AMPED Music Contest finalists set to take the stage

The Amped finalists performed at a preview in August at Sky City.
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We’re down to six. Six performers made it through two rounds of voting to reach the final round in AMPED: The Augusta Chronicle Music Contest. They’ll perform their original songs beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, on the Global Stage at the Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival. Here’s a closer look at the top six:

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Results May Vary is certain about one thing: their music will have a positive message.   ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Results May Vary is certain about one thing: their music will have a positive message.

Hear the finalists' original music:


Wade Teston didn’t start writing songs until he was in his 40s after an unlikely career change helped him tap into his creative side.

“I’m a gasoline tanker driver,” he said. “I had office jobs that people would give their right arm for, but I never had the peace and freedom. I write a lot of songs.”

Teston classifies his music as folk-Americana. He has been influenced by “classic country” songs of artists such as Willie Nelson and Guy Clark.

“I like to keep it simple and have something to say,” said Teston, who would likely have kept his songs to himself without the urging of his biggest fan, his wife, Pam, who prompted him to enter the contest.

She has looked for other opportunities for him to play. When she first organized the monthly Pick’n and Praise’n event about three years ago with the purpose of giving singer-songwriters a place to perform, her husband was at the top of the list.

Teston’s entry in the AMPED competition is called Gene & Roy and is about Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

“In the ’60s, the world was in a mess. The president was assassinated; Martin Luther King was assassinated. People would go to their TVs as a retreat, an escape from reality,” he said.


Therapy isn’t exactly what Celia Gary has in mind with her music, but people have told the University of South Carolina Aiken psychology major that there is something soothing about her music.

“ ‘Relaxing’ and ‘mellow’ are words I get a lot,” said Gary, an acoustic guitar player and singer who’d like to make a career out of music but is finishing her degree just in case.

Gary writes music from her heart and thinks that may be the reason people connect with it.

“I share personal things,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s about people I know. I feel like I’m inspiring people to know they are not alone. I use music to let people open up. They click with something through a song.”

Her AMPED song, Leaving Me Hanging, is about a close male friend.

“There may have been some feelings there, but he kept blowing me off. I had to write it,” she said.


Jesup Dolly’s music and name reflect each other.

Feelings of disenfranchisement, poverty and the outlaw element are part of Jesup Dolly’s sound, according to band member, Brian Allen.

The band is named for a character, Jessup Dolly, with a slightly different spelling from the 2010 Indie film, Winter’s Bone. In the film, Dolly, who is known for his expertise as a meth cook, turns up missing before his court date. He’s put the family’s house up as a security for his bond, and if he doesn’t show up to court, then the family is homeless. His teenage daughter sets out to find him. The film is based on a 2006 novel.

Its Americana-infused rock sound has its roots in other forms including punk. A few of the band members played with punk bands at one time.

Bill Quattlebaum said influences include Jim Croce and Bobbie Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe.

“It’s all about the story,” he said.

Jesup Dolly’s entry in the Amped competition is Evangeline.


Members of The Farris-Owen Project had an “aha” moment during last year’s Arts in the Heart of Augusta.

“We play for fun,” said band member, Julie Farris. “Last year, we heard the bands up there, and thought ‘we could do that,’ ”

She and Debbie Owen had been playing together for several years, and they added Debbie’s daughter, Laura, a Westside High School junior, who plays upright bass, to round out the trio.

The group performs a lot of covers in addition to its own music.

“We play everything from the Judds to Elvis,” said Farris.

She wrote their band’s song, Delia Jones, as a response.

“It’s a story song. A friend wrote two other songs, but no one told the wife’s side of the story,” said Farris.


Results May Vary blends a variety of styles together to form one unique sound.

Band member Justin Epps calls it “pop, punk-alternative rock,” while Benjamin Kokko terms it “power pop.”

Whatever it’s called, it brings with it a positive message.

“We are Christian guys,” said Drew Norris. “We will never go against that. Our songs will never have ungodly things in them.”

