On Cabin Stage

Wilkes native Shay Martin Lovette, left, performs on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest on Saturday as s result of winning the “general” category in the 2021 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Backing him up on bass is Brandon Holder, a member of his band. They both live in Boone.

The third time was a charm for singer-singwriter and Wilkes County native Shay Martin Lovette — and just in time.

Lovette claimed first place in the 2021 “general” category of MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest on Friday after taking second place in 2010 and third place another year. At MerleFest 2019, Lovette and his band won the MerleFest band competition.

Also on Friday, it was announced that MerleFest’s 2021 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest will be the last after nearly 30 years. Long-time contest coordinator and host Jim Lauderdale was honored Saturday for his 20-plus years of shared expertise, enthusiasm and engagement with the contest.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, named for a member of Emmylou Harris’ band who died in a plane crash, has helped launch the careers of several successful artists.

Playing backup bass for Lovette when he competed Friday was Brandon Holder, a member of his band.

Lovette is a Wilkes Central High School graduate who now lives in Boone while pursuing a career as a performing artist. He is the son of Rick and Beth Lovette of Wilkesboro.

His winning song was “Rose Marie,” which he said is about an elderly woman who lives on the coast. Lovette likened the song to a short story put to music. He performed it Saturday on the Cabin Stage at MerleFest.

Lovette will open for the Chatham Rabbits at the Ashe Civic Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

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