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Artist of the Week: Hailey Tuck
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week

hailey tuck

On Friday, (Jan. 16) Hailey Tuck made her New York debut to a packed crowd at Joe’s Pub. Taking the stage shortly after midnight, in a vintage dress and with a mesmerizing voice, it was evident from the very first song that Tuck would leave the crowd wanting more jazz in their lives.

She kicked the night off with a jazzy cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Standing in front of a piano, drum kit and upright bass, it was as if Tuck transported the audience to the roaring 1920s with her voice and jazz-styled songs.

 

 

Whether it was the classics or her own take on Maroon 5′s “Sunday Morning,” she impressed. Prefacing “Sunday Morning,” Tuck dedicated the song to the guitarist of Maroon 5 who dated her sister. “I was in love with him. I hope if he hears it he’ll realize he dated the wrong sister,” she said of her childhood crush on James Valentine at the song’s close.

Other highlights included a cover of The Zombies “Tell Her No” as well as Tuck’s own originals like “So In Love.” While she admitted that she planned to get by as a jazz singer by just performing the classics, she said multiple people urged her to write her own music and she soon thought otherwise.

Tuck got her start as a singer at 18 when she bought a one-way ticket to Paris with the dream to become a jazz performer. The Texas native is now readying a new EP, which is due out later this year.

 

January 20, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Melissa Etheridge On Brandy Clark
CATEGORIES: Features, Interviews, Q&A

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Before the holidays, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Etheridge. This wasn’t your typical artist interview, though. I’d be chatting with Melissa about Brandy Clark, who was recently nominated as Best New Artist at the GRAMMYs, and why Brandy deserves to win the award.

Melissa is a huge fan of Brandy’s, and when I asked her what she thought it meant for country music that Brandy was openly gay she confessed that she had no clue that she was and from the sound of her voice on the phone, it was evident that she was ecstatic. She even told me that she’d love to collaborate with Brandy in the future. Read an excerpt of my piece, an As Told To with Melissa Etheridge below. For the full chat, visit Radio.com.

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“I’m a big fan of really classic country music. When I hear Brandy Clark, she reminds me of what I loved about Tammy Wynette, what I loved about Loretta Lynn. They were singing about the real woman’s experience.

There’s nothing slick about [Clark]. She is genuine. She’s a great writer. She knows how to write a great song from beginning to end, each verse, each line. I love that type of writing and singing and that kind of country music.

Oh my God, I did not know that she is gay. Lord have mercy, I’m jumping up and down here. Do you know what I love? I love that I read everything about her and it did not say that. It wasn’t like my bio 20 years ago. That was the first thing, that I was gay. Wow, well that makes me very happy.

I know that a couple artists have come out in country music. I feel like the boundaries that have kept people apart and kept people out of certain areas of music are coming down. I really wish the best for her. I’ve always stood by the thought: “If you are talented and honest about who you are and can deliver the goods and you don’t blame any failures because you are gay. If you just make it part of your life, people will accept it and you can succeed.” I think I’m starting to see that, and that’s really beautiful.

I just wish her the best, it just makes me so happy, her nomination. I will be watching for her. I hope she gets to perform something at the GRAMMYs, you never know.

Maybe they will invite me down there [to Nashville] someday now. Call me, Brandy! I’m available.”

January 19, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
5 New Female Country Artists to Know in 2015
CATEGORIES: Features

 

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Caitlyn Smith, Kelleigh Bannen, Kelsea Ballerini, Michaela Anne and Mickey Guyton (Courtesy: Spencer Combs, Universal Music Group, Black River Publishing, Five Head Entertainment, Capitol Records Nashville)

While 2014 may not have been a stellar year for females on country radio, it was a memorable year for breakout country acts like Brandy Clark, Angaleena Presley and Maddie and Tae to be introduced to the mainstream.

Last year did, however, wind down with a big No. 1 radio hit for Maddie & Tae and two high-profile GRAMMY nominations for Clark, so we take that as a good sign for things to come. And with additional new female artists continuing to gather attention for their songs, we can already tell that 2015 is setting up to be strong year for women in country music.

I’ve picked out five new female country artists that I feel have both the talent and the potential to break out this year and provide fans with new songs and a fresh point of view. Listen to their music below, then if you like what you hear, put them on your playlist and request their songs at your local radio stations.

Here’s hoping that 2015 will be the year the ladies take back the radio from the bros.

