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Artist of the Week: Kristian Bush
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week

Kristian Bush

Not many people have heard Kristian Bush‘s upcoming solo album Southern Gravity, which is due for release April 7. So, when I sit down with the country singer in Nashville for an interview and tell him I love what I’ve heard, he jumps out of his seat, a smile beaming across his face, and gives me a big hug.

“So very people have heard it, and I’m freaking out because fans are pre-ordering now, and it hit me two days ago,” he says excitedly. His voice is softer now, like he’s sharing a secret between friends. He’s genuinely excited about getting his new music out into the world, but also, understandably, a little anxious. This is, after all, his first solo album since his band Sugarland went on hiatus.

Fans, apparently, are excited to hear the music, too. As Bush relates, “When all those orders came in, they called me and said, ‘We’re out of the pre-orders. We need to reorder again.’ And I was like, ‘OK! That’s good news.’ And 20 minutes later I was like, ‘Oh no, they’re all going to hear it!’ It’s all starting to sink in.”

While country fans know Bush very well as one-half of Sugarland, many aren’t too familiar with his voice (his Sugarland partner Jennifer Nettles handles lead vocals). This fact is not lost on him. And the excitement for an album release isn’t, either.

“In a weird way, this is my third first record,” he says with a laugh. “I remember the first record with Billy Pilgrim, and I remember the first record with Sugarland, and this has the same energy. Most people who hear the music now, they don’t know it’s me because they’re not very familiar with it, because I didn’t sing very much in Sugarland. So it truly is, ‘Hello, my name is Kristian.’”

Bush says his new music will be a discovery process of sorts for people, as they’re now just figuring out what part of the DNA of the band he is.

“If you’re just a complete stranger and you’re like, ‘I love that song. Who’s that?’ That’s fun for me,” he admits. “It’s nerve-wracking and kind of fantastic.”

Interestingly enough, Bush said not even his closest friends have put his voice and his current single “Trailer Hitch” together.

“They don’t connect the dots yet,” he says. “That’s the piece I think that’s interesting about that song. As soon as they start to go, ‘Oh!’ Then it’s the fun and the stories and the grooves you expect from Sugarland, except it’s me singing.”

 

 

Read my complete interview with Kristian Bush on Radio.com. His debut solo album, Southern Gravity, will be released on April 7.

March 31, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Photo of the Week: Front Row with Cole Swindell
CATEGORIES: Photo of the Week

cole swindell

I’ve been to many shows over the years, enjoying them as a fan and a reporter. Last week was a bit of both when I attended my first concert at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for New York radio station 94.7 NashFM’s NashBash.

When I got to the venue with my friend, we were both given photo passes so I hung out near the photo pit at the very front of the stage for most of the night while she took photos. It was the closest I’ve been during a major show at such a big venue and I enjoyed every second of it. I never imagined my job would take me up close and backstage at a radio station’s concert but I often dreamed about it as a kid. Here’s headliner Cole Swindell performing at the beginning of his set.

March 30, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him”
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

old dominion

The music industry, I’ve come to find, is very very small. At most concerts I attend it’s easy to run into at least one person I know, whether it’s a country show, a rock concert or a songwriter showcase. As I was catching up on Country Weekly this weekend I saw a very familiar face in the above photo. The magazine was featuring bands to watch in 2015 and Old Dominion was one. Once reading the names of the guys in the band, I realized I had already interviewed their guitarist years ago when he was in Army of Me. The first band I ever toured with, I spent a few days on the road with Army of Me and they couldn’t be nicer guys.

Looking back, it all makes so much sense. While I hadn’t started covering country music yet, I remember guitarist Brad  Tursi sitting backstage and playing country music on his guitar. The tour they were on was a pretty heavy rock show so I was surprised. He mentioned in passing that he loved writing country songs and while I was intrigued, I didn’t put too much thought into it. Nearly seven years later, he’s now living in Nashville writing country music on his own and with his band, who are about to hit the road with Kenny Chesney.

I had listened to Old Dominion’s EP in the past, but now I was really interested. I’ll admit, when I like a song I tend to play it on repeat almost all day and that’s exactly what happened when I heard their new single “Break Up With Him.” Listen to it below. I’d love to know your thoughts!

March 27, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Interview: Eli Young Band
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

eyb-dl

I was fortunate to interview Eli Young Band on their tour bus while I was in Nashville last month. The band that made “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” one of my all-time favorite songs a huge hit, it was great to meet the group who have been the soundtrack of my struggling freelance days. During our chat, the guys filled me in on their new EP, songwriting and how their wives continue to inspire their music. Read an excerpt below and the full interview on Radio.com.

