Tag Archives | Luke Bryan

Country Music Blog Rodeo: 2013 Artists to Watch

Names You Know Will Transform Into Superstars, and Names You May Not Know… You Will in 2013

Blog Rodeo2012 was full of excitement in country music, especially for new and emerging artists. We watched artists such as Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and Eric Church emerge as the next wave of superstars. We also saw new artists such as Hunter Hayes, Brantley Gilbert, and Jana Kramer become household names.

So who will it be in 2013? We’ve got some ideas, some very obvious, and some that you really need to pay attention to.

Here we go… the artists to watch in 2013:

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The American Country Awards

American Country AwardsLast night was the third annual American Country Awards (ACAs), broadcast live on FOX from the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The two-hour special featured performances by co-hosts Trace Adkins and Kristin Chenoweth, Jake Owen, Kip Moore, Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town and a surprise performance by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

With nine awards, including Artist of the Year, Luke Bryan received the most awards, followed by Miranda Lambert, who received three awards. Following her two wins this year, Carrie Underwood has earned 11 ACA awards, the most ACA honors of any artist. Lady Antebellum’s wins in Artist of the Year: Group and Single of the Year: Group, plus their five previous awards, make them the group with the most ACA honors ever.

Fans logged on to www.theacas.com to cast votes in support of their favorite country music artists not only in traditional categories, but also in a previously unrecognized area – touring – encompassing the entire spectrum of country music. Continue Reading →

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Star-Studded GRAMMY Nominations Concert to Hit Nashville Wednesday

Taylor Swift and LL Cool J Host The Show Airing LIVE on CBS at 9pm CST

GRAMMY Nominations Concert

Tomorrow night is a big one in the entertainment world. The GRAMMY Nominations Concert is taking place… right here in Nashville! That’s right, CBS is airing the show LIVE from 9-10 CST for the first time ever directly from Bridgestone Arena. And FOCUS is gonna be there!

Hosted by Taylor Swift and LL Cool J (just odd enough a pairing to be spectacular), the night will include performances by Hunter HayesLuke Bryan, Maroon 5, Ne-YoThe Whofun.Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry (performing together as a tribute to Johnny Cash), plus more! Oh, and they’re also announcing the nominees for Music’s Biggest Night, complete with special guest appearances.

And for those lucky enough to be AT the event (I’ll wait as you get over turning green from envy)… Maroon 5 will be performing an exclusive performance after the live broadcast. Stay tuned for more!

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Legends Honored, Superstars Perform at 6th Annual ACM Honors

ACM Honors

Country music fans are aware that the genre has no shortage of awards shows (at least four and counting). Arguably the most prestigious of these, however, is the Academy of Country Music Awards (ACMs) held in Las Vegas in April. What fewer country fans may know is the Academy holds an annual awards show for non-televised industry and specialty awards called the ACM Honors, which took place Monday at The Ryman Auditorium. Continue Reading →

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ACM Lifting Lives: A Music Camp With Heart

Starting the week of June 18th, campers from 14 states across the nation came to Nashville to participate in the ACM Lifting Lives music camp for people with developmental disabilities.  “The residential camp has the dual purpose of studying Williams syndrome and other developmental disabilities and providing music enrichment through performance and education” according to the ACM Lifting Liveswebsite.

ACM Lifting Lives

Jana Kramer and ACM Lifting Lives campers at BBQ

Campers participated in a fun-filled week of activities around Music City.  They did what many people come to Nashville try to do, they started the week off in a songwriting session with Brett Eldredge and David Lee Murphy where they created the original song “We’re Having A Party”.  This was followed by a recording session with Luke Bryan and Paul Worley 2 days later.  Then, had a fun evening out at Winners singing karaoke with Lauren Alaina. The next day they were treated to BBQ with Jana Kramer. Finally, they concluded their week with a performance with Big & Rich on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.

After a week of covering these different events with the campers, I was touched by their enthusiasm, spirit, and musical talent. It was both an amazing experience for the campers and those of us lucky enough to cover it as media. I know it was for me. It was such a special experience to see these people who have to overcome so much in their lives get to live out what is a life-long dream for many that come to Nashville. To watch the expressions on their faces as they came into contact with the different country stars and see their proud faces as they stepped on the Opry stage to sing their song…it’s a memory that I won’t forget and will always treasure. I cheered for them and even shed a few tears in pride for them as I watched them perform on that legendary stage.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to cover the different activities of the week because I was given a small glimpse into the lives of these very special people. It is hard to put into words how special these campers were/are. I had many opportunities to interact with them and came out each time being touched by them in so many different ways. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their sweet spirits touched my heart, and the way they are moved by music along with their musical talented is astounding. It’s truly a great thing that the ACM is doing for these people each year and I hope to take part in it again next year.

