One of the truly nice guys on Central Oregon’s music scene, folk singer-songwriter Willie Carmichael, won the Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest at this past weekend’s Sisters Folk Festival.
Carmichael was one of five finalists who performed their songs at the festival on Saturday. As the winner, he received a $750 cash prize, a return booking at next year’s event, and a chance to play a 15-minute set to open the main stage on Saturday night.
“Playing on the main stage in front of about a thousand people was really fun. That’s WAY more people than I’ve ever played for. I was floating,” Carmichael wrote to Frequency in an e-mail. “The SFF audience is amazingly appreciative and supportive. They kind of embrace the contest winner — I’ve seen this many times there — and hold him/her like a precious treasure for the weekend. It’s like winning the contest gives you favored nation status. They cheer when you come on stage even if they’ve never heard you before.”
Carmichael is the second local artist to win the contest, after Sisters’ Dennis McGregor in 2003. He’s also a terrifically honest and funny man who talked — or, typed, really — about the lesson he learned over his winning weekend in Sisters.
“This part is pretty personal, and I don’t quite know how to say it. I’ve never really been the performer I’d like to be. All my judgment and negative self-talk have been about not being good enough, not being cool enough, being too old, whatever. But what I’m learning, from being around and talking classes from performers like Jenna Lindbo, Martyn Joseph, Ellis, Beth Wood, Ruthie Foster, and others, is that what really breeds success is approaching it with an open heart.
“I’m trying to get a handle on this, and I think that was reflected in winning the contest. Last night my wife Jeanie said the coolest thing about this. She told me, ‘You’ve got clever down cold, and clever is only going to take you so far. The rest is about heart.’ I think she’s right, and I have a lot of work to do on that front if I’m going to be the musician I want to be.”
Carmichael said he thinks two of the songs he played were most effective, and he sent one of them, “Out Beyond The Moon,” along to Frequency for our readers to check it out. “It’s just a demo I did in my garage, but it’s audible and it’s what I sent when I applied to the contest,” he said.
So do it. Check it out:
The Dave Carter Memorial Songwriting Contest is named in honor of the first folk festival concert winner, Dave Carter, who won in 1995. Carter went on to an acclaimed career before his untimely death in 2002. The contest has also boosted the careers of songwriters such as Darryl Purpose, Chuck McCabe, McGregor, Beth Wood and BettySoo.
This year’s other four finalists were Julia Baucke from Santa Barbara, Calif., Marc Douglas Berardo from Westerly, R.I., Cary Cooper from Richardson, Texas and Dan Weber from Vancouver, Wash.