Nearly 5,000 entries from all 50 states and we had to pick just one! The competition rose to a new level this year and the decision was harder than ever. Our judges looked at a vast array of music from every genre — and lots of music that couldn't be categorized. The creative community these days is bursting, and the diversity of sounds and people who sent us entries made for many magical "wow" moments.
So, when it came time to pick a winner, we have to admit: It was tough. We debated, deliberated, championed and celebrated the entries that impressed us. In the end, it was a soft-spoken, soulful guitarist who captured our hearts. We're proud to announce this year's Tiny Desk Contest winner is Naia Izumi!
Naia is a 34-year-old musician from Georgia who regularly busks on the streets of Los Angeles, where he now lives. He impressed the judges with his intricate, complex guitar playing and his sweet, emotive voice. The video he submitted for "Soft Spoken," recorded in the home studio he has built in his garage, showcases the incredible skillfulness and gentle spirit he brings to his music.
Talia Schlanger, host of WXPN's World Cafe, said it this way: "The fact that Naia Izumi's solo performance captivated the judging panel, out of a sea of big bands and flashy videos, says something powerful about what a singular talent we have on our hands. Naia's remarkable creativity on the guitar, solid songwriting and gentle yet powerful charisma make me proud to root for him as our winner!"