For more information about ACM Lifting Lives, go to the website: www.acmliftinglives.org. The week-long camp is a partnership between ACM Lifting Lives and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

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About Williams Syndrome:

What causes Williams syndrome?

Individuals with Williams syndrome usually are missing a small piece of chromosome 7. This rare genetic disorder occurs spontaneously in 1 out of every 7, 500 births. It is not a result of an inherited characteristic from the parents. First recognized in 1961, Williams syndrome affects males and females at equal rates and has been diagnosed in all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

What are the effects of Williams syndrome?

ACM Lifting Lives

Lauren Alaina with ACM Lifting Lives campers

While every individual is unique in how they look and act, people with Williams syndrome have some traits in common. They may have some or all of these characteristics, which include:

• Small, delicate bones and features—small teeth spaced far apart
• A white star shape in the iris of the eye • High sensitivity to loud noises • Trouble nursing as a child, slow weight gain, and
colicky behavior as a baby • Anxious or nervous behavior—including “picking”
behavior • Heart, blood vessel, and stomach problems
• High levels of calcium in the blood • Learning or cognitive disabilities • Preferring to spend time with adults instead of peers • Musical talents and/or intense connection with
music—ability to learn though music • Large vocabulary,well spoken • Extremely friendly,caring behavior—cannot
identify bad intentions in other people

Can Williams syndrome be treated?

Individuals with Williams syndrome benefit from early intervention and lifelong physical and psychological therapies. Any medical problems that develop should be monitored closely by doctors experienced in working with individuals with Williams syndrome. To help alleviate maladaptive and social-emotional challenges, try to:

• Keep distractions to a minimum—manage auditory and visual distracters.
• Manage sensitivity to sound—provide comfort and explain loud noises.
• Encourage positive thinking—teach skills for reframing negative thoughts.
• Alleviate anxieties—reassure and aid transition into other activities or topics.
• Monitor sadness—be aware that depression can hide under a cheerful exterior.
• Provide social skills training—practice interaction with others, taking turns, and how to be appropriately cautious of strangers.

Children with Williams syndrome probably will have special needs in their education. The best education programs will be collaborative team approaches, and those that build on and encourage a child’s strengths. Children with Williams syndrome generally respond well—both cognitively and emotionally—to educational programs that use music as a tool. When writing is involved, allow extra time and support and recognize that using computers, calculators, and audiotape recorders may be beneficial.

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Tin Pan South 2012: One Of Nashville’s Best Traditions

The Annual Songwriter Festival Celebrates It’s 20th Year!

Tin Pan SouthThe 20th Annual Tin Pan South festival is in the books, and Focus was there for some of the best shows of the week. The festival consists of two songwriter rounds per night in 10 separate venues. (Simultaneously… that is to say 20 rounds per night!) Obviously I could only get to two – sometimes three – per night, and I tried to choose the best of the best.

This is one of my favorite events of the year. It’s not fan mania, it’s not running around craziness, it’s not media madness… it’s the best songwriters in the world in a down-home style playing acoustic versions of their most famous songs. They truly enjoy playing and singing together, and the more accomplished musicians like to jump in to harmonize or play along, even when they’ve never sung or played them before! Not only that, I really love hearing these Billboard-topping hits played by the people who wrote them.

For those who are not familiar, more country artists than you would think DON’T write their own songs, and if they do they almost always collaborate with songwriters. This is a festival where you get to hear the songwriters. And not just hit-makers either. The week also consists of some of the best unsigned artists and incredibly talented singer/songwriters from Nashville.

 

Tuesday

What better way to kick it off than two rounds at The Hard Rock Café? Josh Turner was the big name at the first, while Luke Bryan took time out of his busy schedule to play the second. These are obviously two big names who DO write a lot of their material.

Josh was on stage with many of his collaborators Mark Narmore,
 Mark Nesler and
 Jeremy Spillman. They played a lot of his stuff along with Narmore singing his number one smash “Thats What I Love About Sundays” complete with Neil Diamond impression, and Nesler jamming out to Keith Urban’s “You Look Good in My Shirt.” And although it was cool seeing Josh and his songwriters singing these versions, Josh has a personality about as dry as the Mohave Desert.

Jim Beavers, Jeff Stevens, Luke Bryan and Bob DiPiero at Tin Pan South 2012.