The Eli Young Band originally had no intention to release any new material this month. But the four members of the Texas-based group were recently in the studio working on music to follow up their 2014 release 10,000 Towns, and their label Republic Nashville immediately loved what they heard.

Now four of those brand-new songs are included on the group’s new EP Turn It On, which dropped on March 10.

“We felt like we were onto something as far as the next step as the Eli Young Band,” frontman Mike Eli tells me, sitting in his tour bus with his bandmates during a stop in Nashville, Tenn. for the 2015 Country Radio Seminar.

“We just recorded these songs in January, so it’s a fast turnaround,” Eli continued. “The label came in and heard what we were doing and really liked it and wanted to release the single and get it out as quick as possible. They really fast-tracked it, faster than anything we’ve ever done.”

While the four Eli Young Band bandmates are all happily married, Eli says they often draw from their past, “Your Place or Mine” being no exception.

“It’s fun to channel the old days in some songs,” Eli says. “We’ve all been in that relationship.”

Eli says that song in particular was “really fun to write, and there are some really cool lyrical moments that we were really happy with as we were writing it. The song draws from the old school music of the Eli Young Band, which is neat to incorporate into the evolution of where we’re going.”

Eli wrote the song with bandmate Jon Jones and songwriters Ross Copperman and Jeremy Stover. Of the track, he says he and Jones each ended up marrying a woman like the one in the song, and Jones agrees.

“My wife and I are married 14 years now,” Jones adds. “We dated through college, and then we took a break. Then there was a point before we got back together that we went through a ‘Your Place Or Mine’ kind of thing, where maybe we were getting back together because it was familiar. Even though it is a really sad song, maybe it does have a happy ending.”

March 26, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Interview: Shania Twain
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

shaniatwain7701

If you were to tell me back in 1999 when I was sitting down with my family watching Shania Twain’s CBS television special (with an appearance from the Backstreet Boys!) that one day I would interview her, I would not believe it. But that’s exactly what happened a few weeks ago.

Earlier this month, I chatted with the country singer over the phone right before she announced the news about her final tour. During our chat, she told me it will be a “dynamic, kick-ass show.” As the title of the tour, Rock This Country, suggests, she promises exactly that.

“It really is a rock meets country show. It’s going to have a lot of punch and edge. I just feel like I want to go out there with a bang,” she adds.

She’s also working on new music and while she wouldn’t divulge too much, I did get a little hint as to the direction she’s going in.

“The songs are going great,” she says enthusiastically. “I’ve been putting them together for a really long time now. They’ve been whirling around in my head, so I’ve got a pile of things, way too much for one album.”

While Twain says she’s in the studio and the “record is on its way,” she explains that it’s difficult to vividly describe and categorize the sound of the new material.

“It’s hard for me to put my finger on it; I don’t know how to explain it,” she confesses. “One of the producers involved, we were talking about how to describe it in words and he said, ‘This is soul. This is soul music.’”

Twain wouldn’t reveal the producer she’s working with, but she did agree with his ‘soulful’ explanation.

“It’s not like my music was ever traditional anyway. I don’t think anybody expects that from me. Nothing that I’m doing is traditional,” she says. “Certainly, as I reflect back on listening to this stuff, it reminds me a lot of the influences that I had growing up. There’s influences from my childhood in the music that I’m writing now.”

The country singer says she hears hints of artists like Emmylou Harris, Gladys Knight, Roy Orbison and Glen Campbell in the music she has been writing more recently.

“It is a more soulful approach to my songwriting then I’ve probably ever allowed myself to have before,” she admits. “It’s fun music, too. I like to stay positive. I’ll make sure that I do some things on there that make you feel good and happy as well. I’m having a lot of fun.”

For more of my interview with Shania Twain, visit Radio.com. And for a flashback to the ’90s, watch Shania perform “From This Moment” with the Backstreet Boys.

 

March 23, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Nashville Meets New York: Thank You!
CATEGORIES: Features

Nashville Meets New York 2

It’s been over a week, but I still can’t stop smiling after the show on March 13 at Highline Ballroom. Thank you to the 200+ people who came out and celebrated these three talented ladies from Nashville pictured above, Michaela Anne, Mary Bragg and Caitlyn Smith as well as Your Ex-Girlfriends and Abby Hollander Band who opened the show.

It’s always my goal to put together a show where you walk away wanting to know more about the artists playing, buy a CD and plan to see them the next time they’re in town. The response to my Nashville Meets New York: Women of Country to Watch showcase was incredible and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve declared 2015 as the year females take back country radio and with artists like the five who played last week I think my prediction is close to coming true.

Thanks again to everyone who came out! Below are a few videos from the show.

“Wildfire” by @marybragg. I’ll never forget first hearing her perform this at The Bluebird last year. Incredible!

