You’ve seen ‘em all: American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, The Next Big Thing, American Freak Show, Why Am I Not Famous? and Very Average Acts. Sure, you haven’t heard of the last four because they don’t exist, but you get the idea.

Music Madness

The competition at the Songwriters Open Mic Shootout played out in a March Madness-style bracket and it was crazy—as in, these musicians were crazy talented.

Here’s how it works: winners from the twice-monthly Sunday open mic nights are invited for the annual competition. The competition is single elimination with five rounds consisting of 23 performers.

Of the first 14 players, seven advance to the second round. Nine players bypass the first round and begin in the “Sweet 16.” Those 16 then become eight, then four, then two, and finally a winner. In each round, performers play one song and we judges choose one performer to advance.

The final two artists play one song each. Judges choose and the winner gets $1,000.

Tough Choices

Choosing between two phenomenal artists going head-to-head with their best songs was excruciating. Often, the performers were so closely matched, I had to ask myself, Whose CD would I spend hard-earned money on?

The competition lasted until after midnight, featuring local standouts Avery Gipson, one of the youngest performers (reminiscent of Tori Amos), sisters Chloe and Taylor of Chasing Lovely (beautiful vocals and close harmonies), and Jonathan Peyton.

The Votes Are In!

I voted for both Chasing Lovely and Jonathan Peyton every single round of the night, and sure enough, both faced off in the night’s final round. I was crushed. How could I decide between two of my favorite acts of the night? Peyton’s simple, honest folk songs were pure and honest, made even more beautiful with his wife Abby’s vocals. Chasing Lovely’s sibling-magic vocals were stunning and heartbreakingly beautiful.

So, who did I choose? Jonathan Peyton. He won it and went home $1,000 richer.

Tune In

You can see the entire competition on YouTube. Google “youtube open mic shootout #9 eop” and you can watch and judge for yourself. Who knows, you could be seeing the next big superstar.