Festivals Q&A Videos

Video Interview: David Nail

I’m officially making the move to Brooklyn this week (yay!). With freelance work and packing keeping me super busy, I thought I’d make it Video Week on the blog and showcase all the video interviews I’ve worked on.

Just over a year ago I began filming interviews thanks to my friend and talented photographer/videographer Wendy Hu. David Nail was the first video interview we conducted last summer at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. It’s crazy to think some of our Q&A;’s have received over 6,000 views! We have a few more to edit and post later this summer, so stay tuned!

A self-proclaimed mama’s boy, Nail filled me in on his transition into the country music scene, the inspiration behind some of his songs and his favorite part of performing in the video below. Be sure to visit him on MySpace.


Video credit: Wendy Hu


Wishing You Were In Tennessee This Week?

Me too.

With Bonnaroo and CMA Music Fest going on, I’d do anything to be at both. Alas, I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pretend I’m there, right? Thanks to Paste and SPIN magazines, I can listen to free tracks from their Bonnaroo samplers and envision myself in a sweaty crowd, packed like sardines with my fist in the air. Download each sampler above and join me, won’t you?

If that’s not good enough for you, WFUV is broadcasting Bonnaroo live. Tune into 90.7 FM this Friday from 7:00 p.m. – midnight for performances by The National, The xx, The Temper Trap, Diane Birch, Mayer Hawthorne and more. On Saturday, from 7:00 p.m. – midnight, the music marathon continues with performances by Norah Jones, LCD Soundsystem, Jimmy Cliff, and The Gaslight Anthem. If you’re not in New York, you can stream WFUV online here.

Country music fans need not make the trek to Nashville to CMA Music Festival to listen to free tracks from up-and-coming acts. Just click here for your 10 free songs. If audio tracks don’t cut it, tune into CMT tonight at 8 p.m. for the CMT Awards with live performances by Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Keith Urban and (my favorite) John Mayer.

I’ll have some more tracks for you Saturday so stay tuned. Here’s to being in Tennessee next year!

Festivals Interviews

Reba McEntire

Singer-producer-actress Reba McEntire is one of the most beloved acts in country. Her fans have been with her throughout 30+ years in the industry and continue their devotion. Whether it’s traveling hundreds of miles to witness her live or sleeping outside overnight before an autograph signing, they demonstrate their loyalty. At 2009’s CMA Music Festival press conference, McEntire explained what makes the festival so special, her admiration for Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson and her constant amazement of fans. Read below to find out more.

Your fans are very devoted. What are some of the fun things they’ve done for you over the years?
Oh my gosh, there are so many. When we were doing our backstage fan club program we would play fairs and have to empty the grandstands and then bring the fans back in. I had to hold the microphone and we would take questions. We didn’t do a meet and greet, per say as far as take pictures and sign autographs. We would just visit. That was the thing I loved most of all about the backstage program. They are very loyal, very sweet and some of them have been with me for over 30 years.

You were in the autograph booth for the first time in 13 years. How long were you autographing? What are some of your experiences, anything particularly moving?
Two hours, we went from 3-5 o’ clock. A cute little boy, his name was Riley and he was six-years-old. I got in a picture with him. I got down on my knees, and when we were saying goodbye he said, “Ms. Reba, can I come see your house?” I said yes. What else you gonna say? He was just a doll. There was one lady who told me she was reading my book, Comfort From a Country Quilt, when her mother was passing away. At the end of the book there is a title of a song and she said, “I didn’t know much about your music until this book and that was the last thing I was reading when my mom passed away. Would you sign this page?” It got us all very emotional.

A lot of those fans came down last night and slept outside to see you. What are your thoughts on their dedication?
It never ceases to amaze me, the dedication of the country music fan. They always come up with something new for me to go, “Wow. Now why would you do that?” But they were there, they’ve always been there.

Can you talk about your new album?
Sure. It’s called Keep On Loving You. It’s an eclectic group of songs. It’s got a story song in it. It has a western swing, bluegrass song, feel good time songs, sassy songs. It’s got songs for all age groups.

