Songwriters from around Colorado are in it to win it |

Songwriters from around Colorado are in it to win it

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
Courtesy of Shane KitlasShane Kitlas, a 30-year-old singer-songwriter who lives in Breckenridge, won the first leg of the 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival's new songwriting contest on Tuesday night. The Red Onion in Aspen will host the fourth of six preliminary rounds on Tuesday evening. Finalists will earn an opportunity to perform at festival venues.

ASPEN – If Tuesday night’s performances in Breckenridge were any indication, songwriters from Aspen to Boulder and many points between will be turning out in droves over the next 10 days for a shot in a contest affiliated with the third annual 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival.The festival returns to the Wheeler Opera House for the third straight year from March 21 through March 25. The songwriting competition is new and entails a six-city search over the next 10 days for six finalists. Each finalist will be eligible to compete for the top spot on the strength of individual performances in various Aspen venues during the festival period.The eventual winner will get two free nights of lodging in Aspen during the festival’s final two days – plus the title of “Colorado’s Best Songwriter 2012.” The artist also will get to play on the Wheeler Opera House stage on the night of the festival’s closing performance. Musician John Oates, the festival’s executive producer and one-half of Hall & Oates, will introduce the performance.The six finalists also will get three nights of free lodging during their Aspen performances, as well as access to all festival events. “We’re seeing what else we can do to increase the package,” said Amy Kaiser, an operations manager for the Wheeler and the contest’s coordinator.Shane Kitlas, 30, a Breckenridge resident and native of Warrior Run, Pa., won the first of six preliminary rounds Tuesday night at club Three 20 South in Breckenridge and thus is guaranteed a shot at the top prize. He performed his original tunes “Be So Clever” and “Indisposed,” and described them as “bluesy-soul pop songs.””This is cool,” he said simply when reached for comment Wednesday. He added that he’s played music publicly only a few times, and Tuesday’s two-song set marked the first time he’s ever performed in an open music competition.”There were a lot of musicians there, and everybody was very supportive and respectful,” said Kitlas, one of a few hometown favorites.Thirty-three songwriters from across the state turned out at the Breckenridge club, Kaiser said. Because participation was high and the event was new, it took well in excess of six hours to fit in all of the entrants, Kaiser said. The artists had eight minutes, enough time for about two songs. Host venues on each stop of the road to Aspen are selecting the preliminary-round judges.”We finally finished everything at about 2:30 in the morning,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised and very excited, and the venue was very excited. They said they had tried to do an open mic before, but it had never really taken off. The artists were also excited to have this opportunity.”Though crowd response is one of five judging criteria, Kaiser said the event shouldn’t be compared to an “American Idol”-type contest in which public support is an overriding factor.”We want the main focus to be on the song itself, but you can’t get away from performance and how it kind of draws in the audience,” Kaiser said. “This certainly isn’t an ‘American Idol’ situation, where it’s all about popularity.”Entrants are gauged on lyrics, melody, arrangement, performance and crowd response. A secret panel of judges will make its way around to the Aspen venues during the late-March festival-period performances that are part of the final round.Aspen musician Trenton Allan said he played Tuesday night and that he’ll hit as many of the venues as he can to secure a coveted finalist spot.That’s because Allan, as he put it, is “in it to win it.” He said he was able to squeeze in three songs and a “10-second ditty” during his eight minutes at the Breckenridge club.Allan said he was looking forward to Wednesday night’s performance at the Agave nightspot in Avon. Thursday’s event will be in Steamboat Springs, and the Tuesday, Jan. 17 round in Aspen will begin at 8 p.m. at the Red Onion. Songwriters interested in performing at the Onion should arrive early and take a time slot on a sign-up sheet.Allan, who handles production of open-mic night each Monday at the Aspen restaurant and bar, will manage the sound and staging for Tuesday’s event.”There are some incredibly talented performers in the contest,” Allan said. “I know a lot of them, and I don’t really like competing against my friends. But this isn’t just my hobby – this is my dedication as a musician and a songwriter. I really want to win. I’ve got to work hard for it.”For more information about the contest sites and rules, contact these participating clubs: the Tugboat, Steamboat Springs (Thursday); the Red Onion (Tuesday); Randi’s Grill, Winter Park (Jan. 24); and Shine, Boulder (Jan. 25).

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