1. Michaela Anne

 

 

Michaela Anne is well-known in the Brooklyn alt-country music scene and has opened up for acts like Brandy Clark, Steel Magnolias and country-punk powerhouse Lydia Loveless. On top of that, her excellent 2014 release Ease My Mind separates her from the pack. Whispered vocals are sung over wavering banjo, harmonica and pedal steel, making for the most traditional-sounding country record we’ve heard in a while. Tracks like the yearning “Black and Gray” strike an emotional chord, while title track “Ease My Mind” showcases her fun side.

2. Mickey Guyton

 

 

Mickey Guyton is kicking off 2015 with great strides. She made her Opry debut this past weekend, and she just released her very first single to radio on Monday (Jan. 12). Titled “Better Than You Left Me,” it’s a soulful track that shows off her powerhouse singing. On the song, Guyton laments about an ex who left her only to try to win her back months later. But Guyton isn’t having it: she’s stronger and has long moved on. An anthem for anyone who has had their heartbroken, why wouldn’t you root for Guyton?

3. Kelsea Ballerini

 

 

Kelsea Ballerini’s latest single “Love Me Like You Mean It” is already getting radio play, which is a huge feat for females in country. The former dancer (yes, she was a ballerina) was also named CMT’s Next Women In Country last year, proving she’s well on her way to representing the ladies of country music. While Ballerini admits her discovery of country music was a bit late, the Knoxville, Tenn. native came on the scene at the perfect time as her single was the most added female debut of 2014.

For my complete write-up, visit Radio.com.

January 15, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Song of the Week: Kelleigh Bannen’s “Smoke When I Drink”
CATEGORIES: Song of the Week

kelleigh bannen

Late last year, I stumbled upon Kelleigh Bannen‘s ear worm of a track, “Smoke When I Drink,” on Spotify. I was immediately hooked and the chorus of the song stayed in my head for days.

“Smoke When I Drink” hits the listener at full force from the very first guitar lick. When her smooth vocals enter, the song picks up steam as she sings of taking a shot to calm her nerves just in case she runs into her ex at the bar.

“Baby you’re a cigarette straight to my head/ I’m high as a kite while I’m saying I only smoke when I drink,” she sings as her former flame walks on over. Bannen’s growl on the chorus further compliments the edginess of the song.

The gritty track turns the boys on their heads because, hey, girls smoke and drink, too. Listen to the track below.

 

January 14, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Artist of the Week: Caitlyn Smith
CATEGORIES: Artist of the Week

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(Credit: Spencer Combs)

Caitlyn Smith has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a kid, she’d sit in her bedroom for hours coming up with stories and songs.

“I started writing when I was 8 years old,” she told me over coffee during a recent visit to New York. “And instead of doing the normal kid thing of sports, I would come home from school and go into my closet and push the dresser all the way to the side and sit in my closet and write. I would write poetry. I would write songs. I would just make stuff up for hours.”

All that practice came to fruition last year when the country singer-songwriter heard a song she had written on the radio for the first time. It was a song she’d written with her husband, Rollie Gaalswyk, over a bottle of red wine called “Wasting All These Tears,” which was recorded by Cassadee Pope.

“He [Gaalswyk] was in the garage and had the radio on, and the song came on and he runs in the house and he’s like, ‘Get out here!’ And so I run out into the garage and we turn it up all the way and dance around our garage. It was just a super magical moment. Really, really fun,” she recalls with a big smile.

 

 

To some, it might sound strange to write a breakup song like “Wasting All These Tears” with your husband, but for Smith it’s just another day at work.

“We’re both writers and we both have crazy ideas and crazy lines coming,” she admits. “I don’t always write from, ‘I have lived every word of this song.’ Sometimes when you write you put on an actor hat and you can play a different character, which makes writing breakup songs with your husband a little easier.”

She says that the two of them “keep doing it because we like writing with each other. Sometimes it ends in a fight,” she laughs, “and sometimes it’s awesome.”

“Wasting All These Tears” became a platinum-selling single for Pope. But it’s not the only song that has helped raise Smith’s profile as a writer. Her catalog also includes songs that have been cut by such high-profile artists as Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (the GRAMMY-nominated “You Can’t Make Old Friends”), Lady Antebellum (“747″), Rascal Flatts (“Let It Hurt”) and even Garth Brooks (“Tacoma”). More recently, Smith has her writing credit on Meghan Trainor’s new album Title where Trainor duets with John Legend on a song called “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.”

In addition to songwriting, Smith has been a performer as well for years. She’s recorded and released several albums on her own—her first at 15 years old—and just this past fall released a seven-song EP titled Everything To You. While “Tacoma” isn’t on the track list, the EP does include Smith’s own version of “Wasting All These Tears,” along with six more tracks that showcase her powerful storytelling.