I read that you credited Kelly Clarkson with inspiring the new feel of the album. Can you talk about her influence on your sound?
Kelly Clarkson and I toured last year in the spring and fall and we stayed onstage the whole time together. So, she was singing harmony to my songs and I was singing backup harmony to her songs. When you’re singing to “Miss Independent” four nights a week, you’re having a big time getting that attitude going. So, when I started listening to songs, that’s what I was looking for. Attitude, sassy, women’s songs. It really made a huge difference.

Does anything make you nervous?
The thing that makes me the most nervous is a new outfit or new shoes. That’s why I’ve worn these boots since 2001. I’ve had them resoled probably 10 times. I’m getting to the point in my life where I like to be comfortable and I like security. That’s what really makes me very, very nervous. My advice to young entertainers is never wear new shoes. If you’re going to wear a pair of shoes to the awards show, wear them two weeks before. Break them in.

What makes CMA Music Festival special compared to other festivals?
Well, this festival is different because it’s for the fans. Everybody is here, but we all know it’s Fan Fair. It’s for the fans. That’s what makes it special. It’s our thank you to them.

13 years ago you probably signed autographs in Sheep Barn. Can you describe other ways that process has changed over the years?
Air conditioning is the main thing. To not sweat. They had told me that they cranked the air conditioning down, so be prepared. So I wore long sleeves and a t-shirt underneath just in case and I was just perfect. That’s the biggest difference that I can find.

Well, 13 years ago Taylor Swift was about this tall. What’s it like to be a veteran in the industry and to watch her grow as a woman and as an artist?
I’m thrilled to be in the same business as she’s in because I’ve learned from Taylor. She’s a very smart, old soul and she’s very in tune with what’s supposed to be going on. She knows how to think. She has a very great business sense so I like to eavesdrop in on what Taylor’s doing. I always learn something.

Everybody talks about you as an influence. Do you see your influence as a businesswoman in country music, or as a vocalist? Which do you see being imitated more?
I think I’ve always considered myself a stylist more than a vocalist. Businesswoman, absolutely. In the 80s I was saying to my manager and booking agents, “I want one agent to deal with my career. Not 10 different agents, we are getting all mixed signals here.” Back when I didn’t need to be playing arenas, they were booking me in arenas and it looked like sound check.  I said, “This has got to stop.” And they said, “No, well we don’t do it like that.” So after I let my manager go, divorced my husband and made my tour manager my manager, Narvel Blackstock and I started Starstruck Entertainment and we got a promoter and a booking agent that only dealt with me. That’s what I know worked real well because I wanted that personal, individual attention. I didn’t want to be divided with 15 other artists. I had to have the individual attention. Being a businesswoman is very important in this way of life. Look at Dolly Parton. I learned a lot from her. And now I’m learning from Taylor also.

Related Links:
Q&A; with Taylor Swift
CMA 2009: Six Artists to Watch
Friday Song Addiction: Country Music Edition
You Sing I Write’s Top 5 CMA Week Songs
Festivals Interviews

Zac Brown Band

Of all the bands that performed at 2009’s CMA Music Festival, I was most impressed with Zac Brown Band. Their stage show is dynamic and their musical interludes bring reference to both classic jam bands and rock & roll groups. While they’re most often placed in the country genre, don’t let that fool you — Zac Brown Band know how to rock more than most groups out there today.

I sat in on their interview at last year’s CMA press conference and was amazed at the band’s humility and dedication to fans. Read below to find out about the band’s hit single, “Chicken Fried,” and why CMA Music Festival is so important to them. Be sure to catch Zac Brown Band live tonight on “Late Show With David Letterman.”

You were at Bonnaroo and are now at CMA Music Fest. With two big events in Tennessee, can you tell us what has gone on at each?
Last night [at Bonnaroo] was amazing. Just an amazing night and amazing fans. We were able to pull out all of our other styles that we do and played 100 minutes. Tonight’s going to be amazing as well. There’s 70,000 people out there and a lot of these folks we’ve never played in front of before, so we have the chance to blow them away.