A video posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

   

Caitlyn Smith playing “Tacoma,” a song she wrote and was recorded by Garth Brooks on his latest album! A video posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

 

Love ladies collaborating! @marybragg and Michaela Anne singing “Can’t Afford To,” a song they wrote together.

A video posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

 

Who doesn’t like a Hank Williams cover? Michaela Anne is killing it right now.

A video posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

 

nashville meets new york

 

March 22, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Kip Moore’s “I’m To Blame”
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

kip-2

I spoke with Kip Moore last month when I was in Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar and he told me the story behind his gritty new single, “I’m To Blame,” which he wrote with Westin Davis and Justin Weaver. He confessed that the songwriting for “I’m To Blame” came to be while he was going through a frustrating time in his life, both personally and musically. He then got serious and began speaking about his father, who has since passed away.

“My dad has always been such a….” He pauses, catching himself speaking about his father in the present tense. “He was just a very gritty, down and dirty, no bulls–t kind of guy, but he was so kindhearted at the same time. Being around him so much and looking up to him, he was so charismatic. I think a lot of that grittiness rubbed off on me.”

Getting back to the song, he went on to explain that we’re in a day in age where no one wants to take the blame, and instead we point the finger at others. That is very different from the sentiment on “I’m To Blame,” where Moore places the blame squarely on himself.

“People are so concerned with fitting in and being part of the in crowd. Nobody wants to ruffle any feathers. I’ve just never cared too much about that kind of stuff,” he admits with a serious tone in his voice. His answer also adheres to the “gritty” quality he claims to have picked up from his father.

“I stayed true to who I am, and I don’t apologize for that,” he continues. “I care about other people’s feelings and I respect other people’s feelings, but I’m going to always go by what I feel like I’m supposed to in my heart.”

Moore says that “it was essential” to have “I’m To Blame” be part of his upcoming album. “It set the tone for what’s coming.” While he was tight-lipped on album details, he promises many surprises, saying many of the songs on his forthcoming sophomore album fans have not heard.

 

 

For more of my interview with Kip Moore and Westin Davis, visit Radio.com.

March 11, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Win Two Tickets to Nashville Meets New York On Friday!
CATEGORIES: Contest, Features

nashville meets new york

I’m beyond excited to be hosting an evening of live music with some very talented ladies. This Friday, March 13, join me at Highline Ballroom for Nashville Meets New York, a concert featuring some of country music’s best up-and-coming talent.

I’ll also be giving away a pair of tickets to the show. Do you want to go? Send me a tweet @yousingiwrite or a Facebook message and tell me why you want to attend the showcase to enter for a chance to win.

More details on the show are below. Visit Highline Ballroom for more info and to purchase tickets. See you Friday!

 

Who: Caitlyn Smith, Mary Bragg, Michaela Anne, Your-Ex Girlfriends, Abby Hollander Band
What: A female country showcase you won’t forget
Where: Highline Ballroom, 431 W. 16th St. Between 9th Ave and 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011
When: Friday, March 13, 2015 from 7pm-10pm
Why: To celebrate the brightest talent in country music!
How Much: $15-$18

March 10, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Top Musical Moments at CRS 2015
CATEGORIES: Concert Reviews, Features

garth brooks

(Ben Krebs © GCOM)

Each year, thousands of radio professionals travel to Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar (CRS). The annual three-day gathering is packed with live music, industry-related panels, parties and surprises, and this year I was lucky enough to attend and to take it all in.

Between artist interviews, label showcases and even a few ‘secret’ events, I covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. There were tons of highlights, but below I’ve singled out my top 10 CRS moments. For the rest of the list, visit Radio.com.

~

1. Garth Brooks’ Secret Club Show

Garth Brooks came out of retirement last year and has been selling out arenas ever since. So, to witness the country singer live at a small club with a few hundred people was an experience that will likely never happen again. Though he has been off the grid for nearly 20 years, it was impossible to tell. He put on the show with the same energy as if it was a sold-out gig at Madison Square Garden. In addition to playing some new material off his latest release Man Against Machine, Brooks’ set spanned his catalog of hits including “The Dance,” “The Thunder Rolls,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and fan favorite “Friends In Low Places.”

2. Keith Urban’s Intimate Midnight Show

Keith Urban is no stranger to the spotlight. He is in homes across the nation every week as a judge on American Idol, but in the early hours of Friday morning it was as if he took CRS attendees into his own home. Shortly after midnight, Urban took to the historic Ryman stage where a carpet engulfed his music gear. Urban performed his first few tracks alone and it was as if we were in his living room having a conversation. Throughout his hour set, he played most of his previous hits stripped down on acoustic guitar, banjo and piano and even filled the audience in on his writing process. Before he began “Somebody Like You,” he said the track was written with the help of a drum machine and his old six-string banjo. Other highlights included a brief cover of “Jessie’s Girl” into “Long Hot Summer” at the start of his set, a piano version of “Somewhere In My Car” and “Kiss a Girl,” where he invited audience members to join him onstage and take over the mic to have their own moment in the spotlight.

