From the pool of submissions, No Depression invites four finalists to compete for the No Depression Singer-Songwriter Award. On the festival weekend, the finalists travel to North Adams and perform in front of a jury and a large live audience. The jury will select a runner-up and winner, and they will be announced Sunday afternoon from the main stage.

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2017 winner

Emily Keener

Emily Keener — 1st Place

Emily Keener is an eighteen-year-old singer/songwriter from Wakeman, OH. Since her exciting journey into the Top 12 on NBC’s The Voice Season 10, Emily has been writing and recording diligently in an effort to capture the energy of this most transformative year. Emily started playing the guitar when she was 11 years old and began writing songs when she was almost 12. A natural curiosity and passion for music quickly got her performing frequently and writing constantly. Almost 6 years later, she has written over 100 original songs and released three EPs and two LPs.


All four finalists will get the following:
• $500 award grant each (but you must show up on the festival weekend and perform in the competition in order to collect this)
• One 45-minute set on the Courtyard C stage on Saturday or Sunday
• One pop-up performance in the museum on Saturday or Sunday
• Complimentary three-day pass to the festival for each finalist
• Permission to sell your albums at the festival (if applicable)
• Name listed in the FreshGrass line up online and in any marketing materials
• Chance to win the runner-up or grand prize!

Runner-up: $500 additional cash grant
1st Place: $2,500 additional cash grant, Full day recording session with Alison Brown at Compass Records, and a main stage performance slot at FreshGrass 2018


• There is no fee or payment of any kind to enter the contest.
• All participants must fill out the online submission form to be considered for a finalist slot.
• You must submit 2 original songs. No co-writes accepted.
• You may not be signed to a record label or be subject to a pre-existing third-party publisher agreement. Self-released CDs and DIY distribution are OK.
• Finalists will be chosen by the organizers based on the merits of their lyrics (25%), music (25%), instrumentation (25%), and overall performance (25%).


• Each finalist will play two original songs in front of the jury and a large live audience.
• This must be a solo performance.
• Your instrument should be in hand and portable, and playable into a mic (no keyboards or plugged-in instruments).
• You will have a maximum of 10 minutes on stage (not including set-up), or 5 minutes per song. Songs that go over 5 minutes will negatively affect your score.
• Both songs must be original and written only by the performer. No co-writes allowed.
• The jury will be looking for dynamic range in your choice of song tempos, rhythms, and tone.
• You must provide your own lodging and transportation to and from the festival.
• The live competition will be recorded and, at the discretion of FreshGrass, may be included in a FreshGrass compilation video, or may be aired on PBS, or streamed on No Depression.