You recorded a song at Kid Rock’s studio. How was that?
We had an amazing day in Detroit. We played Hoedown for between 300,000 and 400,000 people there. Kid Rock came and sat in with us during our show and we ended up hanging out with Willie Nelson on his bus for a while after that. Sat in with Willie Nelson that night. Then, at midnight, went back to his house at his studio. We actually woke up a couple of the guys from sleeping and recorded this new song that we’re working on and it’s called “Colder Weather.” It’s actually my favorite song that we have ever written.

Did you ever imagine “Chicken Fried” would do so well?
We all had a feeling because we used to play around a lot. We played for five years together as a band, just playing in bars and small clubs and the amount of people that kept showing up and requesting that song. A lot of the songs we played were originals that they liked. But, especially with “Chicken Fried,” it was a show stopper. People went crazy. We had a little bit of an idea, but when you see it all come about and the rest of the country realize how much they love the song, it was pretty surprising as well.

I heard Alan Jackson was pitched “Chicken Fried” first. How do you think things would have gone if he cut it instead of you? What single would you have put out first instead? (video below)
I was excited to find that he found the song and wanted to do it. We share the same producer. I was honored. Anything he wants to cut of mine, he’s welcome to cut. He’s a legend. I think career wise, it was a little bit challenging at first when we put “Chicken Fried” out because the only thing people knew about us was that song so we were the chicken band. So now, I’m glad we have other singles coming out now. We’re not so much the chicken band, people are realizing we have more than just that song.

You said in an article that you’d love to put out two albums a year. Do you have other ways to get all that creativity out there before they accumulate so much?
We’re doing a live DVD and double CD in October. We’re going to be recording in Fox Theatre in Atlanta and that’s going to have a bunch of the new songs on it. Our creative outlet is that we write at a much faster pace than we could even arrange the stuff as a band, much less release it for the fans. We’re going to be on track to do one studio record and one or two live CD’s a year so we can have an outlet to do these kinds of things. We have so many songs and we’re always writing along the road so we’re going to figure it out. Even Brad Paisley, having four number ones in a year is an amazing pace to be able to continue and have four songs released and recorded out there and be able to do it, it’s definitely a challenge. But as more as the singles are getting out there, the awareness of the record itself has been there and there are people in towns that we don’t even know that know words to all our other songs so we’re very blessed.

What makes CMA Festival special to you guys compared to other festivals?
It’s our way to give back to the fans because we realize that we wouldn’t have our life in music if they didn’t buy our music and buy a ticket to come see us play. We try and have as many meet and greets and signings as we can on the road. Essentially [CMA Fest] is one giant meet and greet. A chance to give back to those people and make new acquaintances with them and to let them know that they’re really our bosses and our fan base that allows us to have our lives the way they are. We’re very blessed to do what we love to do and to make a living doing that. All the fans are responsible for that.


Related Links:
Q&A; with Brad Paisley
CMA 2009: Six Artists to Watch
Friday Song Addiction: Country Music Edition
You Sing I Write’s Top 5 CMA Week Songs
Festivals Interviews

Jason Aldean

Country rocker Jason Aldean is known for his energetic stage show and unapologetic southern rock. He’s toured with everyone from Keith Urban to Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw. Many of his singles have topped the country charts and he is currently leading nominations for the upcoming CMT Music Awards. Read below to learn about Aldean’s live show, his thoughts on rap music, Kid Rock and more from last year’s CMA Music Festival press conference.

You are moving up to that next level. From the inside looking out, are you able to feel that?
I think you can feel a little bit of a momentum. When “She’s Country” was out and peaking and doing it’s thing, I knew it was different than any other song I had. It’s not rocket science, I could tell that. When you play a show and you start seeing more people coming to your shows. One thing I noticed was that they were a lot more rabid than they were before. A lot more stage jumpers and things like that. I think you feel a little bit of it. It’s not an overnight sort of deal, but gradually you can feel a little bit of a momentum there.

