Baldwin wins state songwriter’s title
Local singer Joseph Baldwin has always wondered what people meant when they said they experienced a “surreal” moment, but Baldwin found out just how surreal life could be Monday night when he was named the winner of the Alabama Department of Tourism’s “Songwriter’s Contest.”
The contest was part of the department’s Year of Music campaign and was open to singers and songwriter’s statewide.
Baldwin beat out more than 50 contestants at the end of June to become the winner for the North Alabama region and competed in the finals Monday night at the Ritz Theater in Sheffield.
“I play shows five or six times a week and I never get nervous, but I was nervous before I got on that stage Monday night because I was the last one to perform,” Baldwin. “I also knew that my friends and family were out there and a lot was expected from me.
“I was trying not to listen to everyone else, but I was still nervous. I caught myself pacing in the green room backstage.”
But all those nervous jitters melted away once Baldwin got his guitar in his hand and starting playing.
“I thought I was going to start crying when I looked out and saw my friends and family and my grandmother in the audience,” Baldwin said, “but I pulled it together and it was just like an everyday thing when I hit that first note.”
After the contestants finished their songs, Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell came onstage holding the infamous “Bama Jama” guitar and told the contestants that whoever he handed the guitar to would be the winner.
“He started my way but then he backed up,” Baldwin said. “I was so nervous, but then he came back over to me and handed me the guitar. I was so surprised. I told the crowd I was at a loss for words and that’s rare for me. I was just overwhelmed.”
Baldwin won the contest for his original song titled “I’m Alabama.”
“For this song, I went back in my memory and recalled all the things about Alabama that I learned when I was in school,” Baldwin said. “I wanted this to be a song that makes you proud to be from Alabama if you are and makes you want to be from Alabama if you aren’t.”
Baldwin’s win secured him a $1,500 prize in addition to the $500 he received as the North Alabama region winner and he also received an eight-hour recording session at the legendary FAME recording studio in Muscle Shoals.
“This is one of the greatest accomplishments of my career and I’m so thankful I had this opportunity,” Baldwin said. “I just hope it keeps snowballing from here.”
Baldwin said he still has several dates on the books of places he will perform and he hopes winning this contest will lead to more bookings and exposure.
“This was definitely a break in my career one hundred percent,” Baldwin said, “and it’s something I’m very proud of.
“I went in no other direction than just being who I am and it’s a rewarding feeling to know that I was just myself and they liked it.”