3. Dinner Cruise with Cheap Trick

A dinner cruise isn’t complete without some music, and Sony’s 29th annual CRS boat show did not disappoint. The night included a sit-down meal with live performances from Sony’s roster while sailing down the Cumberland River. While highlights included Trisha Yearwood‘s moving cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou,” Jake Owen‘s powerful new single “What We Ain’t Got” and Brad Paisley‘s impressive cover of Van Halen‘s “Hot for Teacher,” it was the surprise performance by Cheap Trick that had everyone on their feet. The band walked out on the stage as Paisley was covering their song “I Want You To Want Me” and stayed to perform “Surrender,” “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Dream Police.”


4. Dierks Bentley’s ’90s Country Cover Band

When he’s not on tour (and working on how to prank his tourmates), Dierks Bentley likes to play in another band called Hot Country Nights. This band however, is not like anything you’ve ever seen before. Hot Country Knights is Bentley’s ’90s country cover band and he and his friends really get into the roll complete with costumes and ridiculously awesome wigs. On Wednesday (Feb. 25) night Bentley called on friends Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum‘s Charles Kelley, Randy Houser, Kip Moore and Brothers Osborne to join him at The Stage on Broadway to make some very special music. Highlights included covers of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahootchee,” Brooks & Dunn’s “My Maria,” Shania Twain’s “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under” and a very disturbing Russian rendition of Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.

5. Lee Brice’s Sold-Out Show at Ryman Auditorium

A year ago, Lee Brice released the video for “I Don’t Dance,” which was shot at an empty Ryman Auditorium. This past week he returned to the famous venue, and there wasn’t a single empty seat—a situation that was not lost on him. “I cannot believe this,” he said between songs. “The last time I stood on this stage I was filming a music video and there was not a soul here. I was dreaming of the day when it would be filled completely, and so here we are.” Throughout his set, Brice demonstrated his prowess and versatility for songwriting and entertaining. The show had peaks and valleys, and while his more tender songs like “I Don’t Dance,” “Love Like Crazy” and “More Than a Memory” silenced the room, tracks like “Drinking Class,” “Parking Lot Party” and “Beer” transformed the Mother Church of Country Music into a tailgate party, showcasing the best of both worlds.

March 9, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Mat Kearney
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week, Band of the Week

matkearney

(Courtesy: Republic Records)

On his fifth studio album Just Kids, which hit stores last month, Mat Kearney gets reflective. Throughout much of the album, the singer-songwriter looks back on his childhood and the beginning stages of his career.

As the Eugene, Oregon native explains, his parents moving the family away from his hometown when he was in middle school had a significant impact on him and influenced who he would become as a person.

“You’re mourning the loss of your hometown,” he reflects regarding that move. “A lot of Just Kids was written about that season of my life.”

Just Kids, however, reintroduces Kearney’s hip-hop side, something fans haven’t heard much of since his debut album Bullet in 2004.

“I think as an artist, maybe this is good or bad, but whatever I did before usually the opposite interests me the next time around,” he admits with a laugh. “The whole spoken word thing, maybe it’s reflecting on that season of my life and when I first started.”

Kearney admits that Just Kids is very autobiographical. On “Los Angeles,” he tells the tale of picking up and driving 29 hours from Nashville to Los Angeles when a friend offers up his studio to record.

“I think that was the season when I realized how important music was to me…that I would drive across the country, basically move for six weeks to be in a creative environment with people,” he reflects. “It was really becoming my first love, true love at that point.”

In between the nostalgic songs like “Los Angeles” and “One Black Sheep,” where Kearney likens himself to being the black sheep in his family, there are ’80s and ’90s pop-influenced love songs inspired by his wife, including his first two singles off the record, “Billion” and “Heartbeat.”

“She appreciates it but she isn’t affected like maybe someone would be,” he says, when asked if his wife enjoys being his muse. “It doesn’t get me out of taking the trash out. When I write, she’s like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool song.’ I’m like, ‘People pay to see me sing these, babe.’ She’s like, ‘OK, that’s cool.’ She’s very unimpressed, which is a healthy thing in our relationship.”

 

 

Read more of my interview with Mat Kearney at Radio.com.

March 8, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
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Break Up With Him
Old Dominion
Listen to the catchy new single from the band, who are about to hit the road with Kenny Chesney.  More>>
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