Jim Beavers, Jeff Stevens, Luke Bryan and Bob DiPiero at Tin Pan South 2012. Photo Credit: Jessica Adkins

Not so with Luke. He was with some of the biggest songwriters in town: Jim Beavers, Bob DiPiero and Jeff Stevens. I’ve ever laughed so hard at a songwriter round! From bad language and dirty jokes to Luke being half in the bag, this is the reason I love this week.

Jim Beavers kicked it off with his hit “Am I The Only One” cut by Dierks Bentley. He also sang “Felt Good On My Lips” and “Red Solo Cup,” a crowd favorite. Luke started with “Is Someone Else Calling You Baby,” and also hit “Rain Is A Good Thing,” and “Country Girl (Shake It For Me).” Also for those who didn’t know Luke got his big break writing “Good Directions” which was cut by Billy Currington. Bob Dipiero a.k.a. Bobby D had me in stitches, singing the REAL version of “Daddy’s Money.” He also sang Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voice” and Montgomery Gentry’s “Gone.”

That was certainly the highlight, although afterwards I got the hell out of there as the slew of Vanderbilt girls rushed the stage to meet Luke afterwards.

 

Wednesday

Wednesday I tried hitting three shows. First was the Musicians Corner show at Commodore Grille featuring Jared Blake, Jessica Campbell, Daniel Ellsworth, Matt Giraud and Pearl Heart. A very eclectic show, they covered indie, rock, pop, blues and country. Such is Musicians Corner.

Then I had to hurry over to The Rutledge to catch Danny Myrick, Heidi Newfield, Bridgette Tatum and Focus friends, The Farm. These artists never cease to amaze me. Nick Hoffman from The Farm was playing beautiful fiddle accompaniments to many of the songs simply by asking what key the song was in. And for the record, I still have a crush on Krista 😉

Then it was off to Hard Rock again for a show I was really excited about. The ASCAP-hosted event featured an opening by the incredibly talented duo Striking Matches who I have had the privilege of hearing a few times before. Watch out for them, they’ll be huge! Then the main show featured Radney Foster, Josh Kear, Eric Paslay and Rivers Rutherford. Just to name a few of the songs these guys have penned: “Raining on Sunday” “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” “If You Ever Stop Loving Me” “Real Good Man” “Stealing Cinderella” “Dancing Away With My Heart,” “Drunk On You,” “Before He Cheats,” and “Need You Now.” Whew!

The last four were penned by Big Yellow Dog hit-making machine Josh Kear, who I worked with about a year ago. I got to hear “Dancing Away With My Heart” when it was still a WORK TAPE, and he debuted the song live at last year’s Tin Pan. It was so cool to hear it come full circle, now a number one song, and hearing him sing it again. Oh, and those last two songs won Josh a total of three Grammy’s… no big.

 

Thursday 

I tried hitting two first round shows again, but I had so much fun at the first one, I only heard one song at the second. Granted, it was Paul Overstreet and the ENTIRE Rutledge singing “Forever and Ever Amen.” Then they brought it home with a bluegrass jam session. Awesome. But the first show was real groovy (I can’t think of a better word, albeit a little dated).

James Otto at Tin Pan South

James Otto at Tin Pan South 2012

It was Greg Barnhill, Joanna Cotton, James Otto and Lee Roy Parnell. Joanna sang one song (can’t for the life of me remember the name) that was uncut, but so funny you could barely hear her over the laughter. She also sang a song that was pitched to Tina Turner. Obviously country fans know James Otto, and he was a big hit. I didn’t know he co-wrote one of my current favorites “Ain’t In No Hurry” by Zac Brown Band. At the end he segued right into a chorus of “Free Fallin’” and everyone on stage joined in for an impromptu four-part harmony! After he played his hit “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” I rushed to The Rutledge.

Another session of songwriting gold, this one featured Tom Douglas, Tony Lane, Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and James T. Slater. Here we go again with the laundry list of songs these guys wrote: “The House That Built Me,” “I Run To You,” “I Need You,” “Southern Voice,” “Little Rock,” “Roll With It,” “Letters From Home,” “Wasted,” “So Small,” “Last Name,” “Coming Home,” “A Little Bit Stronger,” “Jesus Take The Wheel,” “In My Daughter’s Eyes,” “ The High Cost Of Living,” and “Falling In Love Again.” Not bad.

Tony Lane with his salty, sultry voice sang “I Need You,” the Tim and Faith cut. In my opinion, that’s the way that song was intended to sound. I learned that the Hillary Lindsey-penned and Lady A-cut “American Honey” was in fact inspired by the liquor, and James Slater slayed a New Orleans version of “High Cost of Living” with Hillary Lindsey on harmony and Gordie Sampson rocking a guitar solo.