Is there anything that’s happened in your career that you didn’t expect?
I don’t know. I think there are a lot of things like that. I remember the first time I played an awards show I remember thinking that it was going to be so crazy. But, all of a sudden you play and it was two minutes and you’re done and I thought, “What the hell happened? That was so quick I didn’t even have time to enjoy it.” It’s like anything, you always have things set in your mind the way you think things are going to go. A lot of times they exceed your expectations and a lot of times they fall a little short, but it’s fun nevertheless.

What is it like performing live? How do you sustain your energy?
I grew up playing in clubs. I came up playing in bars in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. It was my job to go out and play. I used to have to play four hours a night so to have to go out now and only play for an hour in a half, that’s nothing. It’s fun. I love getting onstage and playing my show. It gets me excited when people show up and you walk out and you see all those people that are there to see you play. They spent their money to come watch you play, especially nowadays. It’s up to me to give them a show and make it worth their while. You want them to come back and you want to make it fun and interesting and exciting so the next time we come to town this is one of the things they want to see. It’s all about creating a fun atmosphere. Some of my best friends are the guys onstage with me every night, so that helps. We’ve got a great job so we have fun with it.

How is it sharing the stage with Kid Rock?
You know what, I’m a big fan of his. I love Kid Rock. I’ve had the chance to hang out with him a few times. Talk about things that weren’t what you expected, he’s a prime example. I expected him to be this wild head case, but he’s not. He’s really cool. Really down to earth, fun dude and I’m a huge fan.

You were really looking forward to touring with Keith Urban and did more dates than you originally expected. You’ve opened for Rascal Flatts and Tim McGraw also.
I’ll say this. His show is the best show I’ve seen in a long time by far. I love the Flatts guys, they’re great friends of mine and they put on a great show. McGraw and those guys do as well. But, Keith Urban’s show is good. I don’t throw out compliments on people’s shows very often. His is really good. It’s one of those things, if you’re going to spend money to see a show this year, whether or not  we’re the opening act on it, I would check his show out ’cause it’s amazing.

Your song “She’s Country” has more of a rock vibe to it. How much do other genres of music influence your style? (video below)
I’m influenced by a lot of different genres. I grew up in Georgia. My dad always had traditional country music in our house. His favorite singer was a guy named Johnny Rodriguez. So, I used to listen to that stuff. Hank Jr., Merle Haggard. When I got a little older, I started to get into the 80s rock stuff. Guns N’ Roses, Poison, all the really bad hair bands. Then a little later I got into the southern rock stuff. The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’ve listened to everything. Rap has been the only thing I’m a little dicey on. It’s either hit or miss. There’s maybe a song I like every couple of years. I think most of that is probably because I don’t understand half of what they’re saying. For the most part, I think music is music and if it’s great, I listen to it.


Related Links:
Q&A; with Rascal Flatts
CMA 2009: Six Artists to Watch
Friday Song Addiction: Country Music Edition
You Sing I Write’s Top 5 CMA Week Songs
Festivals Interviews

Luke Bryan

Awarded Top New Solo Vocalist and Top New Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards last month, singer-songwriter Luke Bryan is making a name for himself in the country music scene. While hit ballad, “Do I” topped the charts, current single “Rain Is a Good Thing” is following suit as 2010 gears up to be a promising one for Bryan. Most recently, he was nominated for CMT’s Breakthrough Video of the Year for “Do I.”

Last year, I attended CMA Music Festival’s nightly press conference and asked Bryan a few questions. To find out more on his hit song co-written with Lady Antebellum, his thoughts on headlining and plans for this year’s CMA Music Fest read below. Stay tuned for more interviews from 2009’s CMA Fest next week.

How has your experience been so far this week at CMA Fest?
It was good! We did our fan club party yesterday and I realized that…I guess we had two hours and I was like, “We gotta do four next year.” I really wanted to sit down and talk. My drummer does a mean Aaron Neville and we let him come around and sing a little Aaron Neville. I actually wanted to do more [of that] because that’s stuff we do on the bus. Whatever gets you through the monotony of riding down the road. I wanted to do stuff like that with every musician in my band but we were running out of time. I wasn’t doing any songs and I think they probably wanted to hear a few of those. It’s been great watching the fan club grow. Next year we’re thinking about having two fan club parties or a bigger event.

