friends Forever" for the Cotton District competition. 


Most of her songs are stories, reflecting her musical influences, especially Nirvana. 


"I like how Nirvana had a dark sound and how you really have to pay attention to the lyrics," she explained. 


Dr. James Sobaskie had the challenging task of judging the contest.  


See the winning songwriters perform on the Cotton District Festival's Metrocast South Stage April 20 in Starkville, beginning at 3:05 p.m. 


To learn more about the festival, visit, or contact the SAAC at 662-324-3080.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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