 

 

For more of my interview with Caitlyn Smith, visit Radio.com.

January 13, 2015 | | (0) comment comment
Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 1 Nick Carter
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

This just happened. My life is complete. Jordan Knight and Nick Carter! #ktbspa #nickandknight #dreamscometrue

A photo posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

 

This year, I sat down and interviewed a Backstreet Boy. What a dream come true. You see, I’ve obsessed over the Backstreet Boys since the seventh grade. My childhood bedroom was covered from floor to ceiling in posters of BSB, I attended all their concerts when they came to New Jersey and I was pretty convinced I’d marry one. Unfortunately, that never happened but hey–a girl can dream, right?

Much to the chagrin of my parents, every single year since the seventh grade my birthday or Christmas present request was a Backstreet Boy. Fully aware that this was a nearly impossible task, I continued to ask year after year. Well, it seems that my birthday and Christmas present came early this year when I got a chance to sit down with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys when he teamed up with Jordan Knight of New Kids On the Block to form the duo Nick & Knight. I’m not sure how I didn’t faint, turn bright red or stutter my words but I guess the professional journalist in me remains despite the greatest odds. I mean, come on I was sitting down and talking to a Backstreet Boy not even five feet away!

Gushing aside, the interview went smoothly and the guys opened up about what it’s like living life in the spotlight and some of their questionable fashion choices over the years. Watch the video from my interview below as well as an excerpt from our chat. I guess now I need to create a new bucket list of interviews for 2015. Any suggestions?

“I never, ever have thought that I actually was very good at style and dressing myself,” Nick Carter admits when he’s given some photos of his earliest looks. “Now more than ever I let my wife help me out a lot. Some things like this, I have no idea what that is. I look like the guy from Puddle of Mudd.”

He’s talking about an outfit he wore to the Festivalbar Music Festival in Turin, Italy back in 2005. During his performance, the Backstreet Boy showed his dark side with a skull woven onto his button-down dress shirt.

“Woah! Beeper,” Jordan exclaims.

He is of course referring to a beeper clipped on an all-leather ensemble he wore back in 1999, when he showed up at a Virgin Megastore in California to promote his debut solo album Jordan Knight.

It had us, and Nick, wondering who was beeping Jordan back then?

“You know,” Jordan smirks, not naming any names. “You know how I roll.”

And by far the favorite of all the photos we found is one of Jordan from 1985. In the promo photo shot in New York, he’s wearing denim overalls sans a shirt.

“This was just terrible. People in my neighborhood wore this for some reason,” he recalls. “If I was on an episode of Cops this is what I’d be wearing. Running from the police.”

He smiles. “We all have those photos. You look back in your yearbook and you go, ‘Oh my God. What was I thinking?’ We take this stuff lightly. It’s pretty funny to look at.”

Read more of my interview with Nick & Knight at Radio.com.

December 25, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 2 Kip Moore
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

kip-2

I was incredibly lucky to interview Kip Moore twice this year, first at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas back in April and again last month at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey. To fully understand my excitement (and nerves) to sit down with Kip for a lengthy interview, I have to tell you that his debut album Up All Night is by far my most listened to country album ever. He released it back in 2012 and for the past two years it has been the soundtrack of my life. Whether at home, at work or traveling around the country, it’s one of those timeless albums that I put on no matter the mood I’m in and it always makes me feel better. So to interview him twice this year truly was a dream come true.

What struck me most about our interview was how serious Kip was. While answering some of my questions he at times seemed intense, especially when talking about songwriting and his last single “Dirt Road.” A complete departure from his fun and flirty stage persona, it was interesting to witness the two sides of the singer-songwriter in one night. Below is an excerpt from our chat.

It’s no secret Kip looks up to The Boss. He even covered his song “Atlantic City” twice that day at the Starland Ballroom, once during soundcheck and again when opening his show later that night.

Kip closed his soundcheck set raving about Bruce Springsteen, attributing him as “the guy that really saved my life and the life I was living.”

“You know, Springsteen gave me hope,” he says. “Gave me hope that I could get to where I was trying to get and also gave me comfort. It’s a scary thing to face yourself when you’re feeling like you’re irrelevant. That vulnerable feeling. His music gave me comfort to feel that way, but he also gave me hope into a better life.”

Much like Kip looks up to Springsteen, his fans look to him for inspiration—something that is difficult for him to believe. But it is knowing this that makes him work harder and has him choosing his lyrics more carefully.

“It’s awesome and it’s scary at the same time, because you realize how much weight your words hold. And when you realize your words hold that much weight, you actually think about what you’re saying a lot more,” Kip says. “It means a lot to me because that’s why I do what I do. I always wanted people to hear my music and I wanted it to impact them in a profound way, so now that it’s actually doing that it means a whole lot to me.”

When asked what the hold-up with his sophomore album is, Kip explains his record label isn’t to blame—in fact as he describes it, they’re “protecting” him.

“People need to understand this is not my record label’s fault,” he asserts. “To be honest, it all comes back on me. I wrote a song, ‘Dirt Road,’ that I thought was going to get further up on the charts and high enough to release a record around, but my label is protecting me in a lot of ways. In my own stubbornness, I just want to put the record out. They know what they’re doing, and it’s hard to release a record around a song that didn’t get past number 40 [Moore’s first three singles all reached No. 1]. And that’s just the fact of the matter.”

So, adds Kip, “hopefully we can come with something next time with some more traction and we can put a record out around it.”

For my complete interview with Kip, visit Radio.com.

December 24, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 3 Westin Davis
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

It’s crazy how after just one phone conversation your whole perspective on songwriting can change. That’s exactly what happened after I interviewed Westin Davis. The songwriter behind many of my favorite songs by Kip Moore (“Dirt Road,” “Young Love,” “Lipstick”), the more I talked to Westin the more he gave me faith in my dream to be a songwriter. He told me he didn’t learn the craft of songwriting until he rolled up his sleeves and started putting the work in.

Westin explained that inspiration for a song comes from everywhere. He could be driving down the road, remembering a conversation he had or just thinking about his own life. What struck me most throughout our chat was his honesty. He opened up about his past and his struggles, never holding back. He even gave me advice when  I confessed that it’s my goal to write a song.

Below is some of the transcription from our chat. Stay tuned for my article on songwriting, which will feature Westin, early next year.

“I carry all of my yesterdays into my co-writes. I carry my home town, I carry everything bad that ever happened to me. So when I’m writing, I’m giving everything I have just like an entertainer would if he was performing for an audience. There still is that thing deep within me where the only motivation I need is my past. I take what I do very seriously.

“I think writing in general is therapy. Somebody told me recently, they said, ‘Man, I can hear you in every song that someone else sings or every song that I hear you play. I can hear your life story in it.’ I’ve always drawn from my life. I’ve been very fortunate to have very rainy days and sunny days. I’ve been very fortunate to live in black neighborhoods, to be poor, to be around crack dealers and drug dealers. To drive to a family member who lives 30 miles down the road and has more money than he knows what to do with and to see that side of life. And also be in love and out of love and heart-broke and lose somebody. I know that might sound crazy. It wasn’t until I started writing, that I looked back and actually thank God for hard times because I can draw from a deeper well than most people.

“If you want to be the best writer read books. Find out words. Follow the people you look up to. See how they said something and say, ‘Oh my gosh, they said that in a different way. How could I do that?’ It’s like anything. The beautiful thing about writing is it gives you the freedom and a sense of pride. Take a leap.”

December 23, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 4 Lady Antebellum
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

I’ll never forget the first time I interviewed Lady Antebellum back in 2010. At that time, their song “Need You Now” was everywhere–on country radio and pop radio. Heck, it even was made into a club mix, which I found so strange at the time. I prepared the entire weekend with the hope to ask them at least one question they were never asked before. (I succeeded!)

This year, I had the chance to sit down with the country trio for a bit longer and they were as nice as I rememberd. We talked about their latest album 747, songwriting and what it’s like for Hillary Scott to be the only girl in the band. Nearly four years after my first interview with them, I walked away even more impressed with the way the band has evolved and how they continue to make music that moves people. Below is an excerpt of my interview with Lady Antebellum

Recording 747 was fun for the band, and Hillary Scott said this is always the goal.

“That’s the ultimate thing, if you can have fun doing it then that’s the truest success,” she says. “We needed to step outside of what was comfortable for us. The three of us as a band needed the change. It felt the most like the excitement we had when this all started. It felt so much like the first record. In the eight years we’ve been a band, things can start to feel familiar, so to have that excitement and first time feeling again was really special.”

Charles Kelley reiterated Hillary’s sentiments, explaining that he also had to exit his comfort zone for “Freestyle,” which is the band’s new radio single. He said he was initially hesitant during the writing process (he and his bandmates wrote the track with Shane McAnally) because it was “such a departure” from their previous material. Today, though, it’s one of his favorite tracks to play live.

