Singer-songwriters Rachael Kilgour (of Duluth) and Sarah Morris (of the Twin Cities) both competed in the 14th annual 2015 NewSong Contest, held last month at Lincoln Center in New York City. It’s a worldwide contest, with over 1,500 entrants this year, that is a showcase for up-and-coming artists to present their original musical compositions. (NewSong is a record label based in Asheville, N.C.) Both Kilgour and Morris made the final four — and Kilgour took the top prize.
Morris was grateful, to say the least. “Even making it to the finals was amazing because of the outstanding competition that I was surrounded by,” she says, noting that she actually heard about the contest through Kilgour. “I had just released a new album,” says Morris, “and decided I wanted to try out some contests. Once I got there, I realized the talent and what all these musicians were made of and it was an honor to be included with them. The emotions that I felt were thrilling and exciting all at the same time, and it really felt like a great validation for my career.”
As grand prize winner, Kilgour received a performance slot last week at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival’s ASCAP Music Café in Park City, Utah. She’ll also have an opportunity to perform at Lincoln Center later this year; and a recording session at Echo Mountain Recording Studios in Asheville, produced by Gar Ragland, NewSong Music’s executive director, for an album to be released under the NewSong label.
Kilgour is a native Duluthian who has been playing music now for over a decade. She’s had a busy past year as her music has been starting to really take off. “”I’ve been throwing myself into my music career this past year,” she says. “I’m constantly traveling and attempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. It keeps me very busy.”
Kilgour previously won a smaller NewSong competition, and is enthusiastic about her experiences. “I’ve really enjoyed working with NewSong,” she says. “I appreciated that the finalists they selected each had very distinct styles. It felt silly to have a competition in the end; everyone was so good and so different. It must have been difficult for the judges to make a decision.
“I’ve always felt that I had an ability to connect with listeners in a meaningful way,” she continues, “but being chosen as the first place winner out of so many talented individuals on a national scale was definitely reaffirming. Up until about a year and a half ago I was committed to staying very local with my life and my work. I’ve been lucky to have so much success in the short amount of time since I really started pursuing my career in a bigger way. The audience at Lincoln Center was very responsive to my work. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
Kelsey Sorenson is a student at the College of St. Scholastica.