ST JOHN’S, NL – The annual Great Canadian Songwriter Challenge presented by Bell Media will take place virtually via Zoom September 26th and 27th.

The Challenge is an opportunity for songwriters across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to hone their skills via a series of engaging workshops with renowned industry professionals. Topics this year include creative song writing, the business of song writing, and music video production.

For the 2020 edition of the Great Canadian Songwriter Challenge, MusicNL welcomes Songwriter/Producer Justin Gray (Mariah Carey, John Legend, Amy Winehouse) as the lead facilitator. MusicNL also welcomes mentors and industry professionals Chris Kirby, Natasha Blackwood, Dave Connors, Kellie Loder, Krisjan Leslie, and Tim Hardy to the challenge.

Virginia Fudge says, “I have participated in the Great Canadian Songwriter Challenge for the past three years, and each experience has been of great benefit to me on my song writing journey. I was given the opportunity to work with many gifted writers and gained a lot of confidence as we worked together. Each year I am amazed by the level of talent possessed by our MusicNL members and I feel grateful for the support I received from artists and facilitators alike. I left each weekend inspired, and motivated to continue to write on my own.”

Aspiring songwriters throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are invited to take part in the 2020 Songwriter Challenge. A panel of judges will review applications, as space is limited. Applicants should send the following to

  • A demo recording
  • Lyric sheet for the demo (if applicable)
  • A biography
  • A short essay on why they should be chosen

This year we are reducing the application fee by 50% to $25 due to circumstances currently affecting the industry (COVID-19). This $25 fee should accompany the application. Deadline to apply is Sunday, September 13 at 11:59pm.

Submissions are open to MusicNL members and the general public. If chosen, participants will have to be a MusicNL member at time of the event. Become a member at

If you have any questions, please contact us at (709)754-2574 or .



Justin GrayProgram Facilitator

Justin Gray is a Canadian born, Los Angeles based Songwriter, Record Producer, Music Executive and Tech Entrepreneur. Over the past 12 years, Justin’s projects have sold in excess of 40 million copies, and more than 8 billion streams world-wide. He has collaborated with a diverse range of artists including Avril Lavigne, Mariah Carey, John Legend, David Bisbal, Luis Fonsi, Joss Stone, Amy Winehouse, James Bay, and Reignwolf.


Chris KirbyMentor

If you’re into east coast music, chances are you’ve heard a Chris Kirby song or production lately. Chris has songs on recent award-winning records by Matt Andersen, The Once, The East Pointers, and much more. His song work in 2016 earned Kirby the inaugural MusicNL Ron Hynes Songwriter of the Year award.

In studios and on stages, Chris has collaborated with the likes of Gordie Sampson, Gordie Johnson (Big Sugar), Wide Mouth Mason, The Trews and more.


Natasha BlackwoodMentor

Natasha Blackwood, coordinator of First Light Centre for Performance and Creativity, is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. She is well known for her role in ECMA award-winning band Eastern Owl, and her work as a large-ensemble writer for choral and instrumental groups across Canada, including local favourite Jazz East Big Band. Natasha’s debut solo album, “Ease Back” is a concept album that explores the stages of grief with lush arrangements, thoughtful poetry, and catchy jazz-pop writing.  The album was released on March 14, 2020, on the very first day of the provincial shutdown due to COVID-19. Although the release concert and subsequent events were all cancelled, the album was released to critical acclaim and community celebration. The album went to #1 at Fred’s Records, was featured on CBC and CHMR, and received rave reviews.


Dave ConnorsMentor

Sarkastodon is the moniker of producer/performer Dave Connors. As Sarkastodon, Dave composes and produces music for various artists across Canada and the U.S.  Sarkastodon also releases solo studio instrumentals under his own name; check out the 2020 ‘Phonomontage EP’!

Sarkastodon’s sound goes from an urban, chill, & soulful aesthetic to being complex, challenging, and powerful at times. All the while remaining infectiously smooth and nubile. With The Sarkastodon Live Crew, fans can expect a more organic and eclectic take on this aesthetic, with a rotating cast of players including NL Music greats like: Scott Sheppard, Sherman Downey, Mike Moulton, Rick Waterman, Len O’Neil, Justin Mahoney, Kat McLevy and many others.


Kellie LoderMentor

There is something truly extraordinary about Juno Award Nominee and proud Newfoundlander, Kellie Loder. It can be found in their poignant lyrics set against melodic folk/pop, and in the singer/songwriter’s electrifying live shows which simultaneously inspire profound emotion in listeners while charming them with sparkling anecdotes.

For proof, listen to their 2020 Single “Afterglow”, as well as the 2019 single “Fearless”, which has already received high praise and was chosen as the soundtrack behind an IMAX Trailer for Superpower Dogs, narrated by Chris Evans (Captain America/Avengers). Her brilliant and emotive third album, Benefit of the Doubt (2018) also received recognition as it elevated subjects from intoxicating love to the exquisite pain of growing apart.

It’s these songs that have offered her nominations for CFMA Contemporary Singer of the Year, MusicNL Ron Hynes Songwriter of the Year, Female Artist of the Year & Pop Artist of the Year; the 2018 RBC Master in Residence in Calgary, AB; and put her on the same stage as Steven Page, Stephen Fearing, Alan Doyle. She was scheduled to be the supporting act for Joel Plaskett’s album release tour in May 2020, but the tour has been postponed and is being rescheduled due to COVID-19.

Anyone who has heard Loder or watched her perform knows one thing is certain: she is a towering talent about to explode on the world stage.


Krisjan LeslieMixing/Mastering Engineer

Krisjan Leslie has been part of the Canadian Music Industry for more than 25 years, working as a Producer/Engineer/Mixer throughout the country.  Over the years, Krisjan has worked with a diverse collection of artists including Duran Duran, Ron Sexsmith, Our Lady Peace, Billy Talent, 3 Days Grace, K’naan, Age Of Electric, Zuckerbaby, and Limblifter.  Krisjan has been based in Newfoundland for the last 12 years where he owns and operates LabOfChaos Studio and continues to work with many of Newfoundland’s eclectic and vibrant music community.


Tim HardyWebinar Leader

Tim Hardy is the co-owner of Sound of Pop, an ECMA award-winning music publishing & master/sync representation company, operates an independent rights management / music consulting company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Aspenway Music) and previously worked with SOCAN for over 22 years in Toronto and Halifax. Sound of Pop Publishing currently represents 3000+ songs in a one-stop capacity for sync representation and/or publishing.