Baker Grissom of Sherwood took home the grand prize after winning the seventh annual Alchemy Songwriting Competition Oct. 14 at Kings Live Music in Conway.
As the winner, Grissom will receive a four-hour songwriting session with one of the Alchemy judges, Kris Allen, Adam Hambrick or Jonathan Smith, a three-hour artist branding session with Zinepak’s Brittany Hodak, tickets to the National Association of Music Merchants, a two-song, 30-day internet radio campaign on Indie Radio Alliance Stations and an on-air interview with syndicated weekly internet Slap Nutz Radio Show.
Blackbird’s Executive Director Jennie Strange said she is excited to see what the next season brings for Grissom and runner-up Luke Gibson from Nashville, Tennessee.
"The judges saw so much promise in both those young men," she said.
Strange — who went to college with American Idol winner Kris Allen — said he came to her years ago with the desire to create something that not only raised money for the organization but also a venue that gave musicians a platform to get in front of industry professionals.
Through the past seven competitions, she said, she feels this has been accomplished.
Strange said Hambrick won the competition the first year.
"I like to say we know how to pick them," she said.
In addition to Hambrick, Strange said many of the past competitors have continued to pursue music due to the encouragement they received in the competition to keep going.
"The things we hear continually from all our winners is they appreciate the feedback the judges give," she said.
Strange said the judges helped reshape the awards this year.
She said, in the past, the grand prize winner has flown to Los Angeles and recorded with a professional.
When she sat down with the judges this year to talk about anything they could do better, the group suggested networking opportunities to help the artists get to the next step because so much of the music industry revolves around knowing the right people.
"Every year we learn how to do everything a little better," Strange said.
She said she loves that the competition has grown so much and has brought musicians from all across the nation to showcase their talent.
Her favorite part of the entire process, Strange said, is the final moment that everyone gets to share.
"It’s definitely the night of," she said. "There’s just something about seeing [the] performance live. It’s a really cool experience."