“The one thing we learned was not to be afraid,” he says. “‘Downtown’ was a good example of a song where at the time when we cut it Hillary was like, ‘I don’t know. This is so different.’ We’ve always found that our biggest and best songs always push us in a different direction. ‘Freestyle’ has this infectious energy to it. [You have to] keep it lighthearted sometimes.”

The lightheartedness heard on “Freestyle” weaves throughout Lady A’s album, from lead single “Bartender” (which reached No. 1) to opening track “Long Stretch of Love.”

The latter song Charles described as the most honest on the album.

“We’re all married. True love is ups and downs. You hit, you miss. You’re fire and ice,” he says. “But at the end of the day we’re not going anywhere. We feel that way in our personal lives and as a band. We’re going to have our ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot. We just have this long stretch of love. This long view of the group.”

“It’s going to be an interesting journey,” he continues. “Who knows where we’ll be in 10 years.”

For my complete interview, visit Radio.com.

December 22, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
Top 25 Interviews of 2014: No. 5 Dustin Lynch
CATEGORIES: Interviews, Q&A

Dustin Lynch

(Credit: Paul Familetti)

For years, I’ve been hoping to interview an artist at Serendipity, my favorite dessert spot in New York. I’ve been going with friends and family since high school (always ordering the Frozen Hot Chocolate!) When I met Dustin Lynch last November in Nashville and told him I live in New York he said his favorite place to visit is Serendipity. I was speechless for a second because I never thought I’d meet anyone who loved the place just as much as me. When I told him I want to move to Nashville, he suggested I open up Serendipity Nashville and to be honest, it’s not a bad idea.

Nearly a year later, I learned Dustin would be in New York to do press for his new album Where It’s At. I thought Serendipity was the perfect spot to sit down and chat. When I interviewed him on a gondola at The Venetian in Las Vegas during the ACM Awards,  he compared one of the songs on his album, “Sing It to Me,” to sexual chocolate so I had a feeling Serendipity would be a fitting location. Below is an excerpt from our chat over Frozen Hot Chocolate.

A self-professed sweets fanatic, Dustin said he first stumbled upon Serendipity years ago when he was on the hunt for cheesecake in New York. His publicist had recommended Serendipity.

“We got here and it was like, ‘Wow!’ Every dessert that came out was bigger than life,” he told me.

So what did he think of his Frozen Hot Chocolate?

“Good grief,” Dustin said, after taking his first sip. “The gym has to happen tonight,” he said grinning, before going in for another sip. “We can run to dinner.”

Since we were sipping frozen chocolate treats in a popular dessert emporium, I had to wonder: Is there one dessert that best describes his album Where It’s At? “I’m going to have to go with Brownie Earthquake Sundae. A little bit of everything I love is in it,” Dustin said.

It’s true, Where It’s At does have ‘a little bit of everything’ in it, from heartfelt ballads like “She Wants a Cowboy” and “Your Daddy’s Boots” to uptempo live numbers including “Where It’s At,” “To the Sky” and the album’s kickoff track, “Hell of a Night.”

Dustin has previously described one song on the new release, “Sing It To Me,” as “sexual chocolate,” so since we were actually indulging in chocolate, I had to bring it up again. Dustin , to his credit, didn’t flinch. With R&B and pop influences, he said “Sing It To Me” is the sexiest song he’s ever written.

“‘Sing It To Me’ is our lovey dovey song on the album,” hesaid. “It’s not even really lovey dovey, it’s about not wanting to get out of bed with someone else in the morning just because it’s perfection.”

Once the interview came to a close and we finished the last sips, we headed outside into the bustling streets and sweltering July heat to say our goodbyes. Maybe it was the sugar high, but on my walk to the subway I couldn’t help but wonder if Dustin was right — that real cowboys do indeed still exist.

Earlier, when he discussed his song “She Wants a Cowboy,” he’d said there are plenty out there. “I think the song, it is digging deeper than simply ‘She Wants a Cowboy,’” he said. “She wants a guy that’s simple, down to earth and honest. She wants a guy that can kick back and peel back the layer of whatever persona you have to put on in everyday life.”

And despite my protests, he did personally pay for our Frozen Hot Chocolates. So maybe I did, in fact, meet my very first real cowboy.

To read the complete interview from Serendipity, visit Radio.com. You can also read our chat on a gondola at The Venetian here.

Had an amazing gondola ride @VenetianVegas with @dustinlynchmusic. Read all about it! http://cbsloc.al/1mZdjOl

A photo posted by Annie Reuter (@yousingiwrite) on

December 21, 2014 | | (0) comment comment
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Smoke When I Drink
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