What do you want to do when you have the headlining stage?
You dream your whole life to headline and I’m using this time now to work out kinks and get smarter and get bigger. I’ve got it all in my head, but it’s just the time to get there. I love when people say, “We feel like you already are a headliner.” But, I know I’m a long way from it. The beauty of last year getting to tour with Kenny [Chesney], you see headlining at the largest scale possible and what’s involved. I remember that whole tour I just sat back and watched it all and took it in and saw the things he did. Even when I was out front watching Keith Urban on a lot of those dates, I’m always memorized by the headliners. Just how they take over you. That’s what you work at and work hard for. The best answer is, I’m constantly dreaming of it and being prepared for that moment when you feel that momentum to where you’re fixing to start selling out 5,000 seaters. That’s what I pray for every night to get to that point. But, not to say I’m going to join that right now either.

What about the 60,000 outside at LP Field tonight?
Well, talking about Kenny, that was the beauty of that tour. It gets me comfortable in that environment. It’s been a year, but I walked out there [tonight] and I felt like I knew how to point at them way over there because I got a chance to do it last year with Kenny. It feels good to walk out there and have that many people looking at you. It’s what it’s all about. If you’re not prepared…you gotta go do that, so you have to be ready for it. It’s fun be comfortable up there.

You have a trio of friends that helped you out on your new single.
Charles [Kelley] and Dave [Haywood] of Lady A helped me write my current single, “Do I.” I wouldn’t say helped. We all wrote it together. They drove up to the house, we sat on the porch and drank a couple beers and now I have a single out. When we demoed it Hillary [Scott] heard it and flipped out over it and said, “Luke you have to cut it!” When we recorded it, there was no other background singer I could use other than Hillary. Lady A is all over that song. It’s been fun. I was on their bus earlier and showed them the video. We just got done with the video for it. To see their excitement…they’re there winning all the group awards and to watch them get excited about having a Luke Bryan song out there is a pretty special thing.

What are you thinking about while you’re onstage performing?
I really don’t know. I went through a point when I was out with Trace [Adkins] and I started thinking about what was going through my mind and the only thing that would happen was I would forget the words to my song. You try not to get too heady with it. Back to the headlining thing, there will be a day where I’ll have to be in one spot. Right now, that’s the fun part. My guitar player and I have been playing together for 13 years and we can just look at each other and make a move that hopefully looks somewhat planned and not stupid. I think the spontaneity and the non-structure of it makes it more comfortable. When you see someone walk to that spot and do their run of the mill poses, I’ve never been a fan of that. I’m crazy when we’re out there doing 140 shows a year. When we get 10 in a row where they’re the same that’s when I start losing momentum and talk to the band and say, “Guys I’m going to start calling out crazy stuff” just to break the monotony of it.

On September 26th, you’re the honoree spokesperson for National Hunting and Fishing Day. How is it to share something you already love and are passionate about?
It’s funny, when I heard I was doing that you don’t know exactly how big of a deal it is. About two months in, after several PSA’s and doing all that, I remembered the time with my dad we spent outdoors and just how important that is for children. You’re fishing and you’re hunting and that’s not the real deal that’s going on. You’re spending time with your family. I remember all the lessons. Me and my dad would fish every weekend it seemed. It’s been an honor to share some stories of mine and hopefully build more awareness. More and more of the outdoors are getting smaller. I just hope I bring awareness to it and get some people out there enjoying the outdoors.

Your single “Do I” has really allowed you to spread your wings both creatively and vocally. Was there any anxiety about new single because it is a departure for you?
Yeah. My first departure with “We Rode in Trucks,” my second single, didn’t go as well as I had planned. With “All My Friends Say” I think everybody wanted to keep hearing up-tempo, fun, party stuff. Everyone wanted a big summer hit and to come out with a ballad, we thought about it for a second, but we had so much excitement about the song. When you hear this song recorded you feel like it’s great. I feel like it’s really a great shot and my chance to show a different side of me where I sing some. To branch out and have a shot at hopefully a big top 5 or even a number one and have everyone so excited about it was fun too.

