Category: Category 1

The venue was packed with finalists, music enthusiast and their friends. It was the Coffee Music Project Finals at the Mercury Lounge and after days of musicians showcasing their best it came down to 11 acts. As a judge for the second consecutive year I knew what to look for; originality, showmanship, lyrical content and performance ability. That still didn’t make the process any easier. When it comes down to judging talent all I know is that it starts in the gut and when a musician or song speaks to me I just know, and that was definitely the case for selecting this year’s winner.

Coffee Music Project Finalists (Top L to R) Samantha Rise, Troy Ramey, Ariah & Lena, Sarah Kang, Maris, Michelle Wake, Leah Woods, Matt Kent, Amanda McCarthy and Gules

Stand outs included Troy Ramey who earned a couple of whistles and “woos” through his set from the crowd. Amanda McCarthy charmed the audience with her pop sensibility and song, “elephant in the room” and her New York song which mentioned a guy from Syracuse she was digging, her bandmate.

Our girl Maris had the crowd swaying and feeling her insatiable beats. When Matt Kent took to the stage many of the females in the audience made their way to the front of the crowd it was as if they knew and wanted firsthand accounts of witnessing the birth of a pop heartthrob.

Sarah Kang delighted the crowd with her reverb and looping of live vocals on her first song, “Oh, Earth” a beautiful Zen-like ode to planet earth. The crowd also inched closer to the stage to witness Leah Woods’ performance. Her folksy vocals filled the room, murmurs from audience member declared her the best of the competition. That is until Samantha Rise took the stage. Her on-stage presence was unparalleled and her musical arrangements were star quality, she was clearly the most seasoned musician in the house and eventually was crowned the winner.

Overall the experience was thrilling there were so many incredible musicians but unfortunately not all of them could be winners. Troy Ramey came in second place and Matt Kent came in third. I can’t wait to judge next year’s batch of contestants.

The Coffee Music Project is a high profile music competition showcasing the creativity and talents of emerging musicians while engaging a deep spirit of community among those who share a passion for great music and coffee culture. 100% of the profits support Project Waterfall in partnership with charity: water, bringing clean water and sanitation to coffee growing communities. For more on the Coffee Music Project and music festival visit their website: