A Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota student is one step closer to national stardom by submitting three original songs to Guitar Center’s fifth annual Singer-Songwriter Competition.
Darvell Jones, a junior music-industry major, is one of 9,500 applicants competing for a $20,000 music equipment shopping spree, a performance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and a $25,000 cash prize. Though this is the first time he has entered a competition under stage name Sain LeVrad, he certainly isn’t new to the music scene.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was a freshman in high school,” said Jones. “It was my way of escaping everything else and getting in touch with my inner self.”
Before high school, Jones said he auditioned and was accepted into “The Soul Children of Chicago,” a Grammy-award-winning choir. The choir traveled the world, performing with artists such as Usher, Jennifer Hudson, and the cast of the TV series “Glee.” According to Jones, the group also performed at Barack Obama’s 2013 presidential inauguration and film critic Roger Ebert’s memorial service. This was before the age of 18, before his time spent in New York City.
This past summer, after submitting songs “First Train Home” and “Memories,” Jones participated in Steinhardt’s Summer Songwriters workshop, a selective workshop held in New York City, where Jones said he worked eight hours a day with Grammy-winning songwriters for Madonna, Britney Spears, and Celine Dion. According to Jones, he was one of the 30 accepted from a pool of over 300 applicants. Jones said he is hopeful “First Train Home” and “Memories” will be chosen again in the Guitar Center contest, making him stand out from the competition.
According to the competition’s website as of Nov. 1, Jones has 1,418 points, which is calculated based on popularity or the total number of views his songs generate. If Jones’s total views for a specific week can rank him in the top 10, then the judges will automatically evaluate his songs and he will advance in the competition. The 10-week competition will be trimmed from 9,500 competitors to 100, and then from 100 to five. If Jones advances as far as the top five, he would compete against other finalists live in Los Angeles in March. Until then, Jones has no indications, other than points, as to where he stands in the competition.