The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project

2024 Songwriters

Jimena Caballero

Jimena is a songwriter, composer, and performer from Mexico City, listed by Forbes as one of the “100 Women to Watch” in Mexico and one of the “100 Most Creative Mexicans in the World.” She has performed with artists like Lang Lang, Herbie Hancock, and Armando Manzanero, as well as the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. During her time at Berklee College of Music, Jimena received the Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation Award, the Pat Pattison Award in Songwriting, the Jack Maher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting, and the Mili Bermejo Award for Voice. She is currently writing “Esperanza Rising: The Musical” with her writing partner Emma Cordray. Together, they were selected for the ASCAP Foundation’s 2024 Musical Theatre Librettist Workshop.

Rowan Clark

Rowan Clark, a singer/songwriter from Fairfax, Virginia, is majoring in songwriting and music business at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Her 2022 debut album REC provided the chance to explore music production and collaboration. Although Rowan’s catalog of yet-to-be-released material comprises most of her current setlists, her songs continue to explore the emotional spectrum of the human experience encompassing yearning, disappointment, hurt, nostalgia, love, and joy. As a member of the Songwriters’ Association of Washington, she has received multiple honorable mentions in SAW’s Mid-Atlantic Song Contest. Rowan is honored to be a part of the Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project.
Contact/Follow:   @rowan.ellen.clark

Linda Coman

Linda Therese is a 21-year-old songwriter and indie folk artist from Chicago, now residing in Nashville. She has released an EP and a full-length album, along with two singles. She performs frequently with her band while being a full-time music student at Belmont University.

Emma Cordray

Emma is a bilingual writer, teacher, director, and dramaturge. Emma has worked for NAMT, Pittsburgh CLO, Escuela JANA, and Signature Theater. She is a former apprentice with One Year Lease Theater Company in Greece, and a graduate of the National Theater Institute’s Advanced Directing Program. During her time at Carnegie Mellon University, Emma earned awards for her imaginative and interdisciplinary work. She was most recently a two-time Fulbright Scholar in Madrid, where she co-led the Consejería of Education’s Model UN Program across 140 schools. Emma is currently writing “Esperanza Rising: The Musical” with her writing partner Jimena Caballero. Together, they were selected for the ASCAP Foundation’s 2024 Musical Theatre Librettist Workshop.

Lance Custis

Yo! My name is Lance. I was born in Columbia, Maryland and grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland. I’ve been producing music since I was in middle school but it wasn’t until high school that my beats started to catch the attention of my older brother, Liam. Since 2020, Liam and I have been working together under “Liam Law & Lance Magic.” Recently, I started producing and writing my own verses for our new songs to test my penmanship. Over the years, we’ve had experience working with multi-platinum artists and producers, and we have performed in locations such as Howard University, Columbia, Maryland, and Baltimore. Our dream is to make music for a living and I believe that this Songwriters Project will help us gain one step closer to achieve that goal.

Liam Custis

What’s up?! Coming from Ellicott City, Maryland, I go by Liam, and I have been songwriting since I was about 12 years old. I was born in San Diego, California, and grew up in Maryland; although I spent many weekends in southern Virginia. After producing, recording, writing, and mixing my own music for about 6 years, my brother Lance and I began producing records together. Since about 2019, my brother and I have recorded a catalog of over 50 songs. Our work together has led us to incredible opportunities like: performing at Howard University, Merriweather Post Pavilion, recording, writing, mixing records with multi-platinum artists and producers, and now the JMF Songwriters Project. A few major goals we have are to produce for major artists.

Ernie Bird

Ernie Bird is a genre-agnostic queer composer, writer, and artist born in Ukraine, and a 2023 Jonathan Larson Award finalist. His musical RISE, with librettist Gabrielle Mirabella, debuted Off-Broadway at the Kaufman Music Center in 2022. They also co-wrote the Women’s History audio drama What Will She Do Next? featured on Apple Podcasts, NYT, and Chicago Sun-Times. Bird’s autobiographical musical The Ukrainian War Diary was showcased at the National Opera Center in 2023, and Sunday Brunch, co-written with Rachel Aberman, was performed at 54 Below and Green Room 42. He earned an MFA in Musical Theatre Composition from NYU, is a Berklee alumnus, a Guest Composer at Columbia University, and a Member Composer at the BMI Lehman Engel Workshop.

Mariah Dion

At just 19 years old, Canadian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mariah Dion is blazing her own style of country music. Taking inspiration from Kelsea Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves, and Shania Twain, Mariah’s vocal stylings are uniquely her own, leaving a lasting impression with her signature tremolo. Her talent as a writer has earned her recognition from Belmont University where she currently majors in songwriting and devotes herself to developing her raw ability to speak from the heart. Captivating audiences with her acoustic guitar, her performing prowess has earned her a spot at Canadian Music Week 2024. Mariah balances life as a songwriter, artist, and university student as she works to cement her authenticity in the studio.

Sarah Hardwig

I’m a rising senior songwriting major in the Curb College of Music Business at Belmont. In 2023, I was fortunate to win a Tennessee Songwriter Week Showcase and a Danny Award, as one of 11 honorees from 30 states and 9 countries for musicians with disabilities. I’ve been able to perform at the Bluebird Cafe and Listening Room as well as other venues around Nashville, and won a contest to sing the national anthem at the 2022 Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium. I’ve released two singles: “Who I Am” in November 2022 and “I Know You Won’t” in April 2024.

Julia Hutchinson

My name is Julia Hutchinson and I am a rising senior at Belmont University studying Commercial Voice with an emphasis in Songwriting. Originally from Boston, I have had a huge passion for music my whole life, playing the piano since five years old and the guitar since eight years old. I began songwriting when I was 12 and fell in love with exploring new genres and challenging myself to improve my craft. My favorite part of music overall is the opportunity it gives you to collaborate with others and make new friends!


Charlie Malcolm

As a born and bred Floridian, it goes without saying that I’ve witnessed some bizarre and borderline absurd happenings in my home state, but the mix of Caribbean, Latino, and Southern culture is one of a kind and it helped shaped my unique perspective of being able to tell stories from all sides. On top of that, as the gay son of a Black Jamaican mother and a Southern White American dad, I find walking the line of cultural divide is where I’m happiest. I see music as means to tell stories that embrace this intersectionality. I would describe my music as cinematic pop, very influenced by blues, musical theatre, and film score as well as the singer-songwriter stylings of pop radio.

Dylan MarcAurele

Dylan MarcAurele is an NYC-based musical theater writer and composer. His newest musical, POP OFF, MICHELANGELO!, was developed at the JMF Writers Grove at Goodspeed and will have its world premiere at the upcoming 2024 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Other recent musicals include MEG4N, THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NYC, and LEWIS LOVES CLARK (2023 Richard Rodgers Award; book and lyrics by Mike Ross). Last year, he wrote the song “Say Bravo!” for NBCUniversal’s inaugural Bravo Awards, sung by Andy Cohen and the cast of VANDERPUMP RULES. He also runs the 28K-follower musical Instagram account @rhonymusical. Harvard University, ‘16.

Melanie McGrath

Melanie Jo is a Chicago-born, LA-based songwriter/artist/producer who writes infectious pop melodies and nostalgic lyrics that recall the sounds of artists like Lorde, Gracie Abrams, and Holly Humberstone. Her artist project has amassed over 1M views on TikTok and secured sync placements on MTV, Amazon Prime, and College Music. Upon her initial move to Los Angeles in 2021, she completed a songwriting mentorship with Grammy-nominated songwriter and artist, JP Saxe. In 2023, she was selected to participate in the ASCAP Harold Adamson Songwriters Workshop, where she was awarded the Harold Adamson Lyric Award for her song “Second Chances.” Prior to moving to LA, she studied film scoring and contemporary production at the University of Miami.

Belle McKee

New York born and Nashville based, Belle McKee is a genre-diverse songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Pop influences such as Sabrina Carpenter, JP Saxe, and Gracie Abrams have helped shape Belle’s clever, honest method of telling stories. At just 16 years old, Belle was selected for the Ashley Gorley Songwriting Scholarship, giving her a unique insight into both the business and creative sides of the music industry. To master her craft, Belle has attended Durango Songwriters Expo twice and interned at various independent labels. Currently, she is at Belmont University creating new connections, co-writing, and recording/releasing new songs.

Farrah Rotman

Farrah Rotman (b. 1997) is a transgender composer, lyricist, pianist, writer, orchestrator, and aerialist based in Brooklyn. Her musical Rumspringa is available on all streaming platforms. She was the 2020 winner of Yale University’s highest arts award, the Louis Sudler Prize, as well as the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Award, the Tribeca New Music Competition, the Brian Israel Prize at the Syracuse Society for New Music, the Society for Chamber Music in Rochester Composer Competition, and Juventas New Music Ensemble Call for Scores. Farrah holds a B.A. in Music & Theatre Studies with honors from Yale University and a diploma in Composition from Juilliard Pre-College. Music, writing, and performance can be found at

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