The band members met through church and school, and while they don’t know where their musical future will take them, they try to keep things in perspective.

“All those people who are in it for fame and money, we just like to get together and play,” said Norris. “We are doing what we love and having fun with it.”

Results May Vary’s entry is called Best Shot.


Jefferson County High School senior Bethany Kath­leen has been singing for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve sung in church choirs and at church events,” said Kathleen, who would like to pursue a music-related career, possibly music therapy.

Influences on the 17-year-old’s music include Taylor Swift, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra and Colbie Caillat.

She’s been writing songs for several years, but says not all of her songs are for the public. Some are just for her.

“I’ve written a lot, but I consider seven or eight to be good songs,” Kathleen said.

One of those good songs is Stuck In Time, her entry in the AMPED music contest.

“It’s about a relationship I didn’t want to end, and I wanted to be stuck in the moment of it,” she said.

Comments (6) Add comment
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avidreader 09/13/12 - 05:41 am
Bethany Kathleen

I listened to her song on-line when it was featured in the AC. Her
talent is undeniable, and to me, she stood out as a bit more polished than the rest. She also has a nice touch with the guitar. This commentary is not a ploy for a vote; I'm just thinking out loud.

rocklandwriter 09/14/12 - 12:52 am
Julie Farris and Bethany Kathleen

These two are the only ones who in my opinion truly belong in the top six. I listened to all the singers from the beginning and there were at least 4 artists that were top six material, these two being two of them. Listen to this video you've placed here for us of their night on stage, the pitch issues, off-key issues and just overall "not good" musicians. Please I pray that Julie Farris or Bethany Kathleen win this contest or in my opinion it was rigged from the start; beginning to wonder if the judges are tone deaf.

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 09/14/12 - 05:24 pm
Good field this year...

...judging by their submissions....I'll be interested to see how they sound "on stage' tomorrow though....
As any one who's ever done anything like this will tell you, it's one thing to sound good in the studio, but it's quite another to do it live!...

STAK 09/15/12 - 11:22 am

According to Rocklandwriter, the contest are judged, juried and won by either Julie Farris or Bethany Kathleen or it's rigged from the start...the rubber meets the road tonight....I agree with Conservative money is on CELIA GARY with JESUP DOLLY second and BETHANY KATHLEEN third...or that order may reversed between place and show...I've seen Celia take an audience and hold them captivated for a solid hour....she's got great original songs, a signature vocal style and an enthralling stage presence....she has NO problems with pitch whatsoever regardless of judge and jury rocklandwriter....

rocklandwriter 09/15/12 - 12:24 pm
they played live on this video.....and......

Sorry to say, yes, it is hard to get up live and perform, I've done it many a time; and yes, studio can make you sound much better; my statement is based on hearing these bands live on stage in the above clip that is posted here. Julie Farris still sounds about the same as her original entry, as does Bethany Kathleen (who in my opinion has had much training for a young lady and lots of potential); however, the other 4 entrants I'm sorry to say lost my votes after this performance, I was much more pleased with some of them in their original entried, this live showing made me ask "why and how could they be in the top 6"
I'm curios to see how this plays out, i'm a songwriter myself and I also was not impressed with two of these contestants entering "do-over" songs. I totally disagree with Stak, but it is my opinion, we'll see.

rocklandwriter 09/16/12 - 11:21 pm
WOW,.... all I can say is WOW..... and...

not even an honorable mention of Julie Farris ensemble? They were by FAR the best sounding in this top 6 and one of three of the best sounding since the original 32 entries and had great lyrics. Great Harmony,smooth soud, and not a mention... and Bethany Kathleen, although she is young and a little unpolished sounded so much better than the winners.... so again, I say WOW!!! This was definately NOT a singer/songwriter contest, it was a "who is my favorite local band" by the judges..... and who is about my age who I may relate to? That being the case, the in the future you should have a BAND contest and a real Singer/Songwriter contest.... then I may even consider entering!

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