Ontario Country Singer Eric Ethridge Wins Grand Prize in Unsigned Only Music Competition

The Unsigned Only Music Competition has announced its 2018 winners today, including all Canadian winners. Unsigned Only is open to all artists who are unsigned to a major record label, and over the years it has become an important source for discovering new talent. Winners were selected from over 6,000 entries submitted from 95 countries.

A total of 20 Canadian winners are honoured, including the overall Grand Prize winner, Canadian country artist Eric Ethridge from Sarnia, ON. Ethridge is the third Canadian Grand Prize winner since the competition launched in 2012, following in the footsteps of artists Wes Mack and Faouzia. Additionally, four Grand Prize winners have been signed to major label record deals.

In addition to the Grand Prize, a first and second place winner in each category were selected by a panel of judges comprised of celebrity artists and industry executives, including: Aimee Mann, Grouplove, O.A.R., Frank Foster, David Crowder, Aaron Shust, Jack Ingram, Lydia Loveless, and many more. One artist is also selected by a public vote as the Fandemonium winner.

The 2018 Grand Prize is awarded to Canadian country artist Eric Ethridge. The past few years have seen Ethridge’s career gaining momentum; he was mentioned in Rolling Stone, won the CCMA Discovery Program, charted on the Canadian Country charts, and most recently he debuted on SiriusXM’s The Highway. His much-anticipated debut EP was released in July of 2018 and peaked at #1 on the iTunes Country chart and #3 on the all-genres chart. His impressive catalogue of material, including the winning song “Girl On Fire,” proves that he is an artist who consistently stamps his songs with the same melodic and vocal prowess. A doctor-turned-country-artist, Ethridge has a strong connection with his fans and listeners, evidenced by his songs being streamed over three million times in the short time since the EP was released.

“Being named the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Unsigned Only Music Competition has truly been an incredibly humbling and life changing experience,” says Ethridge. “This opportunity has truly given me the chance to take my career to the next level and live my passion, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.”

In addition to winning $20,000 in cash (US) and $20,000 (US) in merchandise and services, Ethridge also receives one-on-one mentoring from a group of music industry executives, including: Dan Chertoff (VP of A&R, RCA Records); Riggs Morales (VP of A&R and Artist Development, Atlantic Records); Nick Haussling (Sr, Director of A&R, Concord Music); Kim Stephens (President, Forward Entertainment); Zoe Young (VP of A&R, Epic Records); Doug Johnson (VP of A&R, Black River Entertainment); and Allison Jones (Sr. VP of A&R, Big Machine Label Group).

“Canada has produced many great artists, and Eric Ethridge, this year’s Grand Prize winner, is its newest artist to emerge on the scene,” says UO founders, Candace Avery and Jim Morgan. “The Grand Prize winner needs to be an artist who possesses extraordinary talent and is ready to take the next step in his or her career. We are always on the lookout for that artist who not only creates music that will be in demand but who also makes music that is enduring. Ethridge embodies these traits, and he is one of the most exciting artists Unsigned Only has been privileged to discover. We are proud to honor him with the 2018 Grand Prize.”

The complete panel of 2018 judges includes: Aimee Mann; David Crowder; Frank Foster; Jack Ingram; Aaron Shust; Lydia Loveless; O.A.R.; Grouplove; Josh Jackson (Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief, Paste Magazine); Anthony DeCurtis (Contributing Editor, Rolling Stone); Lyndsey Parker (Managing Editor, Yahoo Music); Jed Gottlieb (Music & Theater Writer, Boston Herald); Kevin McNeese (President, NewReleaseToday); David Sikorski (Sr. Editor, EARMILK Media Inc.); Hardeep Phull (Music Editor, NY Post); Jeff Zuchowski (VP, Artist Marketing / Industry Relations, Pandora); John Dibiase (President, Jesus Freak Hideout); Miriam Di Nunzio (Arts Editor / Entertainment, Chicago Sun-Times); David Silbaugh (Talent Buyer, Summerfest); Brandon Chitwood (Assistant Director, EDM Joy); Matt Maher (Artist Manager, ROAR Mgmt); Chad Jensen (Artist Manager, Jensen Artist Mgmt); Brinson Strickland (President, Collective Music Nashville); Deborah Klein (JV Partner and Artist Manager, Primary Wave Ent); Chris Sampson (EVP, Programming Superfly Presents); Kristyn Ciani (Talent Buyer, C3 Presents); Alicen Schneider (Sr. VP, Music Creative / NBC Ent); Connie Farr (Music Supervisor / Creative Director, ThinkSync Music); Evan Stein (Owner, Experience Music Group); James Kempner (Owner, JMK Connections); Jennifer Taunton (Music Supervisor, Level Two Music); Jessica Cole (Founder/President, Lyric House); Samantha Carew (Music Creative, Sky TV); and Velma Barkwell (Music Supervisor, East End Music Productions).

Unsigned Only is sponsored by: Berklee College of Music; Celebrity Access; D’Addario; Eventide; Eventric; Groove 3; Hybrid Studios; Lurssen Mastering; Magix; Merch Cat; Musician Wellness; Musicians Institute; PRA Systems; Pro Tour Nutrition; Radio Airplay; Shure; Symphonic Distribution; The Music Business Registry; and Vocal Eze.

Unsigned Only is now accepting entries. This year, Unsigned Only has added five new categories for artists to enter. The complete list of categories includes: AAA (Adult Album Alternative); AC (Adult Contemporary); Americana; Blues; Christian; Country; EDM; Folk/Singer-Songwriter; Instrumental; Jazz; Latin Music; Pop/Top 40; R&B/Hip-Hop; Rock; Screen Shot (songs suitable for placment in film, tv, etc.); Teen (for artists 18 years old and younger); Vocal Performance; and World Music.

For more information, go to

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Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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