Watch Luke Bryan perform “Do I” below, for the official music video click here. For more, visit his Web site.


Related Links:
Q&A; with Lady Antebellum
CMA 2009: Six Artists to Watch
Friday Song Addiction: Country Music Edition
You Sing I Write’s Top 5 CMA Week Songs
Festivals Q&A

Poll of the Week: Which CMA 2009 Interview Do You Want to Read?

This week is country music week on You Sing I Write. I’ll be attending Lady Antebellum, Laura Bell Bundy and Taylor Swift concerts throughout the week and figured it makes perfect sense to introduce you to some up-and-coming country acts too. Stay tuned to Twitter for live reporting and recaps of each show!

As far as this week’s poll, I have some press room interviews of last year’s CMA Music Festival that I haven’t gotten up on the blog yet and I want to know which one you’re dying to read. I’ll transcribe the artist that gets the most votes for you the end of the week. (And, if you’re lucky maybe the rest next week!)

Which CMA 2009 Interview Do You Want to Read?

Jason Aldean
Luke Bryan
Reba McEntire
Zac Brown Band
Need You Now

Poll of the Week: Which Festival Are You Looking Forward To?

It’s that time of year again: festival season is upon us. SXSW just started and those that aren’t making the trek to Texas have many additional options to choose from. While 2009 brought plenty of festival coverage for You Sing, I Write, this year I’ll be watching from the sidelines. Although I won’t be attending, I have quite a few interviews lined up in the upcoming weeks, so be sure to check back often!

Just because I’m not headed to any festivals doesn’t mean you won’t be. My poll question for this week is: Which Festival Are You Looking Forward To? Feel free to leave your answer in the poll and be sure to let me know which you’re attending as I’d love to hear all about it!

CMA Festival
Festivals Song of the Week

Song of the Week: “More”

Earlier this week, Tyrone Wells debuted the music video for single, “More” off his album, Remain. Named one of You Sing, I Write’s top five concerts of 2009, I was lucky enough to chat with Wells last year right before one of his showcases at SXSW. A powerful performer, he filled me in on his songwriting process, whether he’d rather someone witness him live first or hear his record and the inspiration behind some of his songs, including “More.”

A track that almost didn’t make the record, of “More,” Wells said, “It’s really the age old search of mankind to find more meaning, whether it be faith in God or faith in humanity or hope for a better day and hope that we can see people loving each other in this world and coming together instead of always separating. Less selfishness and more togetherness.

“I think everybody who hears that song plugs their own life into it and whatever is more for that person is what they draw from it. I met a girl who really wants to write screenplays and she adopted the song as her mantra. For me, it was the age old search for God and connecting to him and finding more meaning in that.”

For more of my interview with Tyrone Wells, click here and watch the music video for “More” below. Currently on tour with Tony Lucca and Roy Jay, be sure to visit his MySpace for dates. I’ll be catching his show this Wednesday in NYC, so be sure to follow me on Twitter for live concert updates!


Related Links:
Q&A; with Tyrone Wells
Better Than Ezra, Tyrone Wells Bring Surprises At Sold-Out New York Show
SXSW: Day Two Recap
Jason Reeves and Tyrone Wells Entertain Crowd with Intimate Tales and Stellar Performances in Hoboken
Festivals Interviews

Intimate Stranger

A few weeks ago I interviewed Tessie S-Woodgate from Chile-based band Intimate Stranger. She filled me in on her writing process, how the band formed and plans for SXSW.

“SXSW is really important to us since it’s the chance to play to a bunch of new people who haven’t seen us live, in a place where we are relatively unknown. It’s new terrain for us, so the prospects are very exciting,” she said.

Having experienced the 8.8 earthquake in Chile, Tessie recently wrote her firsthand account for Despite the devastation her hometown has faced, Intimate Stranger will perform several showcases next week at SXSW and will play a benefit for the people of Chile at the Parish in Austin.

For Tessie’s account of the earthquake, click here.

To read my complete interview with her on, click here.