 

Friday

Friday I had to check out our dear friend Jesse Lee at Belcourt Taps & Tapas. She was adorable and amazing as always, playing some of her new material with friends Johnny Bulford and Chris Roberts.

Since this was a lower-key show, I didn’t expect to hear any songs that made the radio except for Jesse’s “It’s A Girl Thing.” Johnny surprised me by playing a song he wrote on a Tuesday afternoon; had it pitched to Lee Brice that Thursday; and that Saturday it was announced as his newest single… That doesn’t happen. And that song is currently sitting at number one on the charts: “Woman Like You.”

Then I went to Commodore Grille to see an artist I love, Mike Willis. He was joined by Danny Flowers, Jim Parker and Ricky Ray. Although I didn’t really know any of the songs, the guitar playing was stellar, and it was some of the bluesiest music I’d ever heard.

 

Jesse Lee and Johnny Bulford at Tin Pan South

Jesse Lee and Johnny Bulford at Belcourt Taps & Tapas

Saturday 

Although the week was starting to catch up to me, Saturday I hit up three more shows. Because I had hit up the shows with country hit-makers all week, I tried to diversify and see some independent singer/songwriters. First was Stephanie Chapman,
 Jen Foster, 
Emily West and
 Kate York at The Rutledge. Very fun and enjoyable, and Emily West – who has graced the Musicians Corner stage before – is just a joy to watch.

Then I stuck around to see The World Famous Headliners, a group comprised of three other Big Yellow Dog songwriters, Shawn Camp, “Big” Al Anderson and Pat McGlaughlin. Although The Headliners are a group in and of themselves, these three have written hits such as “Two Pina Coladas,” “ Would You Go With Me,” “River Of Love,” “Firecracker,” and George Straight’s current number one “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.”

I decided to end my week where I started it, at The Hard Rock to support my Musicians Corner family once again. This was the Music City Unsigned show featuring Justin Wade Tam, the Musicians Corner Production Director and lead singer of the group Humming House. He was joined by Sandra McCracken, Andrew Ripp, Amy Stroup, Waterdeep and Angel Snow. A great way to end the week.

 

Jen Foster, Kate York, Emily West, Stephanie Chapman and Nathan Chapman at Tin Pan South

Jen Foster, Kate York, Emily West, Stephanie Chapman and Nathan Chapman at Tin Pan South 2012

Of course, I was on my own for half the week as Patrice was galavanting around Vegas at the ACMs. You can read her write up of that amazing experience here.

And be sure to keep an eye out for tickets next year when Tin Pan celebrates it’s 21st birthday! It really is a phenomenal time for music lovers. For the complete list of performers from this year’s Tin Pan South, click here.

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Focus on the 615 at CRS 2012

And that’s a wrap. Averaging four hours of sleep per night, around noon on Friday we finished up our last of 23 interviews for CRS week. Aside from all of these (stay tuned to watch them all here), the week consisted of exclusive performances, incredible after parties and an overload of fun.

CRS again is the Country Radio Seminar, a weeklong event at the Nashville Convention Center “created to provide a platform and structure for education and growth for the Country Music format, serving as the conduit connecting the interests of Country Radio with the Country Music Industry” (crs.org). Our job was to cover it as part of the media… therefore we hung out in the media room and interviewed artists instead of going to the educational seminars. Not a bad gig.

Tuesday

Day 1 was Tuesday, a day that proved just a warm up for the week ahead. We started at Warner Music where we caught up with The Dirt Drifters, HER & Kings County and Ty Stone. HKC are some of the most energetic people we had the good fortune of meeting.

“Y’all kicked our hangover to the curb like a Bloody Mary.”
– HER & Kings County

You’re welcome guys.

Then it was up to the Bridge Bar (a cool lounge area located on the walkway over Commerce Street) to meet up with The Roys, DJ Miller and Mark Cooke. Six interviews ain’t bad for a days work, and then we were invited to attend the Country Radio Hall of Fame induction ceremony, followed by the Sony-hosted after party featuring Brent Anderson, Wade Bowen and Jerrod Niemann. They all brought the house down, especially Niemann’s finale, a cover of the classic Pride and Joy.

Wednesday

Now we come to the day where we almost had TOO MUCH fun. No kidding, it was almost hard to process it all.  The day started early with an interview with The Farm, a great group of people, then Gloriana, who I’ve had my eye on since their first single Wild At Heart three years ago. Then finally, I got to meet Jana Kramer who is in fact the sweetest person in the entire world.Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan

Then came lunch at The Ryman, one of the best musical venues in the country, for a performance by nearly the entire Universal Music Group roster. I won’t mention them all, but it started off with none other than King George Strait. Let me tell you, there is not a lot that can trump watching Troubadour live in The Ryman Auditorium as the sun shines through the stained glass windows. But if there was one thing that could, it was the way they closed the show: with Lionel Richie. And he immediately brought out one of his biggest fans to perform with him: Luke Bryan. They played Easy (Like Sunday Morning) one of my favorite songs of all time, and after a well-deserved standing ovation, we were back to the media room. So yeah, that was lunch.

