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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Local Songwriters Are "American Idol" Finalists

More than a year ago, Jason Phelps and Mendy Shaw wrote a song called "Stronger," inspired by the difficulty in breaking into the music business. Now "Stronger" could be their big break.

"Stronger" is one of 20 finalists in the "American Idol" songwriting competition. It was chosen from "thousands" of online entries, though "Idol" publicists won’t say exactly how many.

Shaw, a 1987 Little Miami High School graduate from Lebanon, and Phelps, a 1991 Sycamore High School graduate and Blue Ash native, have been collaborating for about six years. You might recognize Phelps from his days as the WLW-AM production director (1998-2002), or as the singer for Pay The Girl (had a Billboard top 20 hit with "Freeze" played heavily on Q102), or as a solo act in clubs around town. Two years ago, he moved to Atlanta to become music director for the Clear Channel creative services group. Shaw's full-time job is selling pharmaceuticals.

Anyway, they need your support to win the contest. Here’s what you need to know:
--It's not a quick process.
--You can vote just once per email address at
--You have to register first, then be sent an email by Fox to be able to vote.
--You're not just voting for one song. You're rating the songs (1-10), with 10 the highest rating.
--You must listen to at least 20 seconds of a song before you rate it.
--You won't see the names of Jason Phelps, Mendy Shaw or any of the composers. You'll just see song titles. (Remember: "Stronger!")

Online voting closes April 23. The winning song will be performed by the two "American Idol" finalists on Tuesday, May 20, the last night of competition, and again by the winner on Wednesday, May 21. Last year over 2 million online votes were cast for "This Is My Now," written by Jeff Peadoby and Scott Krippayne. It was the first hit on Jordin Sparks' debut album.

Shaw isn’t quitting her day job just yet.

"You try not to get too excited in case nothing happens," says Shaw, who has made frequent trips to Nashville to pitch and record her songs. "You try a lot of things to get your foot in the door. I've been really close at times to getting my song on a record, and close to a record contract. We feel very fortunate to be chosen for the top 20, because there are a lot of great songs out there. If this is all that happens, that's OK too."


at 4/16/2008 11:31 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I listened, loved it and gave it a 10! Do either of them play locally? Is there anyway to get a copy? Thanks for putting the word out.

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