After this, we caught up with Marlee Scott, Frankie Ballard and Jason Mitchell. Soon thereafter we found ourselves at a meet-and-greet with most of the aforementioned artists in attendance, along with Josh Turner, Scotty McCreary, Lauren Alaina, Luke Bryan, Craig Morgan, and others. No interviews with those folks unfortunately, but all very nice people.

But we weren’t done yet: after that was the sold out Lady Antebellum concert at Municipal Auditorium. Thompson Square opened the show in incredible fashion before Darius Rucker took the stage, singing a couple Hootie & the Blowfish classics as well as a Nashville favorite Family Tradition. Then it was Lady A’s turn, and they put on one impressive show. They played all the hits, and even featured surprise cameos from Luke Bryan (performing Do I, co-written by Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood) and Sara Evans (who performed Stronger, co-written by Hillary Scott). After the show we were exhausted… oh, but not done yet.Faith Hill

The after party was a Warner Music gathering with an 80’s theme. Artists played one of their own songs followed by an 80’s classic. On the roster were (among others) HER & Kings County, Ty Stone, Jana Kramer, THE FARM, Jason Jones, The Dirt Drifters, Frankie Ballard, Hunter Hayes, and Big & Rich who performed a rousing rendition of Madonna’s Like A Virgin.

Cue exhaustion.

Thursday

After Wednesday, Thursday became a blur of sleep deprivation masked with too much caffeine. Of the interviews I remember, we had Glen Templeton, Due West, Amber Hayes, Jessie James, Deborah Allen, Adam Gregory, Maggie Sajak and Bucky Covington (forgive me if I forgot anyone). By the time Bucky finished out the day our batteries were drained figuratively AND literally (Bucky’s interview ran slightly short due to the death of the camera battery).

Lunch featured an acoustic set by Alan Jackson, and shortly thereafter we had a few hours where I was able to go home and nap before the Black River Entertainment showcase featuring Glen Templeton, Sarah Darling and Due West.

Friday

An easy day today! Only two interviews with icon Billy Dean and the lovely The McClymonts, and then on to lunch with Faith Hill! She debuted two new songs during her performance, and sounded as good as ever.

After a little break, we were back for the New Faces of Country Music show. The pre-show and happy hour featured a performance by The Lost Trailers, before we adjourned into the performance hall to see Hunter Hayes, Eli Young Band, Sunny Sweeney and David Nail. Thompson Square was also set to perform, but had to cancel due to an unfortunate death in Shawna’s family. The performances were amazing, and the after party was equally as amazing with everyone cutting loose after a long week.Hunter Hayes

We have pictures of all this excitement on our Facebook page, and will be sure to post these interviews online as soon as possible, so be sure to check back often! We would also like to thank each artist for their time, their management for their patience, and everyone who was involved with CRS for their hard work and dedication to an extraordinary week. Thank you!

 

 

Below is a recap of our CRS interviews:

The Dirt Drifters

HER & Kings County

Ty Stone

The Roys

DJ Miller

Mark Cooke

The Farm

Gloriana

Jana Kramer

Marlee Scott

Frankie Ballard

Jason Mitchell

Glen Templeton

Due West

Amber Hayes

Jessie James

Deborah Allen

Adam Gregory

Maggie Sajak

Bucky Covington

Billy Dean

The McClymonts

CRS 2012

 

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Julie Roberts @ Natchez Hills Vineyard

RobertsLast Saturday, August 20th, I had the chance to see Julie Roberts perform a full band show to a packed house just outside of Nashville in Hampshire, TN.  She performed at the new venue, Natchez Hills Vineyard with hit songwriter, Jason Matthews, opening for her on acoustic guitar.

Now, I THOUGHT that I lived out in the country before I attended this show, but THAT was out in the country! You know you are out in the country when you completely lose cell service and you hope & pray that your GPS doesn’t go out so that you find your way back home after the show! Ok, it wasn’t bad and it’s quite pretty out there, but I would’ve never found my way there or my way back home without GPS.  Plus, walking out late at night surrounded by grapes  in the pitch dark, felt a little too eerily like I was in a horror movie.  Children of the Grapes, perhaps? I thought someone might just come along and snatch me